Before she could walk on her own or speak a complete sentence, her tenacious personality glistened through her dark blue eyes.
Like most toddlers, Chelsea learned to pull herself up to practice walking around the furniture. At the time we had a large, heavy octagon coffee table, which quickly became the favorite gathering place for the wobbly-leg crowd.
Our tiny house made it easy to watch Chelsea crawl and explore the living room while I worked in the kitchen. As small as it was, I still couldn’t get to her in time.
She stood up next to the table. With every open-palm smack of the surface came squeals of delight — until she missed the tabletop and lost her balance. She fell face first, catching her chin on the way down.
The dull thud sent me darting into the living room. I arrived just in time to witness an omen.
With tears streaming down her face, her eyes narrowed as she grabbed the table’s edge with both hands and bit into it with all her might, as if she wanted to be sure to imprint each new tooth. Then, she pulled away, with a self-satisfied “That’ll teach you to hurt me” look washing over her face.
I dropped onto the couch as she turned and grinned at me with total satisfaction. The teeth marks in the table were a clear sign that this child had a spirit that could conquer her world.
The personalities of individual children along with unique family dynamics make any theory on raising children subjective and controversial. All children should not be disciplined the same, but rather in accordance to their own temperament and personality — in short, whatever works for your family.
There are children that test their boundaries, push their limits, and question the rules — on a daily basis. Their philosophy of life is “Edges are made to make life exciting.” Then, there’s the child whose doctrine is “Edges are boundaries — they are in place to make life safe. Rules are our friends.”
If this is your child, congratulations — you’ve hit the parental lottery. There’s no need to read any further. Enjoy your peace, and try not to judge the rest of us.
The following rules are for parents who believe in using the politically incorrect parenting method of corporal punishment — who are raising the table biters of today to grow into the movers and shakers of tomorrow.
5. Be Truthful and Consistent, It Could Save His Life — or a Nose.
Pearl flopped down on the living room floor with a fork in her hand and began excavating the carpet like an archaeologist scraping for dinosaur fossils.
Her mother sat just a few feet away from her, curled up on the couch cradling a heating pad. She hadn’t felt good for the past three days. The constant pain in her abdomen left her drained.
“Pearl, please stop digging in the carpet,” her mother said with a polite, almost pleading voice.
The pudgy three-year-old looked up but stayed quiet as she waited for her mother to close her eyes once again. Her bangs fell across her eyes as she went back to work.
“Pearl, I said stop digging that fork into the carpet! I’m going to spank you if you don’t stop it now.”
Again, the busy little girl looked up but didn’t say a word. She brushed the hair out of her eyes and rested her chin in the palms of her hands, leaving the fork within reach. When she saw her mother lean her head back to rest, Pearl assumed it was safe to begin her research again.
Hearing a gouging sound, her mother yelled, “PEARL! I said STOP IT! Or I’m going to spank you.”
Frozen in place, lifting nothing except her eyes, Pearl softly asked, “Are you really going to get up?”
Even a three-year-old knows how to play the odds.
Children test their boundaries. It’s your job to keep them firmly in place.
It can be comical watching a toddler bait his parents into counting, or seeing the vein in his mom’s head pop out before he conforms — that is, if he’s not your child. Don’t kid yourself: he knows just how many times you’re willing to repeat yourself before getting up — or whether you will at all.
When we are inconsistent in enforcing our rules, they become hollow and our children no longer trust our words of warning. Ultimately, he will play the odds, not realizing his safety is at risk.
4. All Spanking Offenses Must Be Made Known in Advance, Carved in Stone, and Fully Understood.
Whatever mischief the term “all-boy” brings to your mind, you can apply that to two-year old Christopher.
At the time, my husband Mike was stationed in West Berlin, Germany, and we lived off base without a car, dependent on public and military transportation. The thought of this rambunctious little boy escaping in the middle of a city with 2.2 million people terrified me.
When I expressed my fears to another military mom, ten years my senior, she gave me the best parenting advice I have ever received.
Tell him once what you want him to do. If he doesn’t listen, take his cute, chubby little cheeks in your hand and look him in the eyes and say, “Listen to mama…and repeat your instruction.” If he fails to obey, once you’re sure he has heard and understands you — let the punishment fit the crime.
Expect to have to follow through for the next week until he catches on.
Within a week, I had an obedient toddler that could ride the city transit systems anywhere with me. I didn’t fear that he’d dart off.
Try this method of making eye contact and giving him a key phrase like “Listen to mama.” Then follow with the information he needs to make an informed decision and count the cost: “If you… I will…”
Once you’re sure he knows the consequences, then follow through.
3. Never Use Excess Force.
From infancy, Hannah was kind and considerate. She seemed to look up at you and say, “Do you mind if I nurse? It won’t take me long, it’s just that I’m really hungry.” Then she would gently begin, glancing up occasionally just to make sure all was well.
Excess force doesn’t necessarily mean swatting a bottom too hard or child abuse — that’s a given. However, the excess force rule is anything more than needed to correct an individual child’s behavior.
If you have several children in your home, you most likely have just as many different temperaments. If your family is genetically prone to edge walkers, I’m willing to bet somewhere quietly tucked in the middle of the chaos is a little Cindy Lou Who.
For some children, the tone in your voice comes through harder than swats on the behind.
2. Never Spank a Child in Public.
Like marital disagreements, child discipline is a private matter. Don’t publicly humiliate your child. Enough said.
1. Give Affection at Least at a Rate of 10 to 1.
Some kids are harder to love than others.
Several years ago I received a phone call from an exasperated young mother. She had three children, none of which she seemed to enjoy much — especially the youngest.
He was old enough to make her life miserable and young enough to still need his mom’s attention. From the outside looking in, it looked like the boy needed a trip to the woodshed with his Dad.
Hanging up the phone, I realized that she never mentioned their quiet, loving moments together. Usually, every kid has some time of day where they are most affectionate and open.
Calling her back, I asked, “How often do you just sit and rock him? Or read a book to him? Do you tell him that you love him everyday?”
A quick “No” came back on every count. She explained that she spent so much time exasperated that any quiet moments were viewed as a needed break. She didn’t “feel” affectionate very often.
It seems obvious. Of course all children need affection. But that’s easy to say when you’re not in the trenches with an obnoxious, strong-willed child who wants to cut his own path in life — right through your living room.
Thus, the most important rule for parents is to always make sure affection and one-on-one time is spent at a ratio of at least ten to one.
Check out more of Rhonda Robinson’s articles on parenting and families here at PJ Lifestyle: