Wednesday, October 6, 2010
In our parenting, we have discovered that when a child continuously has to have control or does not respect/obey us, we have probably widened the boundaries (the areas that child controls) too much, too soon. Before I tackle “bringing the boundaries back in,” let me expound upon the boundaries concept, especially for young parents who can actually ward off many, many difficulties in child training if this is grasped early in your child’s life.
As Christian parents, we want to have a healthy balance of our children’s development of independence (or hopefully, dependence on God and His principles rather than on us) and our continual “micro-managing” of them. With the emphasis on autonomy and children’s independence/indulgence and with a shortage of role models and teachers who have successfully parented small children with a biblical approach, parents are at a loss as to what to do with the eight month old who refuses to nap and screams and screams or the ten month old who will not quiet down until she is given drinks of your pop or the twelve month old who continually throws food from his high chair (or the seven YEAR old who fusses until she gets the front seat—while Mom is relegated to the back). Thus, rather than parents being in control of their toddler, the toddler controls the parents. This is what we call “releasing the boundaries” too early.
On the other hand, if the parent controls the toddler’s behavior until the toddler has the ability to control himself or herself, the parent is keeping the boundaries in place where they should be until the appropriate time.
Let me give you some comparisons of the parent who is allowing the little one to control vs the parent who keeps control of the child until self-control is achieved:
1. In the eight month old who refuses to nap, the child is in control when the parents get the child out of his crib every nap time, walk the floor, let the child stay up and get fussier and fussier, etc. In this scenario, the toddler is controlling the parents—and everybody is miserable from the results. In a parent-controlled environment, the wiser parent knows that the eight month old needs the nap in order to achieve peace for all—and for the baby’s health and behavior later in the day. This parent controls the situation by being sure that the child is dry, well-fed, hydrated, tired, loved, read to, scheduled (i.e. the nap is not just a passing idea because Mom is tired!), etc.---all of the “preventive parenting” strategies introduced in this blog earlier. Thus, the child is put to bed and stays there—possibly with music or story audios, possibly with books—whatever training method is needed. However, the child does nap—and the parent is not “widening the boundaries” and letting the child decide for himself what is best.
2. In the ten month old who screams until she gets to drink Mom’s pop, the child is in control when Mom gives her drink after drink because of her fit. In a parent-controlled environment, an alternative is given (sipper cup with juice or milk) and if the child cries, the parent firmly says, “No. This is Mommy’s and this is baby’s.” If the child screams, throws her cup, pulls Mom’s hair (agghh…), etc., she should be held firmly until her fit ends or placed in her crib until she ends the tantrum. (“You stay in here until you are ready to quit screaming and ready to be nice and drink your drink. We don’t scream if we don’t get our own way. No screaming allowed.”) Once she is quiet, she is moved out and the process is repeated as needed. Again, this child is not mature enough to decide for herself what to drink---and to give her drinks of soda to keep her from screaming is widening the boundaries of her decision making too soon.
3. In the twelve month old food-thrower, the child is in control when the food is continually replaced with a “Don’t do that. Stop throwing it.” (Or anger and a slap or jerking out of the chair—even worse than child-controlled is parent-out-of-control!) In a parent-controlled environment, the child is warned: “Do not throw food. If you do that anymore, you will have to leave dinner. Throwing food is not nice.” Then if it is done again, the child is removed. He has lost his privilege to sit at the table with the family. (Trust me, we did this so much with our last child that we had a designated “runner” each night of the week to take little Jakie to his bed until he was ready to act right at the table. He was placed in his bed until he quieted down then brought back down again to his high chair with the reminder, “That’s better. No screaming. And no throwing food. You can come back to the table if you are ready to be nice.” Over and over and over and over…..for weeks. That lesson took the most resolve and consistency of any child training we have done!)