Being responsible for shaping a person is not a task to take lightly. James and I have done a lot of talking and adapting these past two years, especially now that there are two and one of them is a "terrible" two.
And by terrible I mean incredibly curious, adventurous and silly.
I always thought that as a mom my directive during these early years would be to make my child do whatever I told her to do, immediately, not touch off-limits things and hush when appropriate. If Beatrice behaved that way, my life would certainly be easier (after a few weeks or months of intensive discipline).
However, her life would be full of confusion and frustration.
If I tell her to do something that doesn't make sense to her, she challenges me. Not because she is rebellious, but because she is confused. She gets mad because why can't she have this or that? Why does she have to wait? Why can't she be in that room? (etc.)
I used to think this was the time to MAKE her obey me. I'm the boss, like it or not. My word is law and I don't have to answer to you. You don't get a say, you just obey. Or suffer the consequences.
Totally don't think this way any more. Sure, our new method may make it harder for other people to babysit. It may be a little longer before we can have quiet trips to the library or long conversations at the family dinner table.
Here's how it works: I don't make her do anything that is simply for my convenience, but for her safety or the safety of our family or home. It means that if she has a problem with something I require of her, I take the time to get down on the floor, eye to eye, and explain my reason for my demand.
It really does take some thought on my part. It is less convenient. But she understands me so much better and we actually are on the same page much more now.
I have an example from today of a time I was distracted and she got something off-limits. Here's how I dealt with it:
I was busy in the other room and I heard Beatrice say "Mama, I play with this camera." I ran to see what she had gotten. It was my dad's super old camera. The one I use for decoration on a bookshelf. I didn't know she could reach that high!
Anyway, she ran off, as she always does when she has a no-no in her hands. But instead of running after her and taking it away and instead of shouting for her to "comehererightnow," I said, "Hey, Bea, wanna see how it works? I'll show you."
She immediately came back and handed it to me. Then I showed her how the top part opens and you see through the window. She loved it!! But I told her it is very old and very special to Papa. It's not a toy and it goes on the shelf where it is safe. Will you put it up there? Yep.
I know I still have a whole lot of learning to do. I don't mean to come across like I think I have it all figured out, but this is a pretty big parenting re-direct for me. We are trying to do what is best for her in the long run rather than what is easier for us right now.