Having to be the disciplinarian really, really bites sometimes. Often. Usually.
I'm going to throw this one out there right away: we're not spankers. We have talked about it and consciously made the decision to not spank our children. Personally, I think that it would be really difficult to maintain control in an emotionally charged, heated moment to deliver a spanking in such a way that it wasn't taking frustrations out on the child or venting some anger. And, equally importantly, we believe that spanking delivers a message to a child that I can hit but you cannot, which is confusing to a non-logical mind.
I'll also admit that I was spanked when I was little, and I don't ever remember feeling resentment for being spanked. And before we had children, we talked about it, and I was actually leaning towards being a spanker because of the old "Well, it worked when I was a kid..." routine.
But I've changed my mind unequivocally. I also keep coming back around to a piece of advice that I read in Parents magazine by another mom who was writing about struggling with the whole discipline issue. (What parent doesn't??) In the heat of the moment, it has served me well to think "What is she, a three-year old?!?" in the same vein as one might indignantly and rhetorically demand "What, are you blind?!?" The answer is...yes. She is a three-year old. And when I remind myself of this fact, it always serves to put the issue in perspective.
Perspective is essential. My child goes through spurts of engaging, sweet loveability followed by spurts of provoking, infuriating frustratability. And I hate being in the "Stop doing that...leave that alone...quit it!...you know that you're not allowed to..." mode. There are those days where that's all I seem to say. (If you happen to be reading this and don't currently have children but think that you might want to have a child some day...take note. Seriously. Take note.)
But, oh, how a child can push all of the right buttons. IF ONLY a toddler had the ability to reason, how differently our conversations would go. Instead of screaming/yelling/wailing for about 45 minutes solid when she was supposed to be resting because HEAVEN FORBID she didn't have every little thing in her room with her and I wasn't about to go searching the nooks and crannies for where she stashes or forgets things, we could have avoided an entire melt-down. Truly, we could have! I'm trying, really really trying, to find contentment in these moments, to enjoy the pure joy of childhood while it lasts. And to that, I cannot do it on my own.
We are working to embrace the idea that we cannot succeed at disciplining without God's help. In our household, discipline often entails prayers for patience and calm, both silent and with the banshee, along with the ubiquitous apology and hug. We utilize cool down time and go-to-a-place-where-you-can-become-happy-again. We offer choices: you can do this job willingly with a positive attitude or you can do it screaming and we will all be miserable. We try to impress our disappointment and not just our anger.
And most of the time it seems as if nothing we say or do matters. Most of the time!! But then a breakthrough moment, sometimes just a passing flicker, happens, and I catch myself realizing that, whoa, she's getting it maybe, maybe, just a little.
How is discipline not the epitome of insanity--doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? In fact, it is.