I only have two real rules in my house.
And that pretty much covers EVERYTHING.
We’ve had some….ahem…discipline issues these past few weeks. Namely around bedtime. Our tinies share a bedroom and, despite previous success, Anne recently decided that she did NOT want to go to bed on time and what’s more, what she wanted to do was read her books, yell at Joe to “WAKE UP, JOEY!” after he’d finally fall asleep, turn on the light and generally be a hooligan.
After a few nights of 9 o’clock-and-the-tinies-are-still-up, I was, shall we say, LOSING MY EVER-LOVIN’ MIND.
I was frustrated because not only was she disobeying but she was doing it with a grin, like it was all a big game. I was frustrated because Annie is a good and obedient girl, quick to obey most of the time (certainly not all of the time….). I give her a lot of lee-way and try to remember that she is, in fact, two. Not ten. And still learning. But to see this escalating was making me sad and angry.
It seems so silly to say it made me angry. But it did.
It made me angry because Joe was the victim in this, often weeping with exhaustion because all the poor lad wanted was to just go to sleep, please, dear Jesus. And again, she’d turn the light on, holler at him and laugh hysterically at our repeated “GET IN THE BED NOW!”
It made me angry because I don’t like being disobeyed. There, I said it.
I prayed about it. Oh, I sought Jesus. Give me wisdom, I said.
I am dangerously close to spanking that child, I told the Creator of the Universe.
You see, Brian and I have made a commitment that we will not spank our children. There are a lot of reasons why we don’t spank. We have researched it and prayed about it. We made our decision and not lightly.
Yet, that being said….
It was the fourteenth time that I had stormed into her room to find her hanging off of Joe’s crib, laughing. Brian stood behind me. I got down on my knees, grabbed her arms and looked her in the eyes.
And very slowly, for emphasis, I said it:
“If you don’t stop getting out of your bed…..
….your Dad will spank you.”
And Brian gasped out loud as I tossed him under the bus.
She had no knowledge of spanking. I might as well have said “If you don’t stop getting out of your bed, we will bamboozle you.” for all the impact that the word “spanking” had on her.
Thankfully, she went to sleep right after that and we didn’t have to follow through. We had another emergency summit family meeting about corporal discipline. We prayed again. Because the thing is this: neither one of us will hit our children. Period.
So now what?
One of the main reasons we don’t spank is because we believe it teaches violence as a solution. And I see that Anne is a very literal mimic. She breastfeeds her Blankie. She carries her bears in a sling. She asks me to do something, pauses for effect and then, to the tone, states “RIGHT NOW!” just like I do, I’m sorry to say. She imitates everything.
During this week, she was playing in the hallway. I heard her yelling and slamming the door. She was putting her Minnie Mouse in the bed, stomping out of the door, slamming the door, then opening and yelling “MINNIE! STAY IN THAT BED!” Then she would do the whole thing over again.
Hello, Mirror, not so nice to see you.
I revisited our techniques. I realised we were being too wordy for her. I was yelling. I was losing my cool. I took some deep breaths. We had too many injectures: don’t get out of your bed, don’t bother your brother, don’t read your books, stay in your bed, if you get out again, we will take away your books, we will take away your bed, we will take away joe and make him sleep in our bed….. (You get the idea. A little verbose. Who me? Too wordy? Nevermind…)
And the greatest parenting advice I’ve ever received was from my mother via my grandmother: “No two year old is going to boss me.”
So we went back to basics. We got creative. We took a long-term view. We practiced during the day. I praised her good behaviour. We lavished quality time. We practicised some more. I got it down to three words: STAY IN BED.
And then I felt God tell me: REMEMBER THE BLANKIE.
You see, Annie loves this Blankie like it is family. She has slept with it every single night since she was born. It is tattered, grey and greatly beloved.
So at bedtime, I tell her: “Annie. If you get out of this bed, I will take away your Blankie.”
She thought I was bluffing.
As she found out at 7:28, I was not, in fact, bluffing.
I took that Blankie away. I told her that she could have him back if she stayed in her bed for two minutes. And she sat in that little bed, in the dark, crying like her heart would break in two. I gave the blankie back after a minute. And she stayed in that bed all night.
She stayed in that bed all the next night.
And as I type this, she is, once again, staying in her bed, fourth night in a row.
I love that kid. I love her so much, it aches.