Today, my son offered another child a toy. The little girl had been playing with it, when it caught his eye. He scooted over and held it in his hand for a closer look. The little girl then figured she’d had enough of it anyway, and moved away. He noticed she’d gone, looked up, and tried to offer her back the toy.
My heart sang at that moment! It’s such a little thing, but it’s one affirmation that our choice to use gentle parenting methods with Noah (see here and here for more info on gentle parenting) hasn’t been a mistake.
It can be difficult to feel like we’re doing things right when we’re trailing behind a walking, squawking toddler in a crowded shopping mall, and decide to allow Noah to get out of his highchair to walk around instead of forcing him to sit through restaurant meals with us. Too often, my inner critic tells me I’m not doing enough to ‘discipline’ him. Don’t even let me start on how increasingly I anticipate raised eyebrows when people find out I’m still nursing Noah to sleep and letting him nurse for comfort, and that he’s still co-sleeping with Galvs and I in our bed.
It can get tiresome repeating instructions and helping Noah to obey our instructions by physically removing the forbidden objects from his reach, and I sometimes feel silly counting down for almost everything in a bid to answer him with ‘Yes’ as far as possible. E.g. playing with our mobile phones or the remote controls for the fan, tv etc. are all allowed, except that he is given only three, five, or ten seconds to play with the each item on each occasion. We try to be respectful of his feelings by informing him of what we are going to do to him and counting down to the action, so he can anticipate it even though he may not be able to control what is happening e.g. during diaper changes, picking him up to carry him, putting an end to playtime/bath time.
All this in a bid to help him feel secure, respected, and be able to give attention, obedience, and respect in turn. We prioritize a trusting, respectful relationship between parent and child as the basis for good behaviour, which is far less efficient than using external rewards and punishments such as spanking.
I’m not above feeding him snacks to keep him happy in the car seat or stroller, and against my ideals, we do use the tv and videos at times to help him eat better, so it’s not as if I’m some kind of holier-than-thou parent. I think we all just do what we can. But I’m so happy to have found another way, and it’s a way that seems to be working.
Noah is able to obey us roughly 70-80 percent of the time when we tell him not to touch something, and rarely ever has a tantrum when something he wants is removed from him. He’s been particularly clingy this week and full of tears, wanting to be carried all the time and crying profusely when I put him down or leave the room, but even through this developmental phase, we are communicating pretty well with him and vice versa.
Some parenting advice I’ve read about spanking says that it’s necessary to spank the ‘willfulness’ out of the child (see here for a sensible explanation of how to use spanking) – I don’t rule out the possibility that we may one day have to spank Noah if there is a really serious case of open defiance, but by God’s grace, we seem to be able to love the ‘willfulness’ out of him for now.
So I’m thankful. 🙂
As a side note, I’ve observed that times when I feel Noah is ‘being naughty’ mostly occur during settings which aren’t exactly child-friendly, e.g. crowded shopping malls, and restaurants, mrt trains. In general, I’ve begun to realise that few places are truly small-child friendly. I feel the weight of expectations to keep my child ‘under control’ in such public places. As we don’t drive, I guess we will have to find some way to navigate Noah’s toddler needs and these societal expectations without the private space of our own vehicle.