Friday, September 30, 2005

Disciplinary Action

As I've mentioned several times before, Isaac is an active 2 year old. Sometimes I struggle in my effort to encourage good behavior from him. Most of the time I realize that he is a unique person, and that what works for some Moms might not work for me. Every now and then, however, those little voices of doubt creep in, mocking me and my attempts at "good" parenting.

Although Isaac is active, he is not what you would call "wild". He doesn't run willy-nilly into a crowd, he waits a few minutes before trying new things. What makes him difficult is his independent streak*. He always wants to do things by himself. He doesn't want to ride in the stroller, he wants to walk. He doesn't want to hold your hand. He doesn't want to walk the way you are going, he wants to walk his way. He wants to pour his own milk, cut up his own dinner, put on his shoes, take off his diaper, wash his own hands. He doesn't want to sleep in the crib, so he climbs out. He doesn't want to take a nap so he gets out of bed. He doesn't want to read the Napping House, he wants to read Franny B. Kranny. And HE wants to turn the pages!! Etc. Etc. Etc. Ad naseaum.

In preschool, it is required that parents sign their kids in every morning and out every afternoon. The teachers use this sign-in sheet to write little comments about the day. You know, like "Isaac had a great morning today and loved playing with the play-doh". Except, that's not the type of comment I usually get. More often, our comments go like this: "Isaac had a hard time staying with his group today." Or "Isaac doesn't like to sit during circle time, but he does better if I hold him in my lap."

Last year, Isaac was the youngest in his class, so I didn't worry myself too much with these comments. "He's just young," I told myself, "he'll get it in time." This year, he is not the youngest. And the comments I get are like this: "Isaac didn't want to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at circle time today and had to sit outside for a few minutes to settle down". Or "Isaac loved making cookies with his group but he got upset when other children stirred the batter".

I have talked to his teachers at school, and they insist they are not bothered by his behavior. It is well within the normal range for kids his age. One teacher told me that he "just really seems to know who he is and what he wants, and I can respect that". I thought that was very true, and pretty cute, if truth be told.

But I still worry, every now and then, that I am not molding his behavior properly. That if I was a better mother, he would "mind his manners". Another mother at school has two boys, age 3 & 2, and she told me how they recently flew across the country. She sat between the two boys and said the flight was pretty uneventful. This made me cringe inside. "Wow," I said. "You didn't have carseats, and they just stayed in their seats?" "Oh yeah, " she replied. "They know better than to get down until I tell them to." A cross-country flight with Isaac would never be uneventful. Further, it would be impossible to consider without a carseat to strap him into.

I try to be consistent when I discipline him. Time-outs are very big in this house. We use an egg timer, and he has to sit for 2 minutes. If we are out--at the market, at a friends house--and he starts acting inappropriately, I am perfectly willing to warn him, and then take him immediately home if the behavior persists. But there are times, I admit, when this doesn't work so well. When I threaten something before I think about it, and realize, too late, that I won't be able to follow through.

I also try to be careful not to "break his spirit". I don't want him to fear authority, the way I do. I want him to feel confident enough to speak his mind, I want him to hold onto this great sense of himself thoughout life.

But shouldn't I be able to control him better on an airplane? Shouldn't he be able to eat at a restaurant by now? Shouldn't he know that he has to sit nicely in the grocery cart?

I guess I will always worry, to some extent, about whether I am doing a good job at this parenting thing. I find that funny, considering I never wondered about my "official" places of employment, in the pre-kids days. I always felt like I was doing a great job, and didn't worry about it beyond that. And yet, this job--this un-paid, under-valued job that I hold now, for which I received no training, and for which it is assumed that I need no training other than that xx chromosone--this is the one that I feel the most insecure about.

*Lest you be confused, being independant does not mean that Isaac likes to play by himself. He may want to do everything his way, but he also wants you to watch him doing it.


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