Discipline, Single Mother, Working Mother

Too Early for Discipline?

She is now 9 months old (my how time is flying by). I know I spoil her. I do so because I love her immensely and want her to have everything. Because I can’t stand to see or hear her unhappy or cry. Because it is always in the back of my mind that I am not spending enough quality time with her and need to make it up to her in some way. However, I am afraid those feelings are going to lead me down a path of having “that child” throwing a tantrum in the middle of the toy aisle in Target. I cringe at the thought.

My potential for embarrassment aside, I know discipline and limits are things healthy children need to reinforce the structure they require in their lives. To support this, I have recently taken to setting limits in my own way. I am not sure what age exactly is appropriate to officially begin implementing disciplinary measures, but at 9 months she seems to understand tone.

For example, when I am changing her pamper, she twists, turns, squirms and locks her legs at full length, when she isn’t kicking, which make it very difficult to get her changed in under 10 minutes. Obviously I exaggerate the time, but it does pose a challenge. I decided to use this as an opportunity to test the level of discipline I plan to explore.

When she is entirely disruptive while being changed, I have taken to using a stern tone as I tell her “no,” or “stop that,” or “please don’t do that.” I don’t yell, but I am hoping the change in my tone of voice is what she responds to. When she relaxes her legs, or stops squirming, I then smile and thank her for cooperating. We go back and forth with this exercise pretty much the whole time I am changing her, but my hope is for this to be the start of the reasoning discipline I hope to utilize throughout her life.

I was raised in the age of yelling and beatings, but I don’t want to employ those tactics when raising my child. I may be dreaming, but I want to teach my daughter to use her words when she is angry, upset or at any time in general. I don’t think I can do that as effectively as I want to if I am hitting her when I am angry or upset over something she has done. I was also raised in the “do as I say, not as I do” culture. However, even as I manage people for work, I like to lead by example. I have the hope that I model the behavior I want my daughter to follow. If I am hitting her, I can’t teach her that it is better to use her words, not her hands, to make her point.

In the way I see this playing out, I will be able to talk to her when she misbehaves and get her to understand how she is behaving badly and how/why she should adjust her actions. I will, of course, give her the necessary guidance and tools she needs to make those adjustments. I am hopeful this will set her on a good path for dealing with multiple types of situations as she grows into adulthood.

Adulthood? Just a few days ago she was my feisty little newborn!

Theoretically, I am confident my plan works. As an added benefit, I am hopeful this form of discipline also opens up our lines of communication that will lead to us having a great relationship overall. The more I talk to her about her feelings and how to properly express them, the more she will understand her feelings are valid and it is absolutely okay to share them – only in “acceptable” ways that do not include poor behavior and tantrums.

What it really means to “reason” with a toddler remains to be seen, but I have to give it a try. I want to forge a relationship where she knows she can come to me with anything – good, bad or indifferent. I think I will have a better chance of that happening if I develop a relationship with her early on based on love and open dialogue, not a constant threat of violence. I know this will take more time and maybe lead to more patience depleting, trying moments, but she deserves whatever time I have to give her even when I am tired after a hard day.

Rest assured, I can feel the many eyes rolling and I mean no offense to any parent choosing to utilize mild physical discipline. I am just hopeful my way will work best for us.

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