Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Toddler Tyrant and a Plan to Win

So cute...and yet, so naughty.

I'm going to be painfully honest for a moment: Naomi is a toddler tyrant.

We love her every bit as much as our other children, but at moments she is hard to like.

We are at times weary, but not defeated. (Okay, I have to admit to feeling defeated at times but Chris is continually shaking me out of it.) I keep reminding myself that all our children got easier as they got older. As a toddler, we used to say that Karis was so strong-willed and stubborn and now you couldn't ask for a more delightful 11-year-old. But it is so easy to get discouraged in the midst of it, bogged down, lose perspective.

Here's the difference between Naomi and any of our other one-year-olds (1yo). Two toddlers are going along playing, 1yo wants what big sister has, so 1yo hits for the first time. I've read all these books and I'm braced for this; all kids do it, I'm going to nip it in the bud. 1yo gets a swift spanking for hitting followed by love, hugs and instruction. 1yo never hits again (for some of our kids,) or at least not for another month or more.

Enter little miss Naomi to the above scene, except 5 minutes later she hits again, and gets another spanking, and then as soon as she is put down from that ordeal she is begging for something, of which she is told no for, then a fit ensues, and then, of course, another spanking. Our other 4 learned a lot quicker the order of the house: Mom and Dad are in charge and life is so pleasant when I obey cheerfully.

But some kids are wired to dominate and they are not going to surrender so easily--or so I'm learning. Either we have a plan to put a stop to this now, or else the rest of her life trainwrecks as she refuses to bend to God just as she never learned to bend to parents. He is the battle plan: desisive, firm, consistent, fear-inspiring discipline and constant, firm, genuine, relational love.

Discipline Need to be Fear-inspiring:
This isn't some token swat to the diaper, but a stroke that leaves a strong impression on the little mind. Just as pain is useful in that after an encounter with a hot stove, a little hand is not likely to ever try that again; so is pain useful in rebellion. I find a wooden spoon helpful because the idea behind the swat is that it should sting without doing any injury. Think of doing a belly flop off of the low dive at the pool. It smarts, but doesn't do any real damage. A little flick of the wrist while swatting with a wooden spoon will inflict pain but nothing else. Of course this is never done in anger or in rage, but given by a parent who is under control and fearful of the state of their child's soul if she is allowed to remain in her rebellion.

The more spanking a particular child requires, the more relationship building that will also be required. I am amazed how readily Naomi's heart opens to us after she has been spanked and then loved on. She runs to get a book and then return to our lap. She smiles into our faces and points out little pictures of interest. Because her sin has been dealt with and forgotten, it is easy for me to show her love afterward. I don't need to resort to injured glances and tight-lipped statements of, "No, mommy is not going to read a book to you, of all children."

Of course, there have been times where her need of discipline has been so constant that I have not been up to the task. Chris and I have had many exchanged that went like this: "You're easier on her than you were on the other children."
And then I respond along the lines of: "I've given her way more discipline than the rest combined, but now my spanking quota for the day is beyond maxed out and that's why she's getting away with murder." In other words, I get burned out and ignore her hoping it will go away.

Mommy Needs a Time Out
In football, when the coach calls a time out so that he get the team fired up, and he reinforces what they talked about earlier, that's often what I need. I enjoyed a much-needed time out to regroup the other day when I listened to a seminar on child training given by a home school mom of 10. Everything she said I had heard before, but I really needed a moral booster and a challenge to keep at it, and more examples of what I should be doing. Here are the things I needed to hear the most:

Your toddler needs to be totally under your authority in all things.
Signs that he is not under your authority:
You say no and he whines (whince.)
He has an ungrateful attitude to the food you prepare (not only as in he doesn't like it, but also if it's not prepared just right, cut right, right temp, etc. whince, whince.)
He has an ungrateful attitude towards diapering and dressing. Your toddler should be saying thank you when you change his diaper. No kicking and trying to roll over. (whince, whince, whince, whince, whince)

So there you have it: the naked truth that Naomi is not under my authority but is her own boss. She does what she wants and when she is made to do what she doesn't want, we all hear about it. I have 5 kids and I thought this was going to be easy.

If sometimes I sound preachy, know-it-all, in my posts (I don't mean to or want to), that stops here. This is hard and it has not been going well, but we are regrouping and we are ready to go back to the field tomorrow and face the giants, I mean the toddler. Yeah, I'm bigger than her...


Ashley said...


Your post is encouraging. I wish I could sit down and talk with you about child rearing. What resource has helped you the most? I know "Shepherding a Child's Heart" is one of the best. Is this one of your resources? Our daughter is 15 months old now. I flick her hand when she does something wrong.... when did you transition to spanking? Do you ever feel like you say "No" too much.... like you're being a tyrant? Just some random questions. I would love any feedback.

~Ashley Mosier

Laura said...

Leslie, thanks for the honesty. I'm sure it's a bit hard to admit when you can't control a small child. Keep us updated on what works for you and Chris, as you're our parental role models!

Margaret in VA said...

Hang in there! I had/have one of those, (he's 14). There were many nights that my husband and I reminded ourselves that we weren't disciplining for results, (because often we didn't see any) but because God says to. It is amazing that we think we ever "do" any of it right, when it is all just handfulls of God's mercy to us! BTW, we love, love, love Reb Bradley's stuff!

Leslie said...

Margaret, Funny that you mention Reb Bradley. I had never heard of him until recently. Just this morning I was listening to a seminar of his on child training. It was excellent.