Until very recently, we’ve been spared “the terrible two’s” from Evangeline. But Reuben’s birth and Ryan’s end of the school year schedule have changed our routines nearly every day. With the change in daily expectations, we’ve noticed a drastic shift in Evangeline’s behavior. She’s become…moody. We had hoped after the baby was born and things began to calm down that she would return to her delightful, helpful, compliant self. We haven’t been so lucky.
Each evening after Ryan and I recover from the bedtime routine, we find ourselves scratching our heads re-playing the days events:
how was today different than yesterday?
how did Evangeline behave?
how did she respond to simple requests?
how did we respond to her disobedience?
did our discipline measure work or not?
Everyday is different. One day she needs more freedoms, the next she needs a firmer hand. Most days we don’t know what she needs at all! Today she is happy to listen and help, but yesterday she threw a temper-tantrum at even the smallest of requests. We’ve been talking, thinking, praying and reading to try to get some sort of insight into the best way to go forward with her. What we’ve been finding has been just as confusing and inconclusive as Evangeline’s behavior.
We have mostly been teaching boundaries–you can’t touch the stove–and implementing respectful manners–yes ma’am, no sir, please and thank-you. Now that Evangeline has reached a slightly more rational and a very articulate age, we are beginning to need to correct her behavior, especially where her younger siblings who still have soft spots are concerned. We’ve tried pinching her finger, time-outs, sharp reprimands, gentle correction, with-holding toys and spankings all with varying degrees of success. We have always wavered on corporal punishments because of our own temperaments and our concerns over introducing violence. We have our ground rules regarding spankings which work well, when they are followed. But with this resurgence of willfulness from Evangeline, we are going back to the drawing board when it comes to correction.
What we do know is that our children need to be disciplined. Our own experiences as well as our faith tell us that. We believe it is our role as parents to cradle, nurture and encourage our children. We also believe it is our responsibility as parents to teach them boundaries, respect, diligence and consideration. We want our children to be virtuous, to work towards the greatest good and be disciplined in their desires. We believe children ought to be taught to respect and obey their parents as authority figures. Being respected and obeyed allows parents to teach and instruct their children in the way they ought to go. We believe this is the primary role of parents–to instruct.
We’ve read different blogs and articles looking for some insight from other parents. I’ve found that more upsetting than Evangeline’s temper tantrums…well, maybe not. It seems the general mindset of our generation is that the role of parents should be friend and facilitator. Ryan and I both agree it is better to create an environment in which is is “easier to be good” — routine meals and naps, clear boundaries and expectations, playing to the child’s interests and attention span etc.–than to harshly correct all day. Of course we want our children to like us, and we like playing and being with them. An authority figure can also be a gentle comforter or fun friend. But the modern, secular thinking seems to say that a child should first obey their own heart and any action taken to corral a child’s passions will forever leave the child damaged. Independence, free-thinking and creativity are most highly valued. No doubt how a person is treated as a child influences how they will live as an adult. Modern thinking, however, seems scared of this fact. Scared that one misstep, one bad decision will forever cripple their child’s emotional well-being. But it is precisely because of how formative these young childhood years are that we believe now is the time to start correction and instruction, emphasizing self-control, temperance and consideration for others.
As we cautiously venture out into this next stage of parenting, pray that we don’t screw it up too bad and that we might all make it out better people. Or at the very least that we all make it out alive.