20 Mar

How do you correct your children? What do you do when they don’t behave as you would like it?

I am having a really hard time teaching discipline to my daughter. I’m afraid of being too sharp. I don’t yell, but I seem unable to convey my disapproval without her bursting into tears. I want to teach her and guide her, and I think she should be aware when she has done something wrong.  I don’t think a parent should ignore bad behavior for the sake of tranquility, but sometimes I feel very troubled and worry that all I do is say ‘no’.

Today for example, I took some magnetic letters from her easel because I thought she would like to play by the refrigerator while I cooked her lunch, but she threw a fit and started crying because those were *her* letters. I took the letters off and gave them to her, explaining what I had wanted to do. She threw the letters at me.

I cannot help but be hurt by this, even though I know she is only three-years-old. I told her very sharply that she shouldn’t behave like this with me and she cried even more. Then she asked the question that I hate: Mummy are you happy? She asks me this every time I reprimand her.

It really upsets me, because it makes me feel guilty. I have explained that I am always happy, even when I reprimand her, and that I am trying to teach her how to live, but while she is very intelligent and remembers many things, my explanations don’t seem to make an impression upon her.

My husband and I are very affectionate people, who shower our child with hugs and kisses, and give her a lot of attention, but I agonize over my role as disciplinarian. My husband is a very calm person, who rarely raises his voice, and our daughter adores him. I am very hurt if she runs to him when I reprimand her, as if she should escape from me and seek refuge with him. Most of the time he reinforces the point I am trying to make, but even then I feel like the bad guy.

Is a toddler too young to be corrected? Should I loosen up and let things flow? Is it wrong to speak sharply? I have lots of parenting books, but while I think they are a good starting point, I find that in the end their academic advice regarding discipline rarely applies to the real world, full of cranky children and frustrated parents.

One of my favorite books has a very good passage regarding children and tantrums. From North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell:

“But Margaret almost liked him better in these manifestations of character than in his good blue-sashed moods. She would carry him off into a room, where they two alone battled it out; she with a firm power which subdued him into peace, while every sudden charm and wile she possessed was exerted on the side of right, until he would rub his little hot and tear-smeared face all over hers, kissing and caressing till he often fell asleep in her arms or on her shoulder. Those were Margaret’s sweetest moments. They gave her a taste of the feeling that she believed would be denied to her for ever.”  Chapter 47

This is how I would like our tantrums to end, with me firmly in charge and my daughter at peace. Am I being unrealistic?



3 Responses to “Tantrums”

  1. Helen March 22, 2007 at 4:51 pm #

    I wish I knew the answer. My baby boy, at sixteen months, already thinks he’s Master of the Universe and chucks tantrums left, right and centre. My response tends to be: “Tough luck, Buster, we’re doing it Mammy’s way,” but he’s a hard-headed little thing and laughs if I tell him off. If he does something dangerous like switches on the oven, I will put him in his cot for a short time to try and make him understand that he was naughty, but more often than not, he sits there quite happily and amuses himself. When I say to him: “No!” he parrots back: “Noooooooo!” in a cheeky voice. I can see some real battles of will in the near future. When he’s kicking and screaming I try not to give too much of a reaction, but I know that approach would be a disaster for a different child. I honestly think that the way to deal with tantrums depends on the child’s personality and your own instincts. I’ve been telling myself: “At least he’s got a strong sense of will! This one won’t be easily led!” That will be a big advantage in later life.

  2. lvmg March 23, 2007 at 11:07 pm #

    My father says the same thing about my daughter’s strong will. She knows what she wants all right!

    This has been a tough week when it comes to tantrums. My husband advised me to relax and make sure I don’t overreact, and I have to say it has helped. It won’t do for me to have a tantrum, too, though sometimes I sure feel like having one!

  3. Helen March 24, 2007 at 10:24 am #

    Their tantrums seem to go in phases, don’t they? Kiko was so well-behaved for most of this week then today he’s been like a miniature dictator. Just now, he stood there and screamed at my husband and I until he was purple in the face. It’s so wearing. Mind you, it’ll be good if they have this sort of reaction if somebody tries to “lead them astray” as teenagers! We can only hope…

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