Amy’s toys were strewn all through the house. It was time to make lunch. I told her to clean up her stuff, and be sure to put things back where they go. (She really does know where things go.)
She balked, threw something, and had a time out. After the time out, I told her again. She threw something again and got spanked — I really try not to spank because usually for me it’s from anger and frustration instead of loving and appropriate discipline, but sometimes I fail. I told her again, adding that if she did not put things back where they go I would take them away.
She brightened and said “Mama take them?” in a cheerful voice.
That’s almost as infuriating as being laughed at when you’re trying to discipline the high school class you’re subbing for.
What I should have done is followed through on my threat, but because she was taking it as a pleasant offer instead, it provoked me to dig in my heels and insist yet again that she clean up — with a rather raised voice, I’m afraid. (Oh, come off it — you yelled in her face.)
She was dilly-dallying so much I finally did grab a laundry basket and start piling strewn toys in it, which only fazed her a little bit.
A few times since then she’s looked at the basket, which I put up out of reach but readily visible, and asked for something in it or talked about what happened. Sometimes she seems cheerful about it, sometimes wistful. I suppose she doesn’t quite get it yet.
I still think it’s a good strategy — I think one of the keys to relatively discipline is to have clear consequences and apply them consistently and quickly. I need something beyond a timeout that’s not quite spanking, and taking the toys away seems appropriate and suitable to the situation.
I think I will try having her earn them back when she cooperates with bedtime stuff tonight — one toy for cleaning up, one for cooperating with getting diaper and pjs on, etc.
I remind myself:
Rebellion is part of necessary development, to discover the boundaries and test their strength.
To those who scoff at such “psychobabble,” saying rebellion is sin, pure and simple: Even though rebellion and waywardness is sin, sin is not really well dealt with by punishment or opposition alone — the best cure for waywardness is firmness with love, a sense of coming-alongside-to-help along with a strong commitment to righteousness and other values.
A little rebellion now, about cleaning up or cooperating with getting dressed, is a very good opportunity — to demonstrate that the boundaries do hold firm, to demonstrate that love persists despite bad behavior and anger (on both sides), perhaps even to demonstrate that boundaries are protections and provisions and not arbitrary or hateful.
At this stage, dealing with little rebellions well can help establish a firm foundation for better decisions later in life, and security and trust in relationships.
I need to be careful lest I teach opposite lessons — lest I demonstrate that performance earns love or hatred, can make or break a relationship, that boundaries and discipline are capricious, that her will is never allowed to exist, much less be expressed or prevail.