Any time a young mum talks to me about discipline of their little kids I remember the lip balm incident. Then I cringe a little with remembered guilt. And then I allow myself grace.
It’s become one of those funny stories that you tell about your kids. It goes something like this.
Little Miss 4 suffered from cracked lips during winter. Mostly she complained about it when we were out so I kept a lip balm in the car. Then sometimes she would want it in the house and I’d have to go out in the cold to the car. So I bought a second one. At home, as I unpacked the shopping, I gave Miss 4 the lip balm and asked her to put it in the drawer in her bedroom. I explained to her that this one was for the house and the other one was for the car.
A few minutes later, I went into her room. There were pink, lipsticky scrawls over the bedroom wall.
Me (sternly – expecting penitence): What have you been doing?
Miss 4 (with a delighted smile): I’ve been swirling all over the wall. It made lots of pink marks.
Me (thinking): Father is away for three days and the child’s behaviour goes to the pack!
Me (even sterner): What did you do that for?
In my mind I was trying to determine what sort of discipline should attend this offence, especially as there was no remorse! Where had I gone wrong as a parent?!
Miss 4 (smiles turning to confusion and bottom lip beginning to tremble): But you said it was for the house!
I went over the conversation in my mind and could see the obvious direction it had taken for her. My continued questioning was designed to make her admit the error of her ways but, instead, it allowed me opportunity to see her perspective. I felt bad enough already but would have felt much worse if I had hastily dispensed ‘consequences’! I explained to her what I had meant by ‘for the house’ and ‘for the car’, explained that I wasn’t angry with her, and we had a big hug.
It’s easy to forget that little kids are still on their L plates when it comes to language, especially if they are early talkers. It was a timely reminder to me of the importance of patience and certainty before discipline. It’s wise to get on your child’s level, take time to understand them, listen to explanations and reasons, and work together on developing the parent/children relationship that you want to have. But don’t beat yourself up if you mess up. We all do it! Just own up and apologise (that is a lesson in itself for your child) and give yourself grace. I’m sure your child will. Little children are very forgiving, especially if they know they are loved.
Before we left the room, I thought I should explain about the hand-cream, of which I had also bought two (you guessed it: one for the car and one for the house). We had a bit of a laugh about the silliness of language and easily cleaned the lip balm off the wall.