It all started the other day at Target. Aiden and I were having a Mom's day out with my Mom's group at the local orchard and I had it all planned out: Aiden and I riding the hay ride to the orchards, him asking all sorts of cute questions, teaching him how to properly pick apples, and getting a few Mama & Me selfies with my phone. It was going to be perfect! However, on the way out to the orchard I realized that I forgot my lip gloss. (For those of you who know me, I am very addicted to the stuff.) I had this brilliant idea to pop into Target, pick up some lip gloss and a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte and head to the orchard. The idea of sipping a PSL on the hayride with the brisk morning air blowing through my hair holding my little man's hand, just made the morning seem even more appealing.
As I was daydreaming in the checkout line I hear the cry of another kid and turn around to find my toddler standing over some stranger's kid yelling "NO! You put that back!" I was shocked! I have never seen him act this way. Sure I have seen other toddlers be bossy, push to get what they want, and throw tantrums --but that's not my kid. I apologized about 10 times to the other child's mother and made my toddler apologize not only at that moment but again when we were leaving. This poor child's Mom just looked at me and shook her head with that look of "you are the worst Mom ever!"
Fast forward to today. I am involved in a local MOPS group and today was the meeting. My son loves MOPS days because it's his time to play with other kids in a daycare setting. This morning I walked him into the daycare and let the ladies working know we had been having issues with him pushing other kids and being mean. I figured it's my duty as a parent to let them know. I thought maybe a little pep-talk before playtime would keep him from being a mean little boy, however on my return I find we had not one but two more "mean" incidents with other kids. WHERE DID MY LITTLE ANGEL GO!?!?!
I arrived home with my son without saying much to him the car ride. When Mom is quiet, he knows he is in big trouble! After talking with my husband, we both agreed that we really had no idea what to do about this mean behavior. The normal timeouts just don't seem to be a big enough punishment in situations like this. Hurting others and being mean is not OK and he needed to learn that. We decided the best punishment for him would be to remove all toys and books from his room. He HAD to figure out that this is not good behavior and maybe being bored with no toys in his room will teach him that.
While my toddler took his nap today I still couldn't get over his attitude and all the questions I have about why he is acting this way. Where did our sweet toddler go? Where did he learn this? Are we yelling too much? Is it something he is watching something he shouldn't? Is he not getting enough attention? Are we not punishing him enough? The questions went on and on.
I felt the sudden urge to go for a run, even though it was raining and we were having threats of tornadoes (in October??) I went anyways. On my run, there was something I figured out. I am not quite sure if I am more upset about my toddler acting out or was I more upset with myself? Don't get me wrong --my toddler was being extra naughty this week, but isn't that what a toddler does? No one says, "Oh, the toddler years are so easy!" They wouldn't call the the terrible twos or horrible threes without a good reason. I wonder if I am more upset because these incidents have me questioning myself as a parent. I don't like the feeling of being judged by others as a bad parent because of the way my toddler was acting. I don't like thinking that maybe we really don't know how to raise a good child. I don't like questioning if we are raising him to be a good adult or maybe another Dexter? How does a parent really know if they are doing the right thing with their child?
Later that evening, I happened to be at the grocery store and watched another child about my son's age throwing a tantrum in the produce section. He was yelling at his mom, smashing the children's cart into stacks of produce, and pushing his sister to the floor. The mother looked at me with embarrassment and then looked away quickly. It was at that moment I decided to walk up to her and say to a perfect stranger, "I know how you feel, my son was having a bad day too. Don't you just love this age!" She smiled and laughed a little with both of us in silent agreement that these toddler years are tough. We all have our bad days and it's important to remember that toddler's do to. They are learning to become little adults and all of these new found social skills are tough. That doesn't mean that we let them get away with murder or throwing tantrums that hurt others, but we do need to realize that this is part of what they have to learn in life. Parenting a toddler takes patience and true understanding that none of us are perfect parents. We just need to keep trying our best, stay consistent in the disciplining, and say lots and lots of prayers that our children will turn out fine.
UPDATE: I wrote this blog a month ago and can say that the "mean" behavior has gotten much better. Being consistent with timeouts, losing books before bed, and taking toys away has really helped him realize that there is always a punishment for bad behavior. He is back to being a sweet little boy again...on most days!
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