My sweet little Aydon stops his trike in the hall in front of the kitchen and proudly announces: "Mommy, I stopped! I'm not coming in there, I'm not!"
"Thank you, Aydon! I am so proud of you!"
Just a few days before, my husband told him that he could not drive his tricycle into the kitchen. He was very upset, and yelled "No!" I made the mistake of asking him to try again: he looked at me with a puzzled look, and then yelled again, "No!" Oops! I didn't mean try saying "no" again, Aydon, I meant tell mommy that you are mad instead of yelling no.
Hubby and I are not afraid to let our little guy express his feelings, though compliance is not an option. This makes growing up seem quite messy at times, but then I remember that God is willing to daily deal with us and all the messiness we create: and He always embraces us with grace.
And then there are those little moments where we can see gentle discipline pays off: like little man beaming that he had exercised self-control and had not entered the kitchen.
I have had to get off my butt a lot lately! My husband is away on a mission trip, and my youngest brother, almost 10, is staying with us. Aydon had a hard time sharing toys and playing cooperatively at first. Enter comfort corner: a space where Aydon goes to take a break until he is ready to treat my brother with kindness. This is not a place of punishment, though at times I have had to pick up little man and carry him to his comfort corner. Sometimes, I sit in this spot with him, talking to him, encouraging and exhorting him (not lecturing) once he has calmed down to use words instead of force, to tell uncle what he is worried about, to make amends.
It was hard to get off my butt, and make sure that little man was not grabbing toys out of my brother's hands, or yelling at him, especially because that meant setting baby down for brief moments, or interrupting my chores. Often, I saw that the root of little man's behavior was anxiety: what if my brother hurt his toys? when will daddy come home?
I have watched little man blossom in many ways this week. He asks before he grabs toys from my brother. He offers to share with him. He asks before he uses my brother's toys. This blossoming did not look pretty; it meant many times of letting out anger and frustration in the comfort corner. It meant that I repeated myself and enforced boundaries ad nauseum. It also meant that I had to rely on God for an extra dose of patience and love. Little man is certainly not perfect, and many times each day I have to remind myself that I am not working to make a perfect child; my job is to guide, to teach, to shepherd, to model Christ to my child so that one day he will embrace this Jesus as his savior.