I have reached an interesting point in my life as a parent. From my earlier posts, you will probably know that early fatherhood challenged me in ways I hadn’t expected and having a toddler has brought its own set of trials.
From the start, I had wondered what I would be like once Isaac got to the age when he would begin to test his boundaries. Would I be stern? Relaxed? Would I shout or stay calm? Would he even be that bad? I tried to picture how I’d be and how I’d react, based on my friends who are parents, on how other parents reacted whilst out and about, and hoped I’d have good judgment.
All the things I love about Isaac; his fearlessness, his confidence, his stubbornness to do what he wants – all have made him the independent character he is, only now they are helping him to test how far he can go. At 21 months his desire to be involved in everything and frustrations have grown, through his increased understanding, set against his inability to communicate those feelings fully. From picking up valuable items, to pulling at cupboards, throwing things at people, hitting or biting me and Claire, to just being generally cross at not getting his own way.
This, along with a recent mummy obsession, means that he has become more difficult – especially if Claire is around. On the days that I have alone with Isaac, he is an attentive, loving and fun little boy – but as soon as my wife is entered into the equation, he won’t even go downstairs with me unless ‘momma!’ comes too. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t bother me in a jealous way, it’s simply the frustration that I can’t do anything alone with him and simple tasks get more difficult.
So how does one deal with said behaviour in a way that is constructive? A way in which to limit these outbursts and prevent them developing into him lashing out at other people, whilst at the same time supporting what it is that’s causing them?
Me and Claire tackle it in different ways. Claire adopts the approach of telling Isaac off when he displays aggressive behaviour and explain why he shouldn’t take said actions, whereas I prefer ignoring bad behaviour and praising good. But which way is right? Is there even a ‘right’ way? Or is there a place for both depending on the situation?
These kinds of questions come up a lot in my head and we often tell each other what works best for us, in hope that it will work for the other. But what the answer is? I just don’t know. We don’t seem to have found a middle ground that we both agree on, if such a consistent middle ground even exists. Whether wrong or right, our methods fluctuate depending on the severity of Isaac’s mood. If that works for us, do we need to change anything?
No matter what the reality parenting television programmes tell you, there is no perfect way to discipline or tell off your child. What works for one child, may not work for another and it’s about finding what suits best.
Just as Isaac is learning how to behave, I am constantly learning what works and what doesn’t through trial and error, catering my responses to his needs.
This learning process will probably not stop until he leaves home, and until that day comes, I will continue to try my best and hope that it’s enough to help him grow to be a good person.