Today when I picked you up from KinderCare, your teacher gave me an incident report to sign:
“Jack threw a toy at a friend, hitting them in the face. Left a good sized mark. Separated them. Had time to himself and we talked about being nice to friends and using words when upset.”
It’s so natural for me to respond by asking you, “Jack… why did you do that? Why did you throw a toy at your friend?”
I realize now that by asking you that, I’m asking you a question you yourself don’t know the answer to.
In fact, you’re sort of relying on me to explain why you did it.
After all, while you can now easily and quickly piece together sentences to communicate things you observe, you’re not really able to communicate to me how you feel unless you are either very happy or very sad. Therefore, asking you to explain why you feel the way you do is even more confusing for you.
Right now Mommy and I are working on teaching you different emotions to describe how you feel. While you don’t quite yet understand “angry,” you do understand “sad.”
So I guess the best way to help you understand why you threw a toy at your friend and hit them in the face is maybe something like this:
“Jack, today you hurt your friend when you threw your toy at them. I think you might have felt angry when you did it. That made your friend sad. Jack, please say you’re sorry to them tomorrow. We hand our toys to our friends instead of throwing them; even if they do something we don’t like.”
You had to go to bed without your usual playtime at your train table, plus you didn’t get to take any of your trains to bed. That’s pretty weird for me… the thought of you going to bed without your little talking die-cast trains.
Ultimately, why you threw a toy at your friend doesn’t change the fact that I need to teach you to not throw a toy at a friend… for any reason.
So now, I don’t care about the why. I care about the how: How can I teach you that what you did was not nice?
By trying to help you use words to describe how you feel, asking you to apologize to your friend, and then by taking away your favorite toys for the night.
(There may be a better way. If there is, I’m open to suggestions from anyone else who happens to be reading this letter.)
You can’t always change how you feel, but you can choose to decide how you’ll react to how you feel.
In other words, emotions are automatic; behavior is controllable.
That’s the lesson I was forced to teach you today.
I’m not gonna lie. This morning was the most difficult morning I’ve ever had with you.
It was rough! For both of us. Simply exhausting.
After getting you through the front door, I picked up on the fact you weren’t able to let it go that “YouTube time” was over and you had to go to school.
As I attempted to buckle you in your car seat, you screamed at me while bowing out your back, making it impossible for me to strap you in without possibly bruising you, as you violently resisted me.
So I took away your graham crackers and toy train.
That got your attention. I was able to buckle you in your seat as your focus was no longer about fighting me and now you were just simply angry at me for taking away your pre-breakfast snack and morning ride entertainment.
I started up the car and turned around to explain to you the deal, as you began your hostile emotional meltdown:
“Jack, listen. I’m going to give you your crackers and your toy; all you have to do is just one thing: Calm down. That means if you simply stop crying for a few seconds and stop screaming, you’ll get what you want.”
Your response, in a faux German accent: “MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!!”
For the following 18 minutes, as I drove towards the interstate, it was a back and forth battle between the two of us: I would explain that all you had to do was calm down for a few seconds, you would retaliate with the equivalent of the Tasmanian Devil cursing.
I held a graham cracker in my hand just waiting for a 2 second pause in your crying. Finally, it happened. I slipped you one cracker.
Then you realized how it worked. If you calmed down, you got the very thing you were demanding.
By the second half of our drive to daycare, you had earned back all your crackers, as well as, your toy train.
Right now, at the age of 2, your emotional intelligence isn’t that high. Being able to manage your emotions is not easy for you.
So that means it’s my job to help you with that.
Your meltdowns seem to be triggered mainly when you are told no. Therefore, my main goal is to help you learn not to cry and get upset when I can’t, or won’t, give you what you want.
On the drive home tonight, I purposely avoided turning down the cul-de-sac with all the inflatable Snoopy Christmas yard decorations that you love to see. Instead, I wanted to test how you’d react.
Son, you did well. You accepted my rejection.
That means next time, you’ll definitely get to see Snoopy.
The more you can handle being told no, the more I will tell you yes.
I know it’s a struggle for you right now, but let me tell you, it’s even a challenge for me as an adult to be told no. I promise I know how you feel.
Is the state of Delaware really banning spanking? Not exactly, but in theory, sort of.
Governor Jack Markell, a Democrat, passed Bill 234 last month, which contains an ambiguous phrase that I have conveniently copied and pasted for your convenience:
(j) “Physical injury” to a child shall mean any impairment of physical condition or
That’s why Bill 234 is controversial.
Because let’s face it: Spanking causes pain. That’s basically the whole point.
So it’s possible this bill could be interpreted that a parent could be breaking the law by causing pain to their child, via spanking.
How should we feel about that?
Immediately thoughts of “Oh no, now Big Brother is going to try to keep me from disciplining my own child!” come to mind.
The lines begin to blur regarding discipline and child abuse. What if other states adopt a similar bill?
When I hear a story like this, I remind myself what the root of it is. It’s not about whether or not spanking is wrong or right.
It’s about giving the government control over personal issues like this.
The question isn’t about spanking. The question is whether or not you support a “hands off” approach to government or a “decide what it is right for us, government” approach, instead.
Personally, I don’t believe in spanking. I raise my son with a strict, consistent method based on time-outs and taking away privileges, followed by clear communication with him explaining A) why his behavior merited the discipline and B) that I love him, then I hug him.
However, I support a parent’s right to spank their child. Because after all, who am I to stay that my method is better than spanking?
That’s not my call. Nor is it the government’s.
(Can you tell I’m a Libertarian?)
So as we approach this important Presidential election next month on November 6th, keep this mind:
You are voting for a political party and their ideologies, more so than a particular man.
I am convinced that the best way to get someone to stop nagging you with their wrong opinion in regards to unsolicited parenting advice is just to simply smile and respond with, “You may be right.”
If they still go on rambling in an attempt to convert you, just said it again; this time raising your eyebrows and smiling even bigger.
You can even throw in peripheral phrases like “I think I might have read a blog about that recently” or “I’ll have to check that out.”
We live in a time when “I don’t agree with you” translates to some people as “I hate you.”
So if a person is already passionate about a polarizing parenting topic that I either A) already have a strong opinion on or B) am indifferent about, I’d rather just move on as quickly as possible to the next conversation topic, as opposed to becoming the next victim of a parenting extremist‘s solicitation speech.
Sometimes it’s just too much hassle to admit with someone that you disagree with them.
I don’t mean to sound like a person without passion and conviction. Because I am very passionate about the things that matter to me; likewise, I am extremely indifferent about the things I don’t care about or care to change.
“You may be right” is clever because it is also undeniably true.
No matter how firmly set I am in my opinions and stances on things like the kind of food I feed my kid or how I choose to discipline him, I could easily be wrong.
I am aware of that at all time. Whether the experts and scientific research support my view or not, still, I may be wrong.
Therefore, the other person with a different perspective as mine may very easily be right.
How arrogant of me to assume that I’m right most of the time about stuff. Or even half the time.
I might as well just assume, at best, I’m only right 49% of the time.
Granted, I want to be right, but I overanalyze stuff a lot.
Like when I half-jokingly wrote a post about hand-cuffing my son on the way to time-out.
It just seems weird to me that in the eyes of parents like me who are “non-spankers” it’s okay to discipline your child by physically restraining them by exiling them to time-out, as opposed to physically striking them.
Everyone has their own approach to it that they feel most comfortable with and find to be the most effective. But I’m for certain that no parent disciplines their child in secret hopes of making them suffer indefinitely for their offenses.
Instead, we want our children to mature and become less selfish. We want the best for them. By doing so, we make the world a better place.
So here’s something I think is messed up about us as adults: It’s way too easy for us to want to see other people cursed and suffer when they offend us, rather than them being blessed and enriched.
If someone cuts us off in traffic, they are automatically a jerk who deserves to be flipped off.
No matter how good of a person they may be outside of that single moment. Forget about how hard they work for their family and how they help others out of the goodness of their hearts.
For cutting us off, they become labeled as idiots who have no hope of redemption.
In fact, in that heat of the moment, the thought of that person being redeemed is absurd. It’s natural and easy to generalize them into an evil and moronic imbecile who intends to make your life hell; or at least annoying.
Simply said, we want that person to suffer. Who cares about forgiveness, redemption, or reconciliation.
And then, for all we know, the next day we coincidentally see them at the gas station and they say to us, “Excuse me, but you dropped this.”
They hand to you your debit card which slipped out of your wallet. You thank them; neither of you even aware of the incident the day before.
We discipline our children to help them, not privately wish bad things upon them. Yet we so easily want to judge and punish those who slightly offend us or have the opposite view as we do on a political or parenting issue that doesn’t even personally concern us.
By the way, if you live in Nashville, I’ve probably cut you off before on the road. But only because you seemed to be going slower than you actually were, but I realized it only after I had already pulled out in front of you.
Oops. My bad.
Here’s a quote from my favorite song right now, performed by 10th Avenue North:
“Why do we think that hate’s gonna change their heart?
We’re up in arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
But pride won’t let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but just to burn them down
We think pain is owed apologies and then it’ll stop
But truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not”