Friday, February 26, 2010

Spare the Rod

Jack has taken to spitting his food. Not spitting it out because he doesn't like it, just spitting it, loudly and all over the place, to signal the end of a meal.

I do not like this. As you can see from my previous post, living with messes has become par for the course, but having food spewed on the carpet, not to mention my clothes, is just pushing it a little too far for me.

So the other day, when Jack spit pureed green beans all over me, I calmly paused, looked him in the eye, and said firmly "No. We don't spit food." I didn't raise my voice, I didn't make a mean face, I simply used a stern voice.

He went absolutely catatonic for ten or fifteen seconds. Wouldn't look at me, wouldn't accept another spoonful of food, just stared straight ahead. And then he burst out crying. Big, sloppy tears, a real wail. And my heart turned to water, I swear it. Of course I immediately swooped him out of his high chair and held him close, but I felt so terrible.

The truth is, I'm no softie. We did cry it out, and when I was a nanny I never took any crap and was not swayed by tears in the slightest. But seeing my baby cry, not because he had to stay in his crib and didn't want to, but because he knew Mommy was upset with him--seeing that just wrecked me. It just made me think how the things we do as parents have such an enormous effect on the lives of our children. Not that I want to sit and freak out about it, but the weight of that... Wow.

I believe that discipline is important. I think order and rules are necessary to give children a sense of control and security, and I have no problem enforcing this. But what scared me so much when Jack cried was the idea that he could feel rejected by me. Not disciplined, but rejected. And I can't handle that.

It worked though. Now all I have to say is "No," and he stops. But I don't know. It's just so hard to think you hold someone's sense of self worth, even before they have any concept of self, in the palm of your hand. It scares the crap out of me.


Marie-Ève said...

You're right... :-(

Mrs.No said...

oh I am the softie and the cryer and when Leila was born I just took it to another level. If I don't shape up those kids are going to parent me left and right *sigh*

krista said...

finn has taken to screaming loudly when we discipline her and then crying, incredibly dramatically, for at least two minutes after.
it simultaneously breaks my heart and cracks me up.

Annje said...

Ah, I barely remember the days when "No" was all it took. He is entering an age when he will start to hear "no" a lot more. There is such a balance (which I haven't exactly found) between discouraging bad behaviors and encouraging good ones and the number of times you say "No" in a day will dramatically increase soon. I always try to remember that boundaries and limits are important for kids--it gives them a sense of how the world works and what is expceted of them. You won't hurt his sense of worth by saying no, there is probably more damage done in never saying it.

Lindserannie said...

I am not a parent yet, but I think what you did was perfect. It's not just about that moment and you wanting him to do something or not do something - it's important to set a standard of him understanding that there are things that are allowed and things that are not allowed and that when you say "No", you are serious.
Because in the future, his safety will depend on him knowing that your "No" is nothing to be trifled with. Like if he is running toward a busy street, just being a kid & you call out, "No", there is already a precedent set and he will be more likely to stop and listen. Kids want boundaries - it makes them feel safe. Sure, they will keep testing them, but mostly because they just want to know that those boundaries are still there.
OK, I am prattling on now and I know that there is more to this than what I am saying. There are nuances of behavior and everyone is different and all situations are different. But I still think you did a good, good thing :)

Sharni said...

Oh my God, hello - someone just recommended I take a look here, yes I know how you feel. My first and only child is 14mths. I have zero idea about how to discipline or set boundaries and I am terrified knowing their sense of self is in my control. I'm a blithering mess about it. Look forward to reading more.