Try again is a phrase I really love to use in my parenting (and self-talk as well). I realized it anew this afternoon when C climbed up into my lap and asked to nurse today while I was eating my lunch.
While our nursing relationship was on demand for much of her early life, these days I am limiting her to three times a day: morning at wake up, afternoon around lunch/nap time and between dinner and bedtime. She had gotten used to those limitations but when she had the stomach flu last week, I temporarily suspended them to help keep her hydrated and help her recover more quickly. This week, she's been testing to see what boundaries apply now by asking to nurse more often.
I reminded her of the three times she may nurse, and then said she may nurse once we finished our lunch. I said she was welcome to snuggle in my lap until I was finished eating.
She didn't like that answer and responded by trying to lift my shirt to help herself.
I took her hands away, held down my shirt hem, and repeated the limit and my offer that she may snuggle now while she waited for me to finish eating my lunch.
She didn't like that answer and kicked at my arm holding down the shirt.
"Kicking hurts," I said, and put her down out of my lap. "I will not let you hurt me." This is my consistent response when she kicks or hits out of frustration.
She cried briefly, then came back and said, "Try again?"
"You want to try snuggling again while you wait for mama to finish eating lunch?"
She nodded and I lifted her back into my lap.
I love that she has picked up on the phrase "try again." We use it with her often, probably most often in regards to scripting polite and kind words and tones to say things or make requests.
Those two words speak so much of grace and second chances. Two little words that both acknowledge a mistake was made, but instead of condemning to permanent failure, give hope for the future.
God's grace goes even beyond that though. Jesus didn't just die on the cross and rise again to propitiate our sins, give us a clean slate and then tell us to go out and try again to be perfect on our own. No, He went beyond what we could expect or imagine and made us new creations, and even sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and create fruit in our lives!
I aspire to follow that model in my parenting as well. When I say try again, I always am willing to help C comply or meet the standard. For example, if she speaks rudely, I offer a script for her to repeat instead. And when she is in the middle of a fit and can't repeat because that part of her brain in the is inaccessible in the midst of her emotional flood, I offer the script anyway and then treat her as though she had said the right words.
DH and I had a major conversation last night about our parenting and whether spanking needs to be in our toolbox. I told him that what I want for C is more than just not spanking her. I want to create a home where we are on the same team, where we are her coaches who teach her how to live and help her succeed. Where we make our words count by following through to make it happen. In a sense, offering punishment for disobedience makes disobedience an option ... for example, my niece has been known to decide that doing what she wants is worth the cost of whatever punishment my sister can dole out. I don't want disobedience to be an option. With gentle discipline, the only option is whether C will comply/obey independently or with our help.
DH said it's a lofty, noble vision that he wasn't sure he could always live up to in reality. He's not perfect, and neither am I. And that's the great thing about "try again." It's for us too. When we make mistakes, even if it comes to the point where he feels like spanking is his only option, that doesn't mean he's stuck parenting that way from then on. We will encourage each other to "try again" to break the old patterns ingrained in us from how we were parented. We will learn from our mistakes and set ourselves up for success just as much as we set up C for success.