Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fine Line Between Making it Happen and Impatience

I believe a big part of discipline in these early years is "getting off your butt" and "making it happen."  These two tools together teach C that my words have meaning. 
But lately I've been wondering if I'm giving C enough time to process my instruction before swooping in to make it happen.

For example, occassionally she takes off her shirt and drops it on the floor.  I want her to learn to put things in their proper place when she is done with them, and I want my house to be clean.  Bottom line: I want her to pick up the shirt.

I have a lot of options of how to accomplish that.  I can move to her and say, "Shirts go in the hamper.  Pick it up."

I could use a curiosity question and ask, "Where does your shirt belong?"

I can use playful parenting and say, "Oh no! Your shirt is lonely on the floor away from all its friends in the hamper! Let's help it find the right place!" 

Each of those techniques work sometimes.  By "work," I mean that she quickly and cheerfully puts the shirt in the hamper.  Maybe I need to refine that definition a little?

But more often, she doesn't react at all.  She stands there, not moving to pick up the shirt right away.  Other times she may respond by asking "Why?" or saying "I want the shirt to be lonely."

On days when I'm in a hurry or feeling irritable for any number of reasons, I then skip to "The shirt needs to be picked up.  You can choose to pick up the shirt yourself or I will help you do it."

Helping her do it sometimes involves holding her upside down and calling her my "baby vacuum."  She laughs and picks up the shirt. I take her to the hamper and we giggle together as she drops it in.

Helping her do it can mean I pick up the item and put it in her hand and guide her toward the hamper. 

Helping her do it can mean that I help her pick it up, hand over hand and carry her to the hamper and then open her hand so she drops it in.

Other times, I'm in such a hurry or feeling so impatient that I don't even give her a chance to participate.  Two seconds after I ask, if she hasn't started to move, I pick up the shirt and throw it in the hamper myself.   

"Wait! Wait!" she'll protest.  "That was my job!"

If time allows and I'm feeling patient, I might put the shirt down and give her another chance to pick it up.  Other times I will say, "You wanted a chance to pick up the shirt.  You can try again next time."  On really bad days, I might ignore her altogether, which means her protests will escalate into a tantrum.

So much of my response depends on how I'm talking to myself about my parenting and her behavior.  Do I interpret her delay in responding to me as a refusal to obey?  Or could it be that she is just taking longer than I expect to process what I said? 

When she changes her mind, do I view her as "contrary" or as exploring the meaning of opposites?

All that to say, when it comes down to it, I don't believe that happy is the only acceptable emotion and know that of course there will be times when making it happen elicits some big feelings from C no matter how patient and understanding I am.  But a still small voice is telling me that at least some of the time, the big feelings happen because I, out of impatience and selfishness, am exasperating her by not giving her enough time to respond.   

Thoughts and critiques welcome.


  1. Excellent post! I needed to read this. I am definitely guilty of impatience. Thank you so much for helping me think and be more aware. <3

  2. I think so much of it depends on the child. I have four boys and my second son just seems to take a lot longer to get moving than the rest. But I also notice that he is very imaginative. I think half the time he's lost in his own little imaginative world and my rushing him is very difficult for him to respond to. With him, I really need to practice more patience, and give him lots more time when I know we need to be somewhere. And sometimes I really think he honestly does not hear me. He literally is so absorbed in what he's doing he just doesn't hear. So I need better techniques with him, to make sure he hears me, has enough time to respond and transition. Great thoughts - thanks for sharing!


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