There’s a lot of things, as parents, that we feel we should do. Even if it’s something you don’t want to do or something that doesn’t fit with you and your family.
Discipline is one of those things. Gauging when it’s necessary is part I find most difficult but as a parent you learn something new every single day.
I learned something about discipline one day I took the girls out for lunch with my own Mammy. We don’t go out for lunch often so I decided to let my three year old get one of the beautifully decorated cupcakes on display for dessert. I told her as much.
“Once you’ve eaten all your lunch you can pick any cupcake you want my love.”
Oh the excitement on that beautiful little face.
What a good Mammy I am!
We sat and had our lunch. My Mam and I chatted. My 10 month old ate her banana and my 3 year old sat and ate all of her ham and cheese sandwich without so much as a peep.
She couldn’t be better behaved.
But then she was finished. I wasn’t finished eating, I wasn’t finished feeding her sister and my mother and I were in the middle of a conversation, but she was finished, and she’d eaten every last bite and that meant one thing to her- cupcake time.
“Mammy, can I have my cupcake now please?”
“Later, once I’ve finished feeding your sister.”
“No, now be quiet, I’m talking to your Nana!”
Now why I couldn’t just get up, get her cupcake and return to everything I was doing I’ll never know but what I did know was I had said it- I’d said ‘no’ and now I needed to stick to it, right?
That’s being a good parent- sticking to your guns even if you know you’re wrong?
It didn’t matter that I had said she could have a cupcake first.
It didn’t matter that she had met all the required stipulations to get, said cupcake.
Because in one brief moment, I said ‘no’ and as soon as that tiny two-lettered word had left my lips I felt it meant something- or at least it should. That I needed to back it up, that I needed to teach her that what I say goes- a complete contradiction, I see that now.
My little girl started to cry- she cried because she wanted a cupcake. She cried because she was frustrated and confused by what she had done wrong that meant she couldn’t get her cupcake- a cupcake that was promised to her by her Mammy. Her Mammy who had gone back on her word- who jeopardised her little girls trust just to prove a point.
Was I really doing her a favour teaching her the importance of the word no?
And then my own Mammy stepped in. She leaned across the table, took my hand in hers, looked me in the eyes and said one of the most important things I’ve heard since becoming a parent;
“Just give the child a damn cupcake!”
And I did. And the world didn’t implode. We continued on with our lovely lunch and all was well.
Of course there are times I have to say ‘no,’ and I do- some days a lot more than others, in direct correlation to the irrational mood swings of a threenager- but I’m now a lot more conscious of misusing the word. I’ve learned to avoid turning what should be about teaching or discipline into a pointless power struggle where no-one’s the winner.