Wednesday, August 26, 2015

That time I had to discipline my one-year-old

Let me tell you, I did not think this day would come this soon.

In Celine's defense, she was short of sleep and getting hungry. Girlfriend did not want to get her diaper changed, and would much rather have been playing with her toys or exploring something around the house she probably shouldn't get into. I also needed to change her out of her pajamas (it was noon, come on kid), and if you know Celine at all, you know that changing her clothes is pretty much the bane of her existence. So, there's the back story.

I laid Celine down on the changing table, and she immediately realized what was going on and would NOT have it. She twisted and turned and whined and kicked, which isn't out of the ordinary if she's not distracted. She's stubborn and full of energy, which was apparent even when she was in the womb. After a close call with a tiny hand on the dirty diaper tab just before I whisked it away, I thought we were in the clear. Clean shirt on, pants halfway on, and I stood her up to pull up her pants the rest of the way. Sassy pants over here pulled my glasses off of my face. I reacted with a knee-jerk "Hey!" and before I could get them on, she looked me in the eye and smacked my face.

NOT how I was feeling in said moment.

What the what?? You're a baby (pretty much)! Since when do you hit people when you're mad?! I was surprised more than anything else, but quickly and firmly held her hand against her waist, furrowed my brow and gave her a tough "No. We do not hit. That's naughty." I didn't want her to think it was funny and turn it into a game, and she didn't. Instead she angrily bawled, but I kind of expected that (she's a little of a drama queen for her age).

After the fact, I spent a lot of time thinking about the emotional development of a 12-month-old. It is easy to say that children mimic what they see when it comes to violent behavior, but my daughter has never witnessed violence, on TV or in our home life. I firmly believe, especially now, that kids just have emotions, and in the same way when I get VERY mad I dream about smashing something (who doesn't?), kids as young as Celine need an outlet for their emotions. I've seen kids get frustrated and reach for the closest thing to bite or kick, but I know that it isn't necessarily because they wanted to copy violence that was imposed on them through their environment, but sometimes they just have strong feelings that need to come out.

Especially in younger years, children don't have the ability to really process, let alone verbalize their frustrations. This comes as both a challenge and an opportunity to teachers, parents, and anyone who deals with children (or immature adults ha ha): how can I find a positive outlet for you to vent, while still validating your feelings and teaching you to deal with them in an appropriate way? Of course, the answer is going to vary for different ages, personalities, genders, backgrounds, etc. I think the important thing to remember is to be patient.

Jesus was pretty up front about the important connection between being child-like and entrance into the kingdom of heaven (BIG difference from being childish!). We can learn a lot from these little ones, just as they learn so much from us. While we might not always get it right when it comes to teaching them right and wrong or the ways of the world, what matters is that we approach the situation as Jesus would: meeting them where they are with simplicity and LOVE. I doubt that my daughter learned from her actions today enough that she will never hit me again, but I know that if I am patient and discipline her with Christ's mercy in mind and the intention in my heart of leading her to heaven, the Lord take care of it. In the meantime, I'm working as if everything depends on me and praying as if everything depends on him.

To my little Celine: That was very naughty when you hit me today. It made me sad and hurt my feelings. It was hard to be harsh with you in the moment, but please remember that I only want what is best for you. We'll probably have plenty of tough days together, but I love you no matter what and everything Daddy and I do for you comes from our love for you. Let's have a better day tomorrow, sweet pea.

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