learning discipline.

by Liz on 01.12

If I were to categorize myself, I do NOT think that the word “patient” would be in the top ten. Nope. Not even the top 100 words.

Raising a son has definitely pushed the limits there.

I mentioned before that a giant step in teaching my son obedience has been trying to help him understand the word “no.” Little Josh is mostly nonverbal. He learns a word, uses it for a day or two, but uses his facial expressions and physical movements to convey what he wants to say. So it’s really, really tricky to know if he even knows what I’m saying when I say, “No, Joshua.” I THINK he knows what “No,” means. In fact, sometimes I’m sure he does. When he knows something is wrong, he’ll be very sneaky. He sometimes cries when I tell him, “No” to something he really wants. (“No cookies, Joshua.”)

It’s been a multifaceted process. I want him to learn what the word itself means, sure, but also that disobedience has consequences and obedience has rewards. And more than that- that Mommy is saying “no” not to be mean, but to protect him from bad things. Maybe a stretch at this point, but WE’LL GET THERE.

That’s where the patience comes in.

Instead of blocking him into a safe little corner, Josh has free reign of the house and I keep a watchful eye. He’s not allowed in the kitchen- glass! knives! delicious cat food!- but we don’t have a baby gate or anything of the sort. Just my mom eyes-in-the-back-of-my-head (I’m pretty sure I have this super power x2 as a result of teaching).


So let me tell you about a typical, daily interaction…

Little Josh moves toward the kitchen and I say, “NO. No, Joshua.” He stops, looks up at me quizzically and sits by the entry of the kitchen. Then we both sit there for as much as an hour. A few more times, he’ll move to go into the kitchen, and I’ll say, “Joshua, NO.” And he’ll stop. On and on.

Now clearly, it would be way easier to just pick him up and take him out of the kitchen after the first one or two times. It would be EASIEST to buy the damn baby gate. But, I want him to have the opportunity to process what I’m saying, understand the instruction, and choose to obey. I want him to learn.

Here’s the hard part- the part you might be mad about. The part that will fill my inbox with angry emails. Sometimes, I let him make bad choices and get hurt. NEVER anything dangerous. Our house is “babyproofed” in the sense that nothing glass or sharp or electrical is within his reach (except in that dang kitchen!). But, if he’s trying to pull something off the table and I say “NO,” and he chooses to anyway, sometimes he’ll end up with that something from the table landing on his toe. I won’t rush in to grab it first. But I will hug him and console him as he points at his toe in horror. Is this horrible parenting? I’m not sure.

Of course those other times when he’s going to do something that will really hurt him, I’ll intervene – but only after sitting there for that long process of, “No” stop, look, inch, “No,” etc, trying to give him the opportunity to make the right choice.

Does this sound time-consuming? Because it’s TIME CONSUMING, yo. I’m hoping it’s a bit like an investment. We take the time to figure this stuff out now, and maybe I’ll be spared some rebellious teen years? Maybe?

So, the fun part! When he does listen- when he stops and turns and follows my instructions- we clap our hands and hug and kiss and dance and yell, “Yay! Good job!” He smiles SO BIG and blows me kisses.

It’s a scary thing, trying to decide how to create a structure of discipline while still allowing him to learn and make choices and experience mistakes. I’m not convinced that the way I’m doing it is right, but I imagine there are worse ways.



I know many of you guys aren’t parents- but is this something you’ve ever thought about? How to instill discipline but still let kids make their own choices?


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