When my children were younger I wrote a weekly column, “Modern Parenting” for The Pembroke Observer newspaper. Being a stay-at-home dad was rare in our small town in 1991; people wanted to hear about my adventures. When I started this blog I promised to republish some of those old pieces, then I got sidetracked.
Today I’m revisiting one of the articles that I think has stood the test of time. Or at least is a change of pace. I don’t intend to do much in the way of editing, but may make the odd comment in italics. My daughter was commenting not long ago that she wasn’t featured in the articles. The reason for that is simple: the column was axed due to budget cuts relatively early in 1993, when she was about six months old if I remember correctly. So when I noticed this one in my computer archives I was quite surprised. I have no memory of writing it and don’t think it was published as it came from May 1995. Maybe I was just creating a memory.
I’ve come up with a way to beat those horrible years of early childhood: The Terrible Twos.
They’re a new experience for our family, as Paul never went through an unreasonable state. Janice, on the other hand, began her “terrible two” stage shortly before reaching the eighteen month mark. I’m convinced they’ll probably last until she’s twenty (that’s years not months). (Note from 2016 – they didn’t even last through the twos.)
I must admit, in some ways I’ve encouraged her.
“Go ahead,” I’ll say, “have your temper tantrum. I don’t care if everyone in the store will hear you. They’ll see a calm, rational father telling his daughter he won’t buy her candy this trip. They’ll see a two year old girl screaming and banging her head against the floor in anger, trying to manipulate her Dad into doing her will. Who do you think most off the people will be cheering for? The rational Dad or the screaming child? For your sake I hope nobody gets one of your tantrums on videotape, because if that happens you’re going to be one embarrassed teenager if the video is ever shown.” (At the time cell phones were in their infancy, incredibly bulky and with no camera. YouTube was a science fiction dream. If I Google “temper tantrum” and “YouTube,” I get almost a million videos – none of which I have watched.)
My little lecture has no impact, of course, and Janice enjoys her tantrum. It takes a few minutes, but we usually have the time to spare. And when we don’t it’s just time to take her in my arms and carry her out. I’ve never given in to a temper tantrum. Never will.
And, there are consequences. She has to apologize for her behaviour, which can sometimes take her a while.
Discipline is one of those thorny topics parents whisper about but nobody likes to make too big a deal about in public. Spank your kid, in public or private, and you could find yourself charged with child abuse. Times have changed and what was once normal is now unacceptable.
We don’t use corporal punishment in our home. We’re not opposed to it in theory, we just find that in practice it hasn’t been necessary; there are other penalties that are effective, so there’s no need to hit. I’ve seen some children who need a good swat or something just to get their attention, but my children have never needed that.
Temper tantrums? They’re the frustration of being two, of wanting to be big and realizing just how powerless you are. I can understand that. I want to throw the odd tantrum myself when confronted by what I see are the injustices of society. But perhaps because I’m older and hopefully wiser I don’t throw myself down on the ground screaming and banging my head. Maybe that’s a pity, but most probably the perpetrators of injustice would pay no more attention to me than I do to Janice.
Everyone assures me the “terrible twos” will pass. One friend says these times are nothing compared to what I’ll face from my teenagers, should I survive that long. Those are words of comfort to remember as everyone in the store looks at me. I can tell they’re wondering why I can’t or won’t control my child.
Discipline really isn’t that hard. We started thinking about it before Paul was born, did our research and have stuck to the plan. It seems to be working, the occasional temper tantrum notwithstanding, and that’s all we ask.