My first boy is what you might call mellow. You might call him laid-back. You might call him, in all honesty, a pretty easy child.
When I used to walk through the supermarket, his little hand in mine, his little ears tuned to my every instruction, no begging for treats, no tearing down the aisles, no tantrums, I might have looked at other parents whose toddlers were not my angel, in askance. Because I somehow thought that my child’s demeanor was due to my spectacular parenting. And then I had my second child. Charming, with a killer smile and almond shaped green eyes that make it hard to remember what you were going on about when you look at them, my second son decided early on that he would be second in birth order only. All of the typical toddler behavior I had avoided with my sweet, blue-eyed first born angel, all of the behavior other moms described with clever euphemisms like “spirited” and “strong willed” and “pain-in-the-ass,” suddenly came home to roost in my chicken cage.
My concept of discipline is pretty simple – I explain to the children what the consequences of unacceptable behavior will be – generally a time out – and do my best to follow through on what I say. My almost five-year old has had maybe three time-outs in his reasonable, risk-averse, little life. My three-year old has maybe three time-outs a day. This weekend at dinner, when he had popped up out of his chair for the sixth or so time to grab a toy, crawl under the table, or poke his brother, I told him that the consequence of not staying in his chair for the rest of the meal would be that he forfeited his dessert – an ice-cream sandwich. When he jumped out of his chair again, four seconds after our conversation, I told him that he would not be getting his desert. There were buckets of tears – mostly from my husband, who murmured to me that our child had left his chair only because a fly had landed on his nose, poor thing, and so he shouldn’t lose his dessert. I wavered slightly, but stood firm…until my almost five-year old, upon receiving his dessert, asked me, with big, hopeful, compassionate eyes, if he could pretty please share his ice-cream sandwich with his little brother, because he just loved him so much.
What would you have done??