I am a pretty disciplined person . . . though as a child, I was not disciplined often. This contradiction has made me unsure of how I will navigate the stormy waters of parenthood.
I love that I grew up with parents who encouraged me, empowered me, loved me. I adore that rarely was I told that I could not do something, and that my parents trusted me to make good choices. I want to parent like my parents did . . . I just have no idea how that applies to disciplining a one year old.
So Andrew and I are testing the waters together, and we decided to “make a rule” for Cole.
The rule is that when he is eating or drinking he needs to be sitting. It is partly for his well-being, he is very likely to run into walls or trip and fall when he is drinking and running around. It is also a rule to teach him self-control and manners. We agreed, for a toddler, it is a good idea to be seated when drinking.
So one afternoon we decided to dive in and explain this to Cole. We had his Nalgene bottle filled with milk, and he wanted to drink it. We explained he would need to sit down and drink. He thought that was rather novel, and happily obliged. He sat, we gave him the bottle, he took a sip and then stood up to go play . . . with the bottle.
I took the bottle.
He looked at me, horrified in disbelief.
“You have to sit, Cole.”
“Milk, please!” He said in his baby voice signing both words.
I wanted to give him the milk, he was so good, he had used his words and said please.
“Sorry, Cole, you have to sit.”
He ran away and came back. He looked me in the eye, saw that I was not giving it to him, and proceeded to throw himself on to the ground in absolute despair. He sobbed.
We let him.
Eventually he got up, crying.
“You have to sit, Cole.”
More crying, whimpering now, and he sits. We give him the bottle, and silence as he drinks, downing as much as he can.
And then, he shifts on to his knees, drinking, watching our reaction.
“We sit and drink Cole . . . ”
And he is up and trying to sneak off with the bottle, and the entire drama plays out again and again for almost fifteen minutes . . . sobbing, head on the floor, crying and drinking in between when he is seated.
And then the bottle is finished, and the crying is done and he is off and playing.
In the days following there are still some tears, though more often there is sitting.
As I prepared to share this story in a devotional on discipline for our small group, I thought I would video tape him to show the group his struggle with discipline. Here is Cole and his bottle of milk . . .