Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I heard someone say today that a two year old's behavior is something the parent has no control over.  It wasn't a joke.  It was about a specific behavior problem that was bothersome to the mother.

Over  my years of being a parent I have heard this attitude expressed in different ways many times.  I don't understand it.  Isn't one person the parent for a reason?

Of course, a parent does not have absolute control over how a child responds to a situation or how a child chooses to act.  But, over time, a parent has a great deal of control and enormous influence over a child's behavior.

If my two year old were doing something I did not like, there would be consequences for the behavior.  (This isn't rocket science.)  The consequences would be unpleasant.  The child chooses to avoid the unpleasant consequences and the behavior disappears.  Of course, sometimes even this much intervention is not necessary.  With a compliant child, sometimes all you have to do is explain why the behavior is not right and how you do not want to see it again.  Sometimes even with a somewhat willful child, if you've been consistent about consequences, just explaining why the behavior is wrong and adding that if she/he does it again such and such is going to happen will suffice.  But most children will test you to see if you really are going to respond and to see how much they can get away with.  If you are not willing to enforce consequences then, yes, you will have no control over your child's behavior.

There must be an awful lot of nonsense being written out there about parenting.  Perhaps that explains why we see so many poorly behaved children and teens these days.

6 comments:

Kate said...

Does God control you? He's your loving Father, there are certainly consequences when you disobey him, and yet we disobey all the time, even those of us who consider ourselves 'compliant'.

Parents can influence children's behavior, and they can certainly make choices to physically restrain small children and limit their opportunities to misbehave. But parents cannot control their children, and I think that's a healthy and sanity-saving realization to have.

I think sometimes what we cannot see from the outside is what level of resources - internal, societal, familial, etc - a parent has for their parenting. The kind of behaviour modification you're talking about is boneheadedly simple, but also very time and energy intensive... and a lot of young families are basically on their own, with little time, little energy, and little family or community support.

Also, I've had three kids, which is a pretty small sample compared to you, but of the three, only one has been able to make the connection between consequences and actions in any kind of consistent way at the age of two, and that's my current two year old, my daughter. As far as the boys were concerned at this age, any punishment or consequence was just me being mean, and had nothing whatsoever to do with their behaviour. They just didn't make the connection. All of my energy went into making sure that they simply didn't have opportunities to hurt themselves or anything else. Negative consequences started to have an impact after they turned three. So in my experience, yeah, developmentally a lot of two year old children are still too young for discipline to affect behaviour very greatly.

Your kids are all blooming geniuses though (not being sarcastic), so they were likely advanced in this too!

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Hi Kate, thank you for this thoughtful comment. I wanted to respond to a couple things but I'm running out the door. I'll do it later tonight. Your points are well taken! God bless.

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Hi again, Kate. I did not mean to suggest that a parent ever has complete control of a child at any age. Children are autonomous and they make their own choices. But it's quite another thing to say that a parent has no control at all. Maybe control is not the best word to use. A parent always has the ability to teach, to train, to guide and explain, and I would argue that a parent , especially of a young child, has the ability to require obedience.

Does that mean that the child is always obedient and well-behaved? Not at all. The training needs to be done repeatedly, sometimes hundreds of times, maybe even thousands of times before good behavior becomes, for the most part, the norm for the child. And I would agree that two year olds are not really there generally.

In any given incident I would never assume that a parent could have prevented a particular behavior. It's when the parent makes no attempt to respond to such an incident in a manner that decreases the likelihood of it recurring that I am puzzled.

That's where your next point is very well taken. Indeed, we don't know what resources a parent has and it is quite true that sometimes survival may be taking up all of a person's energy. They also may truly not know how to parent effectively. And some children are unusually difficult to parent because of circumstances, temperament, or neurology. All very good to remember and I thank you for the reminder.

AND... my children are not all blooming geniuses. LOL. Truly, they are all pretty normal and we have had our moments too. Believe me.

Thankfully, we are not the Savior and we do have a Savior who loves to save.

The most important thing we can do for our children is to pray for them.

Anonymous said...

Hi..new to your blog! I think the reason so many parents nowadays are standoffish about disciplining/correcting/guiding their children into good behavior is that PC (policial correctness) has flowed over into it. We don't want to damage their psyches or discriminate against them. We don't want to be their parents, we'd rather be their friends! UGH! Children will be children, so parents MUST be parents to them! Raising children without good parameters gives them room to fudge on just about anything, including personal responsibility as they grow older. I'm sure that even Our Lady gave young Jesus guidance, chores, and discplines so that he would grow up to be the person God wanted Him to be! The human nature of Jesus was still human! May God aid all parents in becoming the parents their children can respect, admire, and emulate! Elizabeth Hansen, Chester County, PA

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for visiting my blog. I completely agree with you. I also think you're right that there's a certain PC involved. There's kind of a feeling that if you discipline your child you're a mean parent and not really being loving. Over the years I have seen that the effects of non-discipline parenting are not good. 24 udfort

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for visiting my blog. I completely agree with you. I also think you're right that there's a certain PC involved. There's kind of a feeling that if you discipline your child you're a mean parent and not really being loving. Over the years I have seen that the effects of non-discipline parenting are not good. 24 udfort