The Sword’s Other Edge

Frustrated Dad

Frustrated Dad

I do not feel like I handled a situation very well today. Mabel and I have been going to a local community center for some unstructured playtime for a couple months. There are anywhere between a dozen and zero other kids there. It’s basically a gymnasium with little kid cars and balls and other such fun toys. Mabel runs around for an hour and a half with one toy or another and I leave with an exhausted, happy toddler who naps for several hours. It’s awesome.

On occasion, Ms. Nancy from the local library will come for story time. That happened to be today. Mabel loves Ms. Nancy’s story time at the library. However, today was the first time she was introduced to story time in the gym. While all the rest of the kids sat nicely and watched Ms. Nancy, Mabel refused to get out of her little car and wouldn’t come anywhere near the group.

Honestly, Ms. Nancy has said before and will say again, that is isn’t disruptive to her at all when toddlers are “toddling.” It’s what they do. And I don’t think the other parents were disrupted either. Mabel was on the other side of the gym. And to be honest, even I wasn’t even really bothered by it. But I am starting to wonder if this is because a lack of discipline. So I picked today to make a stand. I told her that if she didn’t sit down with the rest of the kids, at least for a sliver of a second, that we were leaving. Well, this didn’t work. Surprise. She was the only child, out of about a dozen, that would not sit down even for a little bit. Is this my fault? Should I be disciplining her more? Should we have more structure in our home routine? Or is this just Mabel? I know it’s not all two-year-olds because there were several kids there her age who listen to their parents.

I got our coats and bag, uncertain about if I was really going to leave or not, and Mabel surprisingly made the decision for me by bolting out the door and running to the car. So we left in the middle of story time. I’m sure the rest of the kids played in the more typical unstructured atmosphere about 5-10 minutes after we left, but we were already gone. I didn’t give Mabel the usual Elmo crackers in the car because I wanted her to know that Daddy was upset at her. My thinking is that I need her to feel empathy when she upsets Daddy and that empathy is the whole key to discipline. Or something like that.

Anyway, I still feel terrible about how I handled the situation, sneaking out without saying goodbye, which is very atypical of me, even though Mabel ran out of her own volition. I’ve been worried all morning that I gave the wrong impression of us to the other parents there. Should I have just let her go, potentially being labeled as the undisciplined child or should I have made a scene by making her leave? Am I overparenting? When should I really start to discipline her for things like this? It’s not like she was being malicious to anyone. She is one of the more popular kids at story time likely because she’s so much fun. I suppose this is the other side of being fun.

As is typical, as soon as I was feeling confident with this parenting gig, another hurdle leaps into my path. And this is one I don’t think is going away anytime soon. For those still reading, what the heck should I be doing? Should I let her run amok so long as it doesn’t interfere with story time? Or should I be giving her ultimatums and handing out punishments, like not giving her the Elmo crackers or not going to the playground? Will she even understand that yet? Can somebody with an older, ornery child please tell me what to do?

18 thoughts on “The Sword’s Other Edge

  1. That is what surprised me the most about parenting, that I often didn’t know if I was doing the “right thing”. Mabel knows you love her and you didn’t react harshly or stay upset, so all is well. It’s fine you let her know your expectations and followed through with a reasonable consequence. When we took foster care training after our 5 kids were grown, they taught us that kids thrive under lots of different parenting styles. If you begin taking Mabel to Sunday school, she’ll have a free activity with other kids and learn how much Jesus loves her. That the thing that I am most grateful to my parents for!

    • Thanks, Debbie. I keep forgetting there’s no “right thing” and that Mabel will probably grow up to be an awesome kid, regardless of how efficiently we discipline her, so long as we love her. And I definitely feel good about following through with the consequence, even if I didn’t like it. Thanks for helping remind me of that.

  2. Only 1 time, have I put Chloe in timeout, where I told her she couldn’t leave the couch. She cried and was upset, but she knew she couldn’t get down. Eventually she said I’m sorry and all was well. Sometimes you have to use your stern voice and explain to her why you were upset, but she is 2. Age of reasoning isn’t until like 7 or so. There are many ways to positive parent your child. Sometimes you just know she isn’t going to sit still and if she isn’t being disruptive to the others, then let her do her thing. It is a never-ending test, occasionally you might fail, but overall Dustin, you are probably gonna have a good average.

    • Yeah, I have since regretted picking that spot to discipline her. But at least now I know I don’t like it and I’ll probably resort to my old philosophy of “if it’s not bothering or endangering anybody.” However, I doubt I’m going to be able to wait until she’s 7 to tell her not to do something. But I’ll for sure let her run free next story time.

  3. *Deep breath* Okay, here goes…

    I have a four year old boy. I took him to story time at our local library over the summer. There were like 20 kids there and I spent 20 minutes trying to get him to sit down for story time, trying to play follow the leader, and trying to follow directions. I got a lot of looks from the librarian and other parents… Finally, I bribed him with french fries to get him to leave without issue. (I was mortified.)

    From day to day, I never know what’s right in the moment but the things that I strive for are balance and consistancy are the rules that I live by and what “works” for me. Very few parents get to walk in other parents shoes so I really would have no idea what works for Mabel but I can tell you that being thoughtful, asking questions, and being open-minded are all signs that you’re a great dad!

    If you want to talk more, or hang out and watch Frozen, let me know!

    • Those looks that you were getting from the librarian and the other parents were more than likely only in your head. Or at least they were probably a lot more innocuous in reality. Maybe.

      Also, Mabel is thankfully not old enough to get sucked into the Frozen phenomenon yet. But I’m always up for talking more about how to be a parent. The more I hear about how nobody else knows what they’re doing, the better I feel about not knowing what I’m doing. 🙂

      • There are many moments where I think my insecurities come out in the way of thinking everyone is looking at us in a disapproving manner. The part of the story that I did not tell was that the librarian kept stoping her book and telling my son to sit down and I kept walking behind all the parents to catch him but he was also playing his own little game of stay away from Mommy (which happens pretty much 24-7 anywhere we go and since he’s a runner and an escape artist). I also went back and forth about prefacing the whole story with this little piece of information so, here goes: Nate has a developmental delay. He receives services from the county in several different areas and we have tons and tons of people (licensed) that we work with to help us figure out what’s right for him. His main issues are speech related but he’s also tested really low on cognitively and behaviorally but I’m hoping that’ll change the more his language skills grow. We have done so much trial and error it’s insane and our story feels really complicated and crazy.

        Even though I have a different situation, I kind of feel like all parents have to try out different things and find what’s best for their family. And then, if nothing works, revisiting past attempts or trying to find ways to make creative adjustments to past attempts is a possibility as well.

        The first dozen times, the Frozen music was pretty fun to sing with Nate. Now, it’s slowly getting on my nerves…

        Anytime you wanna talk or get ideas or have the three of you come over for pizza, let me know!

        • Oh. Yeah, if the librarian was asking your son to sit down, it’s kind of hard to argue that was in your head. It’s a shame you weren’t at Ms. Nancy’s storytime. She’s much more forgiving. And in the case of Monday, there’s a WHOLE gym for him to run around in.

          Also, I’m sorry if my comments forced you to feel the need to share that information you didn’t want to at first. I didn’t intend to put you in that position. That said, I totally think you’re correct in saying that we’re all in the same boat anyway. Trying to keep a database of what worked and when to look back on when we need to figure out what to do. We’re only now starting on this big discipline train. I’ll let you know how it goes.

          And I’m seriously not trying to dodge you, but Mabel doesn’t eat pizza. 🙂 Neither does my wife. However, I do. So we can come over and I’ll eat pizza with you and we’ll bring some strawberries and tilapia for Jenn and Mabel. 🙂

  4. I wasn’t able to make it to story time yesterday (or the last several months, apparently) but don’t worry about people judging you. We have a friendly group and we’ve all been there. I’ve been to many a story time (or class that I’ve paid for) where my son (around 2 at the time) decided to do his own thing. Trust me, it bothers you more than anyone else… and it does get better. Hang in there!

    • Thanks, Liz. I know the people there pretty well enough now and I know they weren’t decrying my daughter and I for not sitting down. Well, I know that now. And I wasn’t even necessarily too bothered either. I just started figuring it was time to try to get her to shape up and fly right. I’ve since rethought my stance and decided maybe I’ll revisit disciplining her with these matters later on. For now, as long as she’s not hurting or bothering or endangering anyone, I’m going to let her go.

      I think.

  5. Your friends have given you good advice. I also agree with your decision to postpone discipline in this area for now. But you are beginning to see the need for & think about discipline. I agree with Melanie that consistency is key, and also communication. Your relationship with Mabel will likely determine when & how you discipline her. Another tip – pick your battles. Upsetting others & potentially harming someone else or herself are basic guidelines. You don’t have to hover over Mabel because of social pressure on you. She is unique, just like the rest of us.

    • It’s always great to get advice from the source. Thanks, mom. 🙂 So just tell me what you did with me and I’ll do the exact same thing. That will give her the best opportunity to turn out exactly like me. Which, of course, is the goal, right? 🙂

  6. “Can somebody with an older, ornery child please tell me what to do?” So you were asking me, right, because that is a good description of Shawn (6.5 years) on many days. And the “age of reasoning” is 3.5 in this house. Trust me, Shawn has been acting like a lawyer for at least 3 years. We stopped doing storytimes from age 2-3.5 because it was a wrestling match to keep him on my lap. We would go to the library at other times, but anything structured was just frustrating and embarrassing for me, even if the other people were not complaining. Little Keith (2) is a totally different kid, he listens better, and isn’t a runner like Shawn is. Now that Shawn is older and likes being a good example, we can do storytimes again, yay! However going shopping with Shawn or leaving a fun place he wants to stay at, particularly if he is hungry- you would think I had 2 toddlers with the tantrums he still has. We do time outs, and removing privileges (TV, treats, favorite toys) for short periods. There are many times when I have put my foot down about something and spent the rest of the week wondering if I should have done it that way or in that situation. But the key is follow through. So before I am in that situation again, I try to plan what threats/disciplines I would be comfortable with, and have those ready. Maybe say “We will sit in the car for a bit” or “stand outside for a bit” instead of threatening to leave. Whatever you threaten, you have to be willing to follow through. And I am sure everyone there understood when you left without saying anything. That is life with toddlers. Good luck!

    • Oh, an if she does well at library storytines, she was just probably thinking- “hey, this is where we can just play and run around, why should I do library sitting down stuff here?”

      • You’re absolutely correct. I’m sure she was a little confused as to why this structure was being injected into this runaround time. I’ve since decided I would probably handle that differently next time. But it brought to light a larger question about whether or not we provide (me, specifically) enough structure for Mabel. Maybe she’s not used to it. Or maybe the opposite. If we provided too much structure, would she be more apt to act out when forced to do it in public? And holy crap! What if there isn’t a right answer? Then what?

        Thanks for chiming in. I know who to go to directly for my ornery child questions now. 🙂

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