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Who's Really Being Punished Here?

Since Maddie’s over two and
definitely developing a will of her own, we’re working on
consistent discipline with Maddie and sometimes it seems the
“punishment” is harder on the parent than on the

Just yesterday Maddie and I were getting
ready to go to the park and I announced it was “massage
time” – the point in our routine when we put on
sunscreen. Maddie will often be involved in a toy at this point and
not want to stop what she’s doing, and yesterday was no
exception. “No! No massage today!” she said defiantly.
“Maddie, if you don’t get a massage, you can’t go
to the park,” I said calmly. “Maddie no go park
today,” she replied craftily.

“Ok,” I agreed, and began to unpack the stroller.
“No! Maddie go park!” she said frantically and
submitted to a massage. Crisis averted.

Ten minutes later, though, the scene was repeated. Maddie was
testing boundaries and halfhearted in her park preparation and
decided to see what she could get away with. “Maddie, get in
your stroller so we can put on your shoes, please,” I said.
“No,” she answered, and continued playing.
“Madeleine, if you don’t get in your stroller by the
count of three we will not go to the park,” I explained. She
smiled at me as if to say, I dare you.

The count of three found her no closer to her seat, so the park was
canceled. At this point, of course, Maddie realized she desperately
wanted to go to the park and began crying, screaming, begging to go
to the park. Which of course was impossible at that point. When she
finally calmed down a bit, we discussed that Maddie had a choice to
obey me, and in choosing to disobey she had to accept the
consequences of her choice.

If this sounds over the head of a two-year-old, perhaps
you’re right. At the same time, I prefer for her to learn
about choices and consequences rather than bad girl/good girl.
We’re trying to teach Maddie that she is good, as the Bible
teaches; it’s simply her choices which are bad. She
doesn’t get all of this right now, but we’re laying the
groundwork and she understands that my yes means yes and my no
means no – there’s no changing Mommy’s mind with
screams or cries. Hopefully, it means she can trust me when I make
a promise, too.

Of course, there’s something to be said for grace and
forgiveness as well: Christ is the top model of giving someone
second chances. Perhaps if Maddie were older we could have talked
about her behavior, gotten an apology, and I could have shown her
some grace and allowed her to go to the park after all. But for now
she has to learn where her boundaries lie, and that we’re
going to be consistent with our words and actions.

On a purely practical level, though, it sure made for a long,
park-free morning for Mommy. The consequence may well have been
harder on the parent than the child!


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