It continually amazes me how I can be doing something 100% COMPLETELY WRONG for months and months and not even realize.
It also amazes me how my shortcomings as a parent are made painfully clear at the most inopportune times.
Like that time at the doctor’s office…
My toddler was sitting quietly in the busy waiting room, playing with his favourite stuffed tiger. He was chatting away, having a grand old time. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, he starts yelling and hitting his tiger.
“NICE!! NICE!! NICE!! NICE!!”
He was yelling this over and over as he smacked the crap out of his stuffed toy.
O. M. G.
I wanted to crawl under my chair and disappear.
Later that night I took some time to mentally debrief the ‘incident’ at the doctor’s office.
Why the heck would he do that?! What was he thinking?!
Then a lightbulb went off in my head.
Why the heck wouldn’t he do that?! I TAUGHT HIM THAT!!
You see, for as long as I can remember, every time my toddler played roughly I would respond by saying “Nice” or “Gentle.” I’d say “Nice” in response to any number of rough or destructive behaviours – hitting, smashing trucks into the wall, banging a toy hammer into the coffee table, you name it.
I meant stop what you’re doing and play nicely. His understanding was hitting is nice.
Another one of those WHAT WAS I THINKING moments. OF COURSE he is going to think hitting is nice! I was the one teaching him hitting is nice!
From that day on I had to completely change the way I spoke to my son.
This was really hard.
I tried being more specific.
When he hit – “Hands to yourself”
When he coloured on the table – “Crayons are for paper”
When he threw a toy across the room – “Toys stay on the floor”
It was mentally exhausting.
But over time, I got used to it. Being specific became second nature and he was no longer confused about my expectations.
Now the only time he says “Nice” is when he’s giving his tiger a hug. 🙂
Image Credit: Nikita Borisov