I am by no means an expert on anything, least of all how to be a parent. Everything I’ve done with Namine has been the first time, and as such, mostly trial and error.
Of course Namine, like anybody, has her rebellious moments. I don’t remember when, or why, I started using counting as a measure to get her to behave; but I know it works. Even when I stopped, it still worked. I stopped using it, not because it failed to work, but because it doesn’t reinforce the behavior – and more importantly, the mindset – I want in my daughter. Namine is a very well behaved girl. Rarely do I have to resort to counting (you know, “You better knock that off! One… two…”), and I have never – I mean this literally – never gotten to three. But sometimes she is persistently sassy, and I do (to my shame) start counting. So what happens if I do get to three?
In all honesty, I have no punishment for her. Nothing that’s worse than a timeout, at any rate. Certainly nothing I can inflict upon her that would give her cause to behave that much faster if I started counting again. (And no, I will not resort to spanking.) No, the counting is an empty threat. And once Namine figures that out (I suspect she’s gotten close to doing so already), it is useless as a tool to amend her behavior. Timeouts, too, are nearly useless; they are less of a punishment and more of an inconvenience. Namine dislikes them, but does not fear them. She is already a solitary child, having spent so much time in the hospital, that waiting in that chair is not much of anything.
Furthermore, I think using counting as a disciplinary measure sends the wrong message altogether. I says that up until I started counting, I wasn’t serious. If that’s true, then she can misbehave all she wants until I start counting, because I wasn’t serious to begin with.
So how to make her behave, when she’s not behaving? The answer is simple: I can’t.
Namine has encountered much disappointment, even this early in her life, with regard to other people. Whether it has been adults insulting her or children being mean to her (physically and verbally), the lesson that people are jerks has been taught hard and early. And none of us can do anything about it. Well, no. That’s not completely true. I’ve told Namine many times that we have no control over what other people do. The one thing we do have control over is our reaction: our behavior in response. Invariably, Namine has no desire to be mean in return. Her response is always that of kindness.
So when Namine is sassing off or misbehaving, I don’t count. I don’t make threats. I ask her to think about how she is behaving, and how she wants to behave. Almost all the time, she tells me: “I want to be good. I will behave myself, Daddy.”
I don’t want Namine to behave just because I say so; I don’t want her to be good out of some forced necessity or fear of punishment. I want her to be good out of her own desire. I believe this mentality leads to a self-reinforcing behavior, which will benefit her more later in life, as well.
Discipline yourself, and others won’t need to.