I know there’s a right way and a wrong way to discipline a child; my child in particular. (I’m not a parenting expert, so I won’t presume to tell you how to discipline your child.) It has just become painfully clear to me that I have done it wrong.
While at the park earlier, my daughter kept riding her bike up the street and out of sight toward our house. Of course, Little Brother would follow. Now, I know my daughter will reach the top of the street then turn around and ride back. My son, well I’m not so sure what he’ll do once he gets to the top of the street. And so, I instructed my daughter to remain closer to the park.
She didn’t listen. She was with her friend and they probably weren’t even paying attention to how far they were riding. And every time they rode out of site, Little Brother followed them. She and her friend coasted back down to the park within a minute each time, but Little Brother remained at the top of the street longer and longer until I had to go up after him. (This is where I complain about having to do that because, quite frankly, my friends are at the park too (local moms and grandmoms) and I want to sit and chat with them à la 1955, not chase my son up the street every 10 minutes.)
Finally, incredibly frustrated, I walked over to my daughter and told her in a somewhat loud voice that the next time she ventured away from the park, she would have to go home. She listened to me then rode away…and up the street. Little Brother followed. I went after him and herded them both back to the park where I addressed her more sternly and pointed out a boundary line past which she could not ride. (Normally, I would have taken them both home since that is what I said I would do, but as I reached them at the top of the street, I realized that my instructions had been somewhat vague and that she needed a clear visual understanding of what I meant by “closer to the park”, hence the boundary line.)
I didn’t notice it at the time, but she looked sad and sullen. She nodded her agreement and rode off with her friend, within the boundaries I had set.
Shortly thereafter, she called out to me to meet her on the sidewalk. As I approached, she said, “See that pipe there, Mommy? And that basketball net? That’s the line that you can’t go past. If you do, you have to go home.”
I tried to hide my smile. I agreed that I would stay within the boundaries she had set and then it hit me: I had embarrassed her in front of her friend when I told her that if she didn’t follow the rules, she would have to go homeo.
So I bent down to her level and quietly explained to her why it was that I didn’t want her riding up the street and out of sight when her brother was with us.
Then I apologized for making her feel bad in front of her friend.
I got the result that I wanted by speaking sternly to her about the rule that I had set, but I hurt her feelings the way that I did it. And when I realized I had done that, I took immediate steps to correct it. Because Mommy can be wrong sometimes too. And if Mommy admits it, she teaches her kids that there’s nothing wrong with being wrong as long as you take steps to make things right when you realize that you have done wrong.