“Bad girl” addendum

In my last post on discipline, I mentioned the importance, and difficulty, of following through on what you say. But on Monday, a situation arose that demonstrated that this truth applies beyond matters of punishment.

As usual, Monday was a difficult transition-back-to-the-week morning, and I couldn’t get Lily going, dressed, and out the door to save my life. So when I FINALLY was on my way to her daycare, with her riding on my shoulders, I was loathe to turn around and re-trace two blocks back to the house when she said, “My baby!” – referring to her baby doll, of course. Her much abused/loved, dingy baby doll.

Never mind that there’s a basket full of these same dolls at daycare. She wanted hers, and she began to cry and pull her body back toward our house. I tried to tell her I’d bring it to her when I came to pick her up, but the crying grew worse. So I told her I would drop her off and then go get it and bring it to her.

Did I really intend to do this? I vacillated as we made our way through the daycare’s entryway doors. I told myself that she’d probably forget all about it – toddlers are hardly known for their long-term focus – once she arrived in her room and saw the other kids and toys. And it’s not like she’d perish without it. I was going to be getting to work late as it was, given the challenges of the morning.

So, when I finally extricated myself, logic was telling me to let it go. But then I thought, “If I expect her to take me at my word in discipline situations, shouldn’t I also train her to take me at my word more generally?”

Yes, obviously. So although it was a pain, after running around the house and rushing to get myself ready for work, I delivered Lily’s baby – so to speak – to daycare.

And I’ll tell you this: when I came through the door of her classroom, Lily’s face lit up, she got this big smile on her face, and she said, “My baby!” as excited and happy as could be. She ran toward me, grabbed the doll, and gave me a huge hug. Her day, in that instant, got worlds better.

Now, on most days, parenting answers aren’t so simple. But sometimes, as I try to remind myself, they’re as basic as this: keep your word, as often as it’s reasonable to do so.

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