It's happened twice in the last 2 weeks and never prior. My 18-month-old son was pushed away by another child while playing in the toy area at our local library. When I say pushed, I mean it in the most personal, hurtful way -- though unprovoked, the other child looks my son in the eye, slowly raises his/her hand, and progressively presses against my son's chest. This isn't I'm reacting spontaneously, this is a gesture screaming, I reject you.
Both times he was merely watching the other child play. The last time it happened, he watched in horror before his lip curled down and wallop-sized tears began to fall. I slowly knelt to comfort him and as I did the other child's mother said, He better get used to it.
My heart sank. I disagree.
While I loathe seeing my son hurt by what is, let's admit, common toddler behavior, I never want him to get used to it. I hope he never expects disrespectful, selfish, and injurious behavior because he should know that such behavior is wrong. We only call something wrong if we are capable of doing what is right. He knows he should not behave that way toward others. I hope he will not accept it from others just as he will not accept it from himself.
My mother gave me brilliant advice when I was an inexperienced caregiver working college summers at a daycare. She said, kneel down, look confidently into their eyes, and speak clearly but gently when disciplining very young children. Explain the reason succinctly and move on. And when it is over, let it truly be over. Hug and kiss them and recognize that the moment is a new start. I very quickly became the most well-loved and respected caregiver in the 2 rooms in which I worked, and I credit it to this and more of her similar advice.
I remember Holly, mouse-brown hair and gray-green eyes, 4-years-old and a kicker and screamer. She was sent to the office on a daily basis. But by practicing my mother's sound advice I was able to make her feel wanted, accepted, and respected. I expected her to behave well and when she did not, I saw it as an opportunity to show her she was worthy of my expectations: I disciplined her but I listened to her side; I punished her with timeouts but I encouraged her every second she stayed put and then, I swirled her around as soon as the 2-minute timer rang. And for the time I worked there, she stopped hitting, whining, and tattling and instead laughed, played well with others, and even took her nap.
I believe we should expect adult behavior from our children but at a child's level. I expect that my 18-month-old son will not push but if he does succumb to the temptations of his 18-month-old mind and body, I will discipline him appropriately for his age. After all, the traditional use of discipline meant to train, educate, and form a person for the good. Meaning that in addition to correcting his behavior, I must encourage him to expect more of himself and others. Even as a toddler.
Back at the library I'm pretty sure the other mother said something like That's not nice. Don't hit. Say your sorry, but I'm equally sure the little girl wasn't paying attention, and the mother certainly didn't command it. The girl hadn't a clue she was being disciplined (she continued to play), and she didn't give my crying child a moment more of her consideration.
I see a tendency to accept something as normal just because it happens often. But I want more for my children. I want them to give more as well as expect more from others.
What about you, friends? What do you think? I'd love to hear about it!