It is hard to discipline a 16 month old. Samaira has a habit of throwing everything that comes in her hands. I am not sure why that is but it’s applicable to everything including her milk bottle & water cup. Yesterday she asked for her wa-wa (read “water”) while sitting in her high chair. She took a sip from her straw cup and immediately threw her bottle down on the floor. This is a not a unique scenario given her tendency to throw everything. But if she does it when she is on the ground already then she can pick it up and start drinking her wa-wa again. Given that she was restricted in her high chair she expected us to hand her straw cup back to her after she threw it.
In our infinite wisdom we decided that yesterday was the day to discipline her into not throwing things! So we, very sternly, asked her to not throw her straw cup. Multiple times. But to no avail.
Samaira did realize though that she was doing something we did not necessarily want her to do. So after every instance of throwing the straw cup on the ground, she would go silent for 5 seconds, then stare at us with the most curious eyes ever for another 5 seconds and then give a yummy smile to us and expect us to respond with the same yummy smile!
Disciplining can be hard! I kind of wanted to smile back, except I was angry at her for throwing her straw cup on the ground yet again. So I decided to hold my smile back and stay stern. Next time she repeated that I yelled and said “Samaira don’t throw your straw cup. Enough.” This time her curious eyes and the delicious smile were replaced by sad eyes and downward pursed lips. It was such a sad expression and yet there was so much drama in it. Samaira started staring at us with that face and didn't take her eyes off us for a good 15 seconds. We obviously stared back in complete silence.
A part of me just wanted to crack up and burst out in laughter at this overt display of innocent drama. A part of me was sad to see her sad expression and know that she isn't happy. A part of me wanted to stay stern to convey the ultimate message, and the message wasn't I love you. And the remainder of me wanted to give up on disciplining.
We tried to put up a straight face and continued with the disciplining until her sad eyes and downward pursed lips turned into howling and crying for absolutely no reason.
Jeez – how do parents discipline their kids? How do they combat their curious eyes and lovely smiles?
My natural tendency is to over think things. And believe it or not, it does have its pros as well. So when I started to think more about this whole disciplining scenario, I started thinking about the more complex issues that would need disciplining. Then I spiraled into the memories of how my parents disciplined us. More than 90% of the times I would end up being really, really, mad at my parents for not letting me do what I wanted. A lot of those times I would end up crying my eyes out, to the point that they were utterly swollen and almost unrecognizable. What I never realized back then was that it must have been really hard for my parents to see me in that state. I was just being defiant, persistent and maybe, plain old stubborn. I wanted to have my way and my parents decided to take a firm stand in some of those matters. They did choose their battles but I am pretty sure it couldn't have been easy.
Now that it’s my turn to discipline my kid(s), I am not really sure how hard it will be for me to do the right thing. How will I know which battles to pick? How will I know when to set the limits and when to let go? How will I know to strike the balance between letting them learn from their mistakes versus preventing them from making some? How will I react to their sadness and anger? And depending on how my kids turn out, in some cases, how will I overcome their curious eyes and delicious smiles? Hopefully, there will be some guiding force. Most likely my intuition. Probably my mom. Probably Siddharth. Probably my dad. Probably my sister.
Well, here is hoping that at least my two babes will guide me J!