I spend a lot of time saying “don’t”. Don’t play on the stairs. Don’t whine. Don’t touch that hot curling iron. As a toddler, I empathized that Thor lived in a World of No. That’s a hard place for a baby to live. I do try to balance out the negative with the positive and offer him alternatives, but some days–good lord.
The other day, he was standing on the rungs of my chair, mouth against my ear, and he screamed like something had bitten him. Keeping in mind that he frequently makes loud noises for no apparent reason other than the amount of sheer youthful adrenaline pumping through his veins, with my ear ringing, I turned and bellowed at him not to do so. After apologizing, he informed me that Daddy had poked him. So what was I going to do? Bellow at Daddy like that?
Bryan and I don’t talk to each other that way. It’s very rare for voices to be raised. Very, very rare.
I did, just to even it out, but everyone knew it was just for show. Even just pretending felt wrong and uncomfortable.
I thought about it. If I don’t use that tone with Bryan, who is an adult and could comprehend it, and who is too big to be intimidated by it, why would I use it on a small child, who hasn’t finished developing social skills, and who is still tiny enough to be intimidated by my towering 5’3″ frame? When I put it to myself that way…
After a few minutes, and when we were all in the same room together, I apologized to Thor and told him just that: If I wouldn’t talk to Daddy that way, I shouldn’t talk to him that way, and I was going to strive not to raise my voice like that at him again. I did explain that it would help me to stretch my patience if he would give doing-what-I-say-the-first-time-without-whining a go. We agreed on it.
I’m not some hippie who thinks you shouldn’t discipline your children, but I am some hippie who believes you have to model the behavior you expect from them. How can I expect him to express anger in an appropriate way, if my response to him–in anger–is to snarl and growl? I can’t. I have to model and then enforce the responses I want from him. It’s that or beat him with a stick until he complies, and I am absolutely the hippie who doesn’t believe in beating with sticks.
More than that, it’s mean to physically intimidate someone. It’s mean to intimidate someone into being fearful. I don’t want to do that to this sweet, only-partially-grown person. I just hope I learned my lesson early enough that it doesn’t add a year to his future therapy.
As I type, Thor has found and employed something like a rape whistle and my ears are going to start bleeding at any moment. But he thinks he is playing me a song, and I kind of owe him one for kicking him out of the living room when I needed ten minutes alone. My ten minutes is up now, by the way. Time to go read more of The Adventures of the Great Brain.