I love the baby stage because I don’t have to worry about pesky things like behaviour and discipline. But I do have to worry about it with Riley. I have to teach her all kinds of things and doing that when her empathy is still developing can be hard work. Because at her age that’s mostly what it’s about developing empathy and consideration for those around her and respect for people and things. Sometimes when I say I try to stay away from rewards and punishment I think I give the impression that the opposite of that is nothing. But it’s not.
I try to avoid rewards and punishment because I want her to develop internal motivation. I don’t want the motivation to be avoiding something she hates or getting something she loves. And I certainly don’t want the getting of things to be her focus, instead of what I’m trying to teach her. I want her to form her own moral compass. And develop values of her own.
I don’t always succeed at this. Avoiding rewards is hard. Sometimes I bribe her when I should just be more patient and wait until she’s ready to do something. Sometimes I say ‘good job’ when I really should just be saying thank you. And sometimes the line is really blurry. I might not do punishment, but I strive for natural consequences. And sometimes natural consequences feel like a punishment. And although I consider time-out a punishment and try to avoid it, the firey nature of my girl means that sometimes I do have to leave her on her own, rather than allow her to hit/kick/throw things at me. And sometimes (now that she’s a bit older) she wants to be left alone, rather than have me for company while she calms down. I have my own ideas about how I want to parent but they can’t be impervious to my daughter’s personality and preferences. Sometimes I have to change my preferred way of doing things to suit her.
Every now and then we go through a challenging period of time and I might question the whole thing. But then I remind myself that parenting for me is about my long term goals. What I want for her as an adult. All of the things that make her challenging to parent as a little person are the things that are going to make her an awesome woman. And I have to protect those things now.