Friday, October 09, 2009


The phrases in bold are my personal mom-reminders. If I had these tattooed to my arms, I'd be a much better person.

I talk out loud to Margaret during her tantrums. Margaret doesn't understand the things I'm saying, nor do I expect her to. I say these things out loud because I need to hear it and remind myself. Between the two of us, the person who needs discipline is myself.

I do think it's possible to talk Margaret to death, though, so I'm trying to give myself these reminders in my head. She probably doesn't want to listen to me lecture myself about how what she's doing is age appropriate, especially when it sort of sounds like I'm lecturing her. Reminder to self: do, don't say. It's better to tell myself these things in my head and act on them instead of saying it all out loud.

"You're feeling disappointed/frustrated/etc. It's hard to show frustration when you don't have words for it, so you use your body and volume." The first part "You're feeling ____" is to give Margaret a word for her feelings- I try to give her the vocabulary for her feelings; some day she'll be able to reference that vocabulary (I hope!). The rest of that is what I tell myself in my head to remind me not to get upset at her. She is communicating the only way she can. I also remind myself to respond to her and listen to her to encourage her to keep communicating. I want her to know that no matter how angry or frustrated she gets, she can tell me about it. I actually learned this from elimination communication: I need to respond to her signals so she knows that it's worth it to give me those signals. If I ignore her signals, she'll stop giving them. In tantrums, I want her to know that it's worth it to try to communicate with me, that I do want to listen to her and that her feelings are important to me. I feel that if I were to send her away in a "time out" she would get the impression that I don't want to listen to her problems and that I only like her when she's "good." And that's not true at all; I love her unconditionally.

"It's ok to not feel good/be angry/to cry." I try very hard to make sure that I don't give her the impression that it's bad to be upset. I don't want her to think she has to hide her emotions and that negative emotions are "bad." I also need to say this out loud to remind myself that it's ok, too. I think I sometimes don't know how to handle her negative emotions because my own emotions were suppressed so much as a child. Telling myself that it's ok for her to be upset helps me relax about the situation. Negative emotions are a part of living and we need to learn how to deal with them in a healthy way. For me, hiding and being ashamed of negative emotions is not healthy.

Another thing I ask myself is, "Is it that big of a deal?" It's a "pick your battles" thing. And pretty much, unless it's a safety issue, I let it go. While frustrating, does it matter that she likes to completely strip her entire bottom half (socks and leg warmers included) when she goes potty? No. Does it matter that took all the DVDs out of the drawer? Not really. That she wants to wear 5 necklaces to the store? Nope.

From what I understand in LDS theology, the transgressions of children before their age of accountability fall to the parents because they are responsible for teaching. I never really "got" this. I think I understand it better now. When Margaret is doing something "wrong" like playing with scissors or running around the parking lot it's because I didn't keep those scissors out of reach, I didn't make sure she was safe. Her lack of impulse control is no one's fault- it's even appropriate and good for her because it facilitates learning and growth. When she "transgresses" it falls on my head because it was my responsibility to prevent those "bad" situations.

I think the biggest thing with discipline is to model behavior. She has learned to fold her arms for prayer, bring me her dinner plate to clean, and even put her folded clothes in her drawer by example. I've never actually shown her how to do any of those; she did them on her own. The other day she signed and said "please" and I have no idea where that came from! I'm really bad with using "please." Of course, sometimes she doesn't do these things, and that's ok, too. Sometimes I don't do all the dishes or vacuum regularly. I need to remind myself to be merciful with her. She's a young little person and she's acting exactly how she should.

Tangental note:
I think it's interesting that Luke's interpretation of the "Be ye therefore perfect" invitation in the Sermon on the Mount is "Be ye therefore merciful." Perhaps what will make us perfect is giving mercy to each other and ourselves.


  1. I had to laugh out loud about Margaret stripping everything to use the potty. I recently started leaving Michael's pants (and shoes and socks) on now that his legs are long enough. It really bugged him at first, but he is getting used to it, so I guess I got lucky there.

    Anyway, I like your reminders. Usually I feel better about certain things when I tell myself that he is learning. Though lately....well, I guess I need write it on my arms, too!

  2. Thanks for posting this week. It's really, REALLY helped me to read another mom's take on disciplining and stuff. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who starts worrying about what people are thinking about how I'm handling tantrums. Today when Toby was FREAKING out in the library I kept this post in mind. You are amazing!!

  3. Thank you for this post, Heather! I really needed to hear these things, not just for my parenting but for myself. "It's ok to not feel good/be angry/to cry." Why doesn't anyone seem to get this, especially adults? Why can't people stop trying to fix things or ignoring them instead of just loving/comforting/listening?

  4. It's interesting to consider that whole age-of-accountability thing. I have thought before... "If God doesn't hold a 5 year old accountable for his mistakes, why do we?" Should parents really have high expectations and enforce consequences on behavior when they are not psychologically equipped to be accountable?

  5. Good post. And it's good to know your toddler throws tantrums, she always seems so calm to me that I sometimes wonder "is my child the only one in the ward that displays her emotions so forcefully?" ;) Also, with the "sin on the head of the parents" I learned, and this makes sense to me, that it isn't necessarily the sin that the kid does is the parents fault, but the sin of not teaching correct principles/behavior is on the parents. Everyone still has agency. You're really a great mom, I appreciate your calm and example, and all the things you share because it gives me ideas of how I can improve too! :)

  6. Hey, I pop on sometimes from MMB, but I felt I needed to comment on something you said in this post, hopefully to share greater understanding with each other.

    I do agree with you that many "mistakes" our children make can be prevented by some foresight of the parents, but these are not necessarily "sins" that we are held accountable for.

    Moroni chapter 8 vs 8 states that "little children are whole for they are NOT CAPABLE of committing sin."

    Doctrine and Covenants 68:25 states that that "Inasmuch as parents have children. . . that TEACH THEM NOT to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the Living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost and the laying on of hands, WHEN EIGHT YEARS OLD, the sin be upon the heads of the parents."

    So the the actions of children before the age of eight are not sins. The atonement covers little children. (see Mni 8:8) So no "sin" can be transferred onto the parents. However if the parents choose not to teach their children about sin and repentance and baptism then when the children reach the age of accountability then the sins from that point are on the heads of the parents.

    Many religious people among science-based developmental theory circles (Waldorf included) find the Lord's "Age of accountability" to line up with their theories of when children are first starting to be able to internalize and understand abstract ideas, rather than just concrete ones (ages7/8). So it supports the idea of children being able to understand from that age on the ideas of sin and repentance.

    It's certainly interesting to think about.

    You seem like a great mom. I enjoy taking a look at your perspective on life.

  7. Jeanette-
    I like your explanation. Maybe I was just not paying close enough attention in Sunday school because I totally grew up thinking that whenever my younger brother lied or hit or something or other before he was 8, it was a transgression on my parents' heads. But I really do like (and agree with) your explanation.

    My little tidbit was just something I was thinking about with the whole age of accountability/parents connection. Thanks for sharing!

    And I know this week might give the impression that I think I'm the world's greatest parent. I'm not. I definitely reach limits (especially if I'm knitting and don't want to be bothered by a toddler who wants my attention- but that's really my own unwillingness to put her first). I love that McKay is so willing to be the patient one when my patience has run out. He can hold her almost indefinitely when I'm "touched out".

  8. Excellent point in the "Tangental note"!


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