Sunday, January 12, 2014

I'll flog you within an inch of your life

Yesterday in the supermarket, there was a lady with a 2-year-old.  

I remember shopping with a 2-year-old.

I remember life with a 2-year-old.

Not easy.  Not easy at all.

And yet it was the time, for us, at least, of some of the greatest learning either of my boys ever did.  

Well did the Jesuits, or whoever it was, say "Give me a child for his first seven years and I'll give you the man".  And however you interpret it, I choose to interpret that in those years and I would say within the first 5 - a huge part of the person's learning and beliefs and character are formed.  

So it is a huge challenge for a parent to keep the child safe, away from destruction of public property and yet allow them to learn and grow and develop as they are driven to do.  

They are not making a conscious choice to "get into" everything, they are driven by the need to learn and develop and grow. 

In the supermarket, this particular mother was dealing with the challenge verbally.  I heard, "If you keep that up I'm going to flog you within an inch of your life."   There was also the familiar "3 ... 2 ..."  I'm not sure what was to happen when she got to 1 because it never happened.  Her voice changed and she tried another tactic.  I wonder if there was ever a flogging within an inch of his life.  I also wonder if that is what her mother said to her ... or her father, and it just came out of her mouth in certain circumstances.

I worked with a mother who reported that she said to her sons "If I ever find you doing that I will belt you up."  This despite the fact that both were taller then she was at the time.  It obviously worked because both are reasonably well-behaved.  Perhaps it was the expectations ... and that's a whole other blog post.

Back to the supermarket and the 2-year-old.

I passed the little family later in another aisle, and I recognised the look on the mother's face - the knowledge that she was at the end of her tether, that things weren't working.

I remember that one too, that feeling.

It was about that time that I realised as a mother that control, and expecting a 2-year-old to be perfectly behaved according to a set of principles that did not allow him to grow and develop and learn just doesn't work.  He will grow anyway but there will be a whole lot of angst and misery in the process.   

I found success on both sides comes when both sides are committed to that growth, development and learning (within the parameters of safety and the preservation of public property.)  

The child is committed to it.  

As a parent, much as we would like to get through the supermarket in the same way we did before children, it is just too important, not to change that shopping trip to a learning exercise.  

You will learn what strengths you have and what patience and endurance are.  
Your child will learn lifelong lessons of shopping, of self-control, of social responsibility, of maths, of compromise ... if you just let him.  

You can make it difficult and full of anger and frustration and angst or you can facilitate it and allow it to happen quickly.
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