It’s a shame we don’t remember being three-years-old. When our days were full of coloring outside the lines, running through the sprinkler buck naked and zonking out for a few solid hours in the middle of the day until waking up to a dinner someone else prepared. Never were our thoughts preoccupied by any one else’s well-being, or feelings or a revolving door of questions like, “How to remove spilled candle wax from a beige carpet”, “How to get Sharpie out of a beige carpet” and “How to discipline a toddler… and get Play-doh out of a beige carpet”.
Because being three is like being on the world’s moodiest roller coaster. One minute you’re on top of the world and then next you’re screaming bloody murder and waving your arms in the air like a madman – and all because the friend you begged to have come over for a playdate won’t let you rip a truck out of his hand.
Now, we’re only about four months in to the year of the Thankless Threes, but I am here to tell you, it hasn’t been pretty. Don’t get me wrong, our son is just about the best kid in the world, cute as a button and sharp as a tack, but there are moments – hours – days, that his behavior makes me want to crawl under my bed, stuff cotton balls in my ears and pray for death.
Truth be told my husband and I were at a loss. We tried “time outs”. We tried “consequences”. We tried “gentle discipline”. We tried everything. Everything except – the “S” word.
Ooh. It even looks mean.
How to Discipline a Toddler
For the record, I was against it from the start, but my husband thought we should give it a try. We were both spanked (sparingly) as children and turned out just fine, so what could it hurt? Spankings would be reserved for the worst offenses. You know the ones. The ones where your child looks you dead in the eye after you tell him not to do something, and then does it anyway – with a little smirk? Those.
For a little while, the mere threat of a “spanking” seemed to be enough to curtail our son’s bad behavior. “Hit me again, and you’re going to get a spanking!” sure made him straighten up and fly right – for a little while. But like all good things, the spanking honeymoon soon came to an end one fateful Friday morning.
In a surprising twist, I was the first to commit to a laying on of the hands. During a particularly feisty nap time, my son thought it would be wise to hit me until I agreed to sing him a third song. He thought wrong. “Hit me again and you are going to get a spanking!”
He was calling my bluff. It was go time.
I pulled down his pants and saw his perfect, little, white butt. The same perfect, little white butt that just a few hours earlier I watched running happily through our sprinkler. The same perfect, little, white butt that I wiped and diapered until – well, until not that long ago. I saw his perfect, little, white butt – and I spanked it.
And that little boy. That rambunctious little boy, who, by all accounts should’ve immediately respected my authority and begun toeing the line – that little boy hit me again.
We’re going to stick with this spanking thing for a little while. If for no other reason than to not let on that we’ve made a horrible mistake. We stuck with “time outs”, “consequences” and all the other parenting hoo-ha out there, so it’s only fair we give this the old college try. Besides, soon our son will turn four and my husband and I will look back on this cluster-you-know-what period of parenting – and laugh.
We’ll laugh because, no matter what parenting “technique” or “method” or “theory” we try, our kids are always going to be strong-willed and feisty and hilarious and lovable.
And they’re going to be just fine.
** This post was originally written in 2014 and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that after two kids (and one on the way) we’ve decided that spanking is not a form of discipline we use in our family. We’ve researched positive parenting techniques and techniques for disciplining strong willed children and found much greater success using these strategies.