Eleven years ago, a wise woman gave me some advice I’ve never forgotten.
If I knew back then what I know now, I would have given her a standing ovation as soon as the words left her mouth. This dear friend, whose oldest child was fifteen years older than mine, was absolutely right.
At the time, I was in the throes of the three’s with my firstborn child. He was pretty much a wreck back then. With certain children, the year between three and four is a bear. I’ve been saying it for years, and maybe you’ve found this to be true as well: The two’s got nuthin’ on the three’s.
Twice, my little preschooler went a day and half without eating simply because he wouldn’t eat what was offered. I wasn’t about to become a short-order cook for a pint-sized dictator. What would that teach him? Yup. Scream louder and you’ll get what you want. That was NOT the lesson I wanted to be teaching.
He’d run out of his room screaming like a maniac at nap times and bedtimes, waking his baby brother. Grrr, right? He’d choose the most inconvenient moments to freak out in the tub and was just plain irrational most of the time. He also had an adorable outgoing personality and infectious giggle, so it wasn’t all hard times. But I distinctly remember talking to my older and wiser friend about ways I could walk him through this rough patch. I prayed it was just a “patch.” It simply had to be, because this mama wasn’t sure she could handle it much longer.
My friend said, “If you don’t deal with the behaviors you find undesirable in your child now, just imagine what they will look like in ten years.”
Gulp. Whoa. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.
Throwing fits at the dinner table at age three, while clamping his mouth shut and refusing to eat, might look like slamming doors and refusing to respect authority at age thirteen if not properly dealt with.
Screaming and throwing things in defiance at age two, might turn into a twelve year old bad-mouthing his teachers and a general self-absorbed attitude. If it’s all about “me” at age two, chances are nothing will change at twelve except the magnitude of the poor behavior.
These things don’t magically disappear. Trust me. Left unchecked, they’ll grow in the worst way.
And change doesn’t happen overnight. There’s no quick fix short of a miracle. BUT. Consistent parental action and guidance will steadily improve the behavior of your child.
By age six, we saw dramatic improvement. Six? Three years later, you say? Yeah. It was long and imperfect. But it was progress. It’s not an exact formula, but our work day-in, day-out turned into this fourteen year-old man-child who is now so enjoyable.
Commit to the long-haul. It’s so worth it.
Every bit of it.
And do you know what? My oldest guy is still a picky eater. But now he eats the foods that aren’t his favorite out of respect for the ones who spent their time and energy providing it for him. And because he knows the daily provision of food is a luxury. We taught him that over a long stretch of years, and we’re proud of that. He now has ample opportunities to pick and chose what he wants to eat, because yeah, he’s a teenager. But if we hadn’t consistently been firm in our stance that he be respectful at the table as a youngster, he’d still be as rude and ungrateful as he was at age three. I can’t tell you how many times we had to ask him to leave the table as a young child for a bad attitude or poor choices. It was completely exasperating. But. It. Paid. Off.
I urge you, moms, parents, take a look at your children’s most undesirable behaviors and start to imagine them in ten years’ time. It’ll scare the living daylights out of you, as it should.
But your kid, 10 years later, could absolutely bless your socks off. So don’t be afraid to put in the long hours, give the endless reminders, corrections, and patient-parental love.
I promise you won’t regret it.
I’ve never once heard a parent say they wish they’d spent less time investing in the training of their kids. But I’ve listened as numerous parents lamented, with heads hung low, that they didn’t curb bad behavior in their children before it was too late.
I don’t want to face this sort of regret in ten more years’ time, and I’m positive you don’t either.
I’m praying for us.
With much love and solidarity,
A Fellow Mom