My heart wept a little as I glanced at the “fresh” red marks on Liam’s arm 10 minutes after I unwittingly punished him in this manner for the first time. He was sobbing in my embrace, and as upset as I was at myself for the way I handled it, I knew it was necessary.
It wasn’t the first time the two brothers got into a siblings fight. But tonight’s episode was the straw that broke this camel’s back.
Liam was busy playing and building his train tracks when cheeky little brother Ollie decided to “derail” the tracks that were already put in place. As expected, it hit a nerve with Liam and before the husband and I could react/mediate, we saw one of the train tracks being thrown in the air, hitting Ollie’s head. Our littlest breaks into an inconsolable bawl.
Shocked, the enraged husband was about to respond to Liam’s brash behaviour when I quickly stepped in (Liam is always more wary of incurring his father’s wrath). I wasn’t going to let our son get away with yet another warning or telling-off like I always do, because it would obviously fall on deaf ears again. Unfortunately I was also exhausted from handling my 3-yr-old’s bratty tantrums in the last 2 hours – all thanks to the lack of an afternoon nap – and so I also decided I was done with emotional coaching and gentle disciplining. Asking Liam how he would feel if he was on the receiving end was losing its effect.
I proceeded to take one of his train tracks, asked him to stretch his hand out and told him that I wanted to impress on him how painful it must have been for his younger brother when the track hit his head. It was difficult to follow through but it had to be done.
I did my best to control my strength as I struck the toy track against my 3-year-old’s forearm. And as he cried out in pain (more of an emotional one than a physical one because the crying started even before the track hit his skin), my heart broke. It was also tough trying to explain to him calmly as I hugged my little man really tight and prayed for parental strength and wisdom. I couldn’t help but glance at the spot every 5 minutes to see if marks from the plastic train track faded. Thankfully it did after an hour, although the pain had subsided along with the tears much earlier.
What happened after that discipling episode surprised me.
Instead of being ignored, which we usually get whenever we don’t give in to our little boy’s demands; Liam tells me how much he loves me, and asks if I can build train tracks together with him.
He also manages his quick-temper rather well in the next hour, by asking me or the husband to distract Ollie away whenever he crawls towards the tracks and at one moment even asks if he (Ollie) can just watch the trains running around the tracks instead of touching it (with a “please” at the end). I’m impressed by the change in attitude.
And finally, upon seeing me showering Ollie, Liam asks his little brother if he can join in (to a resounding yes-scream of course!)… the two boys end up splashing water and bubbles at each other excitedly.
My current discipline techniques consist of rewarding good behaviour, removing privileges, and instituting time outs. While these methods have its effectiveness and ineffectiveness from time to time, I still do my best to stay away from spanking as much as possible. I definitely hope to improve on a few things when it comes to disciplining the kids: consistency, always continuing to show respect for the child even when the discipling gets tougher, and exercising more patience.
Meanwhile, any books or articles on child discipline techniques tor recommend?