Today has been a typical day in the house with a 3 year old.
Going from the “Terrible Two’s” into the “Tyrannical Three’s” has been really hard on all of us. I believe the stress from trying to navigate these sometimes rough waters of toddler hood can be overwhelming at times.
Today my son thought it was "pick on the dog" day. Everywhere he went my son terrorized the dog from scaring him with toys, to lightly slapping him as he ran by and even kicking him by accident (I think) while flailing his feet around. I had been after him all day about being mean to the dog and the timeout corner never seemed to get very cold. What was worse was when I really got upset with him the last time he did it he did the unthinkable….he smiled.
That sinful grin made me lose it. I was so horrified at his response I pulled him up off of the floor and pointed down the hall and ordered him to his room in a voice that I’m sure made my husband wonder if my head was going to spin around on my shoulders.
I was so upset at the meanness my son had been showing lately that I lay down on our bed in exasperation and pondered where I had gone wrong as a parent. What had made my son enjoy hurting a family member? The more I thought about it the more upset I became.
I said a prayer, asking God for guidance as I surely had no idea how to turn this around.
It wasn’t long before the answer came to me.
I called my son in from his room. As he peeked around the corner with trepidation, I did what I’m sure was the last thing he expected – I invited him to crawl up into our bed and snuggle with me.
As he eagerly settled in, I took this moment, this calm and loving moment to talk to my son about the basis of the “Golden Rule.” I did my best to break it down into terms he could understand. I asked him how he would feel if someone he loved, such as I, his mommy walked by and slapped him, or scared him or worse. I explained how our dog deserves our love and kindness just as much as he does.
I tried to explain it simply as, if you are mean to others, they will be mean to you, but if you are nice to others, they will want to be nice to you. I then asked him if he wanted others to be nice or mean to him. He thought for a moment as I’m sure he was pondering how much fun being mean had been. I then noticed his brow furrow a little as the image of him being on the receiving end of meanness entered his mind. He then said he would want them to be nice to him. With great relief, I explained to him what he then had to do to make others want to be nice to him.
The lesson of the Golden Rule is one of the simplest of lessons to learn, but it is such an important one as it is the basis for all the other lessons that follow.
I was glad God gave me the inspiration to use a very bad and disturbing moment and turn it into a teachable moment for my son.
The funny part is I found I learned a lesson or two in it as well. I learned to ask God for guidance when I can’t find my own way down this sometimes dark road of parenting, I learned to show my son that I love him even if I don’t always like what he does, and I learned to take a bad situation and teach my son right from wrong. A lesson that may have to be repeated, but hopefully with some perseverance, will one day “stick.”
The value of a teaching moment for my son that taught me something at the same time is surely priceless.
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