Baby Ren is now full-fledged Toddler Ren. As such, she has started to question my authority. This is very common among Rens, and your mileage may vary. The word “No” has become a very prominent part of her vernacular, and it is pretty much the default answer to many of our requests. Still, with our adult brains being a little bit bigger and having just a little more experience under our belts, we’ve been able to navigate these waters. Still, I feel that the Good Lord is testing me sometimes.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that my parents did everything right. I won’t tell you that they did everything wrong, either. But I will tell you that, in retrospect, the corporal punishment was perhaps not the best way to deal with those times when my brain told me to defiantly oppose something. There are better ways to convince a Toddler Ren, or a Child Ren, and even a Teenage Ren, to do something. It’s called negotiation.
Tonight, I had to give an online prep session to my biostats students. Toddler Ren decided that she was going to be running around, even after showing signs of wanting to go to sleep. So I took her to her crib with a small iDevice and let her watch cartoons while I gave my talk. There was absolutely nothing to be gained by letting her cry in the background from wanting to stay up. That said, the minute the lecture was over, the iDevice went away, even if it made her cry.
Then there are the times when she gets — somewhat easily — tricked into doing something. She likes to be helpful, though I think this too shall pass. So she gets tricked into putting away her toys under the guise of helping us clean around the house. This is something that they do in daycare, too. So we’re not exactly surprised that she does it.
Based on my own experience, these types of situations where she wants to do one thing when we need her to do something else are only going to become more common. That’s okay. What we need to remind ourselves is that we are the parents, that we’re the ones with the bigger brains — for now — and that we will set and enforce the boundaries set for her… For her own good.
There will not be corporal punishment, because it just really doesn’t work. There’s no need to make her fear us like that. “You doubting the wisdom of ages?” someone said to me the other day.
“Nope, I’m using a whole different set of knowledge to reach a different kind of wisdom. Because, if we did everything the biblical way, we’d be living in biblical times.”
This is not to say that I’m into that whole way of parenting that is all about being overprotective and making a big deal out of her being a brat. These things will happen. She will, as all Rens do, develop her own little personality that beckons her to challenge authority. I’ll be helping her with that so that she doesn’t get into (too much) trouble. At the same time, I’ll be using what worked with me to guide my way without making me fear my mentors.
Again, your mileage may vary, and you may choose to corporally punish your children and make them physically afraid of you. (Those brain connections are something else, man.) But you’re not raising a Ren, and I am. And we Rens are something else, man.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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