Deciding how to deal with bad behaviour is one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent – and it still is for me! But regardless of how strict or laid back you are, most parents tend to agree that dealing with naughtiness is all about setting clear boundaries.
The more time you spend with your child – and the cleverer they get – the more you realise how important it is to be consistent. For example, my wife and I try really hard to reach a consensus so we can present a united front in a parent-child standoff.
Fortunately, we came round to this point of view very early, and so were able to take this approach the first time Jack started to misbehave.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not perfect, and still have our fair share of disagreements (sometimes daily) about what should and shouldn’t be allowed. Overall though, it’s probably made our lives that little bit easier, especially now that our three-year-old is well aware of his manipulative abilities.
The experts agree with this too. I read something by behaviour expert Lorrine Marer recently, where she pointed out that adapting to boundaries gets harder for children with age. So she sees clear advantages to establishing what is appropriate and inappropriate early on.
Amusingly, the first time I truly appreciated my son understood his boundaries was when he saw me grab a cupcake from the kitchen minutes after he’d been told to wait until after dinner. After fixing me with an accusing stare and berating me for my actions – as we have ourselves so many times with him – he subsequently ordered me to go and sit on the naughty step.
Pride at his vocal reprimand aside, I realised this proved he understood what the boundaries were. I also realised I’d never be able to safely steal a cupcake again….