When it comes to discipline, I thought I would be strict but fair – it was the way we were brought up and it kept us out of trouble.
Then I actually had a child and the reality of not sleeping for more than three hours (or less) in one go for more than two years kicked in.
It means I am far more relaxed about, well, pretty much everything than I probably would have been, which has been positive in some respects – dealing with mess, for example, it’s like I just don’t see it (maybe I’m asleep standing up?).
Freya is, in my opinion, generally well behaved now, which means when she is being a bit of a tinker I’m inclined to let her get away with a fair amount.
Also, the trouble with her being two is I never know how much of it is just angst she can’t control and how much of it is actual wilful behaviour that probably needs some attention. I’m more inclined to say: “Oh, she’s just being two.” And try and distract her than make a big deal.
But I had to laugh yesterday.
I got the felt tip pens out and we did some colouring at the dining table for a while before she started dropping them on to the floor one by one.
I picked them up and said that they needed to stay on the table otherwise we wouldn’t have anything to colour with and if she dropped them again I would put them away.
One by one, with a cackle-like laugh any witch would be proud of, she took them and again dropped them off the side and when I made the move to put the rest away she swept the entire selection off the table with her arm.
I got her down from the chair and asked her to help me put them back in the box, which she refused.
I told her if I had to pick them up by myself they were going away for the rest of the week (I never know if she understands or not but I felt there should be some sort of consequence).
When she still refused I picked them up and then put them away in our bedroom.
That was the end of that.
Or so I thought.
As it was now teatime I told her I was going into the kitchen to make her something to eat.
From the kitchen door I watched as she climbed back on to the chair and reached for a box containing a cupcake game she got for Christmas and then, as she looked me straight in the eye, she poured the entire contents on to the floor.
Taking a deep breath I went over, helped her climb down from the chair again and then kneeled so I was on her level.
“Ok, I would like you to put all the pieces back in the box,” I explained. “Games don’t belong on the floor.”
“No!” she said.
“If you don’t do it and I have to pick them up, you will lose the game for a week.”
“I want you to do it,” she said.
“You put them on the floor, you need to pick them up.”
“Will you help me?”
“Yes, I’ll help. You start.”
“I can’t,” she said. “I can’t bend my knees.”
“You. Can’t. Bend. Your. Knees?” I repeated.
Of all the things I thought she might say, this was not one of them (and, strangely, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with her knees immediately before or after this).
She then gave me a look that said: “I know, weird huh but what can you do? Best you get on with cleaning up.”
And it was game over because I was struggling not to laugh (bad mummy). I quickly cleared the pieces up and added it to the confiscated pile, which she was not happy about.
Telling my mum (Mrs Strict-but-Fair) about it later she said that Freya is too young to understand.
“You treat her like she’s a seven-year-old,” she said. “She’s too young for discipline.”
I got the distinct impression that Freya knew exactly what she was doing. In the grand scheme of things I know it’s not a big deal but my instinct was that she was trying to test her boundaries and I should at least attempt to make her see that what she was doing wasn’t going to fly.
What would you have done? Let her get on with it or try and make her see reason?