Toddlerhood indeed brings on a whole new world of behavior – and misbehavior. A few choice milestones my son has recently hit: first time yanking on the dog’s tail, first time smacking a plastic truck against the T.V. screen, and first time (and second, third, and fourth time) throwing his cup with surprising force onto the ground from his highchair.
This has led to a mommy milestone for me: first time disciplining my little baby.
The word “no” is now uttered more times than I ever imagined it would be. No, you may not climb onto the couch unassisted. No, you may not smack Mommy in the face. No, you may not take the tambourine from music class home with you. And no, you may not take that tambourine and “share” it with the 9-month-old baby next to you by tapping him in the arm with it.
I do think my son knows what “no” means. He shakes his head when refusing food I’ve cooked him or when asked, “Do you want to take a nap?” He seems pretty clear when he does something wrong, and I look him in the eye (no laughing allowed – I learned that early on) or take his hand in mine and say, “No.”
Do I feel guilty sometimes for scolding him like a puppy? Yes. But I know deep down that I am teaching him right from wrong and that he’s old enough to begin learning how to behave.
There is another stage of “no” that I am just beginning to embark upon, and so far, it’s a much harder one: refusing my son things that are not “wrong” per se, just being phased out. We are trying to wean him off baby bottles and his pacifier. And while it’s (relatively) easy to say “no” to him when he’s done something wrong (today’s greatest hits: swinging his wooden push toy like a baseball bat perilously close to the dog’s face, trying to drop Mommy’s phone into her cup of coffee, and stealing Daddy’s glasses off of his face), it’s much more complicated when I am refusing him something he’s been allowed to have for 15 months.
I imagine it must seem completely out of the blue to him. For over a year, he’s been happily grabbing his “baba” full of milk from his parents’ hands. Now, handed a cup, he gives us a confused and – heartbreaking! – sad face. “Baba?” he asks us. I explain that he is a big boy and it’s time for cups, but the message is sadly lost on him.
I haven’t used the word “No” yet because I don’t want him to think he’s done anything wrong. But how do I tell him it’s just not going to happen?