Strict dad or easy-going dad?
November 27, 2012 8:32 PM Subscribe
At times my 3-year-old son deliberately misbehaves. Do I double down on the discipline, or shrug it off?
posted by zardoz to Human Relations (48 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
My son is generally a very well-behaved boy. My wife and I see the difference between him and other (less well-behaved) kids, and others have remarked how quiet and polite he is (yes, I'm bragging, deal with it). Of course, it isn’t like that all the time, nor do I expect it to be. He's only three, and has to learn how to live with others.
He is in preschool now, and he’s been copying other kids’ behavior since he started about six months ago. Namely, some of the bratty kids—kids whose behavior ranges from playing a bit too rough to being directly aggressive—these kids my son is both a victim of (he’s usually a passive type) and something that he mimics.
Yesterday was about as clear-cut as it gets. My son and I were playing around in the living room, he was being very loud and silly, which is kind of sort of new for him. He starts going around to the lights and the lamps, turning them off. “Don’t do that, son, turn them back on,” I said, again, and again, and again. He sort of complies, but then runs over to the lamp nearest my wife and deliberately turns that one off.
“Turn that lamp back on,” I said. He laughed and ran around the room. I repeat this a few times. I explain that mommy’s reading and she needs the light. My wife joins in with the same—firmly asking with a reason attached.
I should perhaps point out my wife is much more of a disciplinarian, whereas I let the boy slide on things she wouldn’t. This time, though, I saw my two choices plain as day; First option: double down. Don’t give him an inch, don’t let him do anything else until he’s turned on that lamp. Second option: laugh it off, chalk it up to him being silly. It wasn’t a harmful thing, and he’s only doing it because he wants to play and thinks it’s funny.
I double down. Instead of asking, I raised my voice a bit and ordered him to “Turn on that light!” He’s stopped smiling at this point, knows I’m serious, but won’t go over and turn on the light. At my wits end, I did my nuclear option, which we employ from time to time: I threatened to throw away this or that toy. And said that Santa wasn’t coming this year. He said “No! No!” and began to cry, but when I said “If you want to keep them, then go turn on the lamp,” he still wouldn’t go. If you think mules are stubborn...
Long story short, it took 10 further minutes of alternately between being angry and demanding and being cajoling and explanatory.
Sorry for the wall but if I can boil it down to one question it’s this: is the threatening to throw away toys going over some line? I felt like shit saying it, but it usually works quickly with him. This time I had to threaten over and over, so it’s really stuck with me how shitty I’m making him feel. What else should I have done, though? Thanks, parents, and non-parents, in advance. I’m sure MeFi has superstar parents that can shed some light on this for me.