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I can't tell the difference between being a firm, in charge parent, and being mean.

(16 Posts)
BroccoliSpears Thu 04-Sep-08 13:32:28

I feel a bit crap. I want to do the right thing for my children but I don't think it comes naturally to me.

This morning: Dd ran out of the building and in to a busy car park. Then she got in the car and deliberately weed on the seat.

Please don't flame me saying that a 2.4 year old can't deliberately wee or understand why she shouldn't - I am very laid back about potty training and we've done it all at her instigation. Over the last 4 days she has been playing a 'game' where she needs a wee, comes to find me, aims and wees on the carpet, dancing out of reach and squealing with delight because she knows she oughtn't. I don't even reward it with getting cross, I just explain that wee goes in the loo and mummy is not happy when she has to clear wee up from the carpet, and we move on. Her favourite thing is 'being naughty' (not a word I use) at the moment and this is why she's doing it.

Anyway, explanations over...

Priority was getting everyone safely into the car which took a while. Once we were in I got cross with her. Not because I was doing measured parenting, but because I felt bloody cross. I told her that we do not run away from mummy and that there were cars about etc, and that we don't wee in the car, especially when she's only 3 minutes earlier flatly refused to sit on the loo before we left.

While I'm blathering on, she's singing to herself and eventually suggested that maybe I'd like to eat some fruit as that might cheer me up hmm.

She really doesn't get it. She doesn't mind a bit that I'm cross. This makes me think I should stop expecting her to have any idea about consequences as she's too young.

We set off and she asked me to pass her comfort blanket. I said no (mean mummy, still feeling cross). She got ever so upset and had no idea that her running into the carpark had anything to do with not having her blanket some 10 minutes later. It didn't really - I was just feeling cross and handling everything badly.

Other children of her age perfectly understand consequences. I am getting it all horribly wrong. I want to do the right thing for her.

On the one hand I don't want her to be the worst behaved child I know (she currently is, and I know people sometimes avoid having their children play with her) and I get comments about how she's "a bit of a handful" and obviously people put it down to my lax parenting, which is a reasonable assumption.

On the other hand, when I try and do the whole "you did X, and as a consequence a closely related thing Y is going to happen immediately" she has absolutely no comprehension of why mummy is being mean to her.


BroccoliSpears Thu 04-Sep-08 13:35:37

I should say, the running away is obviously more important than the wee. She also ran full pelt towards a busy road yesterday and I impressed on her that it was a very bad thing to do. My preference is for making it so that it is impossible for her to run anywhere, but I can't keep her strapped in a harness the whole time we are not in a locked building in case she finds a way out can I? Maybe I should? Or just duct tape her to my leg? But how will she ever learn?

Iklboo Thu 04-Sep-08 13:40:33

I know exactly how you feel. I feel like such an evil-bitch-whore-from-hell every time I discipline DS and he cries.
He is starting to learn consequence though - 'if you'e naughty you will not get a sticker' and loads & loads of praise when he's being good - even if it's just him playing quietly we'll tell him he's a good boy
No advice I'm afraid though sad

Boyswillbeboys Thu 04-Sep-08 13:41:01

My DS2 went through a phase of deliberately doing naughty things at about the same age as yours, he knew exactly what he was doing and thought it was hilarious. No amount of telling him off helped. Running off was one of those things, so I told him I would have to strap him in the buggy or put his baby reins on again. He hated being strapped in and soon got the message.

As for the wee, put pull-ups back on her until she stops doing it. Tell her that until she learns to wee in the right place, she will have to wear them again. Sounds like she is just trying to get attention. She will probably hate having them back on and soon stop!

Anna8888 Thu 04-Sep-08 13:45:05


My daughter suddenly "saw the light" just around her third birthday. I don't think children are deliberately naughty about roads at 2.4 - they genuinely don't understand the danger, and if you as parent have been banging on a lot about it they find it fun to wind you up ie they are reacting to your "overparenting" IYSWIM. Probably same with wee.

I would relax a bit about trying to train her to do anything, and put the accent on keeping her out of danger. She'll understand what she is meant to do for her own comfort and security soon enough, I promise smile.

WideWebWitch Thu 04-Sep-08 13:47:09

This is what I'd do:

go back to nappies, she's not ready. Give up cleaning the carpet! It's fine to leave it til later

she doesn;t get consequences yet so all you can do is say "No" and grab her if she's eg running off - you have to stop her. Sadly they have lots of strength and not much impulse control at this age so you need eyes like a hawk. They understand SOME consequences but not all and have limited understanding so she really isn't doing it to annoy you.

I think it's fine to be cross ish straight away (eg, she hits, you say RIGHT, OUTSIDE in the hall and put her there for one minute or 2) but then you have to forget it imo. She's small, she won't understand you carrying on being cross and you just have to get over it, hard though it can be. I know, I found the forgiving them and moving on thing v hard with ds but I made myself do it because he really didn't get it.

I think there arer lots of differences between firm and mean:

rules for safety and these don't change eg I will not start the car unless you're in your car seat
you do not hit
bedtime routine is mostly xyx

saying No automatically without thinking about it
expecting more grown up behaviour than they're capable of (not having a go at you, just lumping this in with other stuff)
hitting them
deliberately doing things to upset them

PoorOldEnid Thu 04-Sep-08 13:47:11

dont worry

I also have a 2.4 year old and she is a little madam at times.

When I told her she couldn't have something to eat in the supermarket she told me 'I am cross with you. YOU NEED YOUR EYES TESTED'

Overmydeadbody Thu 04-Sep-08 13:51:36

Two year olds will try the patience of saints, so don't be too hard on yourself Broccoli.

I think the difference is the same as the difference between an authoritative parent and an authoritarian one.

EachPeachPearMum Thu 04-Sep-08 14:18:39

The problem is BS, being naughty is so fun for them. Oooh- look what I can make Mummy do!
Hahaha- I can make Mummy tear her hair out, and steam comes out of her ears!

They love it, because they love the reaction, and they love the attention. The only thing that works is the ignoring- no reaction, pah, have to do something else.

The safety thing though- yes its very hard, and it scares us so much. They really don't understand danger yet. All we can do is really impress on them that that behaviour is unacceptable, naughtiness can just go by the wayside. Dangerous behaviour is the only stuff I really pick-up on with DD (2.6). She gets the message when she sees how upset I am, rather than how angry IYSWIM.

SummatAnNowt Thu 04-Sep-08 15:51:46

Where are these other two year olds that perfectly understand consequences?? I know mine certainly didn't! I mean there were consequences, but he didn't really get them!

I wonder if you expect more from her because she seems to be able to speak well? ds didn't make social talk at that age so I think it was easier to understand that he didn't understand.

I had ds in reins (i never remember the spelling) everywhere where it might be dangerous, easier that way.

Very sweet of her to try and cheer you up though! ds never really reacted to me being angry either, why should he, I was his mummy and his protector, obviously such a person is not going to do anything bad so a bit shouty/angry words/whatever = water off a duck's back!

And you obviously can tell the difference between being firm and being mean, the blanket bit was mean and you knew it, otherwise you've been firm. Although I think you should give yourself some slack about being "mean", I think it happens to a lot of us when we've been scared.

Notanexcitingname Thu 04-Sep-08 15:57:01

I honestly don't think 2 yo do understand consequences, not in a verbal way. I think they understand it in a physical way; so my 2 yo understands that if he kicks me, I'll stop playing (physical response) but if I tell him, he doesn't. Not flaming AT ALL
I hav it somewhat easier, in that my 2.2 yo has pretty pants language, so it's easier to realise he doesn't understand. He understands simple commands (go and get your shoes), but he can't sequence (go and get your shoes AND THEN we'll go outside). And of course he can't reply, or blather about fruit, making me think his comprehension and cognitive skills are greater than they are.
But maybe his understanding is way below average (SALT didn't seem to think so)

PoorOldEnid Thu 04-Sep-08 16:13:32

yy agree about the language

dd3 has fantastic language - speaks almost fluently so it is easier to think that her understanding is up there with her speech when it probably isnt.

mrsgboring Thu 04-Sep-08 16:23:23

My DS does the weeing thing too and it's totally down to being naughty since he's fully in nappies/pullups. Infuriating and defeating (he will pull down pullups, nappy etc. to do it too so not necessarily a solution)

Parenting course I went on said you have to make the consequence a logical consequence of their action - you ran off so now you have to be strapped in. You made a mess so now we have to clear it up instead of going to the park etc. etc.

It's probably in theory a good way to keep oneself the right side of being mean, but I still find it v. hard to do.

I just think our DCs are just clever enough to pick unignorable transgressions to drive us insane.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Thu 04-Sep-08 16:30:31

DS1 still is just likes this (he's 9, severely autistic). Has no concept of going too far, and thinks that cross adults are hilariously funny.

He will wee on demand as well, look straight at me and laugh.

When I'm not totally frazzled and able to respond ideally, I firmly say 'no' (unless he's in a stage when he's finding the word no hilarious in which case I use a similar but different word). I then quietly but firmly either put him out of the room briefly or upstairs in his room - and shut the door for half a minute.

It can work quite well as he hates being put in his bedroom.

BroccoliSpears Thu 04-Sep-08 20:36:23

Thank you for all these replies.

The talking thing is very interesting. I think sometimes I do forget she's barely more than a baby because she can chat away about all sorts. It's easy to forget that most of it is just parroting what she's heard, rather than cognitive conversation.

She also seems so grown up compared to her 3 month old baby brother. <guilt> I will make a concious and concerted effort to stop expecting more from her than I ought.

Thank you for the reassurances that 2-year-olds are hard work. She is just full of it and in to everything, and I wouldn't have her any other way but my gosh she is relentless!

I won't be putting her back in nappies as she's not worn one for over 3 months now and we never get accidents, only deliberate weeing to vex me for a lark.

Am so pleased not to have been told that I Must Try Harder and that I'm being too soft. That is always my fear. My instinct is to let her be, and arrange her world to be safe rather than expect her to behave sensibly. I often get it wrong, but that is at least where I am pointing. The majority of her peers are being sticker charted and naughty stepped etc, and I feel she's too young for all of that sort of thing. I am out of step with the people I socialise with. Mumsnet is useful for this.

Othersideofthechannel Thu 04-Sep-08 21:03:26

"While I'm blathering on, she's singing to herself"
Winds me up so much when this happens.
The less you say the more effective. It's just soooo hard not to rant when you are cross!

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