Being Daddy

One of Boo’s latest games is “Being Daddy.” To wit:


I think she’s about to give me a time out.

With my hat and glasses on she becomes an uncanny — and alarming — reflection of how she sees me.

As “me,” she says:

    • “I’m going to push you on the swing. Kick your legs! Kick! Kick! Kick! You’re making me do everything!”
    • “Just checking my e-mail.”
    • “I need my coffee before we can go anywhere.”

No surprises there. But the worst was:

  • “Joey needs to go to her room to think about it.”

Joey is Boo’s imaginary friend and I suppose she’s her surrogate target for punishment, too. Ouch.

When I was teaching, I got really good at meting out the kind of discipline that kids don’t really notice. It was more like training a dolphin: you reward the behavior you want and ignore what you don’t. Since dolphins (and children) crave attention, they are slowly conditioned to do the right thing.

That totally works. With older kids. And maybe only with other people’s kids.

Toddlers are cut from more resilient cloth. I can “praise-the-good-behavior” until my cheeks are red and she still pushes, snatches, won’t share.

It hasn’t reached ridiculous levels (yet), but up to a half dozen times a day I’ll have to give “consequences” of the usual toddler sort — 2-minute time-outs followed by discussions and apologies — when she hits or refuses to sit for dinner or snatches a toy.

Working Mom and I give each other reality checks every now and then: “She’s only 2½,” we’ll say to one another. “Give it time.”

In the moment, though, with a starving toddler refusing to eat because it’s more fun to draw with permanent marker all the way up her arms, it’s hard to keep from getting frustrated.

And I HATE frustration. HATE it HATE it HATE it.

How much do I suck at this?