Recently I started trying a new strategy with my toddler to help him regulate his own behavior. It’s simple, and I’m sure you’ve seen or heard it before - we count to three. He understands that three is the end, and he can choose to change his behavior before we get there. When I noticed it working, I excitedly called my mom and shared my discovery. She cackled - she really likes seeing parenthood humble me. And that’s when I realized - I’ve become my mother.
I was the perfect mother - and then I had kids
Before my kids came along, I had grand plans to do things differently than my parents. Where my mom had lost her patience, I was going to be a veritable well-spring of understanding and compassion. Where my father had been stern and unforgiving, I would be laidback and flexible.
It’s almost quaint how naive I was. I now have two under two - something my mom never even came close to - and all my best intention have gone out the window. Reality is a cruel mistress; although I strive to be that ideal mom who never loses her temper, I fail daily. Multiple times daily, to be exact.
Mom knew what she was doing
Now more than ever I understand why my mom put me in timeout and that I likely deserved it - and she deserved a break, too. My son isn’t quite two yet and I’ve borrowed tricks my mom used without even thinking twice:
- “Finish your chicken and you can have some blueberries.”
- “If you don’t get down from there on three, I’m going to come get you down. One, two…”
- “No screaming. Use your inside voice.” (Joke’s on my mom - I don’t have an inside voice!)
- “Let’s have a sleep race!”
That last one is literally just an excuse to trick your kid into sleeping and stealing a nap for yourself.
A friend of mine recently shared how she has involved her kids in choosing their own consequences for misbehavior. She chooses a song for them to memorize, and their grounding is done once they learn the song. This way, the kid can decide when their restrictions are over - they can learn the song in an hour, or take all week. I’m totally stealing that one.
Do whatever works for you
And yes - we count. My parents counted all the time with me - I’m pretty sure I have residual anxiety every time I hear someone say, “three.” I freeze in place and wonder what I’m doing that I shouldn’t be doing. So, hey - it works! In all seriousness - don’t be afraid to sound like your mom if it works for your kid. Or like other moms! I’m a big believer in “whatever works for your family.”
I never thought I’d be the mom that I am - but different than I envisioned isn’t worse. It’s just the outcome of my ideal vision for parenting, combined with a spitfire toddler, divided by a lack of sleep. My mom taught me a lot - she did a pretty great job raising me and my siblings, if I do say so myself. And if I turned out okay, I’m pretty hopeful my kid will, too.
What have you said that sounded just like your mother? Are you the same type of parent you thought you would be before having kids?