What’s more painful than having to discipline your misbehaving child? Hearing people tell you that your child isn’t as pleasant as she used to be.
Phoebie has been a rather challenging child of late. Many times I ask myself why. From the time she could remotely comprehend instructions, both Ben and I have tried our best to teach her manners and set boundaries. We are not the type of parents who give in to what our child wants just because she kicks a fuss or throws a hissy fit. We don’t always buy things for her just because she wants them. We are not afraid to discipline her, or send her to the naughty corner, even in public.
Yet, she’s become more challenging lately. Her temperaments are unpredictable. She doesn’t always follow instructions even though she understands what we say. It doesn’t help that she is very active by nature.
What pained me most was when I heard the feedback of some family members. One said, “Phoebie has such a bad temper now!” Another said, “I prefer to play with this other girl nowadays. Phoebie isn’t so nice.”
While I admit what they say is true, that Phoebie has been rather short-fused, and that she can be quite a handful, it hurts to hear it.
It also hurts to see how people subconsciously behave towards Phoebie’s misbehaviour. Friends may not realize it but Ben and I do catch their expressions when Phoebie behaves in certain ways. I mean, maybe I do that unknowingly at other children too, but it certainly hurts to see those expressions. It makes me feel helpless and somewhat useless as a mum. It’s not like I don’t correct Phoebie’s behaviour when she misbehaves. Somehow, the message just doesn’t get across to the child sometimes!
As much as friends who are parents of children the same age as Phoebie share similar stories of their children with us, I sometimes wonder if I did anything wrong. Have I gone wrong somewhere in the way I teach her, resulting in her recent not-so-good behaviour?
At the same time, hearing similar reports about children the same age as Phoebie has made Ben and I think that what Phoebie has recently been presenting to us could be a developmental stage. Her emotions are probably developing way faster than her cognitive abilities and she can’t seem to control her emotions as well as she ideally can yet.
On top of that, Phoebie has spent the past nine months learning to be a big sister, learning that she has to share whatever toys she has, learning that Papa and Mama sometimes can’t pay attention to her, and learning that her baby brother may smile or laugh at her sometimes but he will scream and cry at other times.
Thinking about all that makes me think that Phoebie really has a lot going on for her. I also realize that Ben and I are probably the only people who will try to look beyond Phoebie’s misbehaviour and figure out the reasons she acts up. Our family and friends probably wouldn’t give much thought beyond what they see.
So other than keeping up with helping her to learn to listen to instructions and behave appropriately, what else can I do?
I have recently learnt to hug her and kiss her even more. To make sure that she gets the message, I tell her that I love her. I tell her that I love her even though I don’t like how she behaves at times. I tell her that I love her when she helps me with her baby brother. I tell her that I love her because she is my daughter.
Our family and friends may see a challenging four-year-old. I see that too. But I also see my daughter whom I love unconditionally, even when she is not so lovable at times.