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February 20, 2019

How do you punish an ill-tempered two-year-old child?

I had forgotten how cantankerous a two-year-old can be until now with Thayu. Thayu, even the name seems like an oxymoron because in my mother tongue Thayu means peace. As a small baby, he lived up to his name, creating minimum fuss and lying quietly in his crib. It was a breeze. Now at almost two and more independent he has no qualms of letting us know what he wants and what he doesn’t. His favourite word is ‘No’ or ‘Ah Ah’ as he emphatically shakes his head. Sometimes it is cute but other times it is maddening.

Take for instance on Monday night. It was my birthday and we had all gone out for dinner. Thayu was fascinated by the cutlery and wanted to use his own fork and knife, fair enough. The problem was he would not let anyone help him, not even to cut up the meat. He was also more interested in dissecting his food than he was ingesting it. When we did get anything in his mouth he would proceed to spit it out on to the plate. Suffice to say, when he was done, it looked like his plate of food had exploded onto the surrounding area. Lucky for Tony and I, this is baby number three and our embarrassment threshold has grown significantly over this parenting journey. The good news is by the time we were done, he had at least learned to hold a fork and knife properly, new motor skills! Over the years I have also learnt to see the bright side of life.

Beyond the stubbornness of a two-year-old, Thayu is also developing some tendencies that must be nipped in the bud. Chief of which is manipulation. He will defy an order or do something he knows he shouldn’t and then when he notices that he might get into trouble he will smile and say in the sweetest voice ever “Sasa”. Sometimes when he is reprimanded he will cry at the top of his lungs and keep at it until it wears you out. Tony and I have learnt not to give in. The temptation is high to just let him be, somehow with the drama of his elder brothers and having gone through this twice already it is easy to look at his infractions as something small. Also coupled with the fact that both Tony and I are older and less energetic, the temptation to let things slide is high but we have purposed that we must be as diligent in our parenting as we were with his brothers. The last thing either of us wants is a spoiled irresponsible child in our old age.

That said, it is not always easy to punish Thayu, he has so many advocates and it is easy to second guess one’s decision. For instance, over the weekend, I spanked him for something he did, his brother Toriah was up in arms. “Mom, he is so little, He doesn’t even understand what he is doing. You are so mean.”

My husband Tony was in the room with us and for a moment there I could tell that he was not convinced that I was doing the right thing either. Luckily he did not interfere. It made me pause though and I wondered if I was being too hard on the baby. Later on as I watched him try the same technique and then change his mind after looking at me, I realised that I had made the right decision. Having him hit someone because he is upset over not getting his way may look cute right now, but it sure won’t be cute when he is 17 and towering over me. So here we are, Tony and I, doing what we did almost 12 years ago all over, but I have no complaints. I know it is worth it. I can see it in my other children.

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