The preschool that my youngest goes to, and where our oldest goes after kindergarten lets out at 2:30 tries to be secure. So they have a door with a key code and the way to open the door from the inside is a button on the wall – not by pushing on the door arm. And in a lot of parenting decisions, there is no good answer. This decision – who gets to push the button? Duh, duh, duh. A Big deal to 3 and 5 year olds. So, when I made the split decision to let the little man hit it, I was going to make someone unhappy. And as the big one started to go for the button anyway, I yanked him back. This all happened in a split second, so I know I didn’t give my 5y/o enough of a chance for it to sink in. When I did, he spun around and hit me in the leg. That bastard!
For me, the blood starts to boil if someone hits me, so I could feel that coming on, but my mind was still in tact and I thought, What should I do?
We were in a very public place, around other parents and I didn’t want to lose it on him. So I said, “We will come up with your punishment when we get home”.
And in those moments when you aren’t sure what to do, or right then isn’t the place for a time out (I mean we were heading to the car to sit down anyway), or when your blood is boiling, --- say nothing. At least until you can figure out how to say something.
And it helped me in this case in a few ways. One, hitting deserves discipline, so that was coming no matter what, and again – right then wasn’t the place if I didn’t want to walk back into school and set him somewhere quite. And two, I was able to think back on my own actions and learn from it. In this case, a lot of parents, including myself only focus on the hitting and in this case I was ignoring that I was partially to blame because I didn’t give him enough time to back himself away from pushing the button. It was a ‘bang bang’ play as they say in baseball. So that helped me.
And second, remember that discipline is not punishment. Enforcing limits is really about teaching kids how to behave in the world and helping them to become competent, caring, and in control. And my overreaction to hitting probably would have fallen under punishment. That’s not the goal. I think I still enforced the limits – which is not hitting when we’re mad – by the time out he got a half hour later.