More than ten years ago, my husband laid out a theory of relationships for me that centered around one theme: expectations. He believed that most dating frustrations stemmed from two people having differing expectations. Perhaps one person expects to have some alone time and the other expects quality time together after work every day. Perhaps one expects that the relationship is about to move to “shacking up” status and the other expects to go skiing with friends for the holidays. Perhaps one believes that a large diamond has meaning and the other believes that diamonds are a marketing scam. You get the picture.
Elizabeth Pantley shares a similar theory in her latest addition to the No-Cry series, The No-Cry Discipline Solution. She immediately sets us straight by defining discipline as a teaching process and explaining that most of our frustrations with our children come from having unrealistic expectations of their emotional maturity. She captured my attention immediately with what seemed like a profound reminder: telling your child something once is not going to solve the problem. We are dealing with toddlers, people. They are emotionally immature. They will not hear you say, “Please stop banging your spoon” once and then never bang a spoon again. To become frustrated with their irrational and non-compliant behaviors is to expect that they have the capability to learn a behavior lesson after one instance. They don’t. We have to repeat our lessons over and over again.
The style of the book is certainly of the self-help genre, which means it’s a bit repetitive. But the contents are so valuable, I have no complaints. I’m thrilled that the Mother Talk group gave me the opportunity to review it.
Sometimes I need to be reminded that a green bean is only a green bean. My child refusing to eat it is not a reflection of my parenting ability or my values. As my friend Laurie said, “When this is your full-time job, it’s hard not to judge yourself for every moment not going smoothly.” Pantley would respond that “going smoothly” is not a reasonable expectation of a day with a toddler. We need to get over ourselves.
And is the whole maddening situation our own faults for having unrealistic expectations? No. Anger is completely normal in her book. If someone spills juice in your car and then screams gratingly for five minutes about having wet pants, anger is an appropriate reaction. Pantley dedicates a big fat chapter to anger management. It’s a necessary piece of the parenting puzzle.
The book does include some lists of techniques – proactive habits you can use to solicit cooperation from kids. But to me, the reminder that discipline– and some disappointment– are just part of the package is the most valuable advice offered here.