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Parenting Newborns, Parenting Children

When C was a baby, I had a ton of new mom friends, both online and in “real life.” I belonged to three newborn support groups. We leaned on each other for everything, asking all sorts of questions of each other. No topic was off-limits.

When you have a newborn, there’s no shortage of parenting advice. And I, along with every other mom I knew, sucked it up like a sponge. None of us had a clue what we were doing, and we took advice from anyone who seemed halfway sane. We were desperate for sleep and terrified that we would somehow screw up parenthood. It was all very new and terrifying.

At some point, though, that all changed. Maybe we realized our kids weren’t as fragile as we thought. Maybe we started to realize that, aside from figuring out how to keep our children alive, parenting is different for everyone. Whatever the reason, we stopped asking each other for parenting advice.

Parenting advice for newborns is different, too. It’s easy to package up in small chunks: Weird looking poop. The four-month “wakeful period.” Starting solids. There is, amazingly, a “quick fix” for many baby-related problems.

Toddlerhood, though, is a different animal. Discipline is a huge part of life now. And discipline – which is not at all fun to talk about – requires a lot of work and a full-time commitment. Plus, no one wants to hear that they aren’t doing it right. I’d venture to say that a lot of parents know they aren’t doing it right, but they don’t think they have the energy to do what’s required to fix their problems.

And because there’s no such thing as “let her cry it out for three days and she’ll stop climbing on tables at restaurants,” we don’t ask for advice. We don’t want to hear what we know is true: Sometimes you have to leave the restaurant. Sometimes people stare at you in Target when your child has a temper tantrum because he can’t have what he wants. And you have to do it every single time, until they learn what behavior is acceptable and what behavior isn’t. In my experience, there are no exceptions. It is, especially in the beginning, exhausting (especially when you’re doing it alone). But it’s also 100% worth it.

I use a method called Positive Discipline, which I love. C attended a Montessori school when we first moved to Marin, and the teacher is an instructor in this method. Essentially, you treat your child as a person who deserves respect. And you understand that developmentally, your child can’t be expected to behave as an adult would.

I am very kind to C, but I’m also firm. As a result, she says please and thank you. She cleans up her toys before she takes out another one. Obviously we have our challenges, but generally speaking, she is a very easy little girl.

At this point, it’s hard for me to tell whether I lucked out with her personality, or if I’ve been using the same method since she was 18 months and it simply works. My guess is that it’s a bit of both, because I’ve seen her behavior with other people, and it’s very different.

Parents of toddlers – what do you think? Is toddlerhood harder or easier than babyhood? Do you talk about discipline with your kids? Would you take advice (or ask for it, or give it)?