How You Know You’re Winning at Parenting

parenting
Image via Rachel Engel

A few days ago, I was walking to the linen closet with a load of towels, when I noticed my daughter’s stuffed Simba sitting against the wall next to the entertainment center—the traditional time-out zone. I looked around, and noticed my 3-year-old sitting on the couch, looking diligently at her wrist—her wrist that was absent an actual watch.

“Sydney, what are you doing?” I asked her.

“I’m waiting for the big hand to hit the 4,” she said, without glancing up.

“Why?”

“Because Simba is in time-out.”

I shoved my face into my clean towels to keep from laughing. Nothing angers a toddler more than to see you laughing during a serious moment in their playtime. If I wasn’t careful, I would land myself in timeout.

Composing myself, I asked her what Simba had done to warrant his punishment, and she looked at me with what can only be described as “mom” eyes, and said, “He wouldn’t clean up during the clean-up song, and he has to help, since he made the mess.”

Once again, I sucked my cheeks in and bit my lip to keep a smile from slipping out, as she had been sentenced to time-out for the very same offense just the day before. She looked at her wrist again, and it must have been a quarter past a freckle, because she walked over to the stuffed Simba, squatted down very low so that she was even with his eyes and said, “Simba, are you going to help clean up your mess?”

With her hands, she made Simba nod, and in deep voice/growl, she said, “I’m sorry, mommy.”

Taking Simba in her arms, she gave him a hug and rocked him, and said, “It’s okay, little boy. I love you.”

By this time, I was holding back tears instead of laughter. 

{ MORE: How to Create the Perfect Toddler Play Space on a Budget }

Could there be a healthier display of toddler internal emotions and observations re-imagined into play? Everything I have ever hoped to gain from enforcing time-outs, she has learned. She understands how they are used, and why, and she sees the positives to be gained from administering them. She also understands that she is loved, even when I am upset by her actions, and that apologies have their place.

You never quite know if you are doing the right thing, or if your child actually understands what you are attempting to do. You hope you are teaching them the right values, morals, and manners, and that your point is getting through to them. But, you don’t know.

Until Simba sits in time-out, and you can watch your parenting skills in action as a silent observer, and then, you can feel the pride radiate all over your body, and text your husband as fast as you can, saying, “We’re doing something right! Thank goodness!”

Parenting win.

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How You Know You’re Winning at Parenting

Rachel is a stay-at-home-mom to her 4-year-old daughter, Sydney, and her 18-month-old son, Jackson. Her writing can be found all over the web, mostly detailing her own parenting struggles and triumphs, as well as her life as the military spouse of an active-duty airman. She also writes about her life as as a special needs parent on her blog, Tales From the Plastic Crib, and spends an unnecessary amount of time on Twitter. ... More

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