Behaving well to make mom happy. Is this right?

Mo - posted on 01/11/2013 ( 2 moms have responded )

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My 2.5 year old is very strong-willed and difficult to discipline, especially when it comes time to do things like sit at the table, brush teeth, bathe, get dressed, etc. She wants to do what she wants to do, when she wants to do it, and even time-outs and taking away toys don't seem to work. Everything is a battle. I notice more and more lately that the one thing that DOES work is her desire to make me happy. When she sees me get angry with her or I yell at her, she doesn't immediately stop the bad behavior, but she asks: "Mommy, are you happy?" When I say no, she does what I ask her (or stops doing what I tell her to stop doing), so that I will be happy. Then she makes sure to ask me again, just to affirm that I am happy now. Is this a bad thing? I want her to learn that some of her behaviors are dangerous or socially inappropriate, not that the only reason they are bad is because they make me unhappy. When I say things like "we don't throw toys at anyone" she finishes my sentence with "because that makes mommy MAD." I'm afraid she will behave bad when I'm not around because she won't have to worry about me being happy or unhappy. Am I overthinking this?

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Anthea - posted on 01/13/2013

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Wanting to please each other is great in a relationship, though as adults, we know that in the real world it is impossible to have all parties pleased at all times. I do though aim at living life with family members including little ones, in as harmonious a way as possible. So I am not a big fan of threats, shouting, being 'upset' intentionally, time outs. Realistically I do tend to default to these behaviours, but my aim is to be as affirming and encouraging as I can.
If I recognise a certain behaviour I want to stop, I will try to catch the child in the act of 'doing good'. For example, if they are not to be climbing off their seat at the table and I see them sitting waiting, I would compliment them on how I like the way they are sitting patiently. Sharing, consideration, patience, respect and the many things I would like to see in my child, I try to encourage. Not that it all needs constant mentioning, but when a problem surfaces it does.
Having said this, I would add, that I believe for many of us, this is not natural and takes some determination and discipline to become a habit. It is a kind of orientation to life I think.
Sometimes I hit the roof and lose patience. Sometimes a child deliberately cross a boundary line drawn clearly for them and then I believe a consequence needs be applied which is appropriate. Generally however, I find trying to catch my child in the act of doing right, produces a far happier environment for everybody, than one where the faults, mistakes or problems are the focus.
Mo I have been thinking generally prompted by your question and maybe this does not help.
Specifically for you I think that at 2&1/2, you are your little ones world. The ways of relating and thinking you are teaching her are what she will use to then branch out herself. Hopefully apart from small deviations, I hope she will always want to make you happy, but you are right that other reasons exist for doing things- which you will teach her.

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