Sunday, October 01, 2006

Jada the Terrible

Our trip to Manhattan started off innocently enough. Jada and I walked to the train station, bought our tickets, and planted ourselves and our belongings in a window seat. Jada enjoyed looking out the window, and when she tired of that she plopped herself on my lap and looked at books. She got a little rammy on the second leg, from Trenton to New York, but who could blame her, as the train quickly filled up and was packed by the time we arrived at Penn Station.

We walked to the convention center and met my sister and my friend, and enjoyed an interesting exhibit on the future of technology, followed by an excellent meal in Koreatown. Jada ate well for lunch and dinner, did OK at the convention despite the fact that it really wasn't for toddlers, and even surprised me by taking a nap in the middle of the day. We said our goodbyes to my sister and my friend, and soon boarded the first of our two trains home to Philadelphia.

That's when the trouble began. For the two and a half hours that we were on these trains, Jada was pretty much bad the whole time. She whined and squirmed and bucked and resisted and shrieked and yelled. She threw books down on the floor and found it amusing. She pulled off my glasses and pinched my neck.

Even worse, she wouldn't listen to me. If I said, "Shh," she'd scream louder. If I told her, "No," she pushed back against me in an attempt to get back to doing whatever it was I didn't want her to do. If I got stern, squeezed her hand, or otherwise tried to get my point across, she laughed.

The fact that she was tired and we were in a confined space didn't help, but all of this misbehavior has been going on for weeks now. Amy and I are at a loss as to how to discipline her. We know how important this time is. Get this right, and she'll be a good kid and a good example to her future younger siblings; get this wrong, and we'll be fighting an uphill battle to get her to behave and to obey.

The books say she's at the age when she's just trying to assert herself, so developmentally there's nothing wrong with her, and on one level, there's nothing wrong with trying to be independent. It's just that she's old enough to know how to misbehave, but not quite old enough to make the connection between us scolding her and her knowing what it is she did that would cause us to scold her. We know we can't let her get away with all this, but nothing we've tried so far has successfully communicate to her what it is she can and can't do.

During all of this meltdown, I could tell that the other passengers were going from, "Boy, this is annoying to have to sit next to a fussy toddler," to "Man, that guy has no control over his kid," to "Man, poor guy really has no control over his kid." The guy sitting across from me, after asking how old Jada was, said with a smile, "You know, they get worse." I laughed and said I was holding out for the day she'd finally understand what I was trying to tell her, but realizing that day would never come. The guy replied, "They finally do get it . . . when they're about 35 and have their own kids."

Until then, Amy and I will have to figure out something that works for the next 33 1/2 years. Parents of kids who've gone through this phase, any ideas? We don't want to be parents that let their kid do whatever, nor do we want to so thoroughly beat our kids that they're scared and scarred for life. Between those two extremes, though, we're more open than ever to suggestions.




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