Alice is rapidly approaching her first birthday, but she still seems so little I often underestimate her abilities. She has been showing signs lately, literally through sign language and in more subtle ways, that she understands much more than I give her credit for. I have been thinking about the subject of discipline lately. A friend of mine got me thinking when she said that she is confident with mothering, but the idea of parenting seems quite daunting. I feel much the same. In our culture, we seem to have a very negative view of our children. Their wills must be suppressed in favour of ours. They are naturally 'naughty' and need correcting. We almost expect bad behaviour. I was surprised to realise that I have been guilty of this attitude even though Alice is still so young. When she picks up something off the floor and it is en route to her mouth, I tell her not to eat it without any real conviction that she will do as I say. But here's the thing. She does do as I say. More often than not, if I ask her to give me whatever she's holding, or come away from something she shouldn't touch, she does so with no fuss. If I take it off her or quickly pull her away, naturally she gets very cross, as I'm sure I would in her situation.
I am at the very beginning of my parenting journey, and I don't claim to have any expertise, but my instinct tells me that if I keep my expectations of good behaviour high, then Alice will probably live up to them. Speaking to her with respect and giving her reasons is not talking above her level, it is showing the courtesy that I would have for an adult, and that I hope she will display to others. Obviously there will be times when she behaves in a way that I don't approve of, but hopefully having a good relationship based on trusting each other and modelling good behaviour will help to see us through difficult times.