When my son turned three, I realised my role had changed and become one of disciplining as well as loving him. Discipline does not refer to punishment, but to providing training. As a child matures, we continue to love and protect them, but instead of just saying ‘no’ for safety, we explain the ‘why’ behind the ‘no’. ‘No, don’t touch the oven’ becomes ‘If you touch the oven, you will burn yourself and it will be sore’. ‘No, don’t squash the caterpillar’ becomes ‘If you step on it, it will be squashed and die’. Your child will begin to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘no’ and it will become part of his own self-disciplining and value system. Eventually, he will be able to make judgements based not on what he has been told but based on his application of his understanding. Your child will start to make the right choices because he sees it as the attractive option, not a way to avoid punishment.
I want to teach my child my values but that takes time and energy and it wouldn’t work to present a weekly lecture. It is through informal chats about being kind to the odd-looking child or why we need to show respect to grannies that they learn your values. Your child also becomes aware of your values because he is with you to observe your actions. All mums desire to train their children, but because you are at home with your child and are the primary care giver, you don’t have to leave it to others, but have the privilege and the time to instil your values.
Some feel concerned about enforcing their beliefs on their child and I hear many parents saying they will let their children decide for themselves what to believe. Yet we insist on teaching good eating and sleeping habits without feeling guilty. You are giving your child your belief systems in good faith and although he may disagree with you when he is older, at least you have given him a position to disagree from.
You are the right mother for your child: give him a firm foundation, do your best and that means you WILL do an excellent job.