I had an epiphany last week. Over the last couple months, Josiah has changed. He's gotten more irritable, more emotional and dramatic, more strong-willed, and has started throwing tantrums. I, having not gone through this before, was chalking it up to teething, the weather, a weird schedule, etc. Anything I could think of to explain why my normally happy toddler was acting like this. And then I had that epiphany. The terrible twos! I have no idea why I didn't think of it before but it makes complete sense now. I posted something on Facebook asking my mommy friends when their kids first started the terrible twos stage. A lot of them said it was at about 18 months old or earlier. Their words really helped me because I suddenly saw my son in a different light. He's normal and this is a normal thing that he's going through.
Since my epiphany, my husband and I have discussed how we're going to handle Josiah's behavior. We've gotten some input from other people and are now working on a discipline structure that works with our son. We've tried a few different ways of dealing with his tantrums and have found that the thing that works best for us right now is putting him in his room until he calms down. If we allow him to stay wherever he's thrown himself, he screams and cries for a lot longer than if we put him in his room by himself. He's able to get control of himself a lot quicker without an audience. I've also found that knowing how I'm going to discipline him when he acts out is good for me. I do the same thing every time so he knows what is going to happen when he acts out. I don't need to lose my temper or try to think of how to punish him this time.
I've also realized something else after talking with some people. Yes, this behavior is normal for this stage of life... but that doesn't mean it's okay. I think that, for the most part, children live up to the expectations that their parents have for them. If I expect Josiah to act like a raving maniac for the next two years, he will. If I expect him to act like a kind, courteous little child, he will... some of the time. Having high expectations doesn't mean he'll always do what I expect but it does mean that I'm not going to excuse his behavior, normal though it may be, and we're going to work at changing it.
In all this talk of discipline and right behavior, the main reason why we discipline can't be overlooked. After all, right behavior does not a Christian make. We discipline with the hope that our children will see themselves rightly (sinners destined for hell) and realize their need for a Savior. Good behavior may be a by-product but it is not the end goal. I want our home to be a place of grace and love, a place where people can mess up and be forgiven, a place where misbehavior is dealt with properly, where people are not constantly reminded of their mistakes but instead, reminded of the One Who died to remove the stain of sin.