Lessons From a Two Year-Old: Doing The Right Thing (even when it hurts)

Lessons From a Two Year-Old: Doing The Right Thing (even when it hurts)

Happy New Year, folks.

Going forward, you’ll be seeing more audio and podcast options available on KeneErike.com and our YouTube page. There will be more ways for you to consume the content you love.

And, as I hinted in my last post, keep an eye out for news about my soon-to-be-available audiobook.


Listen to the audio version of this article here: https://youtu.be/bwra_LLnGnc

Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”

I had the “privilege” of sitting next to a two-year old and his mother on a recent flight.

He was unruly throughout the flight, screaming, throwing his food and toys around, and making repeated attempts to climb over or crawl under me to get to the aisle. Mom was not big on discipline—she was apologetic, though, and considerate enough to understand that her toddler was not entitled to treat his area of the plane like his personal playpen. 

I did help calm him down, corral his toys, and ignored some of his behavior. I put myself in the mom’s shoes–understanding a young child is a handful to travel with–and refused to get angry.

I just took stock of my own growth here, marveling at how patient I was and how, maybe six months ago, I might have been much more likely to let my frustration with the situation negatively impact my mental state.

Over the last few months, I’ve been working on shoring up some of my own development areas. Taking efforts to chip away at the insidious parts of my ego that render me less able to empathize with others and respond optimally to critical feedback. Seeking not to be offended or react in anger to offenses I suffer at the hands of others. A gentle word turns away wrath; I strive to take time and consider the perspectives of others before I react: What might be their view of why they did what they did?

But I digress. Back to the plane story.

Mom was engaged, but ultimately coming up short on keeping the little man under her control. She kept trying to hug him and speak softly to him, unwittingly condoning his behavior. I’m not a parent (yet), but I know enough about training, incentives, and feedback loops to know that kids need firmness and guidance at times to curb their behavior. You need to let them know that certain behaviors will not be tolerated.

Kids are smarter than you think.

You don’t even have to spank them to get your message across (although it can be effective until they are old enough to reason). You just tell them “no”  and give them negative feedback until they fall in line.

Some parents are too worried about preserving their child’s feelings of happiness or avoiding being the target of his anger.

And I get it—I’m no robot devoid of emotions and understanding. It is difficult to engage in an act that may arouse conflict with your baby. Nobody wants to be at odds with their child, even if only temporarily.

You just have to decide what’s most important: your feelings or your child’s future.

(In a future article, I’ll explore how we can get a better handle on our feelings and emotions to ease some of the anxiety related to these tough decisions.)

If you are a parent of a small child, you have a crystal ball at your disposal: just look at the lives of some of the teenagers around you.

Kids on the verge of high school graduation who don’t have the grades or wherewithal to get into college or trade school, let alone be eligible for scholarships that might have defrayed the cost. When they were little, it’s a safe bet that their parents were more interested in bribing them with gifts to suppress their latest tantrum or remained too glued to their reality tv show to make sure their homework was done. 

The theme? Decisionmakers defaulting to what makes them feel good in the moment at the expense of those in their charge. Set aside your own feelings, put your foot down, and demand your kids fall in line with what’s best for them.

These same teenagers and families who prioritized instant gratification over immediate discipline and the prospect of greater, future rewards will tell you that it’s “the man” that’s holding them back and preventing them from achieving all that they could be. 

There’s no consideration that maybe it was the absentee “be-a-friend” parenting they’ve been living under for the last decade that could be the culprit.

And really, this is a best practice for getting ahead in nearly any field, whether it’s in business, education, or relationships. Big winners keep the end in mind and are willing to make sacrifices up front to secure their future goals.

Taking a tough stance with your kids is never easy, but you’ll be doing both of you a favor.

Don’t reward bad behavior. Put your child’s welfare before your own feelings—your future selves will thank you for it.

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