With both our children, Tim and I have used the “1…2…3” rule. This means that if we reach 3, because the boys were doing something they shouldn’t, they would be disciplined. Through the years, we rarely got to 3.
As I’ve written before, Austin was an exceptionally good child. He was always mature for his age and never really got in trouble. As a baby, his nickname was Smiley. I don’t remember ever dealing with temper tantrums or the common misbehaviors of a toddler.
Once, Tim and I were on vacation and we stopped with Austin to grab a bite to eat. He was small, maybe two or three, and we chose a relatively nice sit down restaurant. As a mom, you tend to notice and be on alert for glances or whispers when you’re out with your children. Upon walking in, I saw some common expressions parents get when bringing a young child to any place considered “adult only”.
We ordered and Austin colored or played quietly in his highchair, as he often did. The food came and mid-meal an elderly couple came to our table. She said, “I just have to comment about your son.” I didn’t really know what to expect, as he’d been perfect the entire meal. She continued, “I just wanted to commend you on how well-behaved he is. We’ve watched him since you came in and he’s just been wonderful. How old is he?” Tim told her and the couple was shocked. Austin always looked older than his age,because of his size,but her surprise was that he could sit so quietly and behave so well as young as he was. It was a proud moment that stuck with me through the years but nothing uncommon for our little man.
As he grew, his good behavior continued. I was never called to school to speak with his principal. His report cards always showed high marks for conduct and many times his teachers would comment about how good he was. I really could count on one hand the number of times we ever really had to discipline him and they were for common mistakes of a growing child, or a grade we weren’t quite pleased with.
However, Tim and I were remembering a story the other day of when Austin was little, probably around 5, and was acting up in church. Of all places for a child to misbehave, for a parent, church is top of the list of where we don’t want that to happen. Whatever it was Austin was doing, Tim had to begin counting in our pew. Normally, it only took him saying, “1” and the behavior corrected. That day though, he had to go all the way to 3.
Austin hung his head and calmed down, knowing what he was to come. The rest of the service he was good as usual. As we walked to the truck, we began discussing where we would eat. I had actually forgotten all about Tim going to 3 but Austin had not. Holding Tim’s hand on the way, he stopped and looked up to him. With a shaky voice and tears in his eyes, he said, “Dad, can I get my punishment now before we go to lunch so I won’t be sad when we eat?”
I can hardly think back on that moment and write this without tears in my own eyes. I still see his sweet little face and remember how much that broke my heart that day. How Tim did it, I don’t know, but he gave him a swat on the behind. More than anything it was because we didn’t want Austin to think he could get out of punishments in his future. I do recall Tim wiping away his own tears as he sat down at the wheel. It was a tough love lesson for us all. Thankfully it was the one and only time Austin had to ask for his own punishment
Not surprisingly, he was excellent the next Sunday at church! And for that matter, the rest of his life.