Good Cop, Bad Cop

Melissa Mensavage

By: Melissa Mensavage

As all parents do, I’ve been watching my son Max grow from newborn to infant to mobile infant to newly-minted toddler to officially a toddler.  Each phase brings something new – smiling, laughing, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking, walking and talking, walking, talking and mischief!

I’ve enjoyed each phase and have sadness when each passes.  Lately I am finding him to be a bit comical, especially when he’s totally into something he’s not supposed to be…you know, like opening the dishwasher and taking out all the dishes or rearranging my shoes in my closet or taking all the toilet paper off the roll.  Once I shoo him away, it’s the toilet flushing.

And then I hear him giggle.

And that is when my pursed upper lip relaxes and turns into a wide grin.

Max is starting to reach that mischievous toddler stage where he’s testing the boundaries –where I am saying (or lately, yelling), ‘No! out of the closet!’, or ‘Hot! Do not touch the stove!’ and he proceeds to do just the opposite of what he’s been told.  (For the record, the stove is usually not hot, but I want him to know it’s not to be touched per chance one day it is.) I get so frustrated with this behavior that I find I am yelling or just pulling him away from the area of interest.  I’ve noticed there are no consequences for him if he doesn’t listen.

I didn’t realize that I had to be the bad cop and the good cop.  But I guess that is the rule in a single parent household.  So I am starting to feel like a bit of a lunatic because I swing back and forth between bad and good.  Max is going to get confused as to what is what if I don’t come up with a solid parenting plan.  So how do I do this without always being the bad cop?

I do know that I need more ‘me’ time.  I am told that will help keep a part of me balanced where I don’t immediately go to frustration when something is not going as planned.

Maybe we need more structured play time at home, and not ‘hey, you go entertain yourself while Mommy cooks dinner.’  Maybe I need to follow through with consequences.

For example, one day after work, as I was making dinner in the kitchen, I let Max have a cracker.  He wanted more, but his mouth was stuffed full of cracker.  I had said, ‘No not until you finish what is in your mouth.’

I have no clue where this came from; he proceeded to spit what was in his mouth on to the floor.

(I laughed to myself for a minute, not facing him of course.)

I then said, ‘No more crackers for you.’  That lasted maybe 10 minutes and then I gave him another cracker because dinner wasn’t ready.

See? Perfect scenario where good cop and bad cop were at odds with one another.  I don’t want him to starve, but he needs to learn ‘one at a time’.

I need a plan that covers a good balance between good and bad.  A plan that I can stick to and right now I am just about clueless on how to acquire such a plan.  It might be time for a phone call to my sister, or a meeting with some of the teachers at daycare for their opinion and guidance.

(Notice I am not going to the Internet?  Yes, making progress here, making progress!)

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