(This post is partially inspired by Raising my Boychick's post on Parenting, Play, and Power)
One very interesting aspect of parenting a young, fully verbal child is that they act as a mirror of yourself, your actions, and your habits. There are things I won't realize that I do or say, until I see D saying/doing them and wonder where he picked them up (oh, right... me). It makes you that much more aware of what you do, and it's quite amazing when you realize the double-standards we set up between what's ok for us to do and what we expect of our kids. We have a rule in the house of no throwing. No throwing toys, no throwing clothes, not even throwing balls (we have some that are wooden, and it's easier to just say no to all of them, indoors at least, than to try to distinguish). I'll get upset at D when I see him toss his shirt across the room for the fourth time that week... and then he'll be sitting next to me as I change Quinn's clothes, and without even thinking about it I'll toss a dirty onesie on the ground in the direction of our hamper only to be reminded by my child that I shouldn't do so. Or, in play, Zach will throw a ball to D in the living room, forgetting the "rule." I expect D to remember these rules we set in place, yet we, his parents, have trouble remembering them ourselves.
One challenge we've been facing lately is yelling. D will start yelling loudly at us when he's mad (or just tired), or just in play with himself. I'll get frustrated at him for yelling, but then remember that, well, I yell. At him. More often than I'd like to admit. And that's when it hit me-- if I, a mature, grown 30-year-old woman can't keep enough of a handle on my emotions to keep myself from yelling when I'm frustrated or angry, how in the hell can I expect a three-year-old child to do so?? If I know I get cranky when I'm tired or hungry, why am I surprised when my kid throws a tantrum when it's past lunch or nap time (and why is the assumption that he's trying to "get his way" when he's probably just cranky from hunger)?
Sure, I could just claim that, as an adult and a parent, I have different standards than kids. Sort of the "because I said so" approach. The thing is, kids learn by imitating, and it seems like a lot to expect a toddler or even a preschooler to understand why one person may be allowed to do something when another is not.
Does this mean I relax all my rules? Allow my kid(s) to yell and throw things however they please? No. But, it does help remind me to have a bit of empathy and patience towards D's (and eventually, Q's) "misbehavior." It reminds me to be more aware of my own behavior and the example I set for my children. It reminds me to try not to assume that he's ignoring rules to be purposefully disruptive or manipulative, but that instead he sometimes genuinely forgets, and sometimes he's just tired/hungry/cranky/sad and try to fix that issue first. And, it reminds me that I can correct and re-direct while being forgiving of his slip-ups (and of my own).