Wolfie (10 months) and Boo

Can we trust our parenting instincts?

“I shouldn’t even admit this to you,” my husband began, as he relayed the afternoon’s struggle: how our toddler pushed on the screen door, he told her not to, she pushed on the screen door, he told her not to, she pushed on the screen door, and he lightly slapped her on the wrist.

Minor as the punishment seemed to him, it caused our toddler to wail to the point of hyperventilating.

“She didn’t obey me, so I had to do something,” he said.

I could relate. Around 18 months old, G hit me. I told her, “We don’t hit people. That hurts.” She smiled–and hit me again. My instinct was to gasp in betrayal, grab her arm, and yell, “Hey! You don’t hit me!” Her face completely crumpled in tears, and I felt just as bad.

Plenty of good parenting happens by instinct, and instinct is essential in parenting. But that’s when I realized that not all of the parenting instincts we have are the parenting instincts we want to have.

I dove into the research around discipline. I began learning more about alternatives to getting physical or yelling, and what makes those alternatives less stressful and more effective for everyone. And I began to practice those alternatives. (So many opportunities to practice…!)

With those tools, the same ones I share in Zero to Five, I feel like I have new parenting “instincts” when it comes to discipline.

Did my husband have to “do something” when our toddler tested her boundaries? Sure. What I’ve learned is that we all have options that don’t end in hyperventilation–for our child or for us. And that if we don’t like how it feels to go with our instincts, we can set about changing those instincts.


p.s. It’s my birthday! If you’ve read Zero to Five, will you take a minute to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads--or tell a friend about the book–and let me know you did? That would be a sweet present. 🙂 I’m at tracy@zerotofive.net.


Copyright Betty Udesen / Pear Press
Written by

Tracy Cutchlow

Tracy is the author of the international bestseller Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science, a public speaker, and a creator of places to speak and be heard. Sign up for her newsletter here.

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