When my oldest kids were in the 1yr - 3yr range, I started to have some major questions about how to establish boundaries. I also had questions about how/when to give consequences when my sweet little bambinos stepped over said boundaries.
Frankly, that entire process was harder than I thought it was going to be.
(reminds me of that phrase I've heard people say: "I was a much better mom before I had kids.")
I was trying so hard to be consistent. However, I wondered if I was doing something wrong--because I seemed to be reinforcing the same exact lessons over and over.
I began to pray for wisdom. Also, I began to ask around and look for books to give me some additional insight.
I found it really helpful to talk to moms who were a few years ahead of me. I really appreciated their wisdom & their words of encouragement.
In terms of books, I kept finding lots of "theory books." For example, Shepherding a Child's Heart: the idea of this book is that we are not designing a system of behavior modification so that our kids can have precisely the kind of external behavior that we want them to have. Rather, we should try to go to the root of issues that come up with our kids. We should always remember that we are gently and lovingly shepherding their little hearts. We want respect and love to come from their heart and radiate outwards.
While I agreed wholeheartedly with all the theory books out there, I got to the point where I just needed to read a book with some very practical ideas. I needed to have suggestions. "....Try this! And if that doesn't work, try this!"
Parenting with Love & Logic has lots of practical ideas. I don't agree with every piece of advice in the book, but a lot of what the authors recommend is right up my alley. I love how they advocate logical consequences. I love how they give practical tips to the parent about staying calm and consistent.
They use an example of a referee who blows his whistle to say that the player is out of bounds. Does the referee get frustrated and scream at the player, "why did you step out of bounds?!?!?" No. The referee consistently points out the already-agreed-upon boundary and gives the already-agreed-upon consequence.
The boundaries/consequences is the "logic" part of their system.
The other part is pretty self-explanatory--"love" from the parent to the child. They emphasize that parental love should not feel conditional whatsoever. They give some good practical tips about how to show love to your child. They want you to steer away from empty flattery and go towards real relationship connection with your child.
I have failed a lot as a mom, and I have certainly been an exasperated/frustrated/yelling referee many times. (Come to think of it, I really should re-read these books and be encouraged all over again by their advice.) However, despite my failures, I know that God is at work in my heart and in the hearts of my children. It's been helpful to remember suggestions from this book. The authors' advice has been really beneficial to me in my journey as a mom.