Monday, October 12, 2009

Raising children and Discipline

So I read this lady's blog a little while ago, and she told this funny story of how she was in the park with her child without any shoes on. She said that a little girl about 7 or 8 asked why she wasn't wearing shoes, and she said it was because her son told her to take her shoes off. The little girl said, "you let the baby tell you what to do?" And she said, "yes, or he'll scream."

My first thought is, "So what? Are you afraid of him throwing temper tantrums? You're the mom; he's the child. Going without shoes isn't good for your health. He doesn't understand this, but you're letting him make that decision for you." I just don't get it. There seems to be two prevalent parenting styles: heavy handed or wishy washy.

In the same blog the lady also talks about worrying that she won't be able to share the experiences of child care with him. My thought is, "well, mom, are you going on his first date with him too." Children have to grow up, and they have to have independence (appropriate for their age level). Otherwise they won't learn how to deal with mistakes on their own; they'll end up depending on their parents.

My parents raised me with this philosophy: that all choices have consequences. And this seems to be what psychologists and child care experts agree on. The day care that I worked at had a policy that children could make choices that had logical consequences. This applies to all parts of life. So little Johnny decides his mom needs to take off her shoes. Mom says, "No." Mom made a choice. Now little Johnny has to make a choice to either say okay or throw a fit. Then Mom can let him throw a fit (which would be appropriate for a child who's almost two) or tell him that if he doesn't stop she will take him home.

Same thing with the veggies. If little Johnny doesn't want to eat his veggies, fine. Don't shove them down his throat or spank him or put him in time out. It does no good because that is his choice. However, as a parent you make eating his veggies the only choice he has for a meal. Then he will learn that if he wants something else he'll have to nibble on his carrots. Every choice has a consequence.

And that is how I plan on raising my son. Now I know that the grandparents aren't going to like this part because I see them nodding their heads to the choices, but I don't believe in spanking. My parents spanked me and my husband's parents spanked him and I've even met people who like to quote the Bible (spare the rod spoil the child which can be easily translated to just plain ol' discipline). But I don't like spanking.

I actually remember spanking quite well. I remember not learning anything constructive from it. My mom was the spanker; my dad wasn't. If my dad told me not to do something, I knew not to do it because there was a good reason for not doing it. My mom, on the other hand, spanked first, explained later. And usually there was no warning (meaning don't do that or I'll spank you). She also was biased, in my opinion, with spanking. She said that she was that way because she used whatever disciplinary measures she deemed appropriate for each child. So I got smacked with my dad's belt and my brother got sent to his room. Yeah, that sent a message. But I don't think it was the one my parents intended. So what happened to all choices have consequences?

I don't know about you, but the last time I got in trouble at work, I didn't see my boss looming over me with a belt folded in half that was about the size of my body. Usually the boss talks to you and writes a report. If the mischief continues, you loose your job. Choice with logical consequences.

I just can't rap my head around my getting in trouble for being mean to my brother as allowing me to get smacked with a belt. Nope no logical consequence there. No learning of how to deal with conflict (other than to hit those who are smaller than you). I only learned to deal with conflict by being angry or yelling or worse being sent to my room because I was the child. There was no discussion about dealing with conflict or dealing with angry feelings. Still to this day, I have trouble. My dad was sort of an example, but it's hard to undo the fact that I learned that the angrier and more the person threw his/her weight a round that person always got their way.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that it's hard to reason with two year olds as opposed to 12 year olds. I just let my two year olds throw fits. If they were violent (biting or throwing toys), I separated them from the group until they cooled off. Then I told them that biting or throwing toys hurts people. I try to figure out why they were angry; usually they got mad because someone took their toy. The conflict would then be resolved constructively.

Same way with the shoes. Little Johnny throws a fit over the shoes. You set him aside to blow off his steam. When he calms down, you explain that it's not good to take off your shoes outside. He either accepts this or he doesn't. But he has to learn to make choices and to handle conflicts constructively.

And most experts agree that spanking is not necessary at any age because there are age appropriate ways of handling conflict. We have to teach our children to learn to make choices, handle the consequences, and deal with conflicts on their own. Otherwise we're raising a generation of coddled and catered to children.

So we're all going to have to learn: my generation to not be so wishy washy, and my parents generation to not be so heavy handed.

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