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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Let's Talk Discipline

Did you ever write something and really like it? I did. I've been trying to articulate my thoughts on discipline for some time now, mainly because people are always approaching me to compliment my children's behavior. The topic came up on a parenting board I belong to, and for some reason, today was the day I was able to say how I feel. I know I'll think of more, and maybe I'll add it later. But for now, I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings on discipline.

I want you to take what I say with a grain of salt though. There have been plenty of times where I've lost my cool, times when I've walked outside for a breather to keep from clobbering someone, and once, I threw a shoe at EJ. (It's not as bad as it sounds though. She was around 18 months old and sticking a key in an electrical outlet, and I couldn't get to her fast enough to get her away from it, so I threw a shoe. It hit the wall and scared the pants off her, and she never played with the outlets again.) There's no such thing as the perfect mother, except maybe the mother who can admit her imperfections, learn from them, and move on. (But I bet even that mom sometimes says the F word when she steps on legos.)

Anyway, here goes. My take on discipline.

I do not hit my kids. Ever. No one deserves the shame that can go along with hitting. My children are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. I feel, if I was, say training a colleague who didn't understand the rules of the job, would I hit them to make them learn? No, of course not.

I feel that all people, young and old and in between, deserve to be treated with the utmost respect. So how do you respectfully discipline? By guiding and teaching. I think it's known here that I am not a Christian, but I do know this: the root word of discipline is disciple. And a disciple is a student. And what do you do to students? You teach them and guide them. In this case, we are all teaching our children the skills they need to become productive, compassionate, decent adults.

One of my favorite ways to teach my kids is to show them correct way when they make a mistake. Beastie and The Babe are just 13 months apart so there are often spats and disagreements. Beastie(who will be 2 on Monday) will push her brother out of my lap, or push him away from a toy. I redirect by saying "[Beastie], remember, we use our gentle hands. Show me your gentle hands." And then she will pet her brother gently, to show me she understands gentle hands. Then I remind her "When we are feeling angry, we use our words. We don't use our hands to be angry. We only use gentle hands." Some people might think 2 is too young for this. It's not. Babies understand far more than we can imagine.

For my older children, I obviously need to take a different approach. The discipline troubles we have with the older two tend to be about asserting independence - not brushing teeth when reminded, etc. In these cases, we simply remind the children that having clean teeth (or whatever the issue is) is important for our health, and important for fitting into society.

When the older kids fight, we remind them that hands are not for hurting. In our house, it's very important that we use our hands and bodies and minds with a purpose. Our hands were not created for hurting other people. When we are angry, it is better to express our anger with pictures and words, and then when we cool off a little, then we can all discuss what we'll do next time.

I also take away privileges as necessary - if EJ forgets to feed the dog, after being reminded, then she loses the privilege of walking the dog next time. If Four wants something in the store and throws a huge fit over it, she loses the privilege of accompanying me to the store next time. (and so on and so forth.)

Mine are not the kids you see acting up. They are not the ones running around like heathens. People are always commenting to me about how well behaved they are. I'm proud of that, because there are days when my patience is just about gone and I want to scream like a maniac.

My kids are far from perfect, because they're human. It's part of the human experience to make mistakes as we learn how to coexist with each other. We make these mistakes throughout our lifetimes. The cause of this imperfection depends, of course, on your spiritual beliefs, but it really doesn't matter what the cause is. What matters is that we do the very best we can with the tools we have... and just hope that our kids don't need too much therapy when they're grown.


Jenni said...

I've been having a hell of a time with Oscar lately. I've tried telling him to use his words when he's angry, and explaining that hitting hurts and we should never hit, but he just gets angrier.

Momma Bear said...

So are you in general a pretty laid back mom in the sense of not incredibly reactionary? This is an area I've been trying to work on. And oh I'm looking into what it means to be a gentle mom cause that ain't me. Definitely found though that when we are aggressive with our kids they are more aggressive-we don't like that.