Sunday, September 21, 2014

Learning the art of discipline

      Over the years I have worked with many children.  I grew up babysitting a lot as a teenager and then after graduating from high school I got my associates degree in Early Childhood Education, then going on to work in several class rooms as well as nanny 15 children full time over the course of four years, and in three countries.  I have become well accustomed to the art of setting boundries for children in many different ways and circumstances and have become rather adept at disciplining children, however there are always situations that make you feel as though you know nothing at all about the subject.
       If you go into a bookstore you will find tons of books on disciplining children.  Unfortunately many give opposing information, making it very confusing to know what to do. For this reason I steer clear of these books almost entirely (though if you're going to read a parenting book then I would highly recommend "Loving your kids on purpose" by Danny Silk. He gets to the heart of the matter, restoring and keeping the connection between ourselves and our children, in the same way that we ourselves must do this with our heavenly Father to be whole and healthy.) He also reinforces many of the methods I had already been putting into practice, while giving some new and helpful tools as well. 
     For myself, through all this experience I have discovered the power of consistency, doing what you say and saying what you'll do.  I also have found it extremely useful to try whenever possible to make consequences relevant to the offense. For example, Sally stuck her gum in the carpet, and as a result Sally gets to clean the gum out of the carpet (using an ice cube of course - never too young to teach these tricks of the trade).  No matter how many children I work with however, I never seem to stop being stumped from time to time as to what to do in certain situations.   My oldest daughter, Mikaiah is three years old and has developed this horrible habit of destroying books.  Not all the time, but every now and then when she is bored or frustrated she would rip them up.  I had tried hiding books (this usually happens during nap or bed time) but our house was too small and I ran out of room.  I tried guilt trips (yes, it's true) "Oh Nooo!  Look at our book!  We can't read it anymore, isn't that soooo sad?!?"  But nothing seemed to work.  Finally this last time it happened I waited all day to come up with a consequence, trying to come up with a solution that would actually work.  Finally I told her that she would have to buy a new book with her own money from her piggy bank.  Since she didn't have any money in it at the moment, I told her she would have to earn it.  Every time she helps me with a not already required chore she earns $.50.  This has been one of the slowest, most drawn out (almost painful) consequences I have ever given.  The reason for that is that since Mikaiah is just learning to help me it takes much longer with her help than without it.  However, I know that this is two fold. Not only will she (hopefully) think twice before tearing up another book, she is also learning how to do many of our daily chores. (Washing dishes, switching over laundry, folding clothes, baking, sweeping, raking, etc.) It has been two weeks and she is halfway there, but I do believe it will be worth it in the end.  I even heard her telling her friend Elowen the other day as she was putting clothes in the dryer in a very matter of fact voice "I'm putting clothes in here to earn money because I ripped Molly Lou Melon."  Yup, it's true and at least she remembers why she was doing it! 
      I have learned (and continue to learn) that there are no short cuts in raising our children right.  Usually short cuts create months and even years of struggles.  I know I am still young and have so much to learn in this area and in all the areas of mothering and life in general, but I am grateful for the wonderful women around me from whom I can glean lots of wisdom.   I make mistakes all the time, but there is grace for me and for that I am so thankful.  It reminds me to have grace for my children as well.
     We all have our good days and our bad, but occasionally I will see something start to click and be encouraged, or have someone come up to me in the post office or the store and tell me what a good job I'm doing (many times when I don't feel that way at all!)  What a powerful impact we can have on not only our own children, but on the mothers and fathers all around us.  How wonderful to be able to change someone's day simply be giving a few encouraging words to a stranger.  As odd or uncomfortable as it may feel I want to challenge you the next time you see a parent staying strong with a pouting child or following through with something they told their child, to make a quick comment or gesture letting them know they're on the right path.  At the worst it will be ignored, and at the best it will encourage them to continue in making these difficult decisions and give their children the boundries they need.  I know I have appreciated these gestures in the past more than I can say.  It is so nice to know you're not alone and that you're doing the right thing (at least in one person's eyes.)

1 comment:

Hiker said...

You are so right about consistency - being consistent with the boundries you set and the consequences (when needed) are not easy tasks - but the long term rewards for both you and your children are great. You couple this with a consistent love; Mikaiah and Sequoia are fortunate to have have parents who love them this much.
You are a great mom!