Sunday, October 26, 2008

Discipline and will part1 2006

Some thoughts on the role of Will in discipline and child raising.
What is will? Weve' all heard of will. The word shows up in a million cliche's. "The willful child" "The will to live" "Willpower" "A will of his own". Except when it comes to children, the word "will" usually conjures up something strong and powerful.
"He overcame strong obstacles with his mighty will to succeed" type of thing. "She willed herself better"
Will, like time, (and sleep, and money) seems to be one of those things as adults we always wish we had more of.

Traditionally will has been seen as an undesirable quality in a child. Many discipline tomes have urged us to "conquor the will" of our children when they are very young. Bend their will. Make their will subservient to your own. Discipline. Obedience. Do it while they are babies (sleep training for examples) to show them whose boss.
Well as AP parents, heck as any parent who sees their child as fully human in their own right and worthy of respect, is going to shudder at this concept.
But what is the alternative. Perhaps as a reaction to the idea of fully squashing the will of our children is the idea that a child's will is to be fully accepted as equal to the parents. And that the parent should not oppose the will of their child, and therefore should have only fully consensual interactions and refrain from coercing their child as much as humanly possible.
While this may work for some families, and does fully respect the child's will this type of interaction is not for me.

But where does that leave us? Must we either squash our child's will to get their full and unquestioning obedience, OR allow our child the freedom to make all of their own decisions and treat their will as equal to our own. (we have had recent comments about waiting to put a child into a carseat indefinitely until the child chooses to do so themelves for example)

I believe that there is a middle ground. I believe that a child's will should be respected and kindled in relationships with other children and in situations and circumstances where it is safe and reasonable for a child toexercise their own will, and to hone it to good use.
I ALSO believe that it is important with children for them to know when it comes down to it, their parents will wins out.
We as parents can respect our children by letting things go whenthey dont really matter. (Sure if you want to wear plaid with poca dots, that's fine with me)
But when it comes down to the certain things that the parent believes are important (and these things are different for every single family) that what mom says goes.
We can also respect our children by changing our expectations based on their abilities and temperaments.

I want my children to have very strong wills. I want them to know what they want and go for it with single minded determination. I want them to mold that will to serve them their entire lives. So why in the world would I choose any discipline style , the effectiveness of which is reliant upon the full domination of my child's will?
I also want my children to be safe. I want them to have good manners and I want them to be relatively pleasant to live with. They dont know how to do these things yet on their own. THey also dont understand the importance of these things. Can we clash our wills with theirs and win without damaging that will?
I beleive we can. When our focus is NOT on dominating their will as a goal in itself, but only in the rare instances when it is necessary, it will rebound successfully enough.
And perhaps, I like to think, that by occasionally waging and winning these battles of wills we help our children learn to dominate their OWN will to train it to serve them better rather than let it run amok with the untrained wants and desires of a small baby.
I mean what good is a strong will if it is untrained and becomes focused on every random desire rather than on what we direct it towards?

So my answer for my family is that I dont have to either squash my child's will (as the Pearls and Ezzo seem to think is necessary) or let it run free and untrained. I can help my child hone his will to a razers edge by letting it butt up against my stronger will once in a while.But I dont seek to squash it. But as a parent I DO believe that it is of utmost importance that my will be stronger and longer lasting so that it can remain an effectiev tool to protect and guide my children. And with luck, I wont have to use it often.

But what happens when OUR wills are weak? I believe just about all of us have lived through times in our lives where we just didnt have the will to fight. Everyday things like a mild illness or lack of sleep can bring about a short bout of low will. Big challenges can bring about extended periods where our wills are shot. Maybe we are using our wills to deal with other stressors like financial or medical issues. Pregnancy or a new baby can do it. Any big stress is exhausting emotionally, and it gets pretty hard to build that will up to a level high enough to be an authority over our children, especially when they are the strong willed type to begin with. When our wills fail, our children know it. THey may up the ante and operate from an even stronger will to try to jump start our will to be their authority to them.
I dont know, it is just a guess, but maybe this is one reason why some children's behavior becomes a problem in times of crises. Perhaps they feel their parents pull away, maybe not emotionally but they feel the will of their parents, which is usually a protective wall around them, pull away or maybe crumble in places and they are sending out an alert signal.
I think we have all seen that at times when our will is weakest inregards to our children (perhaps because we had to use our fight up in another battle), that is when our children's behavior starts to get out of control.
Maybe when we are stumbling in regards to discipline we need to stop wondering what is wrong with our child, or our discipline strategy, and have a good strong look at our wills.

Another recycled post from '06

Discipline and will:
We have all read parenting and discipline books, all spoken to other moms and heard the full listing of all the things that "work" and "Dont work" and everybody thinks they have the answer OR thinks there is no knowable answer.

And It occureed to me that when we say "there is no one answer" it is true because just about any method or answer is equivalent because what really MATTERS most is our will as parents to teach our children these habits or behaviors etc. . .
Our will. THat's it. It isnt about time out or sticker charts or spanking or no spanking. You dont really need any magic bullet if you have the will.
All of these instant cures and parenting answers that everybody is always looking for is jut a bandage to cover up that fact that they dont have the will to insist their child behave in whatever way they deem appropriate. Or simply the fact that their child's will is stronger than their own.

We often in this group use the term "get off your butt parenting" and I am a HUGE advocate that this works.
But why shoud this work where time outs and spankings and everythign else always fails eventually?
Because it requires the commitment of will.
Punishments of all types really are usually a parent's way of trying to trick their child into believing that the parent's will is stronger than their own. In no situation is this more obvious than in spanking. Yes sometimes it works IMMEDIATELY but usually temporarily. Why is this? Because parents spank because they want to not have to get off their butt, they lack the will of constant follow through. So they have occasional acts of very strong will in order to convince their child that "they mean it" . But you know what? Kids are smart, they really really know that their parents dont mean it when they only get up and smack them every 10th time the child does somethign wrong. Their behavior has a 90% success rate.
My niece said to her mother yesterday "I didnt think I would get in trouble because I NEVER get in trouble the first time I break a rule" This child is very smart and she looked her mother in the eye and told her that she knows she doesnt mean it when she says she expects certain behavior.
I almost hit the floor. OUt of the mouths of babes.
Our will.
When we wish to change the dynamics of our families or instill or eliminate some behaviors, it matters much much LESS how you do it, and much much more how much you want it to happen.

Last week I was a a friends house, and her neighbor asked me if I am always giving my kids 'the business' because they listen pretty well (nobody is perfect). Assuming "the business" meant some type of spanking or punishment I told her that no, indeed I never spank them, avoid yelling at them, and they have only had the very occasional and rare time out.
She looked at me like I just sprouted a third head.
I have often thought that maybe my kids are genetically really easy. And certainly that is somewhat true. None of my three youngest have very strong wills to misbehave. (oh but my oldest does,)
However I have spent many reflective thoughts on wondering about what exactly do I DO. I mean. HOw do I explain how I discipline when it isnt a formula or an action on my part that magically convinces them to behave. People ask me. I usually start by telling them what I dont do. But that aint really helpful.
" How come your children listen to you so well"
"Because I dont spank them"
That doesnt really explain it.
"Because I expect them to" is usually what I say, but it really doesnt explain the mechanism as to how or why that works.
They listen because MY desire for them to behave is stronger than their desire to misbehave.
Maybe that is more accurate.
And in truth is isnt really THAT easy, because the stronger the child's will, the more effort and energy one must have to maintain authority over them.
And this can be exhausting.
Edited to add: This post was written when my little ones were 2 1/2 and just turned 4. Things changed a bit when Aidan turned 4, and I had to up the ante on my "will"and use some of the discipline strategies maligned above in order to get that across to him. . .

Thoughts from May 2007, on Discipline

This is a little something that I've written which expresses the ideas I shared at the meeting regarding teaching our children to behave with positive reinforcement. (those alternatives to time out). It's kinda wordy. (am I the only complete NERD who actually writes Essays to myself for fun?) Anyway, I figured I'd share it in its entireity. Hope you don't mind:

To Train up a Child, the Positive discipline way!

The word “training” has gotten a bad rap. Radicals and child abusers have been using this word as a justification for their mistreatment of children for so long, that we almost associate the word “training” with canine obedience training. However the word Training is used in the human world all the time. It just means repetitive learning of something in order for it to become second nature. It is slightly different from intellectual learning

So I am going to confess right here and now. I TRAIN my children. I do. Unlike the Pearls I don’t have to cut a switch to do it.
What tool do I use instead? Well my favorite is the “High Five”. But I also use enthusiasm and praise.

Unlike some child training guides, rather than set my child up for failure, and then punish them. I set them up for success and then I reward them.

When I realized that if I ever wanted to eat in a restaurant again, I would have to train my kids how to act in one, I set about our lessons. First, we went to easy places like McDonalds. Where I bolted down my lunch while they sat in their high chairs, after explaining to them the rules I wanted them to follow in restaurants.. I didn’t give them enough time to get antsy. And when we were done eating. I thanked them profusely for their wonderful behavior, gave them lots of smiles and high fives, and got out of there before anybody even got it in their head to throw a fit. Time wore on and I could eat a little slower, and eventually we graduated to Denny’s. We went for a late breakfast when the place was empty. And we did the same thing. I never punished them or yelled at them or spanked them. Yet I ended up with three very small children who could eat at a restaurant and expect to remain in their high chair until we were ready to leave.
You would have probably laughed if you saw me the first time I took three children to the grocery store. But I did the exact same thing. I brought them and planned to buy exactly two things, both of which I knew where they were. I advised them going in that in grocery stores we have to stay in the cart for safety, and we have to keep indoor voices, etc.. and I ran through the store, got those two items, checked out and shared my joy with them at the door regarding how wonderfully fun that was and how nice it is to have such happy children, and high fives to go around. In no time at all, we graduated to hour-long trips to Wal-Mart.

The trick is. Rather than waiting for bad behavior to happen, and then punishing for it. Tell your child what you expect FIRST. Then make it super easy for them to comply the first few times. Show your appreciation, excitement and enthusiasm; give out a few high fives (or whatever) when they accomplished this. And then gradually go from your test situation, to the real situation. You can do this for so many things!

Away from home discipline. I was thinking the other day how glad I am I found this group. Because before I found it, I was housebound with my three little ones. It was so much hassle to go out, I never bothered for 11 months. But once I made it to my first playgroup I got more and more adventurous. And it just recently dawned on me. Going away from the house is the perfect opportunity to hone discipline skills. We all know that the rules are different at home. We each have things that we are more relaxed about at home than we are out in the world. So the only chance our kids have to learn these behaviors is if we actually take them out.
For example, some parents assume that their child is not old enough to eat at a restaurant because they refuse to sit in a high chair at home. However, it is at home that you don’t mind if they don’t sit in a high chair, so they aren’t going to learn this skill. However taking them out, teaching the skill, might just make it possible for them to sit in their high chair at home. Which came first, the opportunity to exhibit the behavior or the behavior? Your child cannot learn to stay close to you when you are out in public if you never leave the house.

I used to be the “going out is too much of a hassle” type. And believe me it IS a hassle! However in hindsight, although I did it for myself, to get out. I think that the behavioral benefits have been enormous.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I started a blog because I always have so many things to say. But for some reason, my mental list of things to blog about disappears the moment I log into my blog. Almost in the exact same way my mental list of books I want to read and Authors names vanishes the moment I step into a bookstore. (Same goes with music)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Spirit of the law? Letter of the Law?

I'm a Den leader. What that means is i've joined a top-down hierarchichal organization with my son which comes heavily loaded with religious issues.
It's Boy Scouts. They are so cute with their blue shirts and Neckerchiefs. My oldest daughter was in girl scouts starting at Daisies. Why should my sons be deprived of participation in such a noble organization simply because a few things give me the heebie jeebies?

My problem? Well, while Boy Scouts claims to be "inclusive" of people of "all faiths", they apparently are blatantly exclusive, to those of no faith. They have religious commendations from every major religion, And are in the process of developing one for Wiccans. That's right. Wiccans are welcomed into Boy Scouts with open arms. But Agnostics? Athiests? It's Don't Ask Don't Tell! I once considerd myself Wiccan. And I really have no problem explaining to my children about God, and the different beliefs in God.
I can even tolerate the usual non-denominational vague prayer. We had plenty of those in Girl Scouts (at least at campouts, never in our troop) , and at family holidays.
My problem? Letter of the law. The Boy Scouts of America states that religious belief is a "requirement" for membership. I have a tendancy to take that literally.
Thankfully I had the wisdom to marry a man who is all about the "spirit of the law". He points out to me that it is obviously the intention of Cub Scouts to be inclusive, and they likely could give a flying rats arse whether we are Athiest or Bahai for that matter.
So I guess the only question is, would it be really wrong to tell my kids that "God is what some people call "The Force"?
I guess I ought to have put our religious affiliation down on our information sheet after all. . .

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I always say I hate Phoenix. I can't wait till we can move. John's been awfully pessimistic lately and says we'll be stuck here till we retire. I don't buy it, if we want to live our dreams, we will. Phoenix is HOT. Phoenix doesn't have a beautiful cool, crisp colorful autumn, like the one we just experienced in our week in Barry Illinois. My house is a mess. Not the kind of mess where stuff is scattered everywhere, but the kind of mess where the bathroom counters are DIRTY and the floor just cries out in a silent voice for an interlude with a mop.
But when we landed in Phoenix, after dark, it was still over 90 degrees. And we came home to our imperfect home, with the sticky spot on the kitchen floor. Oh how glad I am to be here! I celebrated with a serious bathroom scrubbing.
As picturesque and perfect as Barry is, as white the whitewashed farmhouses, and red-gold the maple leaves, as imminently catchable the frogs at Kaiser Creek, and friendly the staff at Stroemer's grocery, (who will not only take your groceries to your car for you, they will do so while you are still paying, because, in a town of 1400, chances are , they recognize your car, and it won't be locked), as kind and welcoming our family, as exhilarating (and perhaps dangerous) the metal push merry-go-round at the park, as sprightly the squirrels, and stately the deer, home is home. And as long as Home is in Phoenix, home is where I long to come home to.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I guess it's a cliche because it's true.

It has been said, much to the chagrin of women everywhere that men age like fine wine. How else do you explain why more women are swooning over Sean Connery than ever before? Or the fact that Tom Sellek looked even better on Friends than he EVER had on Magnum PI.

Well, I keep getting frumpier as I age. Heck, even in High school I was always cast as the "middle aged woman".

My husband on the other hand keeps getting better. He's better looking at 37 than he was when I met him at 29. I guess my consolation is that no matter how good he looks. He will ALWAYS be 2 years older than me!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Everybody else but me

Well it seems i'm behind the times a bit. Even my husband has started blogging! LOL I've been saving up years of thoughts to unscramble and get down to share with the world. However, rather than begin all at once. Today I shall just begin to begin.
My name is Joline Hubbard. I'm 35 and i've got four children. And as soon as I decide between blogging about current events (Our recent trip to Disneyland for example) or the greater meanings of life, i'll post again.