Sunday, October 26, 2008

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. . .

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