Thursday, June 27

Does Discipline Break a Child's Spirit?

Discipline often breaks down into a battle of wills, but it has nothing to do with breaking their spirit, even as much as it seems the contrary. They're crying, you're crying, the house is in turmoil; "This can't possibly be good for them or anyone!" you think.

But of course you think that. It's because you're an awesome mom! However we are all - ALL of us - at the mercy of our love for our babies. And that can cloud our judgment.

Discipline is not "breaking them." It's not mean or hateful or unloving. True discipline is about teaching. Plain and simple. And when you teach toddlers, you have to relate to them on their level, which is primitive. When they are pushing and pushing and pushing, you have to hold out longer than they feel the need to disrespect you. It's a learning teach them what is okay and you are allowed to treat people, and what is and is not acceptable.

Example: screaming for a bottle when you are trying to wean. It may seem like you are flat our torturing your child for no good reason (and what good mommy would ever do that?) but here's the truth about what's going on: the longer you let them scream for a bottle, the more you teach them that they can't do that (and that the world will definitely not end). BUT when they scream and hit you each night for 5 minutes until you give in, that is exponentially worse. True, you're giving it a try until it seems ridiculous to carry on, but in actuality, you are teaching them how to behave badly (versus letting them cry and teaching them that you can't be manipulated). When you give in, you teach them that it is okay to hit and scream - it works, and they get what they want.

Look, I know you are freaking exhausted and can't take another minute. But long term, you are creating a huge, never-ending headache. Parenting is about headaches, believe me. But those long term jobbers can be nipped by standing your ground now. It's not easy, and it really is every single day, because they are learning so much at this age. But over time it gets better and better. When you are consistent and firm but loving, your child will be happier, more secure, and definitely a joy to be around. This versus a child who grows up getting more and more demanding, tantrum prone, and guilt provoking...hmmm. Wonder which is better? Which child do you think is truly happier?

Friday, June 14

Bad Behavior "Makes Me So Sad"...

My friends. Serious topic, here. I really, really hate to burst your well-meaning bubble, but can we collectively please stop telling our kids how much it hurts our heart or makes us sad to see them act unbecomingly? "Oh, that hurts my heart to see you make that choice," or "That makes me so sad to see that," or "Oh, that's a sad choice."
UGH!! Your child could care less how you feel, think, or what you had for dinner beyond getting them what they want. I see Mommies do this all the time but I have never, ever seen it actually work. Is it working for you? Does your child immediately act sorry, apologize to the offended party, and straighten up to the point where you don't have to repeat that phrase ten times a day? Because I'm apparently blind, here.

The thing is, the Mommies I see using this have kids that are pretty much out of control. So I know it seems to you a way to calmly and sincerely let your child know that you disapprove of a certain behavior, but it teaches them nothing. Nothing! They do not care how you feel; they are too young. So expecting that to make a smidgen of impact is unrealistic. What they NEED is for you to say, "No. We don't do that," and intervene. Intervene, my lovely ladies! Take their arm, or block the physical behavior, or move them into another room, and tell them what you want to see instead. "We keep our hands to ourselves," "Bottom on the chair, feet on the floor," "Use a big kid voice because I can't understand whining and crying," "We do not throw our toys when we're upset. You may stomp your foot instead." Tell and show them what you want to see instead of the offending behavior. This whole telling them what you think and feel business is going to put me over the edge. Make them behave. Insist on it. Otherwise, you are running a hamster wheel.

I so absolutely get that you are tired. But please do something for me. If your child has a ton of energy that is bursting out in bad behavior, set him/her to a physical task. Outside is great - make them run and run and run. But make an actual task out of it so that there is a focus beyond the need to explode upon a piece of equipment, an animal, or another child. Make it running from one end of the yard to the other, collecting acorns or sticks, or collecting the sticks and then making a giant pattern out of it, whatever. And do NOT make this a "Oh, look, let's play a game, honey! It'll be fun! You try it, okay?" Because believe me, if you act like there is a choice or you desperately want to engage him in something, he will sniff it out in no time and use that stick to whack your fanny in a clear communication that he's not interested. When you go about it in a "Here's what we're going to do," sort of way, and use a firm, authoritative demeanor and voice, it changes things. You might get some balking because that is not your usual pattern, but make your child do it before he does anything of his chosing. He may throw a fit, but I'm telling you, the structure is needed and you must, absolutely must, win this battle of wills. (Another blog on battle of wills vs. breaking their spirit later...) Do not give in to a normal pattern of letting your child's behavior slide; it teaches him to do that exact behavior over and over because you ultimately do nothing about it beyond yammering something that they translate into, "Blah, blah, blah...."

So change your language and demeanor, give them a physical task to release some energy and create a sense of boundaries, and tell and show them how to act.

Good luck, friends!