Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Are you mightier than your child?

I have a few friends who have children the same ages as Benjamin and Miriam, and we keep in touch via Facebook.  As is common in parenting toddlers, behavior and discipline are frequently visited topics.  Sometimes, I'm really appalled by what I read from them!  Spanking and washing out of mouths and expected sleep training!

I think some people believe I am a permissive parent.  I don't believe I am.  We have discipline in the house.  However, we use discipline by this definition: "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character", whereas it is commonly used by this definition: "control gained by enforcing obedience or order."

Are you mightier than your child?

Benjamin and Miriam are little people.  They have thoughts and needs and wants and wishes.  They have goals they want and need to attain, goals that I did not give them.  Of course, I may view these things as unimportant, but to my 2 year old, making a teetering tower of blocks stand tall on the edge of a soft couch is the most important task he will take on today.  He will fail, and he will get upset.  It will be childish.  But he is a child and I cannot expect him to behave as anything else.  Instead, I will respond to him with compassion, empathizing that it is really frustrating when things don't work out as planned.  That is an adult concept that he can learn.  And he will learn it.  He will respond to me, "Yes, mama, it makes me mad."  I immediately give him the words he can use to express how he feels so that he doesn't need to throw the blocks across the room, and I won't have to suffer through a tantrum that tries my patience and "requires" punishment.

I want to teach my children what it is like to live in an adult world.  Isn't that the goal of parenting, to foster these babies into functioning members of society?  What does spanking teach your child?  That might is right?  I'm bigger than you, so do as I say?

My one year old is learning to put things away.  She has her own idea of what this means though.  After she placed a kitchen towel in the frying pan cabinet, I took it back out and asked her to hang it back on the stove handle.  She told me an emphatic, "No!"  I let her walk away.  She has the right to refuse my requests, just as I have the right to refuse your requests.  Eventually, she will learn that telling me, or anyone, "no" will have natural consequences.  She'll learn that if she doesn't put her shoes away when I ask her to, she won't be able to find them on her way out the door.  She'll learn that other children won't want to play with her if she doesn't do as they ask sometimes.  As an adult, she'll learn that she won't keep a job for very long if she only does things that she likes to do.  But I let her make her own decisions, without fear of disappointing me.

I'm a gentle parent.  I don't stress about my children's behavior.  I believe in natural consequences helping them learn the order of our society.  My children respect me because I respect them.

"Children aren't to be molded; they are little people to be unfolded."

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful, Karen. I think the difference between your approach and some of the "permissive" parents I've seen is that you have a well-thought out philosophy behind your actions. Some parents are permissive because they are fearful. You're permissive because you're in charge.

    I also think it's helpful that you've given yourself time to figure out what's going on w/ your kids. Parents who are preoccupied and consumed by other priorities are less likely to slow down and put themselves in their children's shoes. They don't have time for disruptions and may think that punishment is more efficient than developing relationships with their children as individuals.