This is going to be a long, boring post, but I wanted to put some thoughts into words and I decided to use my blog to do it. So don't feel obligated to read this or make a comment.
I've been doing some thinking and pondering lately on parenting. I try to practice gentle discipline techniques. I'm not perfect, I'm far from it, but I think a lot about how I should handle certain situations so that my girls will grow up respectful of others and with tenderness. I also read a lot of books, mostly the good ones, and if they're not good, I make comments in the margins. I guess that way if I ever suffer from amnesia, I'll know what I would want myself to do.
First, for some reason, I've been thinking about the punishment techniques some parents use. I don't really believe that punishment works, so I don't use it. I group spanking and time-outs in the punishment category. I don't believe that these should be labeled as "discipline" as some parents would suggest, I believe that discipline means guidance, not punishment. I don't see how spanking a child is guiding them to be a better person. It just doesn't make sense to me.
Actually, I think that these forms of punishment (spanking and time-outs) breed selfishness. Here's why: It may cause the child to think about what he did, but the problem lies in the fact that he can only think about how it will affect him. He is not guided to think about how his actions affect others, he makes his decisions on whether or not something might negatively affect him.
I'm going to give an example of a little boy who hits his sister. One option is that the mother gives the boy a time-out, the boy is being punished for his actions, it's a consequence that directly affects him. Life doesn't work that way. When we do something we shouldn't, it's not us who usually have to face consequences, most of the time other people are the ones who suffer for our mistakes.
The other thing the mother can do is to explain to the boy that it is wrong to hit his sister because it hurts her. She can say, "Look at her face, she is crying, that hurt her when you hit her." I believe that a kid is more willing to stop a bad behavior when they understand that it does affect other people.
Let me now translate that into adult lives. We have people who speed up and down our street. I'm sure pretty much everyone can relate to this problem. It's frustrating. I thought about it. I don't speed because I know that it could potentially harm someone else. So then I thought, why do people speed? I believe that they were raised in this selfishness way. They think about how the speeding would affect them directly, they speed because getting a ticket is not that big of a deal to them. They have lost the ability to think about how their actions might affect others.
So, today, in Heidi's Sunday school class, I got a chance to test out my theories. I went in with her because she had a bad experience last week. Even today, with me there, she wanted to leave. I quickly learned why she got so upset last week. There were a couple little kids that pushed a grabbed a lot. I think someone might have pushed her or taken something from her last week. Some people might label my child as sensitive for reacting by crying, but I see nothing wrong with being upset over being violated. Oh ya, and I'm against labels.
One little boy was particularly "bad", I used the quotation marks because I'm against labels, but for the sake of the story I had to describe him. Anyway, he grabbed toys from everyone, just to do it. The teachers in her class do a great job, but I think people just don't know how to handle such a little stinker. They told him to "share" when he grabbed toys from other kids. I have big issues with the word share. First of all, it's a big concept for a two year old to understand, especially when you just use the word "share". Some kids even think they are "sharing" because they took something from someone else, in a sense "sharing". I also wouldn't tell a child something that I would feel silly telling an adult. I wouldn't say to another adult in church, "you need to share that hymnal", I would say, "Can I also use your hymnal?"
I've found that explaining to a child what you expect him to do works so much better. Instead of using the word "share", I say something like, "Karilyn would like a turn with that doll when you are all finished." I explain it more if I need to. It takes more time to explain what you expect of a child, but it's worth it. If you're just going to say "share", than you'd actually be better off saying nothing.
So, back to Heidi's class. This little stinker went up a grabbed a toy saw and screw driver right out of her hand. Heidi started to cry. I said to him, "Look at Heidi, that made her very sad when you took the saw from her. She likes to be asked for things". I saw his little eyes kind of turn up as if he was thinking and he stood there and pondered for a minute. He didn't give the saw back, but I think at that point it would have hurt his pride too much.
Now, I'm not calling myself a miracle worker or anything, but I saw a change in that little boy. He didn't take anything from anyone else the rest of the class, and he became my little buddy. He sat by me during the story and wanted to play with me. It was like I gained his respect, I think he was glad that someone explained it to him.
So I'm trying to come up with some ways that help Heidi handle these types of situations in a way that's respectful to every party. It's hard though, since she still isn't talking much. For the time being, I think that showing her the "girl" toys and encouraging her to play with those will help since her class in mostly boys and I don't see any little boys grabbing dolls out of little girls hands. I could be wrong though, we'll see how it goes.
Now wake up and go get some coffee.
And, Valli? Did I use the right "affect", or should I have used "effect"? That one always confuses me.