Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Discipline Dilemma

Being a parent is hard work - I mean really, really hard work. I remember people telling me that before we had Abby and my response was typically, "Oh, I know that, I am a teacher after all." Then I would go on about how I managed a room full of preteens all day, I knew parenting was hard.  How they didn't slap that smug little smile off my face, I don't know. At least they were kind enough to leave their laughing until I'd left the room. I didn't know anything, because the fact of the matter was, at the end of the day I left all those squirrely preteens to their parents, got in my quiet (and clean) car, and went home to a peaceful evening.

I thought of those days today as I got in my quiet (and messy) car to head home, not anticipating a peaceful evening. You see, I'd gotten a note today from Abby's teacher about some of her stubborn behavior at school - namely, her unwillingness to follow directions and do what was expected of her. This came as no surprise to me. Abby has been going through a bit of a defiant patch lately.

The disciplinarian in me immediately thought: Well, we'll need to clamp down on her! She will get a talking to about how we behave at school, and if we need to have more time-outs, so be it! She will understand that this will not be tolerated - and that's that! The fact that this mindset has never been very productive with Abby made no difference in those first few moments, this is what parents are supposed to do - turn the screws and make their child behave, right?


Thankfully Jason had spent the day working from home and therefore I was given the luxury of coming home and spending a few minutes laying down when Abby got home. This gave me some much needed time to think. My mind began wandering down all sorts of roads and I began to get overwhelmed. What punishments were appropriate for her? Were we letting her "get away" with too much, thinking that she couldn't handle a stricter environment? We've tried so much, was there anything left? How were we going to make Abby understand what was expected of her? Then I realized that I was using the wrong verb. That's when the question became: How are we going to help Abby understand what is expected of her? 

I remembered that one of the most important goals of this parenting gig is to train. When I began to think about it that way it helped me understand that I shouldn't be looking for the best way to punish Abby for her bad behavior, but I should be looking for the best way for her to learn the right behavior. Knowing Abby as I do, I know that punishing, threatening, and getting angry seldom works. Abby's nature is to be loving, kind, and sensitive to the feelings of others. When I've appealed to that aspect of her, the moment becomes much more teachable, and less of a battle of wills between us. The best way to teach her is to be loving and positive. I don't have to get angry and mad when she does something wrong - in fact, I shouldn't because that won't teach her a darn thing. This immediately lightened my mood.

Jason and I have yet to formalize a plan that involves what actions we will take when something happens, or ways that Abby's teacher can better motivate her as well, but I feel much better just having thought things through.

That crabby, obstinate kid I was anticipating coming home to us never materialized. Abby was in a super mood, made better by playing in the sunshine with Daddy and Bruiser. She told me about her "great" day and playing with her friends. We will talk about listening to her teachers later this evening, but for now I'm going to spend some time enjoying her happy spirit, anticipating the peaceful night ahead.

Abby has decided that she is ready for spring!
Here's the picture Jason snapped as they were waiting
for the bus this morning. With a smile like that, I'm
ready for spring too!

1 comment:

  1. Good advice, E! It's hard to remember not to try to force good behavior with punishments--especially when you're really angry. My biggest problem is not CRACKING UP when I'm trying to punish the kids. If only they didn't do such funny badness.