Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Lost Art of Discipline

I have worked really hard over the last few years to teach Niall the difference between right and wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable and how to deal with anger.  It's been challenging-- probably the most challenging thing I've ever had to do-- but I really believe it's important, so I intend to keep at it. 
But sometimes it feels like everything I've taught him is only working against him.  Am I putting a bright red bulls eye on his back by telling him that he has to be nice and share and keep his hands to himself? 

I just watched a 2 year old girl push my almost 3 year old son off of the ledge of some playground equipment that was about 5 feet high.  The disturbing part was that Niall wasn't even looking at her, playing with her or bothering her in any way.  It was like she just knew that he would be an easy target.

The even better part was that when she did it the first time, Niall was able to grab onto the ladder and not fall off, so I yelled over "Hey, no pushing!"... at which point, she looked me dead in the eye, shot me an evil grin, and then gave him an even better, harder push that landed him face first in the mulch below.

I just thought to myself, "This little girl must run the show at her house." She knew that she could do whatever she wanted and nobody was going to do a thing about it.

Kids need to learn that there are consequences for their actions.

If Niall grabs a toy out of another kid's hand, he has to give it back-- even if it's his 8 month old brother who doesn't know the difference.
If he hits, he has to take a time-out and say sorry.
If he says "no" to me or Matt, he gets a warning and then something gets taken away from him--

Yes, that might be a little strict, but why should I be nervous or ashamed to tell someone that I have a rule like that?  Why are parents who demand respect suddenly made out to be monsters by today's standards?  I don't think that "discipline" should be such an ominous, evil word.

And since Niall is not allowed to hit or push or throw things at other kids, I'm not sure where that leaves him in terms of self-defense.  I want to teach him to stand up for himself, but he's not really old enough to do it verbally yet. 

So now I have to deal with Matt coming home every night, showing Niall how to punch and tackle and push someone off of him, completely putting me back to square one... but honestly, I can't blame him.  What I'm doing obviously isn't working.

It seems like discipline has been replaced with excuses these days and suddenly the "experts" are telling us that we need to just let our toddlers do what they're going to do; that it's part of their development.  Well, I'm afraid I disagree, and I think our kids deserve better than that.

I don't spank Niall and I don't plan to, but I think there's something to be said about the way our parents were raised.  Do you ever hear about people who grew up in the 50s and 60s who were driven to suicide because of bullying?  Did they disobey their parents?  Did they talk back to their teachers?  The philosophy was "Nip it in the bud." And it worked.

I'm aware that there are always exceptions; there always will be.  But I also think that we, as parents, have to realize that we can love them and lead them at the same time.  That's the beauty of discipline.

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  1. totally dude. free-range parents can still be free-rangers and discipline their kids but some people are just really lazy about it and think it's easier to not do it at all. well, they will have a lot harder jobs in a few years when their kids are total monsters.

    at piper's preschool there is this very strong mentality of letting the children have conflicts and work things out WHEN THEY ARE ABLE which is great and i'm finding refreshing. but there is always someone there to jump in if things escalate or if someone hits, etc. the principle is about letting them explore and learn how to work through things which a lot of times they end up doing on their own and it's amazing to see. but that doesn't mean no discipline. even with the let the child lead, give them freedom attitude, they still make sure to give guidance. because it makes for a more secure child, ya know? but, you're right that there is definitely this attitude of just let kids be kids these days and a lot of times i think it causes the kids way more problems down the road.

  2. So what happened to nasty grin girl? I bet her partents "didn't see it" happen, right?

  3. This time it was actually the 2 preschool teachers who didn't notice-- they only had 6 kids to watch!

  4. I agree! Just a couple of weeks ago, Kate was kicked 6 feet off of the playground by a 3 year old and landed on her back. It was terrifying to watch and the dad came over and just made excuses for his son and didn't even give us a heartfelt apology.

  5. Niall should be able to hit in self-defence, but no other time. That's the way previous generations were brought up. The trouble is, if someone bullies a child today, they don't fight back, so it escalates. Years ago, kids fought back against bullies, so the bullies learned to leave that child alone. There is nothing wrong with defending yourself against attack - to say otherwise is just new age rubbish! Also, if someone else's child injures your child and the parents don't do anything about it, sue them. If people started suing parents all over the shop, you watch them control their children's behaviour - money is the only thing people like that understand. Also, kudos to you for actually curtailing any anti-social behaviour in your child. It is to be applauded in this day and age.


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