Friday, June 15, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Bonanza Friday!

It is time once again for a Mother Talk Blog Bonanza!
Our topic this week is brought to us courtesy of Elizabeth Pantley's book, The No-Cry Discipline Solution. Before I start, two things:
1. This is not a book review; I have not read it other than a few excerpts.
2. You may disagree with my parenting methods--and that's fine. Whatever works for you is what you should do...but take note of whether or not your method is actually working. Is all I'm saying.

Aaah, child discipline...a touchy subject in most circles. In my day, my great-grandma told me to go pick a switch and it didn't even raise any eyebrows. She laid the stick across my backside a few times--it taught me the value of not picking the whippiest, thinnest, lightest one.
My dad was a spanker. Don't get me wrong--I wasn't beaten, I didn't get spanked for every infraction, nothing like that. I can't even put the blame on him for my punishment, because I knew the rules.
I knew that if he said, "If you torment your brother one more time, I'm gonna bust your butt,", then I knew that it wasn't an idle threat; if I got caught didn't stop tormenting my brother, I was going to get it.
Always the same formula: "GO BEND OVER THE BED."
And I had to wait.
And wait.
And wait.
Like the song says, the waiting is the hardest part. I didn't realize until I was much older that this was Dad's cool-down time. How he took the time to get his temper under control.
And after the spanking...the 'talk'. The "this hurt me more than it hurt you" talk. Yeah. I know that some of you get what I'm talking about.
And my grandpa? Hm. Tough old guy. Smack-talk him and you got his big, hard, working-man's hand upside the back of your head. Nosirree, you didn't sass grandpa. Not more than once or twice, anyway.
When I was a teen, some of my friends thought my parents were too strict because if I was five minutes late on my curfew, I was grounded.
Five minutes. Unless, you know, I called first and if I did then I'd better have a damn good excuse that wasn't a lie, because they'd know.
I never really thought it was too strict, because my mom & dad put it to me like this: If you're responsible and adult enough to go out with your friends/date/whatever, then you're responsible and adult enough to get home on time.
I can only think of maybe one occasion that I was late with no excuse.
Because I came home on time, my parents gave me their trust. That's still very important to me.

And you know what else? I didn't turn out so bad. I don't do drugs, I never snuck out of my room in the middle of the night, I didn't get drunk at parties.
My parents taught me not only to respect them, but self-respect as well.
Oh hell, I wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination--I was (and am) bullheaded and stubborn, especially when I know think I'm in the right. I've argued with my parents, I talked back occasionally. But I didn't cut class & ditch school (except Senior ditch day, and we all went to the lake together), I didn't rebel. I just tried to be a decent kid and stay out of trouble. Getting in trouble was, and is, embarrassing for me.

So I figure what worked on me would most probably work for me as well.
I'm a spanker. Yep, there, I said it. So what?
If I think what my child has done deserves a spanking, and if I've given her a warning that if she continues that behavior then a spanking is forthcoming, AND further if she DOES CHOOSE to continue the behavior..
"Bend over the bed."
And she waits.
And waits.
And waits.
Until I get my cool-down time. And then afterward she gets 'the talk'.

And you know what else? I'd put my kid up against any other kid on the planet.
She's polite, she's a better hostess than I ever could be (and where she learned that I've got NO idea), she's smart, she's caring about others, she's innately kind and always generous. She always offers me (and anyone else who might be near) the last...the last M&M, the last bite of a PB&J, the last drink of juice. She's even got a social conscience, worried about kids who don't have homes or don't have enough to eat. She takes care of pets and strays.
I can't take all the credit for that--I've just been lucky enough to be blessed with fabulous children.

I've been criticized for being too strict...but as a single parent I have to be the good cop AND the bad cop. And I realized early on that without a backup parent, things could easily spiral out of control and I decided that I'd be damned if I let that happen.

I don't want to be my daughter's best friend. As I've said before, that only works for Gilmore Girls. Ask Kathy Hilton and Dinah Lohan how it's working out for them and their daughters, mmkay?
In my opinion, that's where parents sometimes go wrong and then wonder "How did this happen?"
If you let your kids hit each other, yell at each other, call each other're teaching them that this is acceptable behavior.
If you don't hold the line, stand firm, and FOLLOW THROUGH with punishments/corrections/whatever you want to call them, you're teaching the children that you really don't mean what they say.
I've seen books from big-head-free-thinkers who encourage you to let children find their own way without any discipline, without teaching them that some things are wrong...thus depriving them of developing a conscience.
So we're raising a generation of sociopaths? Is that what we really want to do?
All these entitled kids who feel like the whole world owes them something, just because they grace the earth with their lives.
Kids who think mom & dad should buy them a car as soon as they're old enough to drive, because the parents OWE it to them.
Kids who think mom & dad should give them anything and everything they ask for...because that's how the parents have raised them to behave.

Oh sure, we all think our children are the centers of our own little universes, and I think it's INCREDIBLY important that we let kids know from the instant they're born how much we love them, how terrific they are, how beautiful/handsome/smart/special they are. I tell mine all the time--just about every single day, in fact.
But giving them everything they want without teaching them that some things must be earned? Giving in to their every whim? Letting them start and quit projects and classes and whatever?
You're teaching them that it's acceptable not to follow through. You're as much as telling them that "Mommy and Daddy will always rescue you from everything and you'll never have to deal with anything yourself. You don't have to finish what you start if it's too hard!! There there, poor baby!"
You're teaching them irresponsibility. You're robbing them of the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a task or completing a project or just following through.

Now I'm all for positive reinforcement...but there comes a time when a child has to understand what is NOT acceptable behavior. They have to learn that THEIR choices affect other people. My daughter knows that if she chooses to ignore the rules and chooses to behave badly, she alone is responsible for the fact that she is punished/corrected.

In the excerpts of this book, many suggestions are offered on how to avoid the conflict in the first place, thus avoiding having to discipline. I can't disagree with that! But sometimes conflict IS unavoidable, and we need to pull our parental heads out of the sand and realize that.

One particular piece of the book said that children do not whine and cry and throw temper tantrums to get back at you or manipulate you, they do it because they're being children.
To that I say that some studies suggest that children start developing the knowledge between right and wrong, the lines between acceptable & unacceptable behavior at around 3 years old.
After that? Yeah, I'd have to say manipulation IS definitely a factor. If your kid is 7 or 8 and still tantruming and you're STILL giving in just to shut them up--wake up Mom & Dad, they've got you pegged.

Around my house we ALWAYS say "I love you", even when we're angry with one another. I always thank my daughter and tell her how much I appreciate her help, and I truly mean it and she knows that. Her twin brother is severely disabled and she is a GREAT help to me. I try not to burden her with too much responsibility regarding her brother, but she takes it upon herself and what's more, seems to enjoy helping.
She's already got a good work ethic. She is aware of the value of trust. She's giving and affectionate.
She also argues if she thinks she's right, and can be stubborn about it. At least I know where THAT part comes from.

Kids need structure, they need boundaries, and they need for their parents to patrol those boundaries endlessly. They need you to follow through on the things you say, whether it's "We'll go to the park tomorrow" or "If you do that one more time I will (fill in the blank)".
Otherwise, you're not doing yourself OR your kid any favors.

Be a parent. Your kids have enough friends.
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