Can I just start by saying that no-one really knows what they’re doing in this parenting gig. There is no hard and fast rule that works across the board for caring for, raising, and producing half decent human beings. Each little human has their own dynamic mix of gifts, character traits and idiosyncrasies that we learn to work with along with way.
There are also so many different ways to teach a child about life, and there are many opinions about what works in terms of discipline and what doesn’t. I can honestly say, all of it means nothing if you don’t first find out what type of personality your child has and what exactly you’re dealing with.
A new phase of parenting.
My eldest turned four last year October, and for a few months nothing really changed. Then somewhere into the first term this year he started getting, well, stroppy. He would throw the biggest tantrums you’ve ever seen. Flailing his arms and screaming at us. Demanding his way. There was no negotiating with him, and a hiding (our traditional method of discipline) wasn’t doing squat.
Every Tuesday, for a while now, I have a turn to help a friend lift her kids to creche and home again, so this means our morning routine is a little different and my eldest cannot seem to reconcile this. He throws a fit about not wanting to go with me to school (dad usually takes them on his way to work), then he screams and cries all the way to school and then simply refuses to get out the car, dodging me and screaming until the teacher has to come and help get him out the car.
It’s such a fabulously uplifting experience, I wish I could experience it every day, not.
Help is not far away.
This continued for about three weeks, until I just couldn’t handle it anymore and I asked his teacher if she thinks there’s something wrong with him. Did I miss something along the way that he is behaving this way? Am I bad parent?
No, she said calmly, he must just learn that he can’t have his way.
Wow, really?! So simple?
Now tell me, for the love of all things holy, how am I supposed to convince a “self motivated” kid that he can’t have his own way? Now I realise that genetics plays a heavy role here and I probably only have myself to blame (cause, you know, he’s just like me), but I honestly had no clue how to move forward.
She said, find out what kind of personality he has, work with it, not against it. Try a different approach, get a reward chart and set it up so that he has to adhere to certain family rules or there will be no reward at the end of the week or the month or whatever you determine to be the goal. She didn’t tell me off, or say what a bad parent I was, she simply told me the facts of kids and their characters and allowed me to see that if I don’t help my son establish good boundaries in his life now (the pruning years – before 6) then when he gets to 7 or 8 he will be much harder to deal with. Gulp.
Implementing a plan.
So I gave it a lot of thought.
I decided to make a reward chart, and when it arrives from the printers we will be discussing it with our eldest, he is at the age when you can reason. In the meantime we are much stricter with his behavior. He has to be kind to his brother, he has to listen and obey when we speak or ask something and he has to eat his food otherwise toys, T.V. and privileges get taken away for periods of time.
This works well.
We do still have tantrums, but his overall behavior and willingness to listen and obey instructions (tidy up your toys, eat your food, come inside, share with your brother) has improved markedly, and not one hiding in a week!
I am quite impressed with the improvement, but this last Tuesday was a bit of a blow out, he was rushed into the car, we were all late and he had a meltdown. He still needs plenty of warning for a change of pace/scenery/activity and we are still learning how to accommodate him without giving in to him, if that makes sense?
So in the end, I know that each child is different, my youngest is going to be different too, and that I think is the beauty of parenthood. We get the opportunity to help mold little lives into decent human beings so that they can go out and be agents of change in their fields one day. But I swear it’s a tough road and I’m grateful for mom’s around me who are also going through similar things and we can sit and laugh about our crazy kids and all the methods that work or don’t work for us!
I would love to hear some of your methods for discipline, please tell me in the comments.