Saturday, February 28, 2009

Discipling our Children

For some reason, I'm not able to post photos tonight. So, I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about a parenting. Today I took part in a survey for the US Department of Health. Most of the questions were generic.

In fact, there was only one question I thought was interesting; that was, do we feel that it is our responsibility to teach our children, or do we think that children learn best on their own through experiences.

It was another easy question, but one I feel very strongly about. Thomas and I both think that our number one responsibility to our children is to provide instruction in everything. In fact, to discipline a child is to instruct them through modeling, motivating and teaching desirable behaviors. Today, most people think discipline means to punish. But historically, it meant to instruct and improve.

Here is how Webster's Dictionary in 1828 defined the word discipline: " To instruct or educate; to inform the mind; to prepare by instructing in correct principles and habits; as, to discipline youth for a profession, or for future usefulness."

Is that what you think of when you hear the word "discipline." I know this is not the way I would have defined the word before we were foster parents.

There is so much to good parenting, and we have so much to learn still. But I feel that we got a good start through our foster care training. To become licensed we had 6 hours of behavior management. And this fall, I took another 15 hours class on behavior management because I thought I needed it.

In every moment of the day, we try to take the opportunity to find learning moments for our children. Moments that we can use to instruct them. For instance, Petra likes to hang around me while I'm trying to prepare dinner each night. This can be quite annoying and time consuming to have a toddler whining under your feet. Each night, I try to find something for her to help with or for her to do while I am busy. Some nights I give her items to put on the table to help me. Last night, I turned dinner prep into a counting game. We had beef stir fry. Everything I did, we counted together. So when I cut the green and red peppers, we counted to 10. And when I pounded on the beef we counted. She learned from the experience. I know this because she counted from 5-10 by herself last night.

Positive parenting requires a lot of work. It takes time and effort. It takes keeping your cool and avoiding junk behavior. It takes patience. And it takes constantly reminding yourself not to use coercive behavior with your children. Or at least it does for me.

I am thrilled that the experts have come up with a list of coercive behaviors we should all avoid. Avoiding coercion is critical to maintaining a healthy relationship with anyone, but especially with your children. That is because trying to change inappropriate behavior through negative interactions causes a person to avoid, get even, and escape. It also often produces guilt, humiliation, fear, discomfort, or other negative feelings.

The experts have identified the behaviors we need to avoid. Each day I run the list through my head, and sometimes I catch myself in the midst of one. We each have our own bad habits, the trick is to identify them and change our behavior first. Here are the 12 common coercives I was taught to avoid.

1. Questioning - especially any question that starts with "why"
2. Arguing
3. Sarcasm and teasing
4. Force, verbal or physical
5. Threats
6. Criticism - be especially careful not to mix criticism with praise
7. Despair (includes pleading and helplessness...always the victim)
8. Logic (logic can be used with your children, just not during an inappropriate behavior)
9. Telling on them to others (don't let your children overhear you talking about what they did)
10. Taking away privileges, items and allowance (what, you ask? well, children do earn privileges ... basically the child should know what they will or will not earn ahead of time, this shouldn't be an immediate response that the child never had warning of)
11. One-up-manships (Ever heard the phrase, " you think you have it hard..."
12. Silent treatment

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