Originally Posted by johub
Announcing how we plan to punish children ("Remember, if you do x then I'll do y to you") may salve our conscience because we gave them fair warning, but all we've really done is threaten them. We've told them in advance exactly how we'll make them suffer if they fail to obey. This communicates a message of distrust ("I don't think you'll do the right thing without fear of punishment"), leads kids to think of themselves as complying for extrinsic reasons, and emphasizes their powerlessness
I am a fan of a lot of what Alfie Kohn has to say, but I do not really think his perception of what it means to be a child in this situation is the only way.
For example to tell a child that if they contiinue to do X, Y is going to happen, it gives the child a choice. "You can choose to control yourself, but if you dont I am going to have to help you."
I really dont believe in parenting on the couch with threats, which is what I think he is implying. The above statement is reminiscent of "Dont make me turn this car around. . ."
However, knowing consequences doesnt in my opinion emphasize the childs powerlessness. It reminds the child that they are powerful enough to choose their own future. It is empowering to be able to predict the consequences of their actions with accuracy.
I think that a child is more likely to feel insecure when he does not feel capable of controlling his own actions and there is nobody there to be his safety net and help him stop himself.
In fact I will go so far as to say I have actually seen my daughter practically BEG for punishment. Growing up is very hard to do. At about the time she was turning 13 I was giving her a lot of freedom and benefit of the doubt. I am afraid it was more freedom that she was prepared to handle. She ended up getting in big trouble, and you can hardly imagine the relief on her face when I told her she was grounded. Acting out was her way of begging me to show her that she was not expected to be 100% responsible for herself yet and that I was still there to guide her. Would you believe she was happier during the time she was grounded than she had been in the preceeding weeks when she was constantly pulled in different directions by friends and different influences?
I also do not punish my oldest for your run of the mill stuff. But I would not leave punishment out of my parenting toolkit entirely.
I'm way over my head in this conversation because I simply have not read the books being talked about and I don't consider what I do GD. I have a 3.5 year old who is beautiful and bright and witty.. but very defiant. She's started to become very aggressive in seeing how much control she has and has been refusing to do what is expected over her. No amount of "showing disapproval" makes any difference to her. She is very much in her own world and mommy and daddy's approval are nowhere near as important to her now as it was a year ago. I've found myself getting louder and louder and she spends far too much time in "time out" . Both of which are totally ineffective. We are good enough parents to realize that some of her behavior is due to OUR behavior.. my yelling and my husbands giving "orders" (get in your seat NOW, put that in the trash NOW") So we're taking a step back and trying to work on those things and find what works for our family. Once we've mastered that, we'll go onto other things. Everyone has to grow as a parent and trying to make too many changes at once is just too much. So many things make sense in theory, but totally flop in reality.
The posts by jphub seem to really make the most sense for us. I could see myself shooting for no dicipline (and falling short), but my husband just isn't that kind of person. He is a VERY gentle parent, but he 100% believes in limits and consequences etc.. and no amount of reading will change his mind. We've simply gotten off course with our goals and let our emotions get away with us and the habit of yelling and threatening etc... Like most parents I would assume.
I just wanted to say that johub's posts are really encouraging to me that there is a way to parent gently while still enforcing some limits. My daughter practically BEGS to know when to stop. If she knows there are consequences (such is life) besides my disapproval, she's much more likely to reason out her options and choose one that's good, not only for her, but for everyone around her. I want to provide for her some structure within which she can weigh her choices. She is too young to have limitless choices. If she is on the table with a broken leg and I ask her to get down because it's dangerous and she says no, I WILL remove her from the table myself. I don't care to bully my child, but I do care to let her know that her freedom to make certain choices is to be earned.. not just given.
I read a book one time .. love and logic I think. And there was a single point that makes SO much sense to me. The book talks a lot about giving choices. About a pyramid. That many parents tend to have a pyramid that is big on the bottom representing how many choices and the magnitude of the choices the child is able to make. So, as a newborn, the child gets to call all the shots. Then, the parent might see that the child isn't ready for so much responsibility, so they limit the choices and as the child gets older, the parent keeps limiting the number of decisions the child is able to make. So that once they are on their own, they are fairly clueless about how to make decisions.. their reasoning powers are limited. Instead, the books suggests that you shoot for more of an upsidedown pyramid. When they are infants, you decide what they eat, what they wear, where they play etc.. And as they get older, you give them small choices "would you like to wear your coat or carry it?" so they have a chance to learn how to reason, learn from small mistakes (instead of bigger ones later) and as they grow, the kinds of choices they are allowed to make increase so by the time they are away from home, they know how to make choices. Their reasoning skills are strong, and they've taken a few small knocks in order to learn and avoid more painful mistakes later. That's the one that that sticks with me. Some choices are NOT age appropriate. If my 3.5 year old chooses not to wash her hands after playing in the indoor playground, she could become very ill That's not a choice she should be allowed to make. It is for her safety. So, when she refuses to wash her hands, despite my explaining that it will help keep her healthy,and after giving her the choice between washing them with warm or cold water. I feel it is my DUTY as a parent to impose more than just a disapproving look or attitude. She isn't ready to fully grasp what being "sick" is and, it affects the ENTIRE family.. not just her. Since the natural consequences are not within her ability to comprehend, isn't it my job to make some consequences that she can understand? "wash your hands to remove the germs or we cannot eat our snack because our snack will get germs on it" and if she STILL refuses (which my daughter does quite often) then I have to choose something else. "wash your hands or I will wash your hands because I do not want you to get sick" Yup.. I do and plan to bully my child into washing her hands if need be. As she gets older and can comprehend better those consequences, that will be her decision to make. But not right now. I'm all for explaining and teaching and helping kids to reason, but I'm also for making decisions for my child when they are not yet capable of handling certain decisions.
Anyway.. that got long. I really just wanted to ask johub if she had any recommended reading for someone like me who wants to parent gently but still create boundaries. I would love to change the way I parent to reduce the conflict and open communications, but I'm not ready to totally forgo all dicipline. Dicipline is a fact of our society. If I get stopped for speading, the cop doesn't just give me a disapproving look and explain to me how he doesn't approve of what I've done. He does sometimes remind me that speeding can cause accidents and isn't safe. But in the end, the part that gets me to stop speeding is that I'm being punished to some degree. I have to pay a fine and get points on my license. I really want my children to understand that there ARE rules that MUST be followed because it's good for our society. There ARE rules that MUST be followed because it's good for our family. And while I KNOW some families are able to acheive this without dicipline, I also know that my family isn't one of them. So, any suggested reading that is on the gentler side of parenting without going no dicipline at all would be very much apprecaited.
VERY interesting thread!
Really opening my eyes.