Saturday, July 22, 2017

No, That Won't Work

I have had recent occasion to observe young people raising their children and disciplining them (or not). One sometimes sees articles from a positive perspective about how children should be raised. "Make sure they know that you love them."  "Take time to listen." "Instill in them a sense of wonder." My goodness, what rubbish that all is.

Being a negative and critical person, my responses are quite different. I watch young parents all the time, listening to what they say and thinking No, that won't work.  I am guessing that this group will have had some similar experiences. I am curious what things you notice and what advice you would like to pass on in the form of No, that won't work. Don't be afraid to point out the obvious. Apparently even bright, educated, responsible, kindly parents miss the obvious. I often did. In fact, try not to stray too far from the obvious.

I will start. Do not offer a reward to a child beyond their time-understanding, which is usually minutes rather than hours.  A promise of ice cream this afternoon if you will obey Mummy right now is meaningless to a young child. All they hear are the words ICE CREAM, which they then want, right this second, and screw you and your sitting still/finishing your carrots/lying down for a nap.  It may even be a stretch for a six-year old*, unless you are intentionally trying to - gradually - teach concepts of time or delayed gratification. Ditto for removing a reward.  Saying "You won't have any ice cream if you don't eat your veggieburger" is largely meaningless unless that ice cream  is pretty much coming out of the freezer and into view right now. At which point you either get some veggieburger action or a complete meltdown.

*Hell, it's a stretch for adults, lots of the time. I'm thinking I might go and get some ice cream, which I shouldn't have.


Grim said...
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Grim said...

Although it is true that it is more important to teach your child to think independently about problems than to teach that child submission to authority, you can only effectively teach the first lesson once you have taught the second -- at least where your own authority is concerned.

james said...

Yes. First things first. Learn to obey your parents. Memorize. When you have enough experience and wit, then you can figure out "what you love." Very very few of us show our talents at 4 as Mozart did.

I know there's an "unschooler" fashion, but I suspect there's more structure there than gets advertised--especially when the kids are very young.

"Authenticity" is another one of those popular touchstones that doesn't work. A toddler is authentic to his nature when he fills his diapers, but we tend to repress that in favor of something more suited to the nature of the adult he is supposed to become.

jaed said...

If you are making a rule, make it clear and put it in terms a child can understand. Rules, and punishment for breaking them, are worse than useless if they're ambiguous or if there are "Oh, and I meant to include that..." additions after the fact. The child will either learn that rules are meaningless excuses for an angry parent to hurt him, or how to game the rules, and both are very bad indeed. If you forgot to mention something, and the child did it, and there is a case that he genuinely did not understand that it was against the rule, then clarify or add as needed and move on.

Related: do not impose rules that your child is not yet capable of obeying. Small children have little self-control, and a parent needs to take this into account in order to help a child develop the capacity. It's unfair as well as pointless to punish a child for failing a test he should not have been set.

Related^2: rules—including implicit ones—should be based on things the child can control. A rule about doing math homework every afternoon for an hour is fine, but not one about getting at least a B in math.

Related^3: model what you want to see. For instance, if you have the emotional self-control of a toddler and frequently explode at your child, the child is not likely to learn emotional moderation. At least not from you. Explosions followed by apologies and hugs and tears and presents are...

... actually, come to think of it, that might be worse than just the explosions.

Children are little sociopaths in some ways. Consistency is critical. Clear, specific rules (that the child is capable of following). Consequences for breaking those rules that are specific, known ahead of time, and preferably bear some relationship (that the child is capable of understanding) to the broken rule.

Also, those consequences should not include parental pouting, complaining, or emotional blackmail. I've seen parents tell their kids that their rule-breaking or other behavior "is making me and Mommy not like each other any more", and similar.

Grim said...

I always preferred push-ups as a punishment to be imposed. That way there's a physical benefit as well as the disciplinary one.

Donna B. said...

I try my best not to interfere with the raising of my grandchildren. I mean, what would that say about me if I didn't trust my raising of my offspring enough to let them raise their own?

I've given only one piece of advice -- and that is to be careful not to let consequences and punishments escalate to the point that it's merely a battle of wills and therefore more punishment to the parents rather than the child. I learned this the hard way. Several times, because apparently I'm really slow.