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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Trying to Teach My Children Not to Count

Why do we count? 1-2-3-4-5....
I've even, to mix things up a bit, gotten so I count backward...10-9-8.... You get the idea.
And then there's the "Next time you do that,..." you know, there's gonna be heck to pay. Or some such, and really, how many times do you threaten that before they actually stop doing whatever annoying or awful thing they're doing? Or how many times do they do that thing before you just give up, let them win, and stop threatening?
I think I've even gotten so I pretend something didn't happen just so I could sit on my lazy derriere and not have to do something about it.

I write this post as a mother who has gotten old and lazy. For any who have wondered, yes, this is what's happened to my children. They have a mother who counts and avoids. I even give...don't be shocked...second chances. EEK!!!  I know, run for cover!

With one child it was EASY! I was younger then and full of energy. I would see her do something that was not okay, and I'd jump up and handle it--time out, logical consequences.....Whatever seemed prudent at the time.
Yes, with one child, I was spot on a good part of the time.
People would say, "You have to choose your battles," but of course, in my mind, I already had, and I was on top of all of them.
I don't mean to sound cocky here, but I ROCKED as a mom to one. At least, I did to my one. She and I were in sync. We understood one another, and we got along swimmingly. We still do.
Then what happened?....

When #2 came along, it became a little trickier, so I tried to find distractions for #1 while I was nursing #2 or changing #2's diaper. I did a lot of trouble shooting trying to anticipate just how she would respond in certain situations. That's how these ideas came to be. As each new child came along, I wanted to avoid misbehavior by the older children while I was interacting with and attempting to meet the needs of the youngest. It takes a lot of understanding of what makes each child tick to pull this off successfully. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes, I failed.

I found that there were many, many instances in which I couldn't just jump up and administer my usual logical consequence for a behavior. I started losing too many of the battles. Then, over time, I just decided that, yes, people were right, I DID need to choose my battles wisely. I was greatly outnumbered, and each child had a different personality and needed to be parented in his/her own way. What worked for one did not work for all. Again...running for cover!

I learned from Jim Fay years and years ago, that children are not to have second chances. You watch them screw up the first time, you get involved and straighten it out the first time. You don't warn. You don't threaten. You simply take Johnny by the hand and give him a logical consequence or redirect the behavior--teach the appropriate way something should be done. I would even go so far as to say that Jim Fay's way is not full of words, it's full of action. You don't lecture, you teach what to DO.  Even after a time out, you don't rehash what's gone wrong. You see the time out through to the end, let the child up, give him/her a kiss and a hug (they are forgiven) and they're off and running again--nothing said. If the same behavior is done again, the same reaction occurs.

Some of my children learned very quickly. #1 was a VERY fast learner. She would make a mistake only once. Others learn slower. I am convinced that this is the case because of how consistent I've been in my discipline.

Here's an example....One of the rules in our house is that you are only allowed to play in the backyard. It doesn't take much for a child to wander around to the front yard, but it is forbidden. When a child is found out on the front sidewalk, the logical consequence is that that's the end of their play time outside. They are confined to the house from that point on.

Another example....If a younger child is napping and an older child does something to wake the napper, the waker quickly becomes the napper. At our house, we call it "finishing the nap."

As you can see with either of these, it would be so much easier to just let them go and let the child return to whatever he/she was doing. I often think of discipline like teaching a child language. If I were to see the color red and every time I saw it, I called it something different (crimson, scarlet, etc.), would the child ever really know that it was really called red? I have to be consistent when I teach language. I also need to be consistent when I teach discipline. The more consistent, the faster they learn appropriate behavior, and the fewer mistakes they make.

Maybe you can see why I've become a counter after reading all of this. Numerous times, I have told a child that if found him/her out front he/she will be staying in for the day, only to turn around, while dealing with another child, to have that one sneak back out. Ugh! This just leads to further logical consequences. It's VERY tricky.

I have to say that even though I've gotten lazy, I TOTALLY believe in this one chance rule. It leaves nothing to the child's imagination. The child knows he/she can trust the parent to do what he/she says he/she's going to. It leaves little room for the child to test the parent. Most importantly, it nips bad behavior in the bud early on.

As you noticed from this previous post, we decided that the time has come to return to the one chance rule at our house. Jim Fay would propose that you not choose to make the logical consequence something that punishes you as well, but to be honest, that's difficult to do. The great thing is there are many ways to turn the logical consequence into a win for yourself. I speak of the "energy drain"--a payback that will become the topic of a future post.

So, maybe my children won't know how to count forward and backward adeptly by the time they hit two and half because I've modeled it for them daily, but they will know to play safely out back, to ride in the car and not be "gross," and to not wake the sleeping baby. I also believe that when they get into school, I would much rather have them be able to know how to behave.

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