20 March 2010

on discipline

e is pushing 8 months. i realise that she is still young; she is still a baby. But the amount of knowledge she already has is astounding. and her little brain is soaking up more on a daily basis. along with things like crawling, walking, colours, words and other early basics, i also want e to understand discipline. that can be a tricky word because most people associate discipline with punishment. to me they are two completely different things. granted they work in harmony with one another, but at the root, they are different things. a punishment is something that happens to you when you do something you are not suppose to. discipline is training. discipline is teaching; it is heart and head knowledge. it is not only knowing right from wrong, but making the choice on which behaviour is the correct one given the circumstance. and i want e to have discipline in all areas of her life.

i never really baby sat growing up, but somehow i seemed to be around kids a lot. i was a camp counselor, my brother has two kids, i taught preschool/kindergarten for a year and friends have had loads of babies over the years. seeing a variety of parenting sytles, i saw things that i liked and disliked. and i began to form an opinion on what i did not want to do as a mother. i knew that i did not want to be the type of parent that bribed her kids with candy or toys to obey. i didnt want to be the mother that ignored wrong behaviour until it reached a really obvious point and then just yelled. i didnt want to threaten and i didnt want to just allow any kind of behavior.

now that i am parent, i still feel the same way. all the aforementioned things are still things that i do not want to do. but now i need to decide not just what i dont want to do, but what i DO want to do. i do want to be the mother that talks to her child, the one that explains not just what is right and wrong, but why it is right and wrong.

i want e to really understand that things i tell her are not just coming from me, but that they are based in scripture. i want her to understand that we have 'right' and 'wrong' because of jesus. Jesus, through the words of the Bible, teaches us how we should behave in all circumstances. I believe it is my duty as a parent to pass on biblical teaching, biblical discipline. "train a child in the way he should go and even when he is older he will not stray from it" Proverbs 22:6

and now is the time to start.

i dont want to be the strict parent that doenst let their kids do anything. but i do feel like kids need boundries. my personality tends to be laid back. and my views on a lot of things tend to be more on the liberal rather than the conservative side. i know that ele will have a wide range of freedom in terms of what rhys and i will allow her to do, but on the flip side of that i will expect obedience. if e knows from an early age what is right and wrong and what is allowed and what is not, then it will be easier for her to obey in any given situation. It has always baffeled me when parents do not set standards on behavior and then get frustrated when their kids act out. make rules and follow up on what happens if those rules are broken. empty threats and yelling, to me, are not the way to gain respect, trust and in turn, obedience.

so why am i thinking about this when my daughter is 8 months old? because e is already learning right from wrong. she understands the word no and stops doing whatever she is doing when i say it. she smiles and gets excited when we tell her good job and she sneaks glaces at us when she is pushing the limits. she knows what she is doing. even at 8 months, she knows. and because she is learning more and more daily, i really feel that now is the time to start teaching her discipline. now is the time to start explaining to her why i say and do the things i say and do. becasue one day, in the not so distant future, she will understand every single word i am saying. and when that day comes, i want to be in the habit of not jsut telling her "yes" or "no" but explaining the meaning and reasons behind those words. i am a firm believer in the idea that if you understand the reasoning behind something then you are more apt to follow/listen/believe. it works with adults so why wouldnt it work with a child?

what brought this on today you ask? i was on the tube coming back home from fun day out in the city and e decided she just wanted to scream. for no reason. just a very loud scream. i looked at her and in a normal voice, i shook my head and said "oh no eleri, we dont scream. we use our normal voice when we are inside." and then we continued playing. a few minutes later she did it again. and i said the same thing. then a few minutes later, she did a half a scream, and then looked at me and smiled. i shook my head, said no and she giggled again and open her mouth like she was going to scream. but she didnt. and she didnt do it again. i am not saying that she understood everything perfectly. and i am not saying that if the exact same situation happened tomorrow the same result would occur. but the fact that she stopped and changed her behavior shows me that, without a doubt, she understands. and that is not an isolated incident. She stops and looks when we tell her no or yes on a regular basis. again, i am not saying she understands perfectly. but she does understand.

apparently not everyone else does. there was an older woman on the train who was watching the whole thing. about five minutes after the scene played out, she turned to me and said "for goodness sake, she is just a baby! let her be a baby and find her voice. dont tell her no" i just smiled and got off on the next stop. what i wanted to say was, "first of all, crazy woman, i did not ask for your parenting advice. secondly, would you want me to 'let her find her voice' if she was 1 and screaming? or two? or 3? NO. so why would i let her do it now if later on i will expect different behavior. and thirdly, again, i did not ask for your help in raising my child" i dont mean to sound bitter but i will never understand why people feel they have the right to offer thier opinions. i was not yelling at e. i did not raise my voice or hand to her. i simply spoke to her in a normal voice and explained what behavior i expected from her. is that werid? i didnt think so.

But it is important to me to not send mixed signals to ele. If i dont want her to pull hair, scream, throw things (or throw a tantrum) bite, hit, or any other behaviour that is often jsut laughed off as "baby-ness" when she is older, than why would i allow that behavior now? granted the way i talk to her and the way negative behavior is handeled now verses a year from now will be vastly different. but its still important to teach discipline from an early age.

and that is why, at 8 months, i am teaching e about discipline. fellow parents...what are your thoughts?


Devi said...

This is amazing - I learned so much from reading this, Kristina.. I love your thoughts, the stories here and your values communicated in your actions.. Baby E is a blessed girl to have you as her mom..

P.S. As per my usual comment - you've got to write a book.. about anything.. absolutely anything.. it would be amazing.

Katie said...

My thoughts are, eight months is the perfect age to start. Great job, Kristina!