Friday, June 10, 2011

A Funny. And Then, A Serious.

My sweet daughter is very funny. 

Just a little while ago, she came up to me with something in her hand and said:

"Hey Mom! Next time you are mad about something and trying not to yell, here's a book you can read so you'll know what to say."

And handed me How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Evidently, she's been browsing our bookshelves and was inspired!

Note: I haven't lost my temper in a very long time, so it's not like she was trying to make a point or anything (and she's too young--and sweet--for the snark factor). She knows that this is something I struggle with, because we've talked about it. And she wanted to help.

I thought that was pretty funny. And awesome. And we talked about how that was one of my favorite parenting books.

Incidentally, I've been asked a few times if I let my kids read the parenting books I read and the blog posts I write. The answer to this is a resounding "YES!" 

I'm not trying to hide my "tricks" from them. I don't have tricks. The (better, non-yelling) methods of communication I use are ones I want them to learn because they are great for humans of all ages, in my opinion. The limits I set and enforce are as plain and clear as I can possibly make them because I think they are based on rational guidelines (respecting individual rights and taking care of themselves). I want them to learn what rational limits are and eventually learn how to self-discipline: to limit themselves when necessary and enforce that limit, too. 

One day, he needs my help holding his hands still so he doesn't hit somebody else. Another day, he stops his hand all by himself and uses words to handle his problem. 

One day, she needs me to remind her to watch carefully for cars in a parking lot. Another day, she is alert and watchful all by herself. 

One day, he needs me to help him practice how to make a suggestion in a kind way instead of barking an order. Another day, he speaks kindly and manages his own negotiation.

Sometimes I think parents view discipline strategies and principles as secrets, or tricks up their sleeves, something to be sneaky about. Perhaps because they view discipline as mainly a set of manipulative actions or words to make the child behave in the moment. To control the child through physical means, or emotionally, too. Make them do what is necessary. And if that's the purpose of discipline, then maybe you want to keep a few tricks up your sleeves. Never let your opponent know just how much firepower you have, right?

I have no problem showing the kids all of my "weapons" and sharing with them my tactics and strategies and reasons and principles. Everything is out there, nothing is hidden. When I enforce a limit, I tell them exactly what I am doing and why.

With everything out there, visible and plain, I can't manipulate them into good behavior. I can't hide behind an excuse of I'm the Parent; You're the Kid. I don't need to wonder what I'll do if (when) they discover my weapons.

But that's okay. Because these weapons are actually the very things I use all the time in my adult relationships, and I happen to think rationally selfish rights-based self-discipline and good communication/problem-solving skills are pretty good tools to have at your disposal no matter how old you happen to be. 

So I hope my kids read all of the parenting books on the shelves. I hope they read them and think about them and question me about them and challenge me about the ideas. I hope they notice when I am not living up to my standards and goals and call me on it. I hope they notice when they are not living up to the same ideals and call themselves on it.

I'm really eagerly anticipating all of the discussions that are to come about parenting strategies and choices. In fact, today's incident with Morgan and the book is an example about how this conversation has already begun.

So no, nothing to hide here.

1 comment:

Roberto Sarrionandia said...

I find it funny, and sad, when kids discover their parents "tricks" - and so the parent needs to do some reverse psychology to double bluff the kid into thinking he is rebelling against the tricks! Talk about raw pragmatism!

I'm not sure what's worse: blind authority, or blind rebellion. The horrible truth about this common dichotomy is, of course, that they are both sides of the same second-hander's coin.