Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Few Simple Rules~ Part one

This post is a long time coming. I promised it back in.....ummmmm.....March. I have meant well, but these posts take more time than I usually allow myself to blog these days. I have been hiding behind the simplicity of posting photos instead. I have found lots of reasons to put off sitting down, and diving deep into the subject of taking the emotion out of discipline. It isn't that I don't have plenty of passion for this subject, because I most certainly do. I just find it particularly daunting to write a post I care so much about, when I don't have a lot of time to give it. I have a little problem with committing the amount of time I think something deserves.

So here we are......one paragraph into this important post, and I haven't said a darn thing. Was this worth the wait or what? tee hee I bet you are wondering if you need a potty break before this thing really gets going or not. To be honest....I don't know yet. I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, so we'll just have to be surprised together.

This is my third....or is it forth....post detailing my parenting style. We've asked ourselves
WHY, started LISTENING to our bodies, and tuned ourselves in to our NEEDS, and EMOTIONS. Now it is time to figure out how we might work on checking our emotions at the door of discipline, and start entering the room of consistency.

Understanding and acknowledging that we, both parents and children, are extremely emotional beings, is a wonderful first step in the process of parenting. It is ludicrous to expect any of us to remain emotionless in our day to day life. Have you ever noticed that in many environments we expect others to hold back all emotions that are deemed unpleasant? Anything other than happiness, contentment, or satisfaction is just plain unacceptable. I find this especially true of expectations placed on children. If a child is expressing any emotion other than the ones that fall in the "happy go lucky" range....they are simply being difficult. Think about it....in most situations are young children encouraged to be sad? mad? frustrated? overwhelmed? agitated? fearful? Jealous? Anxious? Greedy? Disappointed? What do you think? Any of those sound like something we encourage in children? Ummmmm no!

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for teaching young children to strive to BE in those emotional states....I am just pointing out that these are common emotions that humans naturally feel, and we should expect that not only ourselves, but our children will at some time be experiencing them, and THAT is okay. It is learning how to properly handle these emotions that should be encouraged. It is my belief that if the parent is unable to effectively, and acceptably handle their own emotions, it is nearly impossible to expect their child to master this skill as well. Children are little sponges. They are absorbing everything you are offering, and if you are serving up a big old plate of "out of control", well then you better believe they will be digesting it.

We all know that keeping our emotions under control can be difficult day in and day out. We are tired.....and grumpy.....and overwhelmed. If we have to say, "because I said so!" one more time we might just explode. Keeping this in mind, I have discovered that laying a foundation for discipline that isn't based on emotion or mood is the best defense....or actually.....a really good offense. The best foundation to build on, in my opinion, is consistency, and consistency only works in an emotional setting if the parent is clear about the rules.

Have you ever noticed that on days when you are feeling GREAT.....the kids seem to do no wrong? Of course there are some problems sprinkled throughout the day, but on a whole, there is fun....and laughs.....and good times had by all. On the other hand, the morning you wake up feeling like you've been hit by a Mack Truck, nothing seems to go right. You spend the majority of the day breaking up fights, cleaning up messes, and wanting to scream. Some might ask....was it YOUR mood that set the tone for the day, or was it the day that set your mood? The Chicken or the Egg....the egg or the chicken???? I don't know about you, but I think it can easily go either way.

Today I'd like to focus on the effects of letting YOUR mood drive your discipline choices. This post has been mulling around in my mind for months....and months. I have a friend who often vents to me about her struggles as a parent. We talk a lot about the fact that her discipline style relies heavily on her mood. One day, it is perfectly acceptable for her child to jump on the couch. Mommy is in a great mood, the sun is shining, and the couch is ultra bouncy. The next day....Mommy has a headache, it is raining, no one got a nap, and so help me if you even think about jumping on the couch I am going unleash on you. Sound familiar? I call this style of parenting, "emotionally driven discipline." In this particular house, there are no set rules, at least none that the children are aware of, and it all depends on the mood of the parent as to what is or is not okay today. It is a hard thing to admit, but I think many of us have this form of discipline in our house to some extent. You know.....like when you child obviously just did something wrong, but you are too tired to deal with it, so you let it slide....just this one time. Or when, you are so darn frustrated, and angry that you yell at your child for simply asking, "why?", when you told them to pick up their jacket. It happens. It isn't easy keeping our emotions in check, especially when things are going wrong. Consistency often takes a back seat to exhaustion. Sometimes we just can't imagine dealing with discipline at all.

My mission is to figure out a way to take as much emotion out of the discipline as possible BEFORE an incident occurs. This is where RULES come into the picture. In my opinion rules are a necessary element in the parental tool box. Living in a house without rules can be extremely difficult,and in many cases the root of a lot of problems. I once told my friend to imagine driving through a town where all the stoplights and signs were completely different than the previous one. There was no universal traffic light system, and you had to carefully read each sign as you approached to decide if you could safely proceed. One minute green meant go...the next it meant stop. Sometimes the sign was round, and sometimes it was in the shape of a triangle. You simply had no way of knowing what any of it meant. Imagine how frustrating, or scary that would be, and how often you would be WRONG. You'd go when you shouldn't have, or stop when you were meant to go. It would be completely and utterly inefficient. Now think about how this might relate to a child living in a home with out consistent rules. They proceed through their day trying to READ the signs, but they really aren't sure when to GO or when to STOP! Imagine how often they might be WRONG, and how frustrating, or scary it might be to even proceed at all not knowing what might happen. You tell me.....Is today a jumping on the couch day or not?

When adults make, and stick to rules that are clear, simple to understand, and predictable, children feel safe and secure. Even though children might act like they want to be in charge, they really need the adults in their lives to be consistently in charge. It is the child's job to test those boundaries, and the adults job to create them, and stick with it. When rules work, you help your child feel safe, loved, and successful. You give them the base knowledge they need to safely navigate their day. In my opinion....that is a gift. The gift of knowing what to expect. The gift of knowing that it isn't about whether you are in a good mood today or NOT. It is simply about the rules. It is the rules....the family rules.

Okay folks....it appears....that I have been extremely wordy...yet again, and I have A LOT more to say on the subject, so this will have to be a two part post. Please stay tuned early next week for a further look into the importance of rules; how to make them, and how to use them effectively. Please know that these discussions are not only meant to outline my own parenting style here on my blog, but to foster some good thought, conversation and questions among any of the readers. I am in no way an expert, and what you have, and hopefully will, read are my opinions only, and I greatly respect the opinions of others. Thank you for allowing me this wonderful opportunity to share a piece of me. If at any point you have a question, or would like me to further explain something I have mentioned, please feel free to leave it in a comment or email me directly. I'd love to hear from you.

15 Live It or Love It:

CMB said...

Wow - you have opened up my eyes. I am so 'that parent'. Poor David. We really need to work on setting rules. When David was born, we treated him like one of us. Now that he is almost 5 (June 11) I can see how we failed when doing that. No bed time. No bed time routine. No morning routine. NOTHING. I am doing much better with Ava. I blamed everything on being a working mom, but I could have done so much better. We told him that kindergarten is much more serious than pre-school and that they require the students to go to bed by 8 and sleep in their own beds all night. I am trying to lay down more rules - wish us luck.
Thanks for your post. It truly hit home.

Jules said...

Oh yes, I see a lot of what you have written reflected in our daily life. I can especially relate to letting things slide "just this one time".

I look forward to hearing more!

Jo Beaufoix said...

I definitely do a little of the emotional stuff. You're so right about how rules help us to navigate life. That was a brilliant analogy and I will bear it in mind. Thanks Corey.

AnnD said...

Um you SHOULD be an expert. Beautifully written...I went into parenting thinking that I wouldn't be one of those emotionally driven parents...but there are days that exhaustion takes over the consistency of it. I figure that is allowed once and awhile. If you like to read, you might like "Peoplemaking" by Virginia Satir. I have never understood why people say: "You/I shouldn't feel like this." I always tell my clients: "Feelings just happen to you. They are like a sneeze or an itch. It's what you do after the feelings happen that matters. Yeah, you may not want to feel angry or scared but that's what has happened. Now you can either react with no thought or can sit and ask yourself: "Why is this scary or why is this making me so angry?" You should be a therapist.

holly said...

yeah - this makes A LOT of sense.

but, i do like to keep my children on their toes. it builds character. that's what i'm telling them....

take for example today. today it was okay to shout very loud in the car and make belching noises.

tomorrow? okay that was a bad example. it's always okay to make belching noises in my car.

fairytalesandmargaritas said...

This is where my husband and I are completely different. I preach consistency and rules, but husband flies by the seat of his pants and his mood. We have many, many discussions about this. It's like the kids don't know how to act around him bc they are never sure what will set him off. But, they behave BETTER for him bc they have that fear! So, who knows!

we are reilly said...

I need a little more time to read the entire post....but, I can tell I already agree with you! Setting limits and rules are the easy part, sticking with them and following through is always the hardest -- at least for me! But, I know if I've set the rule, I must follow through......otherwise, my child can't trust me at my word.

Christina said...

Wow. I just read this, and all your previous posts on how to approach parenting. I am truly inspired, and grateful for your insiteful words.

Meghan said...

Wow... what a great post. You seriously need to write a parenting book, Corey.

Autumn said...

I have such a hard time keeping my emotions out of discipline. Especially at certain times of the month. UGH! I really need to work on it. Your analogy of driving through a town with different lights was perfect. Even though I know and agree with all of the things you've said in this post. I have a hard time being as consistent as I should be. Sigh..
This was really well written Corey. Good job! :)

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

Yep, I can relate to this one. For my hubby as much as myself - he is totally emotion driven when it comes to parenting and discipline. Like so many other things, it's a sticking point between us - because of course, when he's frustrated and upset is the time that he needs to calm down, but is least likely to respond well to a suggestion that he calm down.

We have consistent rules (I think), but need to get better about having consistent consequences for when the rules are broken. I do like being able to blame the rule and make it the 'bad guy' instead of me. "I'm sorry that you can't do x, y or z right now but that's the rule!"

I've had to punish Hannah for the past 3 days in a row for various rule-breaking - things she should know better about, but has done anyway. So now I'm wondering if there's something else going on with her, or if it's time to revisit/rethink the rules and see if we need to do a better job at communicating them. Even when discipline is emotion-free and appropriate, it's still hard to dish out sometimes.

Love this post - just as the others you've done. I'm eagerly awaiting the next one! :)

Mama Zen said...

I couldn't agree with you more!

Can't wait for the next post!

Cara said...

I loved this post, I am mom of two very young kids and struggle daily with discplining a toddler. This post also sparked a conversation b/w my husband and I about making rules. I love the analogy of the street signs.
P.S. jumping on the couch is always ok with me.

Michelle said...

Thanks for this post! I know I need to be better about not letting emotions get in the way. Kayla is in a "no" stage right now - when we ask/tell her to do something we get "no"...it's frustrating!

Arizaphale said...

I got here through Christina and thoroughly enjoyed this post. In a way this goes to the subject of my own blog which is 'assertive parenting'. Rules, consistency and not being afraid to say 'NO' are the recipe for a secure, well adjusted child. That and a good dose of love and the ability to admit and explain mistakes. "I am sorry I yelled. I am really tired today and that makes me cranky." I believe it is important to teach children 'emotional literacy'(the ability to talk about feelings) by modelling it to them. Thanks again.

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