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Thursday, February 21, 2008

N....Is For Naughty or NICE?

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance. ~Franklin P. Jones

Recently I have run across several discussions on Toddler Tantrums. Lis Garrett posted a lovely article on her blog, that really got me thinking about this subject. Then The Nap Warden reached out for advice. Reading comments on such posts intrigues me. I am forever amazed at the vast difference in parenting there is out there. The different techniques out there opens my eyes and gives me a chance to reflect on my own parenting style and try to articulate why I do the things I do.

One of my favorite questions for other parents is "WHY?" Yeah, I isn't like they never hear that question from their children. However, I enjoy challenging people to articulate WHY they are parenting the way they are parenting. Often, I find, that parents stumble around at a loss for explaining their line of thinking. I am not saying that folks aren't thinking when they are parenting. I am saying that often we just don't know WHY we are doing things they way we are. Maybe it is just how they have seen it done....or how they were parented. Maybe they are just trying out things they have read about. Possibly they are just going with their gut. Any is always advisable to take a step back, and really think about WHY. In this....we must truely analyze who we are, and who we want to be.

I'd like to share one of the most inspirational quotes I have read in a long...long time.

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today. ~Stacia Tauscher

WOW! Read it again.

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today. ~Stacia Tauscher

Oh my yes.....that says so much. It touches my heart. I see the relevance of it in our world. As non-judgmental as I TRY to be, I often fall short when I see children being treated without empathy. Young children are just like you and me. Their body runs the full range of emotions. Each day they may feel happy one minute, and extremely discouraged the next. We are not born knowing how to express emotion. It is through interacting with adults that children learn how to identify emotion, and how to appropriately express those feelings.

As a parent, I find that when I consistently handle my daughter with the care all humans deserve, and empathize with her challenges, I come the closest to getting it right. I believe that most of our difficulties are based on the fact that she is a normal human being with the full gamut of emotion, and it is MY job to help her successfully deal with those emotions. It is MY job to take her by the hand and lead her in the right direction.

I parent by the golden rule. I treat Sugar as I would like to be treated. To achieve this, I have had to dig deep and identify my own feelings.

-I do NOT like to get in trouble for things I didn't even know was wrong. Children are not born knowing the rules. They must learn right from wrong from others. It is OUR job to successfully lead children in the right direction. I try to think of how I would feel if I entered a new job, and no one told me what I was supposed to do. I was just let loose on the job, and then suddenly without warning I was reprimanded for the things I did incorrectly. I try not to inflict such confusion on my child. I set clear boundaries, and steadily work at making sure she understands them. Most young children will not get it right away. It is through consistent follow thru on the parents part, that they begin to understand and follow the rules. It is my belief that the majority of the time, children WANT to do the right thing. They may have impulses and desires that are inappropriate, but that is due to their developmental age....NOT because they WANT to be bad.

-I do NOT like to be yelled at. In fact, when I am yelled at, I shut down. I can't not listen, or learn in this situation. I have fear, and anger. It is especially hurtful when someone I love and trust yells at me. Knowing this about myself, I apply it to my dealings with Sugar. 99% of the time I refrain from raising my voice. If safety is involved, I may shout out to get attention, but other than that, I use a normal tone of voice. I like being able to get down at her level and say, "Oh my....You are yelling. Remember....we don't yell. Mama doesn't yell at you....and you don't yell at me. Can you tell Mama in your normal voice?"

-I do NOT like to be physically hurt. I know this is touching on a really tough subject, but I am simply stating WHY I chose not to physically discipline MY child. I try to imagine what my world would be like if every time I made a mistake someone hit me. I don't care if they had warned me....or if it was unexpected, I would be so fearful. I am certain I would NOT work in a job where the boss had the right to hit me every time I messed up. We can all agree that it isn't a healthy relationship if my partner has the right to hit me if I forget to take the garbage out. I am fairly certain that respect isn't garnered by physical punishment. Fear should not be mistaken for respect. I respect hundreds of people who never laid a hand on me. Knowing this about myself, I practice a "hands off" parenting style, even when safety is involved. I am ever mindful of the message I am sending my child. I believe ALL humans have the right to be free of physical violence. (Please know, that I am respectful of other parenting choice, but it won't stop me from asking you WHY, and hoping that you can articulate your answer.)

-I do NOT like being completely without choice. Seriously....can you imagine having NO control of your life? I can not. I like having choices. I don't always have all the choices, but it is nice to have some. I parent keeping this in mind. I may not be able to let Sugar choose when bedtime is....but she certainly can decided which jammies she gets to wear. I make it a habit of offering her a choice as often as possible, so she has a greater sense of control. "Would you like to put your shoes or your coat on first before we go?" "Do you want the blue or the red cup?" "Do you want to brush your teeth or take a bath first?" "Which book would you like me to read?" The possibilities are endless. Then when something comes up, that just isn't a choice I say, "I can hear that you don't want to take a nap right now, but this is just not a choice. It is nap time. How about AFTER your nap, you can choose which game we are going to play?" I always try to offer a replacement choice.

-I do NOT like it when my feelings are disregarded. When I say, "I'm sad!", I certainly don't want to hear, "I don't care!" When I am frustrated, it doesn't help to be ignored. Often if someone can just empathize with helps. Keeping this in mind, I ALWAYS acknowledge Sugar's feelings. It is perfectly okay for her to be angry, frustrated, sad, happy, or excited. She just may not be expressing it appropriately. I acknowledge her feelings, let her know if the way she is expressing it is okay or not, and offer an alternative if needed. "Oh dear, Sugar...I can see you are very disappointed. You don't want to leave the park. It is okay to be sad about it, but remember we don't yell at each other. Maybe when we get to the car, you can snuggle your blanket for a bit. That might make you feel better." or "Sugar....I see that you are very angry at mommy. I am sorry that you can not watch another episode of Dora right now, but you can not hit. Remember we have a rule about NO hurting. Can you use your words and tell mama how you are feeling?" I believe it is okay for her to say, "I am mad at YOU!" as long as she isn't yelling it at me. I then say, "Yes, I can see you are mad. Sometimes we just get mad at each other, but that is okay. We still love each other. Maybe we can come up with something that will make you feel better." I do NOT give in. She does not get to do whatever it was that started the anger, but I am not opposed to helping her feel better. Don't we like others to try to make us feel better when we are upset? You'd be surprised how quickly some children feel better about things when they are sure you understand them.

On a whole, I practice the whole "reward good behavior and prevent misbehavior" technique. Most parents understand and practice the first part of that statement, but the last half is often misunderstood. I like to believe that I parent using a good Offense. I do my very best to stay in tuned to my child, and predict her feelings and moods. As Lis stated, when Sugar is tired, or hungry she is more likely to have a meltdown. Knowing this, I go into it prepared to prevent the tantrum. Instead of saying, "it is time for bath" when I know she is likely to get upset, I say, "Sugar! When we jump in the bath right now,do you want to play Ice Cream Shop or bubble beards first?" She is tricked into focusing on the exciting things she will get to play, and totally forgets that she really didn't feel like taking a bath in the first place. This technique sets the child up for success....and isn't that what it is all about?

Children are born, and placed into our arms. It is our mission to embrace them, honor them, respect them, teach them, and love them. It isn't easy, but they are counting on us to do the right thing. You decided what is right for you, and yours.

40 Live It or Love It:

Hanlie said...

Wow, I want to parent like you do! The one thing I am very serious about when I have children is being a good parent. I am bookmarking this page!

Thank you for sharing!

kat said...

Wow, I hope one day I will be a parent like you. I second everything you have mentioned in this post about parenting. Truly a great post.

Michele said...

It is a wonderful post and being a survivor of child abuse, you have touched upon some topics that truly are the foundations for raising our children properly today.
Excellent words, excellent advice.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I am going through a very tough stage right now with Hannah and Jacob (8,6) where all they do when they are together is verbally and physically fight. It's gotten to be so horrible that I'm suffering heart palpitations and migraines. On top of all that, I still have a toddler to deal with (and my contract work). It's really difficult for me to keep my patience these days, so much so that I have begun questioning our decision to have three children. YIKES! Our life would have been drastically different had we stopped with one. Of course, I am saying this at what has been one of the lowest points of my parenting career in the last eight years. I don't often feel this way, and I love all of my children very much. I recognize that we are in a tough spot, and I know we need help. I sent H&J with their grandparents for a few days, and I am making an appt for us to once again meet with a family counselor. I know that I can't afford to let things get out of control and resort to yelling or hitting. I was brought up in that type of household, and I don't think I've ever really forgiven my parents. I don't want my own children to resent me.

Thanks for the thoughtful post, Corey. This has come at just the right time.

Laura said...

Excellent post, Corey! I knew you and I parented very similarly, but it was great to see it written out the way you did, and a very helpful reminder of WHY I do it (or try my best to do it) this way. I could take some patience lessons from you, though, I'm sure!

Thanks for this!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic thoughts Corey! Thanks for this post.

Autumn said...

Wonderful post Corey. I agree with all of your points, I especially liked your reasons for not spanking. I will admit that as a parent I struggle to always follow these principles. When I need to get out the door and I have tried being mindful of Bugs feelings, tried to empathised with his desire to stay home only to still have him crying and upset, refusing to put his shoes on. My tempature rises and I raise my voice in exasperation.
How do you keep your level head? How do you always take a step back and remain calm and determined?
I do it 95% of the time but I struggle some days with my very sensitive and emotional child.

My Trendy Tykes said...

Great post!!

(love that quote up there too)


:) said...

Awesome. You changed my morning. I tracked back to your post in my post today.

Deb said...

Wow, you really articulated everything that I wish I could do. I do try, but there are times that I just can't. It's made more difficult too, when your spouse and you don't see eye-to-eye on discipline issues. I think I need to make him sit down and read your post! :)

Anonymous said...

I especially love that last little part about how you phrase questions with Sugar... It's all in how you ask, isn't it? : )

We do the same thing around our place and it works wonders. Our little stinkers are so into being contrary at the moment, that the current popular phrasing of questions goes something like... "Hmmm... You wouldn't be interested in spaghetti for dinner, would you? Nah... I don't know ANYONE around here who likes spaghetti!" Which inevitably results in...

"I DO TOO like spaghetti!!! I fink I want spaghetti for dinner, OKAY???" : )

Keep up the most excellent work, Corey!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and wanted to say thank you for this beautiful post. It is a great reminder of the kind of parent I strive to be. Your daughter is beautiful!

Jennifer said...

I think it's very easy to sit at your computer and type about your parenting style. No one is perfect and no one does it exactly right all of the time. I hope a new mom doesn't stumble across this post and feel inadequate. I am quite comfortable in my parenting style, eventhough it's not perfect and it sometimes doesn't follow what Corey posts.

Corey~living and loving said...

Thank you everyone for taking the time to comment. I appreciate each and every one of them. I knew going into this post that it touched on a very sensitive subject. I was mindful to write it from my perspective. I do not claim to be perfect or that my way is the only way to parent. My hope for this post was to inspire parents to think not only about WHAT they are doing, but WHY. It often surprises me how difficult it is to articulate why I am doing something. Knowing this...I try to spend time looking at myself, and why I do things the way I do.
I am respectful of others...and their choices. I just wanted to share my style and why. I am successful at following my style 98% of the time because I understand WHY I am doing it. I apply it to myself as well. If I am tired or hungry, I am way less likey to have patience. I try to read my own signals to know when I am may get inappropriate as well, and prevent them. I am often saying to Sugar, "Mama is so tired right now, and it is making her grumpy. Maybe you could sit her and play with some playdoh while Mama gets herself together." I feel that this helps her identify her own feelings through modeling my own.
Again....I am so grateful for anyone's comment on this post. Much love to all the parents out there. As I isn't easy, but we can always do our best.

Maude Lynn said...

Excellent, excellent post, Corey!

These are the same things that I try to do with my daughter. I'm not always successful, but I try. And, when I fall short of my own goals, I apologize to Baby Puppy (sorry for yelling, being cranky, whatever). Like you said in your comment, it models the behavior that I expect (wish for, dream of).

Jen said...

This was something I really needed to "hear" right now Corey. Thanks so much for sharing...hope you don't mind, I posted about your thoughts on my blog.

Beautifully written by the way!

Corey~living and loving said...

Jen, I am glad my post served a purpose in your life. That makes my day. I tried to follow you back to your blog, but it must be private. Let me know if there is a way for me to see your blog. if not...that is fine as well.
have a great day.

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

I felt this post in my heart. Beautiful.

Momo Fali said...

I was going to leave a long comment, but I think I'll go hug my kids instead. Thanks for the big lump in my throat!

Carolyn said...

Wow. What a superb post. I agree with mamageek completely. I felt this in my heart. You articulated perfectly all of my parenting goals. I've never taken the time to write them down for myself and now I don't have to! I couldn't have said it better myself. It's not just that I'm agreeing with you for the sake of being nice. I truly feel the same way and try to live these ideals every day. I'm very fortunate that I am raising our daughter closely alongside not only my husband, but also my mother and we all feel the very same way. Our daughter is an intelligent, loving, feeling human being and she is treated as such. We never talk down to her and we never disrespect her. In turn, she is the most delightful, polite and loving person I've ever met. What you have written about really works. If every parent lived by these rules, the world would be a much better place.

In addition to what you've written, two of my favourite parenting techniques are distractions and do-overs. You touched on distraction with reference to the bathtub. If you quickly distract the child with something fun and interesting, they will forget to be cranky. It takes energy and creativity to do this all the time, but it works.

We also love the do-over. If something happens where our daughter doesn't get to participate or "do it herself!", we quickly re-set the scene and let her join in and do it again. Surprisingly it works every time and she doesn't seem to mind the reenactment.

Anyway, I'm sorry to hijack your comments section, but I was so inspired by your post. Great stuff!

Oh, and one more thing: as I was reading I was reminded of one of my favourite parenting quotes: "We kiss our children not so they will kiss us, but so that they will kiss theirs."

mamashine said...

I posted about this today too. Running a daycare makes this especially interesting, as I find it's easier to do this with other people's kids sometimes than it is with my own. :)

My blog is private, but I'm glad to send you an invite if you want to read it, Corey.

Anonymous said...

Corey, what an excellent post! No wonder I have always envied your and Sugar's relationship seem to live in this blissful state of symbiosis together, and having read this, it's all the more obvious why. Love you!

holly said...

first, this is probably the first post i will ever have printed out.

secondly, this is the first one i will have printed a second copy of. the first one was to leave laying around for a certain husband to read. the second is a reminder to me, to be hung where i hang.

nice post corey. i heart you so so much. ;)

you totally ROCK as a mom.

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Hey Corey - even though we have both only been mamas for just over three years, posts like these remind me of why you are such a Mommy Mentor for me!

Bradley's Mom said...

Beautiful post, Corey!

You sound like a very wise woman to me!


Mary Ann said...

Wow! What a great post. I strive to do the things you wrote about. I try to follow my heart and motherly instinct while parenting my boys and now as I think about it the "why" of why I do what I do is simply because I want them to be treated as I would want to be treated. I try to look into Sam's eyes and think why is he acting the way he is acting and what can I do to help him do what he should be doing. Anyway, I feel that I am just really beginning into this hard stage of parenting. I am learning very quickly about the tantrums toddlers can throw and I look forward to reading all you have to say about this topic. I will save this post in my favorites to refer to time to time. Thanks!

Cynthia said...

I hear you, and totally agree. I need to work on the prevent misbehavior part. It is easy to forget to tune into the little ones. You are right, they know so much more than we/adults give them credit for. Thanks for posting this:)

The Egel Nest said...

You have written words here that many parents feel but cannot express. What a beautiful post!

With wonderful photos as always :)

The Egel Nest

Michie said...

This was a great post. I often question what I'm doing because people give me advice about what my daughter "should" be doing, and I often wonder "why should she be doing that?" myself. I enjoyed reading this - of course it could be because we have similar parenting styles! :)

Bellevelma said...

Wonderful post, Corey! Worth reading again and again and again.

CMB said...

Like I have commented are a great parent. I strive to be more like you and I have been trying. I use the excuse all the time that I work full time, have 2kids, blah blah blah. I am getting better - I promise.

Don Mills Diva said...

This is a wonderful post and so so so true. I try really hard to live by your words and I have been struck by the truth in that quote before...

the rotten correspondent said...

Your goals are my goals as well. I agree with everything you've said. It's hard though as they get older and start pushing your buttons in different ways, but I still aim for treating them the way I would choose to be treated.

I am a yeller, though. But I didn't start out that way. I'm pretty quiet by nature, so am still not sure where this has come from.

Great post.

Julie B said...

Just found your blog, and I had to comment....what a powerful post! I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote, and work at always giving my girls (ages 2,3) the respect that I wish upon myself. There are times that this can be difficult, as I have a very sensitive and emotional child, but I always find that if I stop and just put things into perspective, I am usually able to get back on track.

Anonymous said...

Amazing post, thank you for this! I follow most of those things except I have a hard time with the yelling. I have to constantly remind MYSELF not to yell, this was a great reminder for me. Thank you.

david mcmahon said...

We certainly see eye-to-eye on parenting.

I can honestly say I have enjoyed every moment of being a father of three.

Donetta said...

Corey this was very well lived and written.

kouredios said...

Gorgeous post Corey. It's givem me the inspiration to use Google reader's star and share features for the first time. :D

Donetta said...

You have been tagged. Come play with me.
I am so glad I read this last night it really helped me center my day. I love you ! You are beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I just wandered over from The Twinkies and read this wonderful post. Thanks for sharing it. My greatest struggle is against yelling but the way you describe why we shouldn't is the reason that I will keep fighting against the impulse. With regards to spanking, in my 3.5 years as a parent, I have only thought of spanking when I was at my wit's end not when my daughter was committing an awful crime. I didn't swat either of us, though I would have been the most deserving at the time.

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