Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Different discipline possibilities

Jack, my 3yo, spilled out Elazar's crate of clothes.  (Yes, his clothing is in crates.  That's probably a different blog post but I'll just say that from ages 3-7 I've often found that my kids use a "dive in and toss out all clothes until I find what I want" method and it's been easier to just keep everything in crates and toss them back in afterwards.)  Why did Jack spill it out?  It's irrelevant (he wanted to climb onto something so he used it as a step stool).  And that wasn't high enough.  So he dumped out the laundry hamper.  And now I want him to clean up.  And before he cleans up the hamper, he should clean up the crate.

I've learned a few disciplinary tactics over the years.  One of them is:
Children should clean up their own messes.  Once a child has to clean up a big mess all by himself, he doesn't make that mess again.

Whether or not that is actually 100% true, it does make good sense to me.  If the child makes the mess and is physically capable of cleaning it, then he should do so.  I do him no favors by allowing him to make messes that I clean up.  He spills (let's say on purpose) and I say, "Hey, don't do that!" and then I wipe it up.  What am I teaching him?  I'm teaching him that he spills, I don't like it, and I clean up.  If he spills and I hand him something and he cleans up, he may not learn not to do it in the future, but at least I'm not teaching him that there are no consequences.

So I told Jack to clean up the clothing and put it back into the crate.  He began to cry, "Help me, help me."

Ordinarily, in the past, I would have been kind but firm.  You made the mess, you clean it.  I will stand here and you will clean it up.  This seems to me to make good sense and teaches the child to be responsible.

A tactic I didn't even think of this morning, but am only thinking of now, as I write this, is Playful Parenting.
Make a playful way for the child to clean it up, such as a race, a game..something that elicits giggles and gets the child enthused about it.

People are often reluctant to do this because they feel that the child has to learn.  And the child will not be responsible if you make things fun.

(This is actually a fallacy and there are plenty of opportunities to teach responsibility and we don't have to worry about making chores fun causing a long term problem.  In fact, this gives them a valuable technique for doing things they are reluctant to do in life.)

This morning, I was about to stand there and firmly insist that Jack put the clothes away himself, when I realized that I had been parenting differently for the last few years.  I read this article about unschooling chores and housework a while back and it really had a profound impact on my attitude.

It's more of a shift in the parent's attitude than the kids at first. If a person appears grumpy about cleaning, the kids will pick up on that and immediately assume that cleaning is a real bummer. If you hear yourself complaining about something needing cleaned, everyone else hears the complaining too. If YOU obviously don't want to do it, there's a good chance that your kids won't be overly excited about it either. Complaining leaves a bad vibe in the air—not a good selling point.
he is now much more likely to help out and to do things spontaneously because he sees us helping each other, doing things that need doing simply because they need doing, not because it's "my turn" or "my job"— we don't have assigned jobs, whoever is able and available does what needs doing. 
I've really gotten into the mode of doing things this way.  When I am cleaning up and it feels overwhelming, I will ask my family for help.  They've become used to cleaning up messes that they didn't make, and it's been very pleasant to be able to ask for help and get help.

When Jack said, "Help me, help me," I suddenly realized that our home atmosphere has been that we ask for help cleaning when we need it.  Which then contradicted the method of having him do it himself because it is his responsibility because he spilled it.

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