Photo - Joe Ellis-Gage
I'm glad that my children aren't perfectly well behaved all the time. It's important for children to be naughty some times. To do silly things. To push the boundaries. (Ok, ask me when the girls are teenagers and I may not have the same opinion!) It helps them learn about right and wrong. It builds their personality. I get worried when I see passive children; I want to make sure they are thinking enough. Especially when they just follow others. I don't want my children to simply follow others all the time. Fine to follow sometimes, when appropriate. But not by default. Unless they have my wife's sense of direction; then they may have to follow others more often.
But my fondness of my children's misbehaviour and misadventure doesn't mean I don't discipline them. My wife and I use many different methods to discipline our children. And actually a lot of the time we manage their behaviour before getting to the point of 'discipline'. I'm aware that each technique we have tried will have arguments for and against. There will be people who swear by it and others who are strongly opposed.
We have used 'time out' on both the children from when they were of an age that they understood it. Doing something they shouldn't and then not correcting their behaviour after a warning meant time out. This worked for a while with Anna. She didn't like time out. She wanted to play and get on with her day. To start with she would cry and shout but after a while she took to sitting quietly, saying sorry afterwards and I think it limited her naughty behaviour. At times however it wasn't ideal - repeated time outs can take up a lot of time which is annoying, especially as I find children's behaviour tends to be worse in the minutes before leaving the house! Also at times Anna would request time out because she realised it could get her out of a tricky situation. We would tell Anna the she needed to tidy up or finish her tea and she would say that she would prefer time out thank you very much. Um, no. That's not how this works. Although I must say that time out does sound quite appealing - I often consider doing something wrong in the hope I will get thirty minutes sat quietly by myself in the hall.
Iris has taken to throwing her food on the floor when she has had enough. Anna did something similar. I imagine a lot of kids do. We have opted for a telling off and then when we get her down from the table we make her pick up a nominal amount of the food from the floor. We did something similar with Anna and she hated picking it up again so soon enough she stopped throwing it. Iris on the other hand occasionally gets frustrated by picking it up and occasionally just continues eating it from the floor. Regardless of what it is. I'm not sure it's working. We'll see.
I guess the general principle we follow is that we try to make a point of praising and rewarding good behaviour whilst ensuring there is always a consequence for bad behaviour. We also aim to be consistent. If mummy said no then I will say no. Simple as that. We always back each other up. The girls are clever enough to try and play us off against each other. Even at 16 months old Iris will walk directly from one parent to another if she doesn't get the answer she wants first time. Even if we are sat directly next to each other; she's not that bright yet! We back each other up even if we disagree with the decision. I think it's important to be united. Quite often after a situation we will look at each other and say "That didn't work" and we will plan our response for next time.
But one thing we have never done and I am confident we will never do is smack. It's always 'smacking' and never 'hitting'. 'Hitting' sounds worse so people avoid saying it. They would never hit a child. What do you think they are?! An animal?! No they don't hit them, they just smack them.
So when I hear people justify smacking their children by saying something along the lines of...
- I got smacked as a child and it didn't do me any harm.
I always think to myself...
- Well, except that you are now an adult who thinks it is acceptable to hit children. Which isn't great really, is it?
I've heard lots of different justifications for it and none have convinced me yet.
- I don't smack all the time. I only smack when I can't take any more and I'm at the end of my tether.
Great. Save up the violence for when you have lost control. That seems sensible. I can't see how that can go wrong.
- I don't smack for anything. I just smacked him because he hit someone.
Excellent. Good logic. "Hitting is unacceptable." Bosh!
- Obviously I wouldn't smack in public or in front of my friends and their children.
Ah yes. Because that would be wrong. Obviously. You are worried enough about what you are doing that you are possibly a little ashamed of what others would think of you so you decided to do it in secret. Good plan. Aggression behind closed doors, much more acceptable.
- I've only hit him once. That was enough to put him off misbehaving again.
Ok, I can kind of see the reasoning behind this one but is a child behaving due to fear of being hit really the best option?
I am not sure of the best way to bring up children. I am not sure of the best way to discipline children. I am not under the misapprehension that we are doing every right or that our children are going to grow up to be perfectly level headed individuals. But they will grow up to be aware that smacking (hitting!) children (or anyone for that matter) is not just unnecessary but unacceptable. And I'm pretty sure that will do them no harm.
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