A few posts ago, I talked about a book about parenting with purpose by Nina Garcia that I was reading. I am still reading it…slowly. (I wish I had more time to read.) I have taken a few of her suggestions to work with my daughter on her obedience, mainly listening.
First, let me tell you about my daughter’s wonderful personality. I can’t deny that kid. She is 100% just like me in attitude. She is stubborn, independent, smart, sassy, and does whatever the heck she wants. She is a strong willed child. A number of parents see that as trouble, something that needs to be broken and controlled. I see it as something to mold into a positive character attribution.
I grew up in an authoritarian parented house, which is different from an authoritative parenting style. (Parenting Science has a great article explaining the difference, just Google it.) When asked to jump, you do not ask why. You either start jumping until you are told to stop or you ask how high. There isn’t much room to grow as an individual in this style of parenting. You are expected to conform to what your parents define as normal, whether it is or isn’t. There isn’t room for questions, explanations, or disobedience. As you can imagine, the child tends to be extremely dependent on the parents and/or extremely resentful, possibly controlling, as an adult. It isn’t a healthy style of parenting, although many parent that way.
I want to encourage my daughter to think independently, ask questions, and be herself. As she grows, she will less likely care what others’ think of her. She will have confidence to stand up for others, herself, and her beliefs. A natural leader. At the same time, I want her to be compassionate, understanding, polite, and exhibit manners. This is where punishments or consequences comes in to her misbehavior.
The book helps you to identify the reasoning behind your child’s misbehavior, most of the time it being attention seeking. I have worked on being more engaged with my daughter. When she asks me to play, I play with her. Then I can get back to my housework or what ever I was doing. I’ve noticed she entertains herself better after a few minutes of me totally engaging with her. Sometimes, she just wants to help me. So, I give her doable chores to “help” me and continuously praise her for the help. Another strategy I’ve been trying, is to give her two choices when she misbehaves. At night, while I am trying to cook supper, she tends to be extremely attention seeking. I try to give her the attention she needs before hand, but she requires more sometimes. I will try to re-direct her attention by giving her a “project” like playing with some bowls, spoons. If she continues to throw a tantrum or bother me, I will give her the choice to sit in timeout until she can finish her tantrum OR play with her toys in the living room (I can still see and hear her there). She generally chooses to play. By allowing her to choose, she still feels in control (strong willed kids feel more secure and validated when they perceive they are in control), not “put down” for her behavior. I follow up on her positive behavior by thanking her for playing so quietly and give her some extra one-on-one time before bed. She has responded very well with this new style. I think it teaches her patience (waiting for my attention), independence (playing by herself), validation (praising for good behavior/reward of extra one-on-one time), and consequence (following through with whatever she chooses).
I do find most parents do not follow through with consequences or give outrageous consequences. For example, “If you hit again, you will not be able to watch tv for a month.” Are you really going to ban them from tv for a month? No, you won’t; it probably won’t last for a few hours. Then, you teach your child consequences do not hold true, at least you will give in. Or “If you do XYZ again, you will not play your sport tonight.” Yet, there the kid is playing the sport that night. No consequence for the misbehavior, so they will do it again and again and again.
Not so long ago, I overheard a mother complaining about her “bratty” child’s behavior. Then the mother proceeded to explain all of the punishments she threatens to do, yet, never follows through. I wanted to say, “Well, that’s your problem. You allow your child to misbehave without consequence.” However, mothers generally just like to complain and receive sympathy; not receive constructive criticism on how to see results. I kept my mouth shut. My heart broke for the child though. A parent blaming the child for misbehaving, when the parent is not giving any direction. Parenting is tough and time consuming, but worth the effort put in.