Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Club Thursday | Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours

Unfortunately, the post dealing with the forward and the concept of Reality Discipline has been lost somewhere out in cyberspace.  Today's post deals only with chapter 1.  Hopefully, this post will not be lost, too.

We are reading through the book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Dr. Kevin Leman.  All direct quotes from the book are in bold type.

Children who have been given love without discipline are often disrespectful and/or too dependant on their parents.  We live in a generation who frowns upon being strict and giving discipline to children.  Yet, we also live in a generation that is the most disrespectful towards any type of authority.  Police officers are not viewed with the respect they deserve. Teachers are spoken to and treated disrespectfully by parents and students alike.  Why? Because if children are not taught discipline by their parents and have no respect for them, it is impossible to expect them to show respect for any other kind of authority.

Many parents often get brainwashed with the idea that nurture is built on doing everything for their children and making all decisions for them.  From my earlier posts here on the blog, you know that I was that kind of parent.  I wanted to do everything for Addie.  I wanted to protect her from anything every happening to her to the point that I held her back from trying new foods because I was afraid she would choke.  Because of the control I thought I was supposed to have over her, she did not start eating "real" food until a month before her 2nd birthday.  Thankfully, we are both past that time (and she eats anything) and I have learned that holding on too tightly in an effort to "protect" my child will actually cripple her.

But what Sande's doctor was telling us was that even during infancy a parent needs to start building discipline into a child's life. Putting a child on a schedule of one kind or another- for example, feeding, sleeping- begins to put order into the child's life. You know that I am an advocate for schedules. Addie has been on a feeding/sleeping schedule since she was a few weeks old.  For a short (one week) period I was swayed by someone I know to "let the baby tell you what they need."  I had seen this person years before with her two small children and she seemed so bound to them and their "schedule", and, at the time, I dreaded motherhood (I was still single at the time).  But I thought I would try it. It was horrible! Addie always seemed agitated and I quickly realized that I was giving this small person who had no concept of time the control over our time and as adults we had schedules.  I had also put her in charge of telling me what she needed, and that was too much responsibility for an infant.  When I took back control of her schedule, she suddenly became the most content baby and even began sleeping through the night.  (By the way, tomorrow, I will be talking about our schedule here in our home as it has changed since August)

I believe that a critical need in homes today is that they become the kind of environment in which children can learn more about themselves. Home should be a place where children can make mistakes as they try some things they have decided on their own.  My mother always told us that the place for us to make mistakes was at home so that when we were in public we would not make those mistakes.  Home needs to feel safe for our children.  Face it, we would rather them bounce their ideas off of us in order to give them guidance than for them to feel safer sharing with their friends who are never going to look out for our children's best interest.  When our children come to us with an idea, the best way to insure that they will keep coming back to us is to talk with them, not shoot their ideas down, laugh at them, or make them feel ridiculous.

The Scripture tells us to be in authority over our children, but notice that it doesn't say to be authoritarian.

The authoritarian parent often backs up his "I know best" attitude with force, but that is not what the " loving discipline" of Ephesians 6:4 is talking about. Perhaps the most misused (not to mention misquoted) verse in the Bible is, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." The actual text reads: "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him" (Proverbs 13:24 NIV). 

The Jews believed in discipline, true, but when biblical writers used the word rod they were thinking more of correction and guidance rather than hitting and beating.  For example, the shepherd used his rod not to beat his sheep but to guide them.  Discipline must be given in a way that will guide our children, not crush them or scare them into a false submission.  God told the Israelites, "I am putting before you a blessing and a curse...... Life and death.  Therefore, choose life."  God told the Israelites all of the benefits of obedience and all of the consequences of disobedience and then let the people choose. 

Brian and I have been working on choices with Addie.  Reality Discipline means having to think quickly what the choices are for your child and then offering them so that the child can make a decision, based on the facts, on how their behavior should be.  For example, quite some time ago, Addie and I were having our school time.  Addie handed her crayon over to me and said, "Mommy color." (her vocabulary is much better now).  Instead of saying, "No, this is Addie's work. You color," I thought fast about what her options were.  I told her, "Here is your choice.  You can color the rest of your page or you can go lie down for two minutes."  She thought for half a second and said, "Addie color", and finished her page.

There is some strange confusion in the minds of many parents about what makes a child "good" or well-behaved.  They seem to prefer the child who is submissive, palatable, and easy to lead- sort of like a puppy.  I, too, want my children to be well behaved, but I'm not so sure I want them to be easily controlled by others.  I am not going to beat around the bush on this one.  Addie has a very strong will (don't know where she gets that from).  At first, after hearing some one's (who has submissive, palatable, and easy to lead children) flippant comments, Brian and I thought we were doing something wrong.  Then after watching a video by Dr. James Dobson called The Strong Willed Child, we realized that God can use that strong will if we, as parents, train her will to follow the Lord's guidance and teach her from God's Word about the convictions that God speaks of, she will be impossible to be moved. And that has been our goal ever since.  Teaching her to love Jesus, to please Him in all of her ways, and to obey us (and us having to think about everything we say to make sure we are not saying "no" for no good reason) has been the best journey we have taken so far down this road called parenting.   

The most important thing is that the parent move quickly in every case to give the child the guidance and direction he needs to become a responsible and accountable person.  Once, last year sometime, I had just finished putting some laundry away and the basket was still on the living room floor.  I allowed Addie to play in the basket but told her not to stand up and lean over the side or I would take the basket away.  Mom L called and I moved on to my next "thing-to-do" as we chatted.  I looked over and saw Addie standing and leaning over the side of the laundry basket.  I excused myself from the conversation for a moment and picked Addie up out of the basket.  I put the basket back up on the rack in the laundry room and continued with my conversation with Mom.  After saying goodbye, I sat Addie down and asked her if she knew why I had taken the basket away.  She looked at me and said, "I stand up.  Mommy say no stand up." 

Authoritative parents do not dominate their children and make all decisions for them. Instead, they use the principles of Reality Discipline, which are tailor-made to give children the loving correction and training the Lord approves. (Ephesians 6:4).

How does it all work? Well, suppose your seven-year-old breaks a toy belonging to another child.  What should you do? What type of discipline is needed in this situation? I believe the discipline ought to be based on Reality. The reality of this situation is that if you break someone else's property, you pay for it.

With Reality Discipline, you can hold the child accountable for what he has chosen to do as you teach him the consequences of making a poor decision.

I believe that parenting and disciplining children in an authoritative way involves at least three things:
1. Discipline by way of action.  The discipline should be swift, direct, effective, and as closely tied to the violation of the family rule as possible.
2. Parents must listen  to their children. We've got to be aware of our children and how they perceive life.
3. Parents should give themselves to their children.  Giving of yourself (not things) to your children is an essential ingredient for effective discipline.  In trying to find time for your children, don't worry too much about how much "quality" is in it.  Give them all the time you can and the quality will take care of itself.

Our best days are the ones when I give all of my time to Addie.  I listen to her and try understanding how her mind is working and perceiving the world around her (not always easy and sometimes it takes bouncing our conversations off of Brian for a fresh, new perspective).  I have noticed that she and I can be in the same room, sitting right next to each other, but she will say, "Mommy, I can't see you," if my attention is elsewhere.  Her seeing my eyes and face engaged in whatever she is doing is all that she is asking for.  And yes, she does understand that Mommy has responsibilities in the house that have to be taken care of.  But when I am with her, she wants me to truly be with her.  

I will give Dr. Leman the last word here.   

In summary, never forget that children expect adults to discipline them. If the discipline is loving, it will be geared toward instruction, teaching, guiding, and, above all, holding a child accountable for his or her actions.


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