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Entries in discipline (5)


Teaching Boys Self-Control and Kindness


A friend of mine shared a post today that really got me thinking. It focused on the fact that we shouldn’t brush off boys’ bad behavior toward little girls by saying, “Oh it’s just because he likes you.” I agree. No one should be on the receiving end of unkind actions. I particularly like how the author says, “I want (my son) to know that aggression and disrespect are never ways to show affection, and that showing his affection in tender ways does not mean sacrificing his masculinity."

However, I do take issue with another post that the author referenced. Here’s the part that gets to me, “I want my daughter to know that the boy called her ugly or pushed her or pulled her hair didn’t do it because he admires her, it is because he is a little asshole and assholes are an occurrence of society that will have to be dealt with for the rest of her life.” Hold on. We’re talking about little boys here (her daughter is 10). I have a very hard time labeling any 10-year-old as a “little asshole.” Sure, that kid is using inappropriate behavior, but it doesn’t mean his character is inherently flawed. Kindness, gentleness and politeness are all learned behaviors--for boys and girls.

Little boys tend to be very physical creatures. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a toddler boy hit another kid in the face in order to initiate play. I am NOT saying that this is appropriate behavior; what I am saying is that it seems that many boys are hard-wired to act physically on impulse. What we need to do as parents/educators, is teach them how to recognize that impulse and choose another course of action. This is a very difficult thing for a young boy to do, and takes years of practice to accomplish consistently. It’s not fair to label him a bully or an asshole.

The gist of what I’m saying is: Have compassion and teach boys the right way to communicate with girls (or boys for that matter). There’s no question that it’s not right for a little boy to knock down a girl’s sand castle or rip the bracelet off of a girl’s wrist (as was the case in the original post). But instead of teaching little girls that boys are assholes, how about we focus on teaching little boys how to control their physical urges and make kind. moral choices?

Instead of assuming that a boy must have a crush on a girl if he’s mean, let’s stop and talk to the boy for a minute. Let’s tell him that his action was inappropriate and then ask what he was trying to accomplish with his behavior. Once his motive is established, let’s work with him to find the right way to achieve his goal. Teach him what to do instead of what not to do.

I think it’s so important to examine the motive of “aggressive” behavior. Long-time readers of this blog will know that we’ve had our challenges with Nic. I know he’s not a little asshole, and I also know that his physical behavior is almost never motivated by anger or meanness. He pushes or hits or leans against kids when he’s excited. It’s not acceptable behavior, and that’s why we’ve been working with him on self-control every day for three years. He’s made tremendous progress, but we’re going to be reminding him to make good choices probably through his teenage years.  

If we want to live in a society where men treat women with respect and kindness, let’s do a better job at raising little boys who can check their instincts and act with self-control. And let’s remember that doing so is a long, hard job.

We need to teach kids kindness and self-control, just as they need to be taught how to ride a bike.

Note: Please keep in mind that I’m talking about kids here and not full-grown men (although a lot of full-grown men could probably have benefitted from this process as children). Also, girls also need to be taught kindness in this manner, even though their aggression tends to be more relational than physical. 


Is It Time To Give The 'Time-Out' A Time-Out? 


Maybe the "time-out" isn't the more humane form of punishment. Child psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen, author of Playful Parenting, doesn't think so. I am finishing his book for my parenting book club and this part struck me: 

"The main problem with time-outs is that they enforce isolation on children who are probably already feeling isolated and disconnected." 

Cohen says that when children misbehave they are trying to tell you something. I'm tired. I'm bored. I'm lonely. I'm jealous. He thinks that a better way to deal with this is to try to speak their language and address the problem, not send them away. He says that when we send them away, they feel even more tired, bored, lonely, jealous, and so the problem is not being addressed or solved.

I've been one of those parents who thought that the "time-out" was a compassionate alternative to spanking. But now I'm beginning to reconsider.

When Miles acts out, if I stop to really analyze the situation I can figure out what is upsetting him. Most of the time it is about a disconnection, as Cohen asserts. If I can reconnect with him in some way, I can usually dissipate the situation and explain to him how he can better handle his frustration without hitting, whining, or tantruming. 

This doesn't mean you have to be ready to address your child's needs at any given moment. It just means that you have to be willing to listen. If you can't address the situation right then and there, you can try to ask them to wait until you can. At least they know you have their attention. 

Miles entered the "terrible twos" last week and while it really isn't so terrible, we are in a stage where we have to learn to discipline him effectively. So if he is feeling jealous of his baby sister and chucks a toy at the wall, sending him away will only make him feel MORE jealous, not less. He won't think, "Wow, I really should learn to control my rage and refrain from throwing objects at finished surfaces. This is a good lesson in causality." No! Of course not! He will think, "I wanted her attention and I tried to tell her that and now I have even less of my mommy than I had before I started. This sucks!" 

Cohen's alternative to the time-out is to use a family meeting on the couch. When there is a disconnection, they all meet on the couch and take responsibility for what has gone wrong. Sometimes they don't even speak but often it is a time to cool off and address the issue. The point is to connect and address rather than reinforce and banish. I'm going to try to implement some of this. What do you think? 


Help! My Little Princess is Turning into a Bully

I’m so not ready for this. Reese isn't really turning into a bully but in the past week I've noticed some pushing going on. I thought the first time was an accident (and it might have been) but today she was standing next to one of her favorite little buddies and shoved him. I said, “Reese that is not acceptable, be gentle,” and she continued to try to shove him and got upset when I physically moved her away. We pracitce being "gentle" with animals or if she is too rough with me and she seems to really get the concept.

Part of me think (or maybe just wants to believe) she's playing…like running and kissing/tackling in this video below. Kind of like in elementary school when the little girls and boys poke at each other when they like each other? Yea, she’s a little young for this.

Then this mom at the park today confided in me that she was worried because her toddler now runs up to other kids and pulls their hair. Eeks! I wish I had some words of wisdom for her but I feel I'm in the same boat. 

So I ask you! Any tips, suggestions, advice for the trying toddler years? Can you disipline or reason with a toddler? What good books out there talk about how to understand and work with toddlers?


The Tantrum Throwdown

Since hitting the nine month mark, my little girl has started throwing occasional temper tantrums. Ok, she probably threw them before but they weren’t so obvious. Now, if you do something she doesn’t like such as put her down when she wants up, take away a non-baby object (remote, cord, etc.) or put her in her car seat, she arches her back – very fast – and screams. It was kind of cute the first time but now I’m trying to find a way to solve the problem.

Thus far, I’ve primarily been patient, meaning holding her in the position until she gets tired and moves on to something else or resigns to the fact that she is in her car seat so she might as well get used to it. This usually takes about 5 seconds which isn’t so bad but I feel that I could avoid some of these if I better interpreted how she felt. Do you think signing would help? Have your babies thrown tantrums – what’s your secret to getting past them? She's an unusually happy baby so I am not complaining. I know she’s expected to throw some now and again – I just want to do what I can to make her happy and still discipline her. 



In my husband Clayton's weekly podcast, Daddy On Board, they discuss ways to discipline a toddler. And no, they do not condone going to Spankytown. I just like the name. I heard Mark Wahlberg use it on 60 Minutes last week and it made me giggle. What do you think? How can you discipline your toddler not to imperil him/herself? Suggestions below?