I'm not a screamer. Never have been. In fact I plead guilty to…well…kind of despising women who find it necessary to constantly scream at their children.
That said, I literally roared at a two year old this week.
Two words: "CORTNI! NOW!"
It was effective. The child immediately veered off her intended course, dove for her nap mat, and burying her face in her pillow, went to sleep. Literally did not move a muscle for three hours and a half hours. When her mother arrived and told her it was time to wake up, she kept her eyes clenched shut and muttered, "No!" She slept all the way home.
The child has taken to running around the room, laughing and shrieking hysterically at the top of her lungs whenever I say it's time to lay down. No matter how many times I ask her to lay down, or lay her down, or look deeply into her eyes and tell her very sternly, "Enough! You can't jump over the other kids–you're hurting them." etc.
The roaring tactic worked instantly. But it felt wrong, you know?
I've been thinking a lot about discipline lately. What works, what doesn't.
Most effective, short term, is to remove the problem: I don't want you to play with knives, so I store them out of reach; I don't want you to play in the street, so I build a fence.
Especially at a State-licensed facility. There are literally hundreds of regulations to keep little critters safe and out of trouble. And it works–I don't have to worry about electrocution, accidental poisoning, burns, etc. I have wondered why I didn't do all of these things when my children were small. It's so much easier than following them around saying, "Uh-oh, watch out! Hot! Owie! Go down the stairs on your belly, sister."
So much easier. Short term.
But I am noticing, for the first time, the backlash of "no-proofing" my house. Because essentially, instead of teaching the child to make good choices, we are just taking away the element of choice, period.
Instead of teaching a child correct principles and then letting them govern themselves and experience consequences in a reasonably safe environment, we are creating a false reality for them, where nobody ever gets hurt, nothing is ever irreparably damaged, and nobody gets angry.
You end up with schools full of children who have no ability to discern boundaries for themselves–because for the first five or six years, the authorities have laid it all out and let them bounce around in their padded little world. The child's thinking runs along these lines: "If it is possible, it must be okay–'they' wouldn't let the possibility for me to do this exist if real danger/wrongdoing might result."
Would my own two-year-old have run around the room shrieking, when I wanted them to lay down? Hmmm. I don't know. I never made them take naps. Did they go to bed when I told them to? Not every time. I remember feeling plenty of, "How many times do I have to tell this kid to…?" But the thing is–I never got to the point of exasperation where She-Lion was the only language they understood. They pushed the limits of their existence and real boundaries pushed back, and somehow we came to a degree of understanding where I could say, hey, it's bedtime, and they'd go. Or, this batch of cookies is for the neighbors, and they'd leave it alone–whether or not I was there, to govern them. For the most part.
I don't see that ability developing in many of the children I watch. Yeah, it's hard to judge the preschool crowd–I'm talking about the older children in my care–the ones who should be at the stage where you frown about their language and they blush furiously and never, ever, ever speak like that again in your presence, at least. They shouldn't have to be reminded, every ten seconds, not to run through the kitchen playing tag. Every day.
Ten and eleven year old boys should be able to retain a concept like that. But they can't. Because it's possible–and because there are no real consequences for doing it, except that mean old lady gets grumpy and her mouth moves and some kind of sound comes out when I run past.
Did you see the headlines about the teacher in Houston who beat up the thirteen year old boy?
It was a Special Education teacher, taking discipline into her own hands–apparently the boy had beaten up one of her special ed students earlier. So she reciprocated.
Psycho, yes. But I wonder if the woman had talked to the boy's parents and the principal and asked the kid a thousand times to leave her student alone, to be kind/respectful/not abusive, and the kid just kept harassing.
I don't know–but I know kids that would do that.
Was her method more effective for dealing with the bully?
Probably not–he'll probably get so much sympathetic press that he'll just grow smug.
I don't know. I wish I did.
I wish there was an easy answer.
I don't think it involves removing choice or beating the tar out of them, either. Or even yelling ourselves hoarse.
Because guess what? The next day, that two year old? She was back to running around shrieking.
After she nearly trompled an infant, I buckled her into her highchair until she fell asleep. Also effective–took less than two minutes, and it didn't hurt my voice, or horrify the children.
But is that really where this child's life is headed? Artificial restraints because her inner ones are faulty?
I know, I know: she's only two.
It just has me thinking…