October 23, 2012
teach your children-- a big PS to my last post.
As i've chewed on this throughout the day, i have thought of one important thing. Attachment theory vs behaviorist theory is sometimes viewed as permissive vs. strict. I think this is WRONG.
If you have to choose between too permissive and too strict, PICK too permissive. Trust me. I have seen the result of too strict and it is often children who rebel and go way off the deep end. Children from too permissive sometimes rebel for a time, but in my observation they come home easier because they feel loved at home.
If you have to choose between kindness and teaching, pick kindness! Teaching is something that is not done in ONE setting. A FALSE premise of the behaviorist theory is that if you are not CONSISTENT you have been wasting your time. That is FALSE. Often parents abuse children and use as the excuse "this is for your own good." Not so. Be consistently KIND first. You can always teach tomorrow. A child will learn to potty train even if you put them back into a diaper when you are sick and ready to strangle them.
TEACHING is good and it takes TIME!! Don't be afraid of time.
I do not think, however, that this is a question of permissive vs. strict. I think it is a question of deliberate vs. casual. I think you can be a VERY kind parent and still TEACH your child.
I am teaching Lily not to suck her thumb. I believe that is something that can be taught. I believe that she probably would stop on her own if i left her to it, but i FEEL that she needs some help learning to fall asleep without sucking. She has a bad habit and can learn to fall asleep without it. She is four. I think four is old enough to learn this skill and i'm thankful for this year to teach it to her gently instead of waiting for her to enter school and be forced to learn it by teasing kids. Yes, once or twice i have tried to force her into learning this skill too quickly and it wasn't good. I held her arms down by her side while she screamed at me. It never feels right when you are teaching wrong.
I felt wrong and i backed off. Parents can make things WAY WORSE if they create World War III out of a normal childhood behavior. I am NOT advocating that. Often parents who are NOT consistently teaching feel the need for large, extreme battles with their children. The best teaching is done with "gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned." Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and their a little. Mountains are moved a shovel at a time.
Most of the time, my interactions with Lily are kind and gentle reminders. Testifying (can i say that about thumb sucking) to her that it is GOOD for her to learn not to suck her thumb. Encouraging her. Praising her successes. Helping her learn new ways to fall asleep. Showing her many examples of little kids who sleep without sucking their thumb. Praying for her and listening to God teach me how to teach her. THIS IS GOOD AND RIGHT AND ESSENTIAL.
How do you know when your interaction with your child is not good?
You will FEEL the fight shifting to "You will obey me!" instead of "How can i teach you this skill?".
Beware of false pride in parenting. Catch yourself when you change from inviting to forcing. Do not take away their power-- help them use their power to do good. Beware of power struggles. You are NOT trying to CHANGE their behavior, this can be done with force. You are trying to TEACH them to CHOOSE a better behavior, this must be done with gentle teaching and invitation.
Be aware of any extreme, dramatic conclusions! These are usually false. Your children are not ruined. You are not a FAILURE. You are NOT doing everything wrong and neither are they. You do not need to attack them or change drastically. But, you both DO have much to learn. Be VERY aware of consistent, gentle thoughts and feelings. Like, "she really needs to learn to follow directions better" or "does she know her letters?" or "he is ready to potty train." Be very aware of gentle promptings to "hug her" or "listen" or "love her" or "see her strength, it is good" or "get up and help her" or "tuck her in bed one more time". Listen to that voice! Most good in life can come from quiet, gentle changes. That is how God teaches YOU and how YOU should teach your children. Pick one thing and gently teach it. Give it some TIME, give it some PRAYER, you will SEE change!!
Do not get into a battle with your children ME vs YOU, but don't be afraid of battles. Just because your effort becomes too extreme does not mean you stop trying. Try again later on. Teaching takes time!
YOU are learning at the same time your child is! Give up some battles-- but don't give up every battle.
You MUST battle for your child. You must battle to TEACH and LOVE and GUIDE and KNOW your child. BECOME loving... ACT with charity. TAKE the TIME and put forth the EFFORT.
Battle- "Yes, you can learn this" vs "I can't." Battle- "this is good to know" vs "he is fine". Battle- "everybody says you should do it this way" vs "this feels right to me". Have faith that your child CAN learn!
If you don't fight for your child who will? If you don't teach them, who will?
Nobody else in the world can see and know what your child needs better than you will.
Keep on teaching!!
Often I am too selfish. I don't want to take the time it takes to teach. It takes a lot of time and effort. Everything worthwhile in life takes time and effort. I want them to already know all they need to know without taking the time to TEACH them. It doesn't work that way-- parenting takes deliberate EFFORT, so does homemaking and so does maintaining a unified marriage. it takes WORK. Work is good.
You will be given the ENABLING POWER to accomplish all that you need to do as you turn to God in prayer and feel his Grace. He is a perfect parent and He will help you!
Parents MUST assume their role as TEACHERS and NURTURERS.
It is an essential, sacred stewardship.
Yes, i believe that Lily would probably stop sucking her thumb someday without my effort. BUT-- this experience has been a GOOD, bonding time. My effort has NOT been wasted. My effort is much more gentle than it appears as i type it down. I am not forcing her to stop sucking... I am gently teaching her.
When i'm doing it right, it is natural and gentle and hard to explain. I would ALMOST say that i am just letting her grow out of it-- but I am not. I am teaching her while she grows out of it. I am using behavioral theories to attach myself to her and to help her learn to be successful in life! I feel ideas and inspiration whispered into my mind as i teach her. She hugs me and glows with pride each time she wakes up knowing she didn't suck her thumb to sleep. She prays that she will learn not to suck her thumb and she feels good as she notices her progress.
I believe the best teaching is KIND and POSITIVE and gentle. As you teach your children you are helping them feel SUCCESS!! Confidence later in life is a direct result of these small successes early in life. Children can feel when you dismiss them with a sigh-- no matter how hard you try to love them.
Children can also feel your JOY when they do something that you have worked really hard to teach them. THEY feel joy when they accomplish a task that THEY have had to work hard to accomplish. i would RATHER teach Lily this skill than let her grow out of it on her own. BECAUSE I WANT HER TO REMEMBER IT!! i want her to remember that she is CAPABLE.
My potty trained two or three year old children have confidence and success that many non-potty trained five year old kids don't have. YES, it takes effort and time. BUT IT IS WORTH IT!!
Maybe thumb sucking is NOT the best example for this concept-- because it may well be one thing that i should not be trying to teach. I haven't done this before... I'm still learning and i'm OK with making mistakes. I'm currently teaching MANY things to my children, i always am. I'm not sure what age children grow too old for a deliberate mother?
Be aware of the theory behind your mothering. Be aware that you can LOVE and TEACH at the same time. This concept applies to EVERYTHING.
I see an alarming trend where good mothers are giving up their power to teach their children in the name of attachment. We are giving up because we SEE and FEEL that some ways to teach are wrong, and we're pulling back TOO FAR.
If we do not teach our children, somebody else will.
Nobody else in the world will teach your child with more love than YOU can. I promise.
i have written a few additions in the comments.
one specifically i am copying onto this main text, because i think it's important.
i have to say one thing-- although i do believe that parents can TRAIN their children, i do NOT believe that children act a certain way because parents have RUINED them.
If you have a child that is hard to potty train it is NOT your fault. An active child is not the result of a permissive parent. CHILDREN COME UNIQUE AND DIFFERENT. This is so essential to understand.
You are NOT the cause, but you can be the AID. You MUST be the teacher. Consistent, gentle, daily persuasion, pruning and training will help your child grow into a straight oak tree. Leaving your child loved but untamed just leaves them open to being pushed around by the winds of the world.
They COME with individual challenges. WE WILL KNOW HOW TO TEACH OUR INDIVIDUAL CHILD.
i firmly believe that parents are entitled to direct revelation from God how to train their individual children. I also believe it is a sacred responsibility and it requires WORK. Just because they need to be taught does NOT mean you have done something WRONG!!!!
did you catch that?
JUST BECAUSE YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE DONE SOMETHING WRONG!!! if you are doing EVERYTHING right, you will still see the next thing you need to teach. God sends GREAT mothers children who need extra LOVE and instruction. FEEL THAT SACRED TRUST and FEEL POWERFUL TO TEACH YOUR CHILD!!!!
** One more thing that good mothers won't tell you!!!
You will see good mothers surrounded by obedient children.
They will tell you that they are blessed with good children. You might believe them.
You will not SEE them teaching and training, it will look like their kids just naturally obey.
They make it look easy.
Good mothers seem to not only be able to care for their own children, but have extra arms to care for other people's children.
If you ask them about letting a baby cry to sleep or potty training, they will make is sound like they did NOTHING.
THEY ARE LYING. Not because they lie, because training is such a natural part of who they are they don't even remember doing it.
People who have already developed a skill have a hard time explaining how they do it.
Most people don't think as much as i do about every step they take.
Most people just naturally do what they saw their mother do or what feels right.
TRUST ME. i have spend HOURS trying to PULL the secrets out of good mothers.
I have watched them and THEY ARE MORE STRICT AND DELIBERATE THEN THEY APPEAR.
**WHEN YOU ARE TEACHING CORRECTLY, IT FEELS LIKE YOU ARE JUST LETTING IT HAPPEN.**
does that make sense?
My children all read young and easily.
I would SAY i don't do anything. But that is not true.
I spend HOURS reading and practicing letters. I already catch myself teaching Eve her ABC's and she is just learning to talk.
Because it is natural to me, i would tell others i do nothing, my children are just smart.
People with a clean, tidy home SAY they don't clean it all the time.
They lie. Picking up things and putting them away is so instinctual they don't even notice it.
EVERY mother who has more than one child with a particular skill-- is TEACHING it.
A happy family is taught. Kind siblings are taught. Smart children are taught. Politically savy children are taught. Musical children are taught. Well-behaved children are taught. Children who eat all their vegetables have been taught. Trust me.
Yes, children are unique and different. We must love them where they are.
But, I STILL BELIEVE IN TEACHING!!
Mothers who LOOK casual and have well behaved children are NOT casual mothers.
They have already spent HOURS training behind the scenes and they don't need to do it in public.
Many times, the mothers who are giving GRAND teaching sermons in front of everyone in the foyer at church are doing that because at home they do not.
i want to be a more deliberate teacher of my children.
There is NO greater work.