Monday, March 28, 2005

Theories of raising children.

I've just been over to The Zero Boss, where he has been talking about a book written by a couple called The Pearls. I checked out this link and read some of what they have published there. I've heard that there are people who are doing what the Pearls suggest, they are "training up children". Some of the methods taught might seem to be perfectly rational and reasonable, but on deeper thought they are seriously flawed. There is a story about a little girl, under a year old, who loved to climb the stairs. Did the Mother and Father, I hesitate to call them parents, put up a gate to protect their child? No, they took a willow switch and "switched" her little legs every time they caught her on the stairs. This little girl was about 4 months old. Then they put the switch on the steps to remind her that she would be switched if she climbed the stairs again. It worked, she didn't climb the stairs any more. Did she learn to obey her parents? I don't think so, I think she learned to fear the switchings and that fear extended to her parents.

I've discovered that spanking doesn't work very well. All it does is teach kids to fear their parents, and that hitting is an acceptable way to deal with people who don't follow the rules. Once kids get older they would choose spanking over being grounded for the week-end most of the time. Because it's over so much quicker. (I know that there are parents who beat their kids badly enough that they feel the pain for days after. That is not what I'm talking about, when I say spanking I mean a few swats with an open hand on the child's clothed bottom.)

I may not be the best Mother in the world, I've used spanking from time to time. I've been inconsistent with punishment. But I always tried to be there for my kids, I always tried to let them know how much I loved them. And somehow they turned out to be pretty good men. Not perfect, by any means, but they are loving and intelligent men. I am trying to do better with Aidan, I hope I learned something from my experiences with Christopher and Allen. I know I have and will make mistakes, but hopefully not the same ones I already made.

My theory about raising children, even though I don't always follow through with it, is fairly simple. Protect babies and small children from getting hurt by either removing things from their reach, or by blocking access to those things. Once a child can understand things you can tell them "No" when they reach for some thing they can't have. Explain why they can't have it. "It's hot and could burn you." "It's glass and will break easily." "It's not yours." It might not work the first few times, because the child hasn't quite grasped the full concept, but the older a child gets the easier it is to help them understand why something is wrong. Having a place where the child can sit, away from the action, and think about what happened can be helpful too. Some things, such as politeness and respect are best taught through example. If you say please and thank you, excuse me and I'm sorry, your child will pick up on it and start using those phrases too. When you treat others including you child with respect, your child learns to treat others with respect as well. Children will occasionally push their limits, it's a normal thing. I try to remain firm and consistent about those limits, but I'm afraid that I'm not always. Find logical consequences for behaviors, both good and bad. Older kids can sometimes be involved in deciding what consequences fit best for what behaviors. Stick to the consequences once you have developed them. This is hard sometimes, kids will react more strongly to the more meaningful consequences, and it's easy to give in and do something else.

There are probably as many ways to raise kids as there are parents. I just don't believe that beating a child into submission is the choice.

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