I talked to a beloved friend last night. She is on the other side of the world, had four children in quick succession and is a missionary to disabled folks in a culture that is more uncomfortable with disability than even North America. It is a treat for me to hear from her, and I believe the same for her to me.
She said that I seem calm on my blog. I liked hearing that because I love feed back. I like to consider what the person said, how they gained that impression and if it’s something I’d like to project.
I like calm. I sometimes feel like I’m running around, worrying about things like getting a babysitter and getting food into Small. Other times I do feel pretty chill – just hanging with my family, going for walks or meandering through the library.
The incident my friend referred to was the day that Small decided she was moving out. I believe I wrote about this before. (I did: https://malakoa.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/she-was-planning-on-running-away/)
My dear friend asked about that, saying she would have her feelings hurt if her children wanted to run away. I thought about that for a minute. I think the reason why it didn’t bother me is because (a) I saw it as a way of working out her autonomy and (b) I knew she wasn’t going to do it. I think she needed to have power in a situation where she had none and the way she thought to do it was by depriving us of her presence. It was a way of being a grown-up six year old. She wanted something she couldn’t have, and that way she’d be in a situation she could have anything she wanted. We didn’t beg her to stay, or react too emotionally. She didn’t get candy that day, at least I don’t remember her getting candy, but she did feel like it was up to her what she could and couldn’t eat. She chose being with us this time.
I don’t want to say, “over-reacting” because each person has there own way of being and of raising children. I have one child, so my situation is vastly different than hers, and anyone with more than one child. My situation disqualifies me from opinions and advice for many people. I think that is kind of silly. Yes, I don’t know how to fairly disperse the cookies when you’re got five kids and four cookies, but I can read the Bible. I am reminded about a married couple I know. The first six or so months of their marriage I met with the young bride once a week. She had a ton of questions about marriage and married life. We used that opportunity to delve in to the Bible, and as she was a young Christian, she learned a lot about where the answers lay.
All that to say I want to talk about why I can be calm a lot of the time.
#1. We try not to take stuff she says or does personally. She tells me she hates me (she’s done that twice) I tell her I love her very much; I know she doesn’t hate me. When she was little she would run off in large and small stores. I had to keep her in the cart even though she howled and moaned the entire time we were in the store. I knew it had nothing to do with me: I had made the right choice. I knew people were saying things about that crying child her mother was ignoring, but you know what? There was nothing I could do.
#2. We don’t yell in the house. That goes especially for me. Small was toddling around and talking pretty well the first time I yelled at her. She was about to grab a half open bag of dried pasta and it would have gone every where. She ran away and hid under the kitchen table, apologizing over and over again. I tried to apologize to her but she didn’t get it. She internalized it. If I was going to act like that, she must have done something wrong. There wasn’t any discipline there, just terror. I wish I could say I’d never yell again, but of course I have. I think that yelling comes out of fear. In my case I was afraid the pasta would go everywhere. Pretty stupid reason to yell, if you think about it.
#3. Small is an easy child. With some exceptions, she obeys right away. If she doesn’t, I start counting, “1-2-3.” We usually don’t make it past three because she HATES being counted at SO MUCH. I have no idea why. There is no severe punishment if I reach ten, something I haven’t done in years. My husband asked her one day what she thought of being sent to her room? She said she didn’t mind it because she had all these toys. Then he asked her about counting. As expected, she hated it. She couldn’t tell us why, either. I sure hope this keeps up. At least until she’s twenty.
#4. We aren’t going to exact revenge. When she is disciplined for things like watching tv without permission or running out in to the street she loses tv privileges or has to go inside for the rest of the night. I know parents that get angry at their kids for stuff like that and impulsively deliver physical punishment or take away tv for a month. It doesn’t make sense, and in my opinion and it builds up resentment on both sides. I think it goes back to the “don’t take what they do personally.” They didn’t watch tv because they wanted to hurt me, it’s because they wanted to watch tv. I try to avoid punishment of any kind (and I also try discipline her throughout the day) because I do not believe it is effective and it easily can become just plain mean. I do get angry at her, but I try to let that go before I decide what happens next.
I’m not sure what else to say about all of this. If I think of more things, I will post them. Oh, if there is some sort of interest in non-punitive Biblical discipline I would love to write about it. I haven’t yet because I know at least two of the mamas that read this are part of the GCM – Gentle Christian Mother’s community and I would just be preaching to the choir.