After chatting to a friend this morning, I felt inspired to break from the Jane Austin themed posts today, and write this one. I hope it ends up being coherent; I'll be writing this in stints!
I read something on Rebecca's beautiful blog a few months ago, about discipline. It was posted by a friend of hers (I think!), and was basically saying that after some patchy times of disciplining her kids, her family decided to really get things simplified. They sat down and developed a set of rules and consequences that everyone could understand, own and follow. It had worked wonderfully for them, and I was keen to give it a try!
During the summer holidays back in December, Stuart and I called our very first "family meeting" with the children. We'd always planned on having these (after reading some inspiring parenting book pre-children), but had never actually done it. The children thought it was quite funny. We kept it fairly light, giving them some paper and pencils and things to do while we chatted things over up at the table. We included the children in the discussion which worked well to really get their attention and help them feel part of the process. Stuart led the meeting which I really liked- good to take the backseat for once! He's usually very prep-focused, but felt motivated to lead things due to some very poor behaviour he disliked coming home to. It got us talking, got us all on the same page... it was really good in many ways.
What did we come up with? 3 simple rules, and 3 simple consequences. These of course are personal to our family; yours would be different- it's whatever is important to you, and works for you and your children.
Many things are encompassed within our family rules. They are:
1. TELL THE TRUTH.
This is SO important to us as a family- if you can trust one another, that's a great starting point. For a child who lies knowingly, the consequence is having something bitter and distasteful on their tongue to remind them only to speak words of truth. We decided on apple cider vinegar- it tastes horrible, but is actually really good for them! We have only had to do this once for each child since December, which is a vast improvement. A teaspoonful later and they really think their answers through now!!! It has helped to break the habit of lying.
2. SHOW KINDNESS
Well, this incorporates so many things. The way they speak to each other, using manners, being generous etc. We try to be kind and generous to one another and to them, to set the tone of the house. Between Saraya and Elijah there does tend to be a bit of competitiveness which we've always found sad. They do squabble, especially when they're tired. Sometimes just separating them or reminding them how to speak kindly when things get tetchy is the first step, and often all that's needed, but when one really hurts the other with words or physically, they need a consequence. We decided removal was the most logical one. The offending child (or both if necessary!) goes to their room for 5 minutes. This works wonders in itself for providing time and space to think things through and calm down. Then on coming out, they must apologise to the other, and offer an act of kindness sometime that afternoon or evening eg. doing a job for the other, getting them a drink if they're thirsty, etc. This has been incredible for fostering love between the two. They LOVE getting ministered to, and doing the ministering!! It's so nice to watch. Often cards get made, cuddles too, etc. Actually, we're a bit off with this one at the moment. It's amazing how fast we can get offtrack when we as parents aren't consistent. I need to get back on top of this one- I've been letting things slip a bit and we're paying for it.
Well, this one speaks for itself.
With training issues such as sitting up at the table, chewing appropriately, keeping bedrooms straight, etc. we just give lots of encouragement and reminders etc. These are ongoing things the children are learning, and we try not to be too hard on them.
BUT, willful disobedience is dangerous as a child who feels they can disobey in the little things will ultimately feel they can disobey in the big things. eg. road safety, safety in the home etc. may seem little but can become dangerous very quickly. A child who is used to stopping immediately when asked, or ready to do whatever it is we ask of them, is one who will be safe, trusting, and hopefully ready to listen and obey God too.
A child who looks you in the eye and willfully says "no!" is disobeying. This is when we feel we need to remind them who is in charge, who is boss, who is leading and training and protecting them, keeping them safe and teaching them through their childhood years. HOpefully this is something we can train out of our children in their formative years, making the older years run more smoothly and happily for everyone.
The consequence? Well, this prompted much discussion. We had made the decision pre-children not to smack at all, mostly following Stuart's study at uni which did not support this form of punishment. Aside from my occasional willing slip, we had never smacked our kids. However, Stu could not come up with anything he thought would be snappy, get their attention, be over quickly, and remind them who's boss in the midst of an altercation. So, we asked the children. We gave them a few options, talked things through and guess what? They CHOSE the smack.They said they wouldn't like it, and it would be the best punishment. We were stunned.
Both children have had 2 or 3 smacks on the back of the leg since then. It's only ever for willful disobedience, and done quickly and calmly followed by a talk about what happened and a reminder of how things could have gone if they had obeyed. It has worked really well, and we have a lot less whinging and whining since. Elijah comes hopping straight to the bathroom most times now to have his teeth brushed, rather than lying on the kitchen floor fussing about it. It makes the whole house more pleasant and calm. We're not stuck trying to work out what to do in the middle of a difficulty; the children know what's expected and what will happen to remind them to do better next time if they make a poor choice.
Anyway, all this to just share and encourage on this rocky road of parenthood. May you be blessed as you lovingly train and lead your little ones through these formative years!