Friday, February 5, 2010

Children don't really misbehave

Here's another idea from Teaching Children Self-Discipline by Thomas Gordon that has helped me immensely, especially in those moments when Dorian is throwing his lunch across the kitchen, or dumping his milk all over his tray and the floor. It's the idea of problem ownership, which is something that I have vaguely understood in the past, but never yet applied to my relationship with my son. It's like this (p. 107):
[When an adult perceives that a child is misbehaving,] the "badness" of the behavior actually resides in the adult's mind, not the child's; the child in fact is doing what he or she chooses or needs to do to satisfy some need...put another way, the adult experiences the badness, not the child.

...When adults begin to see children as persons like themselves, engaging in various behaviors to satisfy normal human needs, they are much less inclined to evaluate the behaviors as good or bad.

...[This] doesn't mean, however, that adults will always feel accepting of what [the child does, but they can understand that] the child is not a misbehaving or bad child, not trying to do something to the adult, but rather is only trying to do something for himself.

I paraphrased a bit, so you could get the point of it without reading the whole chapter.

The author goes on to discuss strategies for working with young children, even babies and toddlers, such as finding out what they need, making some kind of a trade, and/or modifying the environment. These are great, and I already knew them, but for me, just stepping back and understanding that I am the one with the problem, not Dorian, helps me to see things in a new light and switch gears. And occasionally he is the one with the problem, and I can let him work that out too. Like when he has a poopy diaper but won't lie down for me to change it...

And on and on. Read the book. It's good stuff.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Teaching Children Self-Discipline

I'm reading Teaching Children Self-Discipline by Thomas Gordon. While most of it is really applicable to older children (at least old enough to converse and reason things out with you), I have found it valuable even in dealing with [my reaction to] the "misbehaviors" of an 18-month old. I could share lots of little tidbits, and maybe I will later, but for now I just wanted to share the following 2 paragraphs (p. 175) that sort of knocked me over when I read them:
Conventional wisdom has it that if you genuinely accept a child, he or she will remain the same. It is also nearly universally believed that the way to help children do something to point out their faults...Consequently, in dealing with children most parents and teachers rely almost exclusively on "correcting messages" — on judging, criticizing, preaching, moralizing, admonishing, name-calling, blaming, lecturing, threatening, ordering, and directing — all messages that convey nonacceptance of the child. This "language of unacceptance" is also the method of choice of other caretakers of our children.

In recent years...we have found ample evidence that a necessary condition for helping others change is accepting them the way they are[!]

This was written in like 1985, so I don't think many of his generalizations about "most" parents are really fair anymore. I think "most" parents have already begun to understand what he is teaching here. But it still hit me like a ton of bricks. Even though I haven't been a parent for very long, I've been a teacher for over a decade. How many times have I criticized, moralized, admonished, judged, and generally not accepted my students, my family, my husband? Yikes. Thankfully, I know my students have been quite forgiving of my faults. I hope my children (and husband) can be too...