Positive discipline is good and all but what do I do with all this repressed anger?
With all this talk of disciplining your child with an even, firm voice, is it any wonder that some of us drink?
The last week has just been nuts, as August is crunch month for the new cooperative preschool I’m helping to set up. We’re getting ready to outfit the school, interviewing teachers and getting official with a bank account and the lovely paperwork and everything.
Just a few days ago, we interviewed a potential teacher who was just fantastic. By the end of our interview, I’d just wanted to comb Miss Awesome’s hair and feed her grapes because she was just so sweet and pretty, which, as we all know, are crucial qualifications of someone you’d want to hire to nurture your precious offspring into the social and emotionally-equipped, obedient and compassionate, genius-in-the-making, peaches-and-cream child you know is hidden deep, deep, deep within that little brat of yours.
Seriously, Miss Awesome fielded each and every of our questions so elegantly and articulately it was hard not to be awed by the woman. When our toddler group teacher asked her what her core philosophy was for raising kids, I counted at least five or six instances where she’d mentioned the phrase “social and emotional development”. That’s 50 or 60 points right there as far as we were concerned. But what really made me want to give her the job right there and then was how she’d made me felt when she’d uttered the words “positive discipline”.
Being the i’mperfect mom from Malaysia, God knows positive discipline is as exotic a concept to me as apple pie. When I’d heard of the disciplinary technique of time-outs, I thought it was crazy. Malaysian kids are pretty much staring at the business end of a feather duster when they misbehave, none of this time-out nonsense. Which child would stay in a corner for five minutes? Certainly not mine!
But you know what? It works. Still, when I helped to ’spread the love’, Malaysians were confused. Time out? Apa tu? Cokelat ke? (translation: Time out? Wazzat? Is it a type of chocolate?).
In fact, the words “no” and “don’t” and “if I you pour water out of the bath tub ONE MORE TIME I SWEAR YOU ARE STANDING IN THE CORNER FOR TWO WEEKS!” have become so synonymous with the word “mommy” in my household that more than once, Rae has looked at me all funny the few time’s I’ve tried to integrate the words “sure, go ahead” into my daily vocabulary. It was as though I’d suddenly lapsed into the Language of the Apes.
Positive discipline, simply put, is resisting the urge to use negative terms to stop your child or deny him or her from doing certain things, even when his or her safety may be at stake. For example, instead of NO JIMMY, DON’T TOUCH THAT HOT LAVA!!, you might want to instead guide your child to what he may do instead, like so: HEY JIMMY, LET’S ROLL DOWN THE HILL! It is really finding ways to distract your child from doing something that you may not approve, to finding something else instead that he can focus his/her boundless energy on.
I dunno about you but this is Effing. Hard. I’ve become SO used to saying “Stop that whining or I’ll give you something to whine about!” that almost super physical strength is required to force the neurons in my brain to fire a different way. Somehow, “Hey, let’s see if we can count to 100 without blinking!” does not have the same punch, yaknowatI’msayin?
Picture this: You’re a wreck from having been woken up at 3am because your husband seems to have developed a taste for middle-of-the-night-Stinky-Mouth sex (this is not what they mean by dirty talk, babe). It’s 7am and your child does not want the eggs you’ve managed to fry without burning, but would instead prefer doughnuts smothered in chocolate syrup and glitter. And as you stare down the small mountain of clothes sitting in the corner of your laundry room, maple syrup dripping from the edge of your table onto the carpet, your blood starts to boil. But wait. You quickly close your eyes and try to remember the words you read the night before from 101 Ways to Integrate Positive Discipline Into Your Everyday Child-Raising.
Get down to the level of your child, and address him or her in an even but firm voice. Say, child, breakfast today is eggs and toast, and if you do not wish to eat the eggs and toast, you may leave the breakfast table and colour quietly with your crayons.”
And as you emerge from Book Parenting stupor, you notice ten bloody scratches across your dinner table. And then your brain goes supernova.
Maybe one of you book parents out there has read this somewhere, so tell me: What do we parents do with OUR feelings of frustration?
We’re always talking about acknowledging a child’s negative emotions and accepting their tantrums and tears as normal and human, but isn’t it normal and human for us parents to want to yell at our kids a little as well? Isn’t it abnormal and unnatural to suppress these feelings of anger and general resentment when your child decides to experiment with chocolate syrup on your white walls?
And with all this, people are still shocked that we drink?
I say that whoever invented cocktail playdates needs to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Humanity Towards Stay-at-Home-Moms.
While I will never resort to using physical pain to discipline my children, I think always having to be a robot and forcing myself to use an ‘even but firm voice’ to discipline my children just seems too darn hard - and a little unnatural and dangerous even. I say a well-timed LOUD telling-off, once in a while, can do wonders, and isn’t too much to ask for.
As for Positive Discipline - that’s why I’m hiring Miss Awesome.
This was originally published at The I'mPerfect Mom.
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