Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Self-policed society

Darlin's aged 3 and 1 at the time. 

Discipline. It's complicated once they get past dripping slobber on their baby toys. When the first darlin' was coming upon toddlerhood, Mr. Darcy and I just made a LOUD irritating noise when he got near something dangerous and then looked away so he couldn't "enjoy" the face of the parent or discern the direction where the noise came from. It was great fun in truth, but once the next darlin' came along and the first darlin' got old enough that the "random irritating noise" wasn't working, it was on, folks, and it wasn't pretty. Two children can get into all kinds of things one alone won't and they can combine their "powers" to see what a mama is really made of. I believe this is when I really started to appreciate the word discipline and not as punishment term but one that spoke to natural consequences. From that point, I looked to discipline as "social training" for an individual standpoint and also to strengthen the bond and orientation of each of us united as a single family unit. For each discipline maneuver I doled out, I tried to think WAY AHEAD to how this would translate as an adult strategy. After all, I think the schemas in an adult's toolbox go back to birth order, sibling dynamics and parental relationships. So I was really feeling the pressure to get these skirmishes handled as well as could be managed. This was a lot easier said that done in a sleep deprived state. It takes lots of oxygen in the blood stream to get creative with kids' discipline.

Darlin's that are 3 and nearly 1 now! Just a little bit of
history repeating!!!
This got a bit more challenging once we added a third and now fourth darlin' to the mix and we began to have young kids and babies and the varying discipline strategy of "adjusting the rule to the age" problem.  Once you give a "rule" they want to see it equally applied to everyone in the house including the parents. It's a fairness drive I can appreciate but things don't always translate fairly once you factor in age and pre-existing circumstances. I have learned over my relatively short duration to restrain my desire to slap a rule down as a solution for a discipline issue. It almost always backfires here in darlin'ville. I have had however better luck with creative problem management such as thought-provoking books, toys put on restriction, separating children, fully explaining the "why" of my requests, offering choices, and making deals for tradeoffs necessary to keep peace. Does that sound weak or what?! In my pre-mama days, I would never have employed such strategery (love that fake word) but God is working on me, teaching me patience, and also that I am not really in charge of anything. It might seem easier to let the kids to work it out for themselves but remember my dear friends, this blogger is a certified type A control freak (in reform training of course!) so for me I have to nearly meditate to "walk by" an argument and listen out of sight to make sure no one gets hurt in the bargain. Now, I'm real human so I break this common sense strategy all the time. There is usually a coup and they work together to bring down the mama. Quite effective and usually not pretty. At these times, I usually take comfort that as much as they may bicker over a plastic toy, at least they know and appreciate each other well enough to band together to drive me nuts. ;-) I can only speak to a solid effort rather than a mastery of discipline at this point. I feel the weight of the responsibility to help them manage their feelings and behavior but ultimately it is up to each child's conscience really. I take comfort that these are trials in miniature for the life they will have as adults, the social realm of compromise, teamwork and tradeoffs for success.

The home is the first of many labs where they will test these skills. The home is also the first culture they will attempt to master as they claim it for their own. I wish I could say I was the lab manager but mostly I am just a rat (the one who keeps banging her head into the wall at the end of wrong turn in the maze). I take a greater measure of comfort in the idea that God is probably wearing the white lab coat and making notes on future "character crafting" experiments for us all. Thank heaven he is the one who is really in control!

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