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Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

Raising a Disciplined Child (Or At Least One Who Listens!)

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 12:38 am | By Stephanie Woo

 

B dancing in her swimsuit

Recently, I’ve been obsessively reading Montessori books. I came upon a whole chapter on discipline in The Discovery of the Child, which I loved.

“One of the greatest difficulties in securing discipline lies in the fact that it cannot be obtained simply with words,” Montessori writes. Okay, so that’s the bad news. You can’t make a child do something just by telling him to do it. 

She writes, “To tell a child: ‘Stand still like me!’ does not enlighten him. One cannot by a simple command put order into the complex psycho-muscular system of a still growing individual.” Most of us think that if children aren’t doing what we ask because they are disobeying us, when in fact, most of the time, they are simply UNABLE to follow our commands. Their body and mind has not come together in such a way to be able to do what we ask, so our job then is to help them achieve this before expecting them to obey our commands.

Montessori breaks down obedience into three stages. In the first stage, the child cannot obey you. This child, usually between 0-2.5, is obeying the voice inside himself, you can also call it his ‘inner directive’ (if you know a toddler, then you know what she means).  In the second stage, the child would like to obey and seems to understand your command and wishes to obey, but he cannot obey, or rather, he does not always succeed in obeying, even if he wants to. This stage starts from 2.5 and lasts till about 4.5-5 years old. In the third stage, the child has perfected his self-control and is able to do what you ask. This doesn’t mean he always will, but he is physically and emotionally capable of obeying. So before 5 years old, a child either cannot obey you or wants to but cannot do it well. 

How often do you yell at your 5-and-under because you think they’re being bad on purpose? 

So how do you help a child learn to obey? She continues to write, “The first glimmerings of discipline have their origin in work. At a certain moment a child becomes intensely interested in some task. This is shown by the expression on his face, his intense concentration, and his constancy in carrying out the same exercise. Such a child shows that he is on the way to becoming disciplined.”  

Through work, the child is learning to bring together his body and mind, and through this process, he will achieve many things – one of which is being able to follow your commands.

So what can you do to help your child get here faster? 

First, you need to observe your children closely and see what they are interested in.  What do they like to do where they are not easily distracted? What tasks do they do with concentration and interest? Maybe they’re walking on that thin ledge on the sidewalk over and over. Maybe they’ve used up half the bottle of soap and still haven’t finished washing their hands. Maybe they’re putting on and taking off certain items of clothing over and over. Maybe they’re putting everything in their mouth and exploring. Well, until you’ve let them do those things over and over till they feel satisfied, getting them to do what you want them to do will be a struggle for you and them. 

The hardest part of this whole thing is not letting your own judgments get in the way. Maybe you don’t think their interest is worthy, maybe it’s very inconvenient for you to let them, maybe you have other concerns that tell you not to let them do those things. 

For example, it’s fall here in the Pacific NW and it is cold. But during this boots and jacket weather, Brooke (2 years 10 months old) spends more time putting on swimsuits than anything else. And it happens at the most inconvenient time. Like first thing in the morning when we are trying to get everyone out of the house by 730am. I’ve had to manhandle her out of her swimsuit into regular school clothes, with screams and tears, of course. She’s not interested in puzzles, learning her letters, painting or any of the myriad other activities I have out for her. No, she just wants to put on swimsuits – first the pink one, then the blue one, then the neon yellow one. And then all three, one on top of the other. It’s amazing how much time and concentration she spends on doing this everyday. 

So this is what I decided to do. 

On our work shelf, I created an activity called ‘going swimming.’ It includes everything you would need to go swimming, from swimsuits, t-shirts, shorts, flip flops, sunglasses, towels to tote bag. This is by far her favorite activity and four days later of almost nothing but changing into and out of swimsuits, there’s much less struggle getting ready in the mornings now. She even says to M, “We can’t put on swimsuits now because it’s for after school.” So much can get in the way in the mornings, but I’m happy swimsuits is no longer one of those things. 

What’s the bigger lesson in all of this? Trust your children. Follow their lead. Life will be so much easier.  

** Register for Stephanie’s next Toddler Course: Real Life Tools To Parent Your 1-Year-Old and 2-Year-Old With Ease! Find out more here

Your Brain, Your Child’s Brain and What To Do About It

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 5:50 pm | By Stephanie Woo

B rinsing a scrub brush with a garden hose

The young child has a brain different from ours – like, totally different. And yes, it’s scientifically-proven. 

Here’s an example: if given the right environment, children can learn 4 languages simultaneously, and understand all of them by the time he’s 3.  

Because we have different brains, we learn differently. Children absorb everything in their environment – effortlessly, easily, unconsciously. We, unfortunately, don’t learn that way.

One brain is not better than the other. But, as you can see, we are totally different. Here’s another example:

Children are sensorial learners. That means they learn through their senses. A child who rips a book is fascinated by the feeling of paper ripping and crumbling in his hands. A child puts his fingers in his drinking cup and swirls it around because he’s experimenting with water. A child making a mess at meals is because he’s learning how to eat. 

Now, from our point of view, as the parent who has to tape up the book, wipe up the water and clean up the mess (along with the six zillion other things we have to do as a parent), it could look like he’s screwing around, doing it on purpose, or maybe, he’s spoiled and ‘bad.‘ With our logical, rational adult minds, we make these kinds of assumptions. 

So there’s the child’s brain – and then there’s the adult brain. Two totally different brains, trying to co-exist.

Because the adult is bigger, Mom and Dad can dominate the child and physically remove him from anything they don’t want him doing. But the child! The child is driven to learn. In fact, that internal force is so strong, deep and instinctual, his whole existence depends on it. Therefore, just so you know, the next chance he gets, he’ll probably do it again. 

So we essentially have two choices. We can overpower the nature of the child (and watch those wrinkles and gray hair proliferate) OR we can align ourselves with it. 

Here’s what happened to me a while back. So it’s bathtime. B and M are playing in the tub with their various water containers, pouring water from one container to another. Well, someone came up with the bright idea of pouring water outside of the bathtub and onto the floor. The first time this happened, my husband came in yelling, “No water outside the bathtub!” then grabbed both of them out of the bath and ‘made them’ clean it up (except with two-year-olds, they love to clean and eagerly fetched the towels to clean – so it wasn’t the punishment Mark had in mind). Of course that didn’t stop them the next day (and the next), when we again, promptly took them out of the bath, shook our fingers at them and raised our voices to teach them a lesson. 

Until I realized this: they love water. They love pouring water. Trying to stop them is like trying to stop a seed from growing or the sun from coming out in the morning. 

So I decided to align myself with Nature instead. 

The next day, while the girls were in the bath, I took out a large empty garbage can and put it next to the bathtub. I told them, “If you want to pour water, you can pour it into the garbage can. See if you can do it without spilling any on the floor!” 

It worked. They immediately filled up that big garbage can with cups of bath water. Carefully, too. I then dumped out the water in the toilet. And then they proceeded to fill it up again. Before they were halfway through the second round, they had already lost interest and started playing with their sea animals.  

Children will want to play with water all the time. They will drip, dribble, grab and smear while eating. They will want to touch everything. They will run around and climb on everything. They will sing and talk loudly, even when it’s inappropriate. That is their Nature. You can come down on them, punish them, manipulate them, distract them (and I’ll admit, there are a few moments when you might need to do these things). But consider working with Nature, at least most of the time. Find creative ways for them to get their needs met. They are going to follow their nature, whether you like it or not. So find a way so they CAN do the things they want to do: let them walk around freely in a new environment and touch things (they are capable of learning how to stay away from danger and handle fragile things), give them something they can climb on in the house, give them stacks of paper to rip, let them play with water that extra 20 minutes at the sprinklers/sink/bathtub, etc. 

When you hear yourself saying, “No!” or “Don’t do that!” mostly, I suspect, it’s because you’re not aligned with the Nature of the child. So whatever you’ve got to do, figure out a way to align yourselves, my friends. It’s your path to peace and sanity.

**To read a free excerpt of my new book, Raising Your Twins: Real Life Tips to Parenting with Ease (Without Kicking Your Spouse to the Curb), click here and download it to your Kindle or to your computer. Look for the “Try It Free” box!

How to React to an Angry Toddler Who Spits and Throws Things

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 1:05 pm | By Stephanie Woo

It was bathtime. B and M are sitting in the bathtub while I’m reaching in to brush M’s teeth. She shakes her head from left to right and back again to dodge the toothbrush. I give up. She then takes her bath spray bottle and starts spraying first Brooke, then me. I say sternly, “You can spray water at the wall, but not at people.” Then she opens the bottle, takes a sip and spits the water out of the bathtub onto my feet. “No. Spitting. Water.” I say even more loudly. She throws the spray bottle on the floor, turns her head toward the wall and refuses to look at me. 

I was about to blow up when I stopped myself. Something was off. This was not a matter of setting more boundaries. She was doing this on purpose. Then a voice from somewhere reminded me: Connection Before Correction. 

I picked her up out of the bathtub (we have a rule that when you pour water outside of the tub, you get taken out). She starts to resist, but then, I get really close to her cheek and start sniffing exaggeratedly. “Hmmm…your cheeks smell good!” She smiles. I then take her feet and put it right up to my nose, “Do your feet smell good?” She laughs. I then bend her over to smell her back. She squeals with delight. Then she gives me her arm to smell. Then her hair.  “Smell, Mama!” We play and play. I finally give her a huge hug, look her in the eyes and tell her that she is delicious-smelling all over. 

I pick up her toothbrush. Without me saying a word, she opens her mouth and waits. I take the opportunity and give her a thorough flossing and brushing (I do this twice a week and let them brush their own teeth the other days). She then puts on her pajamas, runs off to play and is completely absorbed in independent Lego-building till I announce that it’s bedtime.  

In those moments of anger and frustration, I often want to go the route of yelling and punishing. I mean, don’t you? On bad days, I’m already yelling before I can stop myself. But over and over, I’ve witnessed just how ineffective it is. It may work for a few moments, but then it’ll just pop up somewhere else.

It turns out nothing works as well as connecting – I mean the genuine kind where you are fully present while playing, tickling, hugging, kissing, loving them. 5 minutes of it, and I find the children often go off to do their own thing: happy, fulfilled and satisfied.