Saturday, December 12, 2009


Until now I've almost exclusively used this blog to put up photos and updates of my girls. But from time to time I will share "ponderings." These ponderings are just things that have been on my mind that need to be freed.

The topic of today's pondering is child training. Now, I've observed many parents with children in battles of the will and it seems that parents that consider themselves consistent strict disciplinarians fall into two camps: those that demand unconditional obedience, and those that don't. What's the difference? Here are two examples.

Two children are playing. Suzy grabs the toy that Tommy is playing with. Suzy's mom, attempting to be consistent with disciplining her daughter, says, "Suzy, give the toy back to Tommy." Suzy does not. Mom repeats, "Suzy, you need to give it back now." Suzy continues to hold tightly to the toy. Suzy's mom retrieves the toy from Suzy's hand, give it to Tommy, and pulls Suzy aside for a spanking, and lets her return to playing after Suzy calms down. In this example, did the child ever obey mom? Suzy did
not give the toy back. Mom did it for her. Suzy won the battle. The child decided she was not going to return the toy, and she did not. Although Mom asked her to, Mom did not require her to. In this situation, Mom taught Suzy that there are consequences for her actions, but Mom did not teach her daughter to submit to her authority.

Next example. Same situation. Suzy takes Tommy's toy and refuses to give it back after Mom tells her to. Mom tells Tommy, "don't worry, you'll have your toy back soon." Mom leaves the toy in Suzy's hand, then pulls Suzy aside for the spanking, talk, etc. After Suzy calms down, Mom asks her once again to give the toy back to Tommy. Suzy returns the toy on her own.
Mom won the battle. Suzy submitted to her mother's authority. (In some instances, I've seen the mother and child go back for more spankings because Suzy did not want to give the toy back even the second or third time. But the parent simply would not allow the child to get away with disobedience, and continued the pattern calmly until the child submitted.)

In observing the differences between these two camps of discipline over the years, I've noticed that the children from the "no option but obedience" camp (example #2) are generally more respectful, happy children. The children trained as in example #1, receiving consequences but not made to obey are less respectful, more bitter, and don't seem to trust anyone put in authority over them. Lately I've been trying to analyze this from the child's point of view and developed the theory that when consequences are issues without obedience being demanded, the child is learning to "purchase" disobedience with the payment of discomfort (the spanking, swat, etc.) But when consequences are issued along with the demand to obey, the child has everything to lose and will be less likely to have trouble submitting to Mom in general.

A few months ago I was at a drugstore with my two girls. While I was at the checkout I dropped an item on the floor. Since my arms were full and I had my baby on my hip, I asked my 2 year old, Maddie to please pick up the item for me. Now, I am consistent with conducting training sessions at home to teach Maddie how to do what I expect of her. Because of it, I rarely have trouble from her in public. But for whatever reason, on this particular day she refused to do what I asked. After a couple more nice requests, I saw that she wasn't going to give in easily. It certainly would have been quicker and less embarrassing to just pick the item up myself and be on my way. But I knew that that would be handing the victory over to my daughter, and I did not want to teach her that it was ever okay to disobey me. So I told the cashier to please excuse me and that I'd be back in a bit. I picked up the dropped item, moved about seven feet away from the checkout, and threw the item back on the floor. I proceeded to work with Maddie for the next few minutes until she finally picked up the item and handed it to me. Now, you'd think that dragging out such drama would result in a pouty child who won't talk to you for the next hour. But submitting to authority does something to a person. Maddie was remorseful for a little bit, and then back to being the happiest little girl for the rest of the day. What a difference compared to times when I took the easier way out.

I've found that requiring obedience can be time consuming. Now, I'm far from being a child expert, and my little cuties are still very young, but it seems that if parents are prepared to put in whatever time it might take, you'll actually be saving time in the long run and will be blessed with a happy child that respects your authority. A two year old who's not taught obedience and respect will turn into a disrespectful 8 year old who will grow into a rebellious, untrusting teenager.

So, to conclude this "ponderings," teaching a child that their actions have consequences can be quite different from teaching a child to obey.

Thank you to my pre-baby-days friends that were such good examples to my husband and myself as they raised their boys.

(Take that SuperNanny.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting that! Mike and I have done lots of talking about what it's like to be disciplinary parents, but I haven't really thought about the difference in those two scenarios.