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On differences…

November 6, 2010

"Not yooking me!"

Having a conversation with my sister-of-the-heart (SotH) the other day presented me with some interesting realizations about life and how we change, or not, as we learn more about life and what it takes to make us happy. We were talking about Little Frog and the intensely spirited person that he is. I brought up the way he reacts to things – when I tell him he can’t do something (like climb on the bookcase) and this is a something he really doesn’t want to hear, I get a response along the lines of “Not talking me, Mama!” and he points at me. This is definitely a thing he doesn’t want to hear, and I respect that he doesn’t like the fact that he’s being denied a thing that he really wants to do. I usually respond with “Okay, I’ll stop talking to you about it, but you still don’t get to do it.” It’s very hard not to laugh, because he’s so very indignant, and the look on his face is full displeasure – very much like a little emperor, and one of his subjects has just displeased him mightily. He’ll usually repeat that I don’t get to talk to him, and I remind him that he still doesn’t get to do this thing.

If it goes further than that, and he persists, I’ll physically remove him from the thing (or the thing from him depending on what’s going on) and redirect the need to “do a thing” to something that is okay. My SotH says that she would have laughed at him, to let him know just how silly he was being, and said she spent a whole lot of time laughing at her son when was little and being frustrated over something. She thinks he should have to deal with the embarrassment of being reprimanded and having everyone look at him (everyone can actually be a pretty good number of people if it happens on gaming days) – which actually causes him to shield his eyes so that he can’t see anyone. She was telling me that part of the “disciplining” is the acute discomfort and embarrassment that causes you to think twice before doing something that will get you in trouble again.

All this prompted a discussion about why we treat our children differently than we treat, or expect to be treated, ourselves and other adults. As adults, if we have to discuss behavior that needs changing (whether in the workplace or at home) we generally do it away from everyone else. We don’t want to cause embarrassment, we want to effect change… and we realize that making someone angry or uncomfortable isn’t the best way to go about getting that person to make that change. Yet, we’re totally okay with humiliating a child, in front of the people who supposedly care very much for that child, or in public in front of total strangers. I don’t understand that dichotomy. It’s not okay to humiliate adults, but it’s totally fine to humiliate children in the name of discipline and correction.

Little Frog is very uncomfortable with large amounts of attention – having everyone sing Happy Birthday to him was almost more than he could take. So if something happens in front of our weekly gaming group (which is part of his family as far as he’s concerned) and everyone stops to stare at him, it’s almost like someone hit him. When he’s embarrassed (and it happens when it’s either The Hubby or me reprimanding him too), he’ll close or cover his eyes with his hands and stand completely still. If we keep staring, it makes him so uncomfortable that he gets angry, and will tell us “Not yooking me!” (his “L” comes out as a “Y” right now)getting madder and louder the longer you stare. We learned this early on, and so after we say something, if it causes the withdrawal behind his hand, we’ll avert our eyes – not completely, but enough to give him time to compose himself. Usually after a couple of minutes, he’ll come over and apologize, or he’ll redirect himself to something that he knows he can do. The anger and embarrassment have disipated, and he’s absorbed the lesson to be learned here – sometimes less perfectly than others.  🙂

I know for my SotH, much of this is how she was raised, and so she is perpetuating the “my parents did it, and I turned out fine” mistake. I did much of that myself, with the Bro. I was younger, less aware of loosing those shackles – the ones that bind you to the past, like it or not. In the almost 16 years between the two boys, I’ve educated myself (and continue to do so) on what needs to change in my thinking regarding parenting and how to raise the caring loving children that will inherit, and change, our world. Spanking is no longer a viable option for me, but it’s a constant struggle to fight that fallback (my parents were spanked, and spanked my sister and me when we were growing up). Subjecting children to derision, condescension, humiliation in order to make them do what you want – this seems like a good way to cause problems later. Sure you’ve gotten them to do things the way you want, but have you done it in a way that causes a deeper connection, or is the way you chose going to cause fear, deep-seated resentments, and during the teen-aged years avoidance, anger, and out-and-out dislike?

Call me soft, but I’ve decided my children need to grow up in a loving, peaceful house (as much as I can help maintain the peace by controlling my own temper), not in a house where fear of parental reaction to every little thing rules their decision making.

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