Thursday, March 30, 2006

Discipline, our first crossroads

This topic has been coming up a lot on several of the boards and blogs that I read, so much so that I now have a small tempest brewing in my head that requires writing about it at quarter to one in the morning when I really should be asleep.

Discipline for Michael right now consists of redirection or removing him from the situation that's causing the problem. Even though he's twenty-one months old, he's somewhere between twelve and forteen months developmentally, so I make it a point to react to him as such. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, lowering all of my expectations to what he's actually capable of doing. This has made my life so much easier and I believe his as well.

Since we still have a ways to go for other discipline methods to be appropriate for him, it's not something I've spent a lot of time reading up on. I've always know that I wanted to follow positive discipline methods - I never want my children to be afraid of me or John.

When I was twelve, I had a paper route. It was just the local weekly paper, probably about 30 houses on the route. Somewhere along the line, things got too much for me. My method of dealing with this was to ignore it - I stopped delivering and collecting and spent all of my energies hiding this from my parents because I didn't know how to say I wanted to quit. I had been threatened multiple times about getting my act together and was given many chances to redeem myself with the paper route or face ever worsening punishments. The threat that came before the paper finally talked directly to my mom was spanking, by my dad, with the belt. I can't remember where I was in the house when I heard her on the phone, but once I realized what was happening I got out of there as quickly as possible because my dad was home at the time. I ran out of the house, no shoes on, and rode my bike down to the park and hid until I knew he had left for work. I still got spanked, but by my mom who was nowhere near as bad as my dad would have been.

John brought home a copy of Blankie by Leslie Patricelli a month or so ago. We've read several of her other books to Michael and I've always enjoyed them. This book has a line in it about how "Blankie" stays with the child in time-outs. The first few times I read it, I didn't really think of what I was reading. Then I realized that it really bothered me - the child in the illustrations looks like a baby, and he's being made to have time-outs? So I started substituting other words, "Blankie sits on the steps with me." It's now gotten to the point that I don't even want to read it anymore because I am so bothered by it.

I expressed this to John a few weeks ago and he couldn't understand what the fuss was about, he'd just assumed we'd be using time-outs like everyone else (when Michael is old enough for them obviously). I had a hard time explaining to him why I didn't want to use this form of discipline, or punative discipline in general. He called me from work this afternoon to ask me if I had read Dooce yet - there was something funny that I sould take a look at. I read yesterday's entry and my skin is still crawling from it. I told him that I really didn't like what they were doing and again stated that I don't want to use time-outs as a form of discipline. He seemed honestly confused and couldn't understand why we wouldn't use them. To me they are no different in intent to spanking and serve to show the child that love and attention are conditional. Removing a child from an overwhelming situation and giving them some room to calm down is one thing, telling a child they have to sit still or leaving them alone for an arbitrary period of time until they are contrite is completely different.

I have serious heebie-jeebies right now. I think I'm going to spin for a bit and see if I can work my way through it. I'd talk with John about it, but he just went in to sleep with Michael so that's out. What a can of worms.