The Happy/Sad Card
Let me start from the beginning. When it comes to discipline, I have to say, I struggle. It has been a learning process for me. When Caroline was eight months old and found herself able to get out of her crib, I knew that she was going to be a tough girl! For almost two years she hasn't proved my theory wrong! Two and a half years ago I couldn't imgaine my child ever doing anything wrong for me to have to discipline her. I have to admit I was naive. I remember looking at her when she was just home from the hospital thinking I would never spank you! I mean, I was disciplined as a child and I belive in disciplining children. I was spanked, there were times when I remember getting my own switch after church on Sundays. So when C was first born I couldn't imagine ever needing or wanting to "spank" her. Now two and a half years later, I have learned a lot about discipline. Sometimes I feel like I'm flying the plane as it is being built. I'm winging it so to speak. By this, I mean I'm choosing the consequence as the behavior happens while hoping that the consequence detters the behavior permanently. Miss C is a strong willed child. Not sure which parent she inherited this attribute from since Sam and I do not have strong personalities! As I said earlier, I learned that she was strong willed when she was an infant. I've struggled with the spanking issue. My three sisters and I were spanked and we all turned out just fine; hard working, selfless citizens trying to make a difference in other's lives. I know people who were never spanked as children and they are hard working, selfless citizens trying to make a difference in other's lives. I also know people who were spanked a lot as children and they are, even as adults, considered rebelious. I also know folks that were never spanked and are as adults considered rebelious. So my question is how do you find discipline balance? How do you know that you are getting it right? How do you know that your discipline policy is not so extreme where your child is ashamed? How do you know that your parenting style is effective enough that your child knows her boundaries? I've thought back and looked at my childhood and tried to find what my parents did to have this discipline balance. Their style of parenting was authoritative! I finally put a name to this parenting style while in college studying to be a teacher. I want our child (children) to grow up just as I did, in a loving and nurturing home while having boundaries and guidelines! My parents were great examples of this and got it right! Are they perfect, no but somewhere down the line they knew how to parent the correct way when it came to disciplining us girls. It's easier said than done, I'm afraid, because even after having great models I'm still trying to get it right or find my own discipline niche.I have blogged before about Caroline's biting issue. It seems, at times, to come and go. Just when we think she's forgotten about it she'll do it the very next day. Right now she has gone three weeks without biting her friends at Ms. Leah's! For the most part her biting has been my most behavior concern. People have told me that "she'll grow out of it" and "it's just a stage". For me, it is just the end of the world to have my child bite someone. It makes me sad. It leaves me crying and I feel like a failure. I question myself as a parent and often ask myself, how can this be, that MY child exhibits this type of behavior or what is wrong my child or even worse could this be all because of me. I'm so thankful that the children and parents at Ms. Leah's love us so much! Caroline is absolutely sweet, happy, and precious but she does bite. Our ped told us that it was because she was bit first at eight months, I don't buy that now that she is almost 32 months old! Because of my worry and concern we set up a behavior consultation last June with our ped to only discover, to my surprise, that this is "normal" and that we have "no cause or reason to worry". I seemed fine with our ped's answers to our questions until she bit again. I was a biter as a baby too! I guess my mom must've said to me when I was little "I hope you have a child just like yoursef so you can see just what I'm going through! Pay back kind of thing, ha! No seriously, I do want Caroline to be strong willed. This will pay off for when she's 21! Our ped also told us that Caroline is very smart and very advanced for age. At her 18 month check up she asked what the secret was and what were we doing with her for her to already be so verbal and have so much awareness. We simply said that we read to her every single day and that we find ourselves constantly talking to her about everything from "what noise did we just hear" to answering her questions like "who bought that for you mommy".
Sam and I are learning ways to channel her strong will instead of snuffing it for snuffing it would be detrimental to her character. She already is who she is already going to be.
Recenly our SS class did a video series by Chris Ingram called "Effective Parenting in a Defective World". I learned so many things from this series including that spanking is acceptable and it is a must since the Bible "spare the rod spoil the child" verse tells us so. So my beliefs and struggles with this were validated! We learned other things too like loving her so much even in the midst of a "behavior" crisis! We also learned that a child should be spanked with something instead of by hand. You don't spank with the same hand that loves. We use a spanking spoon (wooden spoon) and you better believe that C hates to see it pulled out. Needless to say we don't have to use it quite as much as we used our palms before!
Sam and I also bought the book "The Strong Willed Child" by Dr. James Dobson. At first, I thought, I love Dr. Dobson, always have, but how can an almost 30 year old book help me now. After cracking it open months have we bought it, I was glued from the very first page. From this book I learned the importance of what it means to be consistent with discipline. I also learned, and this has been, by far the most crucial, that for every defiant behavior there must be a consequence. Defiant meaning, you have explicitly taught your child what she shouldn't do (we do not throw rocks) and if she defiesyou, there absolutely must be a consequence for belligerently being defiant. On the same token I learned that I should not give my child a consequence for something she did wrong if I haven't taught or talked to her about it being wrong or inappropriate in the first place. For example, one night C wanted to color. She loves coloring at night! I said yes to her when she asked if she could color. So she went to the living room table to get her crayons and coloring book and papers and went into the kitchen. She likes to color on the kitchen floor for its hard surface. I was in the living room at the time and all of a sudden I heard four hard taps. I knew exactly what she was doing before I even walked into the kitchen. YEP! You guessed! She colored with a very purplish color crayon on our newly painted yellow kitchen wall! I shrieked merely because there was crayon, big streaks of purple crayon, on the wall. Apparently I was so loud that I scared her and she started crying. Before reading the Strong Willed Child book I probably would have popped her bottom. But since reading the book and knowing that I haven't talked to her up until that point about not coloring on the wall that there was no use in giving her a consequence for something that she wasn't aware was wrong in the first place.
I said all of this to say that we have tried many things (time out, popping, etc) and are continuing to try our newly learned parenting discipline skills. I know every parenting preference is different and I'm not presenting these things because I think it's the only absolute way to parent or discipline children and I'm certainly not saying that you should pop your child. I'm just sharing what has worked and is working for our family and our child! The happy/sad card (above pic) is one of those new skills that we are currently implementing that is working (a coworker shared it with me)! When we ask Caroline to do something and she does it right away we'll move the Caroline clip to the happy side of the card while praising her effort and attention to the task. If she doesn't do the request right away or she is being blatantly defiant we move the Caroline clip to the sad side while saying "you're making mommy have a real sad face". This card has made the biggest difference because she doesn't like to see the clip on the sad side. It is a visual so maybe that is helping! She'll say "don't show me that mommy" and her behavior turns around and she completes the request appropriately. I hope she'll want to be a pleaser too! Does that mesh, being strong willed and a people pleaser? We use the card or show it to her mostly for when making requests: "Can you help clean up?" "Can you put your blocks back?"etc. Some other things that we have been doing to try and enforce positive reinforcement is to tell Caroline the expectations prior to doing something. For instance, before going into Publix I'll tell her that we are going shopping and that she has to stay in the buggy and be the best shopper. We also wait until the trip is over before going and getting the shopping cookie in the bakery. Caroline has also just learned that she can scream and cry if she doesn't want to leave places like the library. For our last visit, I prepared her for the trip. I told her that we were going to return our old books and look for new ones. I told her that we would color, read new books, find new books to check out, and play with the puzzles. I also told her that I would set a five minute timer on my phone and that when it went off it would be time for us to leave the library. Preparing the expectations for going places beforehand like the grocery store and the library have helped make leaving our outings successful!
The kicker for me while reading The Strong Willed Child book was the part when Dr. Dobson says you should not have to spank your child past age six and defintely not past age ten. By six your child should already know home/school expectations and boundaries for their life should already be in place! WOW, by age 6! I can't wait to see how this follows through! Like I said, I'm not promoting popping or spanking. I recently talked to someone who use to keep a strong willed child many years ago in her home daycare and she said she believes spanking isn't always the answer. I also believe this. I don't want you to think that we constantly pop our child but we do when it is needed. I don't know that what I'm doing is right or effective 100% of the time, but one thing is for sure, I cannot have a child grow up and be a selfish, unproductive member of society who doesn't show generosity or compassion toward others or not have a care for the world or try to make it a better place for all who inhabit it. After all she is a reflection of Sam and me, and as her parents we do have high expectations for her and her life!