Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Do You Drop Your Children Off At The Side of The Road When You Get Mad?

Did you read about the highly intellegent mom who kicked her two children out of her car and drove off?

I wrote the article below for Texas Family Magazine last year. It discusses discipline. How do you discipline your children and what do they learn from it...

Discipline in a Hurry
Texas Family Magazine Posted by admin On February - 2 - 2009
Oct/Nov 2009 Issue
by Dr. Claire N. Rubman
His room is a mess… She doesn’t clear the table… They won’t do their homework or go to bed at bedtime. You’ve tried asking, screaming, begging and bribing but to no avail, so what’s next? You’ve grounded them for the rest of their lives, taken away every last meaningful possession that you’ve ever bought them and still the dirty clothes and dishes remain untouched. What now - do you give in and take care of it all yourself, turn a blind eye as they take their cell phone to bed with them like a security blanket? Is that what discipline has come to? Do you tell yourself that as long as they do well in school and don’t do drugs then maybe you shouldn’t sweat the little stuff…

As your alarm clock rings to signal the onset of a new day, the familiarity of those old battlegrounds looms. The monotony of the day can easily overwhelm us as parents. In homes all across the country parents are waging the same battle cries over unbrushed teeth, forgotten homework, uneaten breakfasts or cell phones at the breakfast table. Not to mention the failed campaigns and battle scars that have barely healed from broken curfews, forgotten chores and the previous night’s parenting endeavors. Bus time diminishes the importance of it all and you savor your impending respite before the next onslaught around 3 o’clock.

We know we can do better. We plan, discuss and organize more effective disciplinary techniques with friends as we compare combat stories and lick our proverbial battle wounds. We scour through parenting magazines in search of that holy disciplinary grail. Well, the search is over! You’ve found it my friends…

Try looking at life though your child’s eyes. Consider the possibility that your expectations might be unrealistic given the frenetic pace of your child’s life. Is there really time to follow through on a chore or are our collective children too busy rushing to school, cramming in homework, grabbing dinner on the go between the afterschool world of sports, music, dance and text messaging friends? Is life so over scheduled that even the best intentions get lost in the shuffle? Let’s create time in our children’s lives so that they can slow down long enough to tidy their rooms, wash the dishes or sort the laundry. Let’s set them up to be successful. As important as each individual activity seems, perhaps the overall goal of family stability is more crucial.

Lest you waver in your resolve, remember, these chores are not without a purpose. They don’t just help you out around the house, although that would be reason enough, but they develop self discipline, a sense of responsibility and family commitment. These are the character building moments in your child’s life. They form the foundations of our personal work ethic and our values system. Make chores a positive experience in your home and watch your children rise to the challenge. Respect the effort that’s involved and remember to thank your child. Never forget the power of role modeling.

Another possibility exists, however. We need to consider if our children are just too tired to function at their best. Perhaps they are just so overwhelmed by school work, hurt by a cruel or ambiguous text message or so stressed by their daily lifestyle that even when they go to bed on time sleep eludes them. Yes, children worry too and while they may not verbalize it to us, stress often keeps them awake at night. Lack of sleep can make our children short tempered, forgetful and lethargic – not the optimal conditions for a successful childhood. As they creep towards adolescents they require more sleep, not less, but they are being squeezed at both ends: They battle to stay up later now that they are older and school starts earlier in the morning as they shift to middle then high school, yet their growing brains and bodies demand more hours of sleep.

Even if our well rested children have slowed their pace there may be yet another reason why our attempts to discipline them may be unsuccessful. It is possible that we are unrealistic in our expectations. Perhaps they can’t tidy that bedroom because they have too many belongings and they lack the organizational skills to even start the process. Maybe their teeth go unbrushed because they want you there to supervise them or they’re not yet ready for that level of responsibility. Maybe your child just doesn’t like the toothpaste. Maybe your parenting is sporadic so they are testing you to see what they can get away with today.

Instead of looking for that disciplinary panacea, the next ‘quick fix’, look through your child’s eyes at the lifestyle, pace and expectations that you set and ask yourself, honestly, which changes you could make to benefit your child.

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