Monday, June 28, 2010

Parenting 100001

I've had to re-analyze our parenting strategies since Cyd has come into our lives. She personifies the perfection of instinct and honesty. She is. She never pretends to be. She just is. Because she is still a baby, so fresh and new, her instincts are primitive. If she is angry, she will strike out. If she doesn't want to walk, she will throw herself on the ground. When she is done with a toy, or a book, or anything, she will just throw it on the floor and walks away. When she wants to go, she runs. Also, when she feels slighted or angry, she will give you what we have come to refer as "the eyes." They're squinty and mad.

Her instincts are also sweet and endearing. She learned to kiss early. She kisses her mommies easily. She kisses Fiona compulsively. She kisses her dolls. She kisses pictures of babies and animals in books. She gives the most honest, powerful hugs of any baby on the block. Her tenderness fills me with such love. She is loving. Her heart overflows innately. She is pure.

That being said, she is very spirited. This is a gentle way of saying she can be a handful. She doesn't aim to please, as some children do. She is just an outpouring of raw self and energy. In a nutshell, she doesn't "listen". She doesn't come when you ask her to come. In fact, she often runs the other way. She is going through a phase of refusing to sit in her chair for dinner (or lunch, or breakfast), of taking her diaper off when it becomes accessible, of hitting her sweet, sweet, sister for no apparent reason. She has issues.

As a parent, this is unacceptable. We used the "naughty chair" with Fiona when she did not obey. This worked well. She had to sit in the corner, on our little elephant bench. She cried. I wrung my hands, nervously, as the minutes ticked, but Fiona learned how to do what we wanted. She was easily tamed.

Cyd is a different story. She will cry on the so called "naughty chair". She even has the nerve to get off the chair (Fiona would never have even thought of trying that.) But this form of punishment hasn't worked so far. Cyd is still the free spirit, who ignores her parents' requests if there is something more interesting to do.

So I got to thinking. And with thinking comes researching.

And I found this: "Unconditional Parenting", by Alfie Kohn.
I haven't read the whole book yet, but the premise is that punishment (time out) and rewards (praise) are not beneficial. And can be detrimental. Children need to know you love them unconditionally, even when they're throwing a tantrum or not acting as you would prefer. They are not objects we can manipulate. They are not meant to be tamed (OK, so we've made some mistakes.) We need to use reason and love instead.

I am starting to use this general idea with Cyd (and Fiona too) and there has been a shift. The behavior hasn't changed yet, with Cyd, but there has been a lot fewer tears. It's OK if she doesn't come when I call her so I can change her diaper. I get her and kiss her and she is happy. Before, I would reprimend her for not listening and she would throw a fit and be recalcitrant as I changed her diaper. With this new attitude that it's OK, that I love her unconditionally, she is happy and calm. The feet kicking and shrieks have been replaced by smiles and giggles. She must sense that she has regained the power that is inherently hers.

My love for both of my daughters has always been unconditional. But a piece of me has tried to mold them into what I think they need to be. This is selfish and unfair. They are what they are. All I can ask of them is to be true.

I like this theory. I will expand on this once I actually read the book.

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