Thursday, March 25, 2010

“You can't raise a child in a dictatorship and expect them to function as an adult in a democracy.”

Dionna at Code Name: Mama provided a really great list of links worth clicking and reading. I’d like to go over a few I think are particularly important and useful. In particular, I wanted to get the word out on the site Parenting Wisely – What to do instead of punishment. The site is basically comprised of a list of articles on discipline. I haven’t read every one of them yet (there are quite a few) but I wanted give a sneak peak of some of the good stuff on some of the favorites that I have read so far.

Judy Arnall’s article, Positive Discipline; How to Avoid Power Struggles, has so much good stuff, I could practically quote the entire article here. Here are Arnall’s suggestions for discipline tools:

The most common discipline tools used for younger children up to preschool age are redirection, substitution, supervision, offering choices, changing the environment, learning child development, ensuring enough nourishment, sleep, stimulation and attention. Most discipline at this age is prevention.

The most effective discipline tools used for older, school-aged children and teens are active listening, "I" messages, time in, changing the environment, modeling, related consequences, and problem solving. Family meetings are also especially effective for this age.

Here is the underlying concept, which I agree: “You can't raise a child in a dictatorship and expect them to function as an adult in a democracy.”

I know I’ve mentioned it in other posts, but if you want a fabulous primer on how to use I-messages and active listening, read Thomas Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training. Even better, if there is a trainer from the Gordon Training Institute in your area, take the class. For a sneak preview of Gordon’s theory, go check out his article listed on the Parenting Wisely site, What Every Parent Should Know.

Back to more important concepts, in Annie Addington’s article, Rethinking Discipline, she interviewed author Alfie Kohn. Moving beyond just concepts of punishment, here are some key points on the use of rewards:

Rewards and punishments are not opposites; they're both ways of doing things to children to make them obey rather than working with kids to try to solve problems and help them become decent people. Rewards and punishments can achieve only one goal and that is temporary compliance but at a very large cost... . More than 70 studies have found that the more you reward kids for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward.

Thus research shows that children who are given positive reinforcement are somewhat less generous than their peers because they've learned that the only reason to help is that they will get something out of it. Research also shows that when kids have been led to work for good grades they lose interest in whatever they were doing in school leading up to the grade. That's why the best schools in the country don't use grades at all and are more likely to produce kids who are deeper thinkers and more excited about learning.

What I noticed these articles and the other articles I read have in common is the theme of Respecting Your Child’s Needs. Children don’t ‘misbehave’ per se. They behave in ways they think will get their needs met, and they don’t yet know socially acceptable ways of doing this. Rather than punishing your child for misbehaving, Find Out What His Need Is!

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