The lovely Jen asked on her blog...
I need to learn to teach/model behavior so that my child does not make decisions solely from a fear of disapproval. I have created that. I need help undoing it. Can you help me?
As my comment was becoming an essay, and it's a worthy topic for us all, I decided to respond here.
It's difficult to break patterns. My own mother was exceedingly impatient. I, with my Aries ascendant and upbringing, have a very impatient streak. I have to work hard at reining it in.
As far as discipline is concerned, there runs the spectrum from radical unschooling type let-them-run-wild-and-free to total authoritarian control. We have to choose what works for us and our family. I don't judge anyone their choice, we can find pros and cons in all approaches.
What interests me is finding a place where we personally, in our most honest moments, feel at peace with our choices.
For me, it's always about starting with myself first. Changing how I view certain things. In this instance asking oneself
what exactly does it mean to be well behaved and do I stand firm in those definitions?
For me personally, the term 'well-behaved' makes me prickle and feel very uneasy. Because what it usually means is a child behaving in a way that the adult deems unlikely to cause inconvenience to them (the adult).
It means a controlled child. An oppressed, repressed, and fearful child.
Desiring a well-behaved child is a 100% selfish goal.
What most authoritarian parents seem to expect, is being quiet, remaining still, not drawing attention to yourself, producing correct answers (please, thank you, yes Miss, no sir), doing what you're told, not questioning adults, not 'talking back', not acting your age....
This has nothing to do with learning to be responsible, respectful, or co-operative.
So this is one of the two main concerns for me - a child behaving in a way because it's what they are told to do is not the same as a child behaving in a way because they want to.
I am one of those people that feel that please and thank yous are good things to say. To me it shows respect and appreciation of others. However, I don't want my girl to say thank you as a mechanical response because I enforce it.
The Mr and I say please/thank you to her. In other words, we model what we wish to see. More accurately, we model what we wish to be, respectful. I don't teach her respect, I simply respect her.
The other concern is what we help them to believe about themselves. This is a biggie!
When a child drops what she is doing because you have commanded her to do something else, we teach her
- my needs/wants are inferior to other people's.
- what I do is not important.
When a child does not have the space to 'talk back', to argue a point, we teach him
- my voice is worthless
- I have no right to self-expression
The exact outcome depends on the child's innate personality. A child who is more sensitive or eager to please might internalise the above as
- I am worthless
For a selective and particular child it might become
- I am worthless unless I am perfect
A spirited and strong-willed child might internalise it as
- I must push others down to feel better about myself
I don't view my child as an inferior being that I can control to my desires. I wouldn't demand compliance of a stranger, a friend, nor my husband. Why do we demand it of our children? Because they are smaller, more impressionable, weaker?
Love is a verb. It isn't enough that they hear that we love them. I want how I treat her to speak louder.