My newsfeed is filled with viral articles shaking their fingers at parents for being too lenient with their children. Too much praise! Not enough chores! Let them bleed! Too much indulgence! And notice how the poor Millennials are taking the first beating from being raised as an entitled generation? It will only get worse.
I suppose it's inevitable that with helicopter parenting comes the backlash on the case for discipline.
Frankly, I'm ignoring all that. I still read them and I take in the balancing wisdom, but largely I don't let it affect the parenting style I've chosen. I think much of this backlash is old-school thinking.
My current corporate job + my forever-career as a mom has me nerding up on child development and reading the science behind child education. I've realized that much of modern parenting and progressive education makes so much scientific sense. (I'm putting Montessori as part of progressive education even though it started in the 1910s because Maria Montessori was a freaking genius whose methods are validated by brain theory today.)
There is a reason why parenting is so different today than it was in the 1970s.
This is my own experience with discipline:
|I still carry my six-year old daughter. Here's why.|
The only golden-rule I follow in discipline is this: follow your child.
If I took the discipline rules as gospel and applied them to my child I'm absolutely sure I would have damaged her self-esteem by now. My child turned out to be a sensitive soul and if I hadn't been paying enough attention I would have probably succeeded in toughening her up, but left her feeling misunderstood and unimportant.
It happened to me. My parents let me "cry it out" during my very terrible twos, thinking that ignoring me was discipline. And I remember how that felt like.
Modern parenting saved me. I discovered the discipline of playful parenting and playing with my daughter helped me get to know her better. I think people misunderstand when parents say they want to be their child's friend -- what parents really mean is they want a better connection with their child so that they can be better parents.
I love Maria Montessori's words: follow the child.
It's too tempting to stop paying close attention to children, especially once the needy baby stage is done or they start playing by themselves. And especially when society judges parents so readily. But how can we discipline if we don't tune into our child's feelings and understand why they feel that way?
One of the best things I picked up from reading Playful Parenting by Dr. Cohen was this: children's misbehaviour is their form of language. You need to translate it into one of three reasons - isolation, fear or powerlessness. Let that sink in for a minute and remember what it was like to be a kid. True, right?
Here's an online journal entry last year showing how I continue to use this tip to decode my daughter:
Once I saw misbehavior as a sign of feeling lonely, afraid or overwhelmed, I was able to respond in a more loving and understanding way. It never made sense to me when articles say that preschoolers are manipulating their parents. Geez. What a hostile and superficial way to see children!
I was lucky to be taught by my daughter how to discipline her. Ladybug Girl had a very different version of "terrible twos" - she had "emo twos". Her interpersonal intelligence was so acute, she would sense a change in facial expression or tone of voice and know that I was irritated even before words came out of my mouth. This set her off running and slamming doors on me. It took time to realise it was because she felt betrayed. I don't let her wallow in loneliness like I did, not at this critical age.
Her lack of the typical tantrum made it a little easier to see that this was a burst of emotion, not an act of rebellion. I can imagine the helpless frustration of parents when faced with a screaming child!
But it's equally difficult to remove any trace of impatience out of my voice and face. I know that once I've made her afraid of me, I've lost the teaching moment. She will follow because she's scared of me or publicly embarrassed - not because she understands why.
Today I am still honestly surprised at how calm and natural the discipline happens with her now that we've understood each other a lot more. Often I will tell her something casually or whisper a lesson privately in her ear, and that's it. It's when I become the parent that internet articles expect me to be that starts the typical drama that internet articles love to headline.
|Even her hard-nosed Daddy learned to discipline in her language|
I can also imagine how this might look to an outsider - completely coddling and indulgent. Same thoughts for how we still give her a carry. Sometimes its our quiet greeting for each other in the mornings, sometimes it's our way to reconcile, and frankly sometimes it's for no reason but to lovingly enjoy each other.
I've had well-meaning friends shame her by saying "no more carry, you're a big girl na". I tell her to ignore them. Here is even where I ignore Montessori tips on not carrying children around.
Because sometimes she needs to know we're on the same team even as I'm disagreeing with her. Because sometimes she needs more bravery and a literal boost from her parents gives her that.
And really because I'm following my child.
And that wisdom has worked better for me than any random tip on the internet.