Friday, March 31, 2006

Sacred Choices Clinic

"It is fast becoming a reality."
For those of you new to the loop.

Ms. Fire Thunder is doing it.
The quote above is from her personal secretary,

it means there will be
safe, health care for women

in South Dakota.
Ground will be reclaimed!

See previous posts.
2 Mochas ($5.00)

ain't no kind of insult.
It be the what women

hold extra in they girdles
for hard times.

Think on that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How Precious An Example Can Be

Spring actually looks as if she may decide to take up residence in London. As a result, the days improve. When the weather is cordial, I don’t miss human beings. Who could need a an in-the-flesh person when they have daffodils, a crocuses, pansies, and the promise of hyacinth blooms? Who could desire face-to-face conversation when the deer press against the fence to eat fresh new leaves out of your hand.

Perhaps, Winston has a certain wisdom. It is the quality of a human-being which inspires the desire for contact. With few exceptions to this rule, our discovery has been to uncover the quality of ourselves.

It was a great day. Working so much has made me less of the mother I wish to be. I am less patient, less present, less spontaneous. So, those days when I get to be with him, simply shine. Even more so, with the warmth and tentative promise of light this season brings.

Winston got it into his head to go swimming today. So we headed off for Highbury Islington pool. It was the very first time ever we went swimming. Winston has his father’s modesty gene. I forgot to pack a shirt to wear in the pool. He almost refused to go out into the pool “naked.” But, I headed it off by saying, “Well let’s see. Let’s just go see what the boys are wearing.” And he did want to try this swimming thing. So, once we got out there and saw other “naked” boys. He relaxed.

I stepped right into the bath warm water. Grinned and shouted, “this is so lovely!” Which of course motivated him to step in. He loved the way the water became deeper with every step. Within moments he was in. I whirled, swirled and flew him through the water. He climbed out of the pool to slide down the elephant. And I caught him each time as he splashed into the water. He was so relaxed. And in that moment, I I realised that in almost three years, I had earned his absolute trust and confidence. It was lovely. It made me pray, right then and there, that I never do anything to betray that.

After swimming, we had a lovely lunch and went to the playground. Our usual round of sliding, climbing and playing with sand. I had forgotten the sand toys.

But, he looked up at me and said, “well we can always use our hands.”

“And sticks!”

“Good idea. Sticks.”

So, we made letters, numbers and swished and poked the sand. It was extraordinary. I was thrilled by the way in which he could so forgivingly 1. come up with an alternative; 2. force me to improvise and 3. make me grateful that I had made the mistake of forgetting the pails, shovels and trucks.

He was - as usual - a wee bit skittish. He doesn’t like to get to close to other children. he sand pit was full of children about his age. But, we were doing our own thing and he relaxed. (We do our thing really well.)

Towards the end of the day - of course - some child came up to Winston. The little boy filled his spade with sand and before I could stop him - dumped it on Winston’s head. His mother shrugged, said “sorry” and meandered off to have a rest on a bench after telling the boy what a “stupid silly boy” he was.

He shrugged it off. These events - being pushed, shoved, ignored and made to feel invisible - used to devastate him.

This time, he loudly said, “That was a really bad idea. Dumping sand on my head. That was very naughty.”

“You are right. I’m glad you don’t do those things.”

“Yes. I don’t be naughty. I not mean. I a good boy.” Then he went back to playing.

And I begin to think - after so many encounters like this - I’m glad he is wary of the children here. It demonstrates that he has good survival skills. He has a profound wisdom. Never settle for less than you deserve. Make the right choices for yourself. Stay true to your values in the face of a majority which consistently makes the wrong choices. I'm just happy he remembers what it can be like and that this is not all he knows.

NOTE: For my British friends, those of you who do - from time to time - share space with us in a loving, supportive way, thanks for keeping this vision alive for him. And for those I've never met, yes, things are actually different than this back home. 2 and 3 year olds can learn to be empathetic, compassionate, sharing, generous and social human beings who are active, considerate community builders.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Learning To Be Wrong

Jeannie Felker, a teacher at the Antioch School, recently wrote something like “We have to move out of the way, so knowledge can move in. We have to make space for learning to happen.”

And I thought, how wise she is! What inspirational words! Recently, I have come to realise that much of what I learned about autonomous education came from observing her over 13 years ago. It also made me remember how much I had forgotten the deeper I went into life’s labyrinth.

Jeannie often answered questions with questions. She listened to their ideas. She took action on transforming those ideas into reality. She encouraged them to solve their own problems by having meetings in which every child could engage in discussion and debate. Finally, she trusted a bunch of five year olds.

Once again, I admire what extraordinary effort she put forth on behalf of the children she “taught.” It takes such a huge amount of self restraint to witness a child’s work. I constantly find myself pulling my hand back as Winston struggles with a puzzle piece or a toy. It is sometimes uncomfortable to be fully engaged and present in a child’s self-discovery.

As a parent, I want to be active. I want to help. I want to teach him. I don’t want him to struggle. I have to step back and realise that I actually help him more by supporting him as he works through the frustration. Still, I find myself needing to help him climb the ladder at the playground or use the glue more efficiently or line the sticker up precisely. In these times, I force myself to stand back. To observe. To facilitate rather than instruct. To share his celebration when he succeeds. To bear witness to victory he has won for himself with his own hard work. And when there isn’t a victory, to applaud the effort and evaluate the mistakes.

I realise how easy it is to explain everything to a child. But then the lesson is learned externally rather than internally.

I am now discovering that I am also occasionally wrong. And this is okay. I am a human being after all - we all make mistakes. I learned this recently when we were playing with dominoes. I doing simple matches. The red square matches the red square, etc. Suddenly, he wanted to do it by himself. I said okay. So I sat quietly next to him and watched. Then he made a mistake. He put the green triangle next to the black bar.

“That doesn’t look like a green triangle. Were you looking for this piece? “ I offer him the green triangle.

“No,“ he replies putting a red square next to the black bar.

“The black bar is over there.” I say, tapping the correct piece.

“Yes,” he says putting a purple circle next to the red square.

At this point, I’m getting really frustrated. I would like him to do this the right way. We’re supposed to be learning something here! So, I fold my hands, take a deep breath and commit to observe him. He persists in doing it wrong. He does it wrong, wrong wrong. Until finally, he puts a orange rectangle next to a orange rectangle. I let out a small sigh of relief. I think to myself, ah he can do this. He can grasp patterns!

Finally, he finishes. I look at his string of dominoes. It is an extremely complex pattern. (Green triangle, black bar, red square, purple circle, black bar, yellow diamond, purple circle, orange rectangle. Orange rectangle, purple circle, yellow diamond, black bar, purple circle, red square, black bar, green triangle. )

“Oh, well done!” I exclaim. He smiles. He looks a little surprised that I’m so tremendously excited. I’m grateful that he was so focused that he didn’t pick up on my internal agitation. I read out his pattern to him. “I like the way you did that. It’s a nice pattern.”

“Yes, it is. You’re right,” he says.

“Want to do another one?”

No - I want to play with dinosaurs.”

And I realise he was doing it right. It was his way. It was his idea. And it was brilliant.

The way I had been playing with the blocks was too simplistic. I was being boring. I’m so glad that children can sometimes make space for parents to learn something. I can’t believe he will turn three at the end of April. I have so much more to learn from him. We're finally learning something here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

We’ve past the first anniversary of our move.

No house filled with 30 or more people;
or gaggle of children tearing up the place;
or huge buffet groaning under
the weight of vegan, vegetarian, and meat dishes.
Or cherry tree preparing us for forgiveness

by blooming and snowing petals
before her mushy flesh and pits litter
half of the garden for a month.
Or neighbours licking their lips
remembering cherry picking parties
that turned into pies and wine.

A quiet flat. A sleeping boy
Orderly brick courtyard.
More light. Crocuses.
Daffodils. A few
birthdays on the horizon
slow as this solitary year.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Storm Song

Fire Thunder
burns, banishes

the absence of red.
Her land,

her voice vermillion
cleansing. Ancestors

power her.
remember

Custer. watch how
she’ll dust his bones

again. ignited
we joyous

women of all nations
bleed gratitude

and hope.

Cecilia Fire Thunder, President of the Oglala Sioux plans to open a Planned Parenthood on Pine Ridge Reservation

Information about making donations was found here. Kathryn’s Livejournal But I’ll reprint the sending money, support and encouragement portion here. (Hopefully with the author’s permission.)

Please do what you can!

Oglala Sioux Tribe
ATTN: President Fire Thunder
P. O. Box 2070
Pine Ridge, SD 57770

OR: and this may be preferred, due to mail volume:

ATTN: PRESIDENT FIRE THUNDER
PO BOX 990
Martin, SD 57751

Enclose a letter voicing your support and explaining the purpose of the donation. Bear in mind, the Pine Ridge Res is not exactly dripping with disposable income, so do consider donating funds directly to the tribe as well as specifically for this effort.

ETA: Make checks out to OST Planned Parenthood Cecelia Fire Thunder. This will ensure that the funds get routed properly.

For email contact, you can contact the president at:

firethunder_president AT NOSPAM yahoo DOT com
cc:vbush AT NOSPAM oglala DOT org

That is Ms. Fire Thunder's personal email address; I have received permission to post it here. For the sake of record keeping, do cc: the listed address on all correspondence; that's her official secretary.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

His Regal Orange Outrageousness

Since we moved the boy to England - he has developed some interesting personality traits.

The first I’m calling small person phobia. Unless a child has been to his house at least twice, he will not socialise with them. (So, we focus on friends who come around and are consistent.)

The second I’m calling the invisibility syndrome. He does not like “to be seen” when we are out in public. He does everything in his power to not “be seen.” He gazes lovingly, all grins and smiles into my face. Or he says, “Let’s sing.” And we have to sing as we walk. He becomes distraught if I don’t make direct eye-contact with him when people are near us. Needless to say, it is hard to walk down a busy street.

The third is he that loves to wear his best (and pretty much only) friend’s clothing. Okay this is most commonly known as cross-dressing. He lives for the days that Amazon visits. He is very co-operative about dressing on the days when she is coming. After all, what he is wearing has to be good enough to swap for that lovely dress in which she will invariably arrive.

The last is what I call the flash factor. He has a very distinct image of what he should look like. His clothes are orange. Many of them have stripes. If they don't have stripe, they have animals. A perfect outfit is red trousers with a striped orange shirt. Once I put him in a blue shirt. He said, “this is not my shirt. My shirt is orange.”


None of this bothers me. He is only 2 and 3/4 years old. He’ll outgrow it. Maybe not.

But - he can sure tell you the difference between a mammal and insect and a reptile! And patterns - he can out puzzle the best of them. He can associate a value with a number - up to five. He recognises all of his letters. He knows that when they all stand together like very good friends - they make words. And what of all of the lovely poetry and prose he has been dictating. A real Renaissance man - that’s what we’ve got here. (Did I mention he toilet trained himself a month ago? He woke up one morning. Decided it was the end of diapers. He’s been dry day and night without a single accident. )

We’re doing okay. He has a coping mechanism for the invisibility syndrome. As long as he wears his Monarch Butterfly wings and carries his magic wand out in public, he can smile, nod, giggle and say hello to any old lady (or man) that wants to ruffle his hair; pinch his cheeks; or ask him if he is a good boy.

But tonight, after he went to bed, we were listening to His Purple Royal Badness Prince. I suddenly had an insight into the cross dressing issue. Earlier, we waved good-bye to Amazon (and the lovely sparkly blue princess dress in which he spent the day.) The parting was more sorrow than sweet for Amazon. (She had broken a rule. The consequences were leaving.)

As she lay weeping on the floor being stuffed into her snowsuit, Winston got her his favourite stuffed giraffe. He wanted her to have “something soft to cuddle on the way home.” She was touched by his generosity.

Then, when she stood, he hugged and kissed and cuddled her. “Another kiss,” he said, “another kiss, here, another kiss.” And he stroked and kissed and cuddled her until she’d had enough and was ready to leave. He, then, waved her cheerfully out of the door blowing kisses and saying, “See you soon. I love you!”

It was cute. Endearing even. But, then tonight, I realised. He’s a lot like Prince.

“If I was your girlfriend
Would u let me dress u
I mean, help u pick out your clothes
Before we go out?
Not that you’re helpless
But sometimes, sometimes
those are things that bein' in love’s about.
(1)

And I’m worried. Not. Worried. Not worried.
Here’s to His Regal Orange Outrageousness!

(1) Prince, Sign O The Times, 1987, Warner Bros
Lyrics found at: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/111378.html

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cooking With Toddlers

Swampy Swamp Recipe
(mature 2 3/4 years only please! serves 3)

Ingredients

Land
8 oz uncooked basmati rice
12 oz water
1 bouillon cube (chicken, veggie, whatever)
Handful of spinach
3 American pats of butter

Rocks/Bubbles
9 medium mushroom caps
3 American pats of butter

Swamp
3 American pats of butter
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
two chicken breasts diced
15 broccoli florets
1/4 cup white wine
one bouillon cube (chicken, veggie, whatever)
one medium carrot
1/4 medium red pepper


In a small shot glass
pinch pepper
dash celery salt
dash paprika
toddler handful of parsley
teaspoon italian seasonings
teaspoon garlic granules
teaspoon onion granules
Now

Make Land
1. Supervise toddler as he spoons rice into a measuring cup. He must stop when we reach 8 oz.
2. Pour rice into clean bowl and set aside.
3. Have toddler catch water in a measuring cup. (Drain excess to 12 oz.)
4. Have toddler pour water into a small pot with a tight fitting lid.
5. Let him put the bouillon cube in the water.
6. Holding the knife with the toddler’s hand on top of yours, cut three pats of butter.
7. have him put those in the water with the bouillon cube.
8. Have him grab handfuls of spinach and throw them into the pot. (Stop when you think you’ll have to do too much picking around at the table. It is usually 3 toddler handfuls to one adult handful.)
9. Bring water and ingredients to boil.
10. Toss in rice, allow toddler to gently stir and turn off pot.
(Note: I use LeCreuset pots so rice will cook while you do other things. If you use other types of pots: peek, stir and check rice. As you finish the swamp and rocks, you may want to turn the heat on low to finish the “Land.”

Meanwhile

Make Rocks/Bubbles
1. With the toddler’s hand on top of yours, cut three pats of butter.
2. Have toddler throw butter into a skillet.
3. Melt butter in skillet.
4. Toss in mushroom caps.
5. Sauté and remove from skillet.
6. Remove to an oven-safe plate.
7. Place in warm oven - maybe with some lovely bread.

Make Swamp
1. Have toddler stand against the wall to cut onions. Toss onions into skillet. (Avoid hurting eyes.)
2. Add 3 more pats of butter to warm skillet and toss in onions. Sauté on low heat.
3. Smash garlic. (Flat side of knife down, have your toddler push against your hand over cloves of garlic. After each clove, have him take the “paper” off. Repeat until all are ready for mincing.
4. Have toddler place his hand over yours. Mince garlic by chanting “Up and down! Up and down!”
5. Toss into skillet.
6. While onions and garlic brown, cut up carrots.
7. Cut carrot into thirds. Then 1/2 each third. Then cut into small cubes. Toss in skillet.
8. Toss in cubed chicken.
9. Using another shot glass, turn down cook top and have toddler pour in wine.
10. Have him gently toss the bouillon cube and administer shot glass of spices.
11. Allow him to give a gentle stir. Cover skillet.
12. Tend to rice. Breathe for 5 seconds.
13. In about 15 minutes the chicken should be tender and bubbly. Add more water if it’s running low.
14. Cut broccoli and toss in skillet.
15. When broccoli is lovely green. Turn off heat.
Optional - thicken with gravy granules or flour as desired.

Assembling The Swampy Swamp

On a large plate (while toddler observes.)
1. Make a circle of Land (rice.)
2 Arrange the Rocks/Bubbles (mushrooms) like a path across the plate.
3. Spoon Swamp into the middle.

Serve.

NOTE: This recipe was developed by Master Chef Winston this evening when I asked him what everyone would like for dinner.

He said: “Swampy Swamp.”
I said: “What is in Swampy Swamp?”
He said: “Chicken.” After more prompting I understood it also involved rocks/bubbles, trees and land. Eventually land was defined as rice.

More Literacy Work

Winston’s Butterfly Story (verbatim)

One time, there was a butterfly flying and flying.
The butterfly was falling on the tree.
And he didn’t fly.
And he needs help.

I have to save him!
How are we going to get in the story and save him?

We should jump in the story and save the butterfly.

Just a minute, we’re going to jump in the story.

We did it!
I saved her!

She’s falling again!
We have to save her!
We have to have a boat save her!
We have to go on the bridge
and save the baby and mama butterfly!

Oh, mama butterfly is falling and falling!
We have to row the boat!
Row! Row! Row!

We’re here!
I saved the butterfly.
Yippee!

Note: Winston told this story in response to a picture we made together. The picture is quite serene. In contrast, the story he dictated to me is quite dramatic. - Okay - maybe a little melodramatic. But - he loves hearing his story again and again and again. Each time, I point to the words as I read. He has become very interested in letters suddenly. He is also listens more closely when I talk about how sometimes “letters all stand together like very good friends; and when they do this; they make words.”

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Learning To Really Listen

One Of Those Proud Moments

Winston and his sister seem to have some wonderful sibling syncronicity. They both manage to do exciting, wonderful things within days of each other. (Read Imani’s Manifesta on her blog listed to the right - Catatonic Rage Doll)

Tonight, he was busy while I made dinner.

Usually, we do it together. He washes the vegetables and helps me cut them up. (A dinner knife is awesome for allowing an almost 3 year old some independent cutting power. He can cut - read hack and mangle - the mushrooms “all by himself.” This is usually his job - with lots of supervision.)

Tonight, I was able to bang dinner out all by myself. I was thrilled. The mushrooms are neatly cut. The vegetables are uniform sizes. And for the first time in almost six months, there isn’t too much oregano.

I go to serve dinner. I have one last side dish to offer him a choice about. I list the choices. At which point, he announces he would like to make fish.

“We don’t have fish. We have cous cous,“ I say.

“Yes, fish. I would like to help make fish.” His chin gets that firm set.

“We have cous cous.”

“Thanks offering." (I try not to laugh. This is his new phrase, Thanks for offering. It means no way, I'm starting to get dug in.)

"Fish,” He nods and smiles with his hands on his hips.

I’m stuck. He’s a little tired tonight. I’ve got to think quickly.

I remember, last week we had been learning about frogs. One of our activities has been to make the Frog Prince recipe from “Big Cook Little Cook’s” web site.

This week, we’ve been studying fish and marine mammals. So - I thought. We’ll modify the recipe. Instead of frogs, we’ll make fish.

“Okay! Fish it is!” I announce.

He is deliriously happy. As we made the fish, his whole body vibrates with excitement. And I can tell that this is what he had been trying to communicate all along. He’s not old enough to say - “Uh, let’s modify last week’s recipe, Mom.”

And I’m so glad I listened to him. It was one of those great ideas. It impressed his father.

Wish we had a digital camera to take a picture.

Wilson Bear Will Always Be Safe (in our house)

Leo - thanks for pointing out the value of extensive proof-reading before sharing. (What a great embarrassment to a teacher of writing who has many lectures on exactly the same thing!)

Leo was concerned about Wilson bear and his potential demise in the previous post.

To clarify - what I meant was....

So many times parents are inconsistent, irregular or not tuned in to their child. As a result, they reach a place where they become frustrated by non-compliance or unwillingness on the part of the child to work with them towards more acceptable behaviour. In their rage and frustration, parents make statements like "I'm going to cut Wilson bear into forty pieces."

Perhaps, 3% of the parents who say it will do it. They are not healthy people.

Then there are the 97% who don't do it. (Reserving judgement on state of well-being here. A majority of parents understand how mean, cruel and downright nasty it is to cut Wilson bear into 40 pieces. So, they say it, but they don’t do it.)

So, what I’m trying to say...is that parents shouldn't wait for that moment they are so upset that they promise cruel, meaningless, counterproductive consequences. Most of which the parent is unwilling to enforce in the first place.

What I am saying is that we should pick and choose our battles seriously and with great amount of thought. We should be consistent, aware and realistic. We should be present with our children. And often - that attentiveness heads off any so called “battle of wills.”

When a parent says "no cookie" and after 45 minutes the child is still asking for a cookie, and we say, "well okay 1 cookie." After that victory, the will child ask for another. You can bet successfully on that one. Again, the parent says, "no cookie" and find themselves surprised and frustrated about spending another 45 minutes on the discussing the second cookie. We, the parents have a problem of our own making. These small, normal events can escalate out of control.

When we gave them the first cookie - what we actually said to the child is: "If you whine, wheedle and nag, there will be another cookie." It should be no surprise to the parent that they find themselves in an endless loop. But, many a parent finds themselves in such loops daily. They didn't say what they meant.

However, if we say, "Not now. First we eat all of our lunch. Then, we load the dishwasher and put away our toys before nap time. After cleanup time is for cookies." We have said what we meant. More importantly, we have to remember what we said and do it. If there is a cookie in the future it must be delivered promptly and without reminder by the child.

But, I digress. Alternately, if the answer is "no cookie." Then there is no cookie. And if they fall on the ground, scream, carry on and make our lives miserable. There is still no cookie.

Children remember something which has been promised. If I say, "we'll go to the zoo tomorrow." We go to the zoo - regardless of rain, snow or sleet. (I do, of course, offer the option of doing something less cold and wet. ) I have found myself at the zoo on grey, drizzling days. The first time, I was surprised by the amount of wonderful indoor places the zoo has. We had ignored many of these places on sunny days.

I remember what I say and then I do it without prompting. I am the adult. I have to be trusted if I want to build a good relationship with my child. (Unfortuantely - I had to learn all of this after 19 years of parenting my superb, excellent and brilliant first-born. Who in spite of surviving every mistake a new, communicative, liberal parent can make, is an amazing and talented person.)

I do not offer choices when there are none. Offering children the ability to make choices within the confines of their developmental ability empowers a child. But, like everything, this has limits. Children just don't get to make some choices. I do not ask if he wants to go. I do not ask if he wants to put on his coat. I do not ask if he wants to wear shoes. I do not ask if he wants dinner.

I do ask if he still wants to go to the zoo even though it is raining. I do let him know we'll be leaving soon. I do let him get emotionally prepared to go. I do ask which shirt he'd like to wear today. I do ask what he thinks everyone would enjoy for dinner.

So many times parents invite conflict by not being clear. This especially happens around the area of allowing children to have choices. Asking a child if they want to put on their coat - when you mean - "It's time to put on your coat," causes confusion. The parent has indicated that there is a choice. When the child makes the "wrong" choice, many parents enforce the "right" choice. To offer unclear choices which are invalidated does not empower a child.

I also listen to what he wants. If we are somewhere and he is uncomfortable. We go. I don't wait for him to find a way to force us to go.

This is what I mean by honesty. Honesty involves effective communication and presentation of expectations. Everything is an opportunity to learn. Everything is a exercise in establishing trust.

Grocery shopping is the nightmare of most mothers. It is one of his favorite things to do. But - I establish the agenda; run through a verbal checklist and enlist his support. I no longer need to carry a grocery list. He is so busy remembering the chant of items on the way to the store and once inside of the store to ask for Cocoa Puffs or act out. He chooses the 2 heads of broccoli. (Yes - I often have to cut off bad parts.) He counts 3 boxes of granola bars. He is busy with the activity of doing the marketing. I support his involvement and engage in dialogue the entire way. The only “reinforcement” he recieves are the comments from people in the store about what a good boy he is. He hears it 30 times in the course of a 50 minute shopping trip.

I have been honest. I have communicated. I have established trust. He knows I say what I mean. One time he fell down in the grocery store; wailed as if I was beating him and thrashed. I simply crossed my arms and said, “I’ll wait until you are ready to finish our shopping.” I got a lot of funny looks. I got a lot of offers of lollipops. I waited 7 minutes. He picked himself up and he hasn’t done it again.

This is not psychological cruelty. This is clear communication. This is saying what you mean and then doing it. This is being focused on the child. This is allowing them to work through it enough times that it doesn’t become necessity for having their needs met.

And part of having a relationship is knowing how and when to compromise. As in the cookie scenario. If you don’t have cookies in the house, then there are no arguments about cookies. If you do have cookies, then it needs to be worked into the rhythm of the day. Cookies happen before or after X.

Finally, even our - now seemingly unpredictable days - are predictable. I communicate the day’s rhythm to him. There are no surprises. And every day is different - these days. But, I take the time to talk about what will be happening.

Wilson bear is never in danger at our house. We have bypassed all of the situations which would make such an awful utterance escape our lips.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Discipline

Under the title
“Bizarre, Sadistic Parenting Advice”
I posted
To Raise Up A Child
to a well-known web site.

The commentary was surprising. “What’s wrong with that? What alternative methods do you suggest.”

So - I posted
Ask Dr Sears

With the following explanation.

About Discipline

I personally use structure, routine, parental bonding, attentiveness, awareness of my child's intellectual capability (based upon documented physiological research), information, honesty and praise.

Honesty
Say what you mean. Always.

If you say - "I'm going to cut Wilson bear into forty pieces if you don't stop." You have to do it.

Waiting for teddy bear shredding time is too late. The smallest transgression is enough. It only takes once -

"we're going if you don't share."

S/he doesn't share. Go.

It takes maybe 3 times.

It is easier to pick up a switch than pay attention to good behaviour. "You're welcome. I really like the way you say thank you when I give you something."

On the flip side, I acknowledge bad behaviour in unpleasant ways. If your child is bonded to you, then no longer sharing the bond is catastrophic. Bad behaviour belongs "in the hallway" where I don't have to be around it.

"Feel what you feel - let me know when we can talk." If the child can't stay in the hallway. Seclude yourself. (You need an absolutely child-friendly home for this.) But, the goal is no attention for tantrums.

There will be one hour long tantrum. It will desiccate your heart. You will feel it shrivel up and flake into dust. You will feel guilty. You will live through the screaming, tears and snot. Hopefully - because of one hour, you will not have to feel this feeling frequently. You may have one tantrum once every six months for years.....if you never, ever, ever give in.

After 3 years of structure, routine, parental bonding, attentiveness, awareness of his intellectual capability, information, honesty and praise; he has has a fair amount of emotional control. My not-yet-3-year-old will feel a crying fit coming on and say, "I need to go to the hallway." He goes. he weeps. He gets his “mind organised." He returns to much praise. And discussion about the transgression - in his language. We acknowledge feelings. We reward and support words about the experience. We end the diatribe of emotional torrent early. We find something new to talk about.

Information

Expect children to want to be good. And if goodness is rewarded, then the choice becomes easy.

Recent conversation with my son on a bus.

“Your muddy feet are on this seat. When we get off, someone will come on. They’ll sit in your wet, muddy place and have a dirty bum the rest of the day. Do you like having a dirty bum?”

“No.” slipping his feet off the seat.

‘I like the way you always make the right decision.”

Children - for whom people notice their victories - want to receive that positive affirmation of righteousness.

Where the switch happy thumpers win is with parents who are so self-absorbed and busy meeting their own needs that they don't have time to pay attention. They don't have time to celebrate, witness goodness and honour the moment righteousness wins over selfishness.

The positive url above focuses on "knowing your child." That takes time, energy, discipline and commitment. It is never ending. Children grow and change and so should parents. Ultimately - what we are building is a relationship. Both sides must grow. It is unfair to expect growth (which only reflect parental needs).

But it takes time, patience and willingness to be human.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mother

sudden rage at
never having one

of those unconditional women
exuding tolerant forbearance.

making something
other than void,

i try

fat arm pillows
sussurate lips

murmuring
okay, okay, okay...

but, i am steel born.
crucible cracked,

in unfamiliar soil,

alien metal
contorts

to endure a woman
too proud to take

trans- atlantic calls.
hovering

need implodes.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Inverse Proportion

right now the only place i feel safe
is in his arms. arms go

with the person to whom they are attached.
Hour after perilous hour. holding

my breath. grabbing

wholesome characters. playing
with the baby. saying anything,

anything can happen in our imaginations!

until I almost believe it. lost

in triumphant games. hoping

pieces of myself don’t fall off
in wet, chunky, plopping bits -

what is normal now. gushing
wombs nuggets.

we chant dance sing,

while absent, he provides
our home. i fear

nothing will be left.
all flushed and

released. the empty return.