Sunday, January 06, 2008

Positive Discipline: Dealing With Cheerful Non-Compliance

I could have it a lot worse. I don't even know why I'm complaining. Raging, screaming, kicking tantrums or destruction of property are not for my pacifist son. (Which he has been since he was in-utero - another story.)

Maybe our choice to lift a bit from "positive discipline" and nick a few things from "mindful parenting" combined with our best effort to home educate based upon directed autonomy have helped fostered this, I'm at a loss.

I'm full to the gills with what I have begun to term "cheerful non-compliance." What do I mean? Here's an example: he doesn't want to be at violin class. So, he cheerfully, co-operatively and with great enthusiasm does every single thing his teacher asks him....wrong. Or he doesn't want to play mancala, but, while setting up the mancala board, his helpful, happy, sweet, gentle hands mix up all the beans until I close the board and put it away. (To his great relief.) There is nothing to discuss. There is nothing to point at and correct. He is four. And he may have forgotten...NOT! (This is a child who can tell you in great detail about an event which happened when he was 2.)

And, like I said, I could have it a lot worse. But, all of this slams the "colour blinds" down around my psyche. Suddenly, I'm hyper-vigiliant about our history and the methods by which Men Of African Descent have ensured our survival. This same "cheerful non-compliance" has served People Of African descent well. His behaviour has historical validity. It's one of the reasons I am so passionate about capoeira being a critical curriculum component. And who am I to correct his ancestors?

His mother - that's who! But, when I call him on his passive resistance, he feels just awful for trying to play me for a fool. And responds by doggedly towing the a beaten puppy. (Which I accept as my due. I recently told my angry daughter how happy I was that she was furious with me because it meant I was doing my job.) And I have shared this idea with him, as well. Sometimes, he won't like what I ask him to do and that's okay. He still has to do it.

But - still - some part of me feels as if I could handle it all in a manner in which he would happily "buy into the agenda."

Is this wishful thinking? I'm open to all ideas about dealing with this.


Karen James said...

We need to learn from our children to live in the moment and recognize the signs that guide us in an innate direction. I have lost that ability to hold on to what feels true in my heart, but I see it in Ethan. I also see myself trying to squash that in him as I attempt to mold him into what I believe will be an acceptable citizen in his current status in the world. Ethan drives the adults around him mad when he plays a game (not the kids though--they seem to be able to find a way to work with their improvisations). Doug can't take it. I feel defeated. But Ethan is delighted because he has adjusted the game to his level of understanding. When doing this he is still generous--not a greedy player--just inventive, which I think is important. He only becomes sad or mad when we dismiss his efforts. I think we need to build on these qualities of improvisation and invention. They seem relevant, if not imperative to a successful future. We need people to act with confidence as they tackle the complicated problems that are inevitably coming. It seems to me, that these skills are more important than perfecting the violin or following the rules of a complex game, especially before he/she is ready or willing to participate at the prescribed level. Celebrate Winston's attempts to work in the world creatively. Help him find his passion and encourage him to focus his courageous skills on helping to build a future that is inventive and sustainable and tolerant of many ways of thinking and acting.

Christina Springer said...

Thanks Karen. I miss your daily wisdom and example. One of the greatest challenges of parenting is remembering to get out of the way of your children. Thanks for keeping me close to what my own heart knows.

Karen James said...

I know your heart knows it.
You taught it to me.