10 May 2008

Proactive, practical and pragmatic discipline

Yesterday during the day I think all the children were suffering a bit from too much running around at the park, because they were all a tad whiney (Jenna was in full Stroppy Three mode at one point, and Morgan was acting very very sensitive). I found myself getting a bit stressy with them and telling them to stop it a few times, which never really seems to help. Anyhow, day beautiful, park fun, BBQ glorious, home-made beanburgers tasty but spicy! :)

Today we spent the day at soft play, with Martin too (and Kim and Jack and Jeni and Sophia and Kirsty and Olivia!)... The children are much happier really, but Morgan is still a bit sensitive. She seems to have taken affront at Jack always trying to help her do things and hold her hand and screaches if he approaches her. It's not that he's being rough with her, he just doesn't seem to know when he's squeezing so Morgan is taking affirmative action and whinging at the first sign of him lol.

For tea we had fajitas in the garden and lit the fire pit. Small children + fire + skewers + marshmallows. I know, it sounds mad, but it was fun (and the adults were all supervising). I know my girls are relatively safe around fire, although I'd never leave them unattended; they have been around candles, been allowed to touch things that are hot and shown where the hot places in the house are. They haven't been thrown in to sink or swim so to speak, but they haven't been totally wrapped in cotton wool and prevented from experiencing anything real either.

This sounds like a wierd and dangerous concept to most parents, which is why I feel I need to explain it I guess! Morgan first put her hand to a candle flame at about one year - she moved it after less than a fraction of a second and hasn't done it again. This isn't to say she actually got burnt, or that I intended or wanted her to experiment (though I suspected she would, as all children do unless they never see a flame, and trust me they then do it as teens!). I warned her, she poked it, she made a connection between the word hot and the experience.

Let me put it another way. Which is more cruel? Option one, I scream at or otherwise punish my child any time they go near something dangerous (which associates the object with bad things happening, but also associates the parent with bad things happening). Option two, I protect my children to a huge degree but never by putting actual limits on their actions, so that they grow up essentially in a baby-proofed environment without any rules. Option three, I introduce real things to their environment from the beginning of their lives and let them experience how to use them safely with an adult present, along with reminders and a gentle but firm hand if the experiement is going to cause actual harm.

Far from being either the wishy-washy option or somehow mean, gentle parenting has the most pragmatic and practical solution to the dilemma of control (ie what do we need to make children do and what do we need to actively keep them safe from). Look at the situation. Think what the consequences would be. If the consequences are too big, prevent! It takes work and thought (unlike punishing the child who gets it wrong which takes no thought, or neglectful parenting which takes no work).

Morgan only got close to the fire pit a couple of times before telling me it was "ot" and then ignoring it. The only real danger is them running near it (which was up to us to prevent)!

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