If you’ve been following along, you have probably noticed several posts discussing my developing ideas about parenting and discipline, and what seems to fit well for me and our family. It’s a continual process, trying to both figure out what works best and what exactly we are trying to achieve with each disciplinary action.
I was listening to a TED talk today on parenting, and it was sharing ideas for reducing the chaos in a home. Yes please, you have my attention. (And I only have two kids! I have a feeling that I have no idea what real chaos looks like.) The speaker mentioned several principles, but one stood out to me; the importance of empowering children.
I am such a big believer in the power that comes from someone deciding on their own to make a certain decision, in particular because it’s such a big deal to me. For example, I can’t tell you how many times Marty has recommended that I wake up extra early to do one thing or another that I’m wanting to do and I poo-pooed the idea. Then I wanted to start exercising and early mornings were going to be the best time to do it. When I talked to Marty about it he laughed and remarked “well I’m just glad that it was your idea to wake up early”. He was right. That’s the only way I wouldn’t have resented it.
I felt similarly as a child, I always wanted things to be MY idea. Maybe that’s just the stubbornness in me, but it makes me want to honor that for my kids. And that is all great and fine except for this other tendency I have to be totally particular about how things are done and impatient with letting others figure things out and viola! My parenting ideas and actions are experiencing some cognitive dissonance.
When this TED talk mentioned empowerment, it reminded me of Elder Christofferson’s talk from conference about fathers. What an awesome talk that one was. He said that “discipline in the divine pattern is not so much about punishing as it is about helping a loved one along the path of self-mastery.”
Ah-ha! I love having a good principle to compare my decisions to. Am I helping my child to develop self-mastery? I think my discipline very easily drifts to principles like “stop them from doing bad things”, or “make sure they’re being obedient”, but I need to make sure that I’m not skipping the most important part. How am I helping them to learn to make good decisions all by themselves? How I am helping them to become their own masters?
A friend of our family who has been a marriage and family therapist for years was talking to me recently and told me that the age Peter (toddler) is at, is the time where he is learning about and developing habits. And those habits that he should be learning are usually kind of a pain to facilitate. Things like a habit of helping with chores around the house, a habit of family home evening, a habit of manners, any kind of habit that you hope they will do when they’re older and more capable. Apparently now is the time to be instilling those patterns.
That thought has been helping me to see things differently. When Peter wants to help me with laundry, all that actually happens is he makes a mess of the clothes that I folded and things that get put in the drawers are in total disarray. That used to make my eye twitch to see messy drawers, but now they’re starting to put a smile on my face, because they are my evidence of a moment when I chose to teach instead of control.