The purpose of discipline

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.

Tulips and terrible wi-fi

A few weeks ago Marty and I decided to make Friday afternoons a kind of family date time, so at 3:00 pm on Fridays he comes home and we go do something together as a family. It makes it a lot easier to handle him being gone for 12 hours a day the other days of the week knowing that on Friday, it’s our turn for some Daddy time.

Today we went to the Tulip Festival in Thanksgiving Point. I have wanted to go for years and never made it, but today was the day! It was so beautiful.

I was going to post pictures, and I was going to write a longer post about it, but my internet has decided to crawl at the pace of a crippled snail and uploading pictures is like yeah, right, okay, uh huh, not happening.

Just close your eyes and pretend you’re in Holland and there are beautiful tulips and flowers and trees everywhere you look and mix that with rolling hills and ta-da! Now you know how pretty it was.

Sorry folks, I’m annoyed. We’re several reboots into several items here and no success with internet improvement. All that’s left to reboot at this point is my body and mind.

A big request of you readers!

Sometimes blogging feels a little bit like talking to a wall. And sometimes that’s therapeutic, and other times it’s lonely and feels pointless. But it’s much easier for me to have a conversation than to just talk at someone. Feedback is valuable to me.

I’ve been enjoying writing this blog, and have been doing it for almost four months now so there’s some material there now. I love the feeling that I am striking a chord with other women (nothing against men, but I think I only have female readers at this point). I love the sense of connection that comes from that.

So that being said, I have a big big favor to ask of you, especially if you’re one of those people who have read my blog more than a couple of times. Is there any post, or topic line, or type of post that stands out to you? That has struck a chord with you?

Do you like reading about motherhood, or good days, or bad days, or women, or faith, or exercise, or things I’m learning, or even politics? Or is it just sort of nice to stay in touch with me because you’re my friend? Or is the day-to-day updating interesting?

That would be lovely to hear about. I don’t know if it will change what I write about, but maybe it would.

Trying to get calibrated

You’ve heard the expression “fake it till you make it”, right? I remember reading in one of my psych textbooks in college about how when we enter into new and unfamiliar roles (let’s say, starting a new job, or joining a new club, for example), as we start that new role, we start trying to “play the part”. You probably know the feeling; you’re trying to fit in, trying to learn the ropes, trying to find your place in the new schema. Eventually you get to a point where you are not playing a part anymore, you gradually fade out of “acting” and eventually just are. 

I feel like I’m somewhere on that gradual shift as a mother. Some days I feel like I fit the role, I am the role, but [many] other days… I feel like an actor on a stage, trying not to mess up my lines. A difficult part of motherhood for me is feeling like I don’t have a great way to calibrate my mothering. I wasn’t around children much, as a child or as an adult, it’s always been more of people my own age. Even Marty had much more exposure than me, he had something like 25 nieces and nephews by the time we had gotten married, so he has a decent idea of what kids are like. 
So you know how when you started that new job, you sort of looked around at what everyone else was doing or how they were acting, and it helped you to get your bearings? Well, I keep trying to do that as a mother and I’m not exactly hanging out in a bunch of cubicles full of families. I’ve been working to go on more playdates, for lots of reasons, but this is certainly one of them. It’s so nice for me to feel like I’m getting calibrated to what children are really like, and what other moms and families are really like, because I’ll tell you what- children are not like adults. No sir-ree. 
Today I had a playdate with a mom of six kids, her youngest two are similar in age to my two. It was so neat to get to see a big family in action, I loved it. And it’s so nice to get to pick the brain of another mom, and see what other kids are like, and what life looks like when you’re six kids deep. Maybe if I go on enough play dates, by the time all my kids are grown I won’t feel like I’m “acting” the part of a mom anymore. Ha. 

Questions about womanhood

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of women, and how women are different than men, and why those differences might matter. And don’t have any conclusions to share, mostly because I haven’t reached much of any. What I did want to share were some questions that I have been pondering, none of which I have answered completely, but have enjoyed thinking on. 

What does it mean to be a woman?
How is a woman different than a man? 
How is a male spirit different from a female spirit?
Why does a woman need a man?
And why does a man need a woman?
Are there mental, spiritual, or emotional characteristics that are unique to women?
How are those differences valuable?
These are difficult questions to answer, I think they are the kind that I could study for the entirety of my life and never fully answer. Sometimes it feels like the world is trying to wash away the lines between men and women, and make them about nothing more than a uterus. I believe there is much more than that, but it’s becoming a more difficult conversation to have. 
I would love love love any thoughts or discussion on these questions, or other questions that these prompt you to. 
Feel free to comment anonymously, or even email me at shelly(@) if you would rather not discuss out there on the interwebs.