Discipline vs. respect

sad vs. happy

Respect for children.  Where has it gone?  When I was growing up, and today, children are treated as less than or not entirely human. The law in Texas supports that philosophy.  It is perfectly legal to hit a child, while hitting an adult lands you in jail. Why must we (the adults) think of ourselves as superior, the boss, the dominant person in the relationship?  I cannot tell you how many times I heard the phrase “I am the adult/parent so you must listen to me.”  Or “because I said so”.  I had even been spanked, paddled, and belted as a child.  It seems to me it is common to treat children like dogs.  “Sit still!  Pay attention!  Look at me!”  Although, I do not hit, spank, or otherwise assault dogs either, let alone my own child.

Children deserve respect.  They will, after all, be taking care of you one day.  Today’s children will be your doctor, nurse, medical assistant, or even take care of their own parents directly, once their parents are of an age such that they cannot take care of themselves.  We want tomorrow’s elderly (today’s adults) to be respected by today’s children (tomorrow’s adults), right?  So why do adults feel the need to treat children as less than, subordinates, etc.?  Children are humans too, and deserve the same level of respect a boss, a spouse, or a mother deserves.

Let me set up a hypothetical situation:

There exists a manager at a warehouse of Janitorial Supply Co., and one of the forklift drivers under the manager’s supervision accidentally bumped into a pallet of toilet paper and damaged it. The manager calls the forklift driver into his office and says “Hey, you damaged that pallet of toilet paper.  Please bend over.”  The manager takes off his belt and whacks the forklift driver’s butt five times, as is standard protocol for that kind of offense.  The forklift driver is left with a couple bruises.  The manager tells him to apologize and not to do it again. The forklift driver says “No sir, I will not damage the toilet paper again.  Sorry sir.”  Then the manager tells him to go back to work.

How insane does that sound? Well that is what some parents do to their children. It is insane.  It is abusive.  In the hypothetical situation above, the manager taught the forklift driver not to get caught, not why being careful is important, or how to respect property, or why he should respect property.  In a real-life situation, teaching a child to not get caught does not improve behavior, while improving behavior is the intended goal.

On the less extreme end, we have the clean house versus happy baby dilemma.  Another hypothetical situation:

A fifteen month old baby is in a high chair eating some food.  When the baby is done eating, he starts throwing his food on the floor, squishing it around, and smearing it all over the place.

Under that scenario, it is common for a parent to scold the baby, or even slap their hand, which would cause a crying fit for the baby, and frustration for the parent. It is much more effective to redirect a child’s attention from the food throwing and say “Here, let’s pick up the food and put it in this plastic bag.  And when we’re all done putting food in the plastic bag, let’s throw the bag in the trash!”  Playing with food is developmentally appropriate, and actually helps the child learn about and explore the characteristics of the food. And what’s more, children who are allowed to play with their food are not as picky about food than children who are not!  Yes, it makes a mess, but the baby will have learned something and will be more likely to eat a wider variety of food, which is healthier overall.  I would rather have a nourished child (nourished body and mind) than a clean house.    

Ah, yes, the trash.  It seems very common for children to be interested and want to play with the trash.  In my experience, in order to solve that problem a parent should teach the child how to correctly use the trash can.  Every time I change Monkey Man’s diaper, I ask him to throw it in the trash can for me.  And everyday, I bring him along when it is time to take the trash out.  He no longer plays with the trash.  He gets his “trash fix” from using the trash can appropriately.  Before I started that routine, he got into the trash and spread it around the floor a few times a week. But since starting that routine, he is no longer interested in rifling through the trash because he already knows what is in it (since he is putting the trash in the trash can). 

The difference between developmentally normal behavior and defiance, and the age which babies/children can understand reasoning is, unfortunately, not common knowledge.  If a parent said “I will take away the phone if you don’t handle it gently”, (the ability to understand “right” from “wrong” in the context of damaging property), for example, would not be comprehended/fully understood by a child until the child is aged five to eight years old. So the child also wouldn’t know the difference if a parent said “If you don’t handle the phone gently, I will spank you.”  That would make corporal punishment all the more repulsive in my eyes.

Little kids love being “Mommy’s little helper”.  Instead of shooing a baby away from the broom while sweeping, give it to him and show him how to use it.  Yes, it takes more patience and more time, but it is rewarding for both parties.  Instead of the parent being frustrated that a baby is in the way all the time, and the baby feeling frustrated at being left out, the parent’s chores get completed in a less time efficient manner, but everyone has a smile on their face. The little helper feels satisfied at their job well done, and the parent saves emotional energy by having to deal with fewer outbursts.

Children deserve respect, compassion, patience, and time from adults/parents.  And in giving children respect, the adults/parent gets a well-adjusted, sweet-tempered little helper.

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One thought on “Discipline vs. respect

  1. Pingback: Self-imposed ignorance in America | My Mothering Journey

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