Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to Love Your Kids and Like Them Too

Discipline. It's a scary word that conjures up images of switches behind the shed and nuns with rulers in hand. But I'm here to tell you that it's the thing that makes me not only love my children, but genuinely enjoy being around them.

We live in a Chicken Little parenting environment, where everyone around us is second guessing themselves and each other, where people are convinced that various parenting styles are dangerous or wrong, but really where most people just aren't very experienced parents. And maybe (just maybe) don't know what they're talking about.

Discipline is good for lots of things. It's good for setting kids up for success in school and sports and hobbies and future careers, it's good for their religious and moral development, it's good at keeping them from getting squished in parking lots. But it's also really, really good at making them pleasant to be around all day. For YOU. Because YOU are around them all day.

Don't confuse "discipline" with "punishment." Discipline will involve punishment, probably. Unless you are St. Anne or the Blessed Virgin, your discipline is going to involve some punishing of one sort or another.


But "discipline" itself is about control. Its first step is a parent being able to control her children's behavior and its goal is children being able to control their own behavior.

What that looks like in MY family is going to depend on MY family culture.

Because what is acceptable to one family isn't going to be acceptable to another. YOU decide if you can live with gleeful shrieks (I cannot) or getting clothes dirty (not a problem for me) or jumping on the couch (okay in the playroom, but not in the living room). 

*I* am in charge of these particular kids, because God made it so. A CEO is in charge of creating a corporate culture, and of instituting rules and policies and expectations that will allow that company to thrive. In the same way, I have to institute and enforce rules that will allow my family to thrive.

So my kids are allowed to do some stuff that your kids might not be allowed to do, and your kids maybe shouldn't be allowed to do some things that I let my kids do. That's the beauty of a family culture, it can be very specific.

Of course, my expectations have to be reasonable and age appropriate. And what I can live with in regards to things like personal space and noise level and general orderliness of my home has changed quite a bit over the years. It had to.

And my kids all have different personalities and interests and that's fine. Discipline isn't about changing who my children ARE, it's about helping who they are to fit in with who all the rest of us are.

There's just no other way to say it: You get to make YOUR kids liveable for YOUR family. So you need to determine the few things that make your life the most difficult, make rules to fix those things, and be really, really consistent on enforcing them.

For me it would probably be: stay in bed during naps and after bedtime, come when you are called, say "okay mama" when I ask you to do something, no complaining, no tattling, no shrieking. But things like making beds, and lunchtime table manners don't get enforced with the same regularity. I want my kids to make their beds every morning, really I do, but it's not SO important to me that I make a huge deal of it every day. And we sit down as a family for dinner, but I pretty much let them wander about while eating lunch. I don't want to enforce a seated family meal more than once per day. But if you get out of bed during naptime around here, your world ends, because I cannot live with that.



Like the Blues Brothers, I am on a mission from God. My authority over my children comes from God. Even Jesus was "subject" to his earthly parents. I am pretty strict. Stricter, perhaps, than most parents. But I'm also really goofy and loving and affectionate and available. I think my kids are thriving. They are fun and funny and smart and creative. Having rules and expectations doesn't squelch kids. Not liking them does. And if I hate being around them because they are totally untrained and insufferable then I might be tempted to just let them play video games all day and avoid their company. 

That's why I discipline my kids the way I do, so that we love being around each other. Hopefully other people like being around them too.

Thanks to Jenna from Call Her Happy for asking the question that inspired this post, and for posting the cutest little necklace ever that I can't stop thinking about.

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It's been a while since I linked up with the lovely gals of Fine Linen and Purple, so . . . 

Here's what I wore Sunday:


Nursing-Friendly Dress & Sweater: Anthropologie (borrowed from my sister!)
Shoes: Amazon
Scarf (for increased nursing-friendliness): not shown
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Are you joining me for the BIG purse dump? Next Tuesday (4/25) I'll open a link-up here which will be open all week. 



It's pretty complicated: Dump out your purse, take some photos, link it up.

You may wish to include the following . . . 
  • It's my favorite thing in here.
  • Wow, I really have a lot of these.
  • I've been looking for those.
  • Huh. THAT shouldn't be in there.
The fine print (which I'm keeping big so you can read it): NO CHEATING. No early tidying. No funny planted stuff. God is watching you.

Hope to see you there. Happy weekend everyone!


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28 comments:

  1. I think this is right on.
    My Dad has said that it is an important service to children to teach them something about how to behave. It helps them to be happy and have good relationships. It's a disservice to allow a child to become the kind of kid that no one enjoys being around!
    And I think Mr. Rogers would say that it makes children feel good to know that they can control themselves.

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  2. Awesome post. I agree, we must TEACH our children. They are not born knowing appropriate behavior! Plus, they are so much happier when they feel proud and confident. Pretty dress!

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  3. I really appreciate your posts on discipline. As a teacher, discipline was a challenge for me, and I know that it will be as a parent. I love order, peace, and the comfort of knowing that everyone must behave well, but I'm not good and making that happen. In part this is because I'm more the compliant type of person than the kind who believes that her preferred way of doing X is clearly right. I know that this is something I need to work on! I have this suppressed fear of my infant defying me over the cheerios someday (in front of both his grandmothers) and me not knowing what to do. :-)

    I don't know if you followed the discussion that began with the article in Slate ( http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2014/02/what_s_it_really_like_to_be_a_parent_please_don_t_tell_me.html) about how parenting blogs, etc., make parenting sound like a nightmare. I've read some good follow-up pieces, but none of them have pointed out (as you do in this post) that parenting doesn't have to be quite as hard as some people make it.

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    1. I had not seen that article Anna, thanks for sharing it. I feel so badly for that author. If there weren't already like a thousand comments, I would tell her how great *I* think it is to be a mom!

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    2. Anna, discipline was my biggest weakness as a teacher too! But then I became a parent, and I've learned so much about the value of rules and consistency. You have to learn it, or else your days will just be terrible. If I was teaching again now, I think I'd be so much better!

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    3. Discipline was my big weakness as teacher as well, but when it's your own kids, it's totally different. Because they are YOUR kids and YOU know them and love them and they have an attachment to you and it's a totally different dynamic. Plus, there aren't 25 of them...at least not at once. :)

      So...just because I love talking about discipline, I wrote my own post (which is in some ways similar to this and some ways different). Discipline without (a lot of) punishment

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    4. I read your post Amelia, Thanks. We have the same goals for our kids, of course. :) My husband mentioned the whole getting them to Heaven being the main goal thing when he read my post before I published it. Perhaps I should have made a point of working that in! Thanks for sharing your perspective. I think our families would get on famously.

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  4. Love your outfit!! And I am totally participating in the purse dump. Can't wait!

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  5. This post is fantastic, Kendra! And you look beautiful!

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  6. Great post, Kendra!

    I second the outfit love. And those shoes!!

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  7. You are beautiful! And so is your blog. I feel like you're the older sister I never had. Except, you might not be older than me, lol! Just wiser. :) A friend of mine pinned one of your articles and I clicked over and have been reading a bunch of your parenting articles. I love everything you've written! Much of what you've said is stuff I've figured out too in the last 8 years since I've become a parent. And the rest I am soaking up and memorizing. :)

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  8. You are so wise, thanks for sharing. Anyone can learn a lot from you no matter of one's religious belief.
    I'd like to ask how you managed when your oldest children were smaller?
    I have a toddler (22 months) and a newborn, we live in a small flat and hang out in the living room most of the time, so you can imagine the mess. Especially when I nurse the baby and the toddler is being very "creative".

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    1. This is the post on how we institute discipline . You're in the trenches right now for sure. Nursing a baby is pretty much an invitation to disobedience in a toddler if he's not in an established routine beforehand. But there's no reason not to start trying now. It can only get better!

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  9. I enjoy your blog and agree that discipline makes the whole family better. I do not have a "no tattling" policy, though. I want my kids to come to me and tell me when something is going on that I don't know about. Often, my answer is, "I'm not going to get involved in that," when it is some minor quibble.

    It doesn't seem that important when they are 5 and the issue is that they took some extra goldfish crackers. But when they are 15 and the issues are much bigger, I want my kids to come to me, tell me what's going on, and let me decide if an adult needs to be involved. If they have "tattling is bad" in the back of their heads all the time, that little voice might prevent them from seeking help for a friend and/or sibling.

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    1. Thanks Diane. We have a policy that tattling is allowed for things that are "dangerous or destructive." Hopefully that will cover situations like you mention when they're older without me having to hear about every little thing that happens before that!

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  10. I just watched this video

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amsqeYOk--w

    which you may have already seen (it's an oldie) but I think should be required viewing before you leave the hospital with your first child :)

    Also, the purse thing is for tomorrow, 2/25 right? Which just happens to be somebody's birthday ;)

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    1. Yes, the purse thing is tomorrow! I'll publish it at 10pm Pacific.

      I have read about that study, but hadn't seen this news report. It's amazing. I love it. I'm so tempted to see what Anita would do . . .

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  11. Wonderfully done, Kendra. I agree with you 100%. And I love the dress!

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  12. Thank you!! I feel a little bit long winded when I try to explain the discipline in my house, but you have put it so succinctly. It is about having a home that is livable for everyone in it. It is about creating ways of treating each other that means people want to be around each other and that people are happy. ESPECIALLY that the mom is happy because she is giving everything she has got. Thanks for this!

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  13. Okay, so first of all: your dress is adorable.
    Secondly, excellent and refreshing post. Most of the families that we spend time with have very disciplined children and they're lovely to be around...but there is that one family... They think they are being accepting of their children by not disciplining them, but the truth is that their children are rude and unpleasant and that even their own parents try to find ways to avoid being around them now. And it's not the poor kids' fault.
    I like to remember that the words discipline and disciple come from the same root, meaning "to teach." Punishing is a necessity with our fallen nature, but it's one very small part of what disciplining is.

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  14. I love your pink dress and sweater combo! And I love your thoughts on discipline and aligning it to a personal family culture. It's so easy to compare ourselves to other families, but a discipline plan that is designed for YOUR family is the perfect way to ignore the temptation to compare. LOVE!

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  15. When I was working flights my experience was that there were more bad parents than bad kids. They kept threatening the kids but never followed through and the kids knew it. I wanted to discipline the parents but the bad ones were beyond help.
    Nanacamille

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  16. Thank you so much for all you've written on how you parent! I've read through your posts a couple of times, and after this one, went back to the one about always meaning what you say. Six kids in and we've come to a crux in our parenting. I started with the two little guys tonight. I was very clear with what I wanted them to do, and told them what the consequence would be if they didn't do it. They didn't, I followed through, and they. don't. like. it. BUT. I feel in control, here, and I think if we keep this up, at least these two will get that they don't get what they want if they don't listen to me. Thanks again for all your practical parenting insights!

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  17. Great post! Your post on family culture totally turned our world upside down! It was probably the first blog post I have read that I made my husband read. To realize that we don't have to be surrounded by people doing things exactly like us was just refreshing. Our kids will turn out great, because of what we do inside the home and how we set the tone as a family. Loved it!!!

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  18. This is a great article. One question though -- how do you actually figure out what is important/not important to you, especially with the really young ones, and how do you reconcile that with a spouse who may disagree? I find we are naturally consistent on some stuff, such as naptime and bedtime being ironclad, ignoring whiny or demanding requests, being rough with the cat or things where there are natural consequences, i.e. "if you knock your food plate over, that's it, there's no more". But other stuff, which in theory is important to us, we sort of drop the ball on and I wind up questioning whether it is really important to us. (I really want my kids to pick up after themselves, but my husband would much rather just leave the mess there, and while I want my 22-month-old to say please and thank you, as long as he's asking pleasantly, I forget to insist.) It also seems like I have trouble focusing on more than a handful of discipline issues at once, which means there is a ton of behavior that basically winds up sliding or being handled very ad hoc?

    Also, how do you implement punitive discipline when toddlers don't seem to be fazed by or even understand no, or time out? Given how easy going he is, and the fact that we might leave him alone somewhere for a minute or two anyways, he simply didn't understand the concept of time out, and other consequences seem too abstract/removed from the situation to implement. I guess I'm worried that we're messing him up like he's the first pancake: we don't know what's important to us or what's worth being consistent on, and as a result his discipline is a bit all over the place

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    1. This is my post on how we introduce discipline to younger kids. I do think it's important to be on the same general page as your spouse, just for consistency. And if you know it drives your husband crazy when the kids shriek, but it doesn't bother you, it would be a gift to your husband to still correct the kids on that, so that he can enjoy being around them.

      As far as please and thank you: Every time I hear Frankie say "I wan dat car." My immediate reaction is to reply, "May I please have that car." Then he says, "Peas hava car." And he gets the car. It's automatic for me because I definitely don't like to be told what my kids WANT. So if you have that reaction too, you can just correct them, gently, right then, and eventually it gets fixed.

      Whether or not kids act as if a punishment bothers them doesn't really matter to me. Not being in a time out is better than being in one. They can act like they don't care, but for my kids anyway, it's kind of a scam. Of course they'd rather not be sitting facing the corner while the rest of us are having fun. So if that's the punishment that seems reasonable at the time, whatever it is, I just do it. And it seems to work.

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    2. Thanks, that is helpful. I will probably have to ramp up once the sibling shows up in a month if the toddler starts acting out. And I think my husband and I would really benefit from having a written list of our discipline goals that evolves month to month, just so we both remember and can be consistent with each other. It seems like our son is better behaved the more positive interactions we have, and that instituting too many punishments makes me ANGRY at him and makes it tough for me to act loving towards him, which I am positive is not instructive for him. We parents probably have to work on our discipline (i.e. disciplining our emotions and responses) before we can be more effective with him. But that's why it's so important to do this when kiddos are young and their character is being shaped. I grew up with no rules -- no bedtimes, no chores, no routines, a constantly shifting list of acceptable behaviors, spankings mainly based on whether my parents were angry or not, no clear rules on manners or etiquette, and had to learn internal discipline very painfully as I grew. I think I have managed to become a functional adult, but it would have been so much easier if this had been drilled into me at a young age.

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  19. Shared this post on my blog this morning. Thanks for blessing others with your writing, Kendra! http://www.organizinglifewithlittles.com/2014/04/26/my-favorite-finds-where-i-look-to-the-larger-families/

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