Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Loving Guidance

As the RA in my knee continues to improve, I have been looking for some new things to write about on my blog that aren't RA themed. I figure that since my RA is giving me a break, I should also give it a break and move on to some of the other passions I have in life. (Hmm....has RA become a passion? Scary thought! It definitely has taken up a lot of my time and energy)

Just in time, I received a very complementary email from a friend whose parenting style I admire a lot. She has younger kids and had two questions for me, one of which I thought I would focus on today and the other in another post. Her question is, "What approach to discipline do you use with your kids? My guess is that you don't punish your children but instead provide loving guidance. I am always hoping to see you cover this aspect of your parenting approach on your blog but it has not come up yet so I thought I'd ask."

My friend is right. We don't punish our kids. Just as we feel we are facilitators in their education, we feel we have the same job in the choices they make in life. We attempt to treat them as individual human beings that have unique ways of figuring out the world.

Below are some things I have learned as a parent that have helped me to be a guide rather than a punisher:

~When Alexander was born I joined La Leche League. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only did I gain confidence in nursing but I also took from this group a very important lesson that has proved over and over to work. Trust your heart when it comes to your children. You know them better than anyone else. If a doctor, school, family/friend suggests something that doesn't feel right to you, listen to your heart. Just because something works for everyone else doesn't mean it is going to work for your family.

~Talk positive about your children. I try to do this often and both kids have told me more than once how happy it makes them feel to overhear me saying positive things about them in my discussions with peers. I can't tell you how many parents I run into that don't hesitate for a moment to share the negatives of their child. I always wonder how that same person would feel if her husband was sharing all of her negatives with others. I believe we live up to what others believe about us and so far my children cause very few problems.

~Listen to your children. Just because they are kids doesn't mean they don't have opinions and good thoughts. There have been many times when I made a decision that was later changed because I listened to my children and realized they did indeed have a better idea them me.

~Respect that children do have a sense of what is right for themselves. Alexander is what is considered a "late reader". As unschoolers, I don't have a problem with this because I see him learning and know that not everyone fits into the same time frame of learning. But, I approached him about maybe doing some reading practice together and he told me he just wasn't ready. I respected that and waited. When it was his time, it happened. He knew enough about himself to realize that other learning was going on that would be interrupted if we took time away for reading.

~We learn from our mistakes. My own parents were great at teaching me this lesson and I take a lot of how I was raised in how I approach this lesson. Rather than grounding the kids to their bedrooms or taking away their computers/video games, we choose to talk to our children when problems arise. Many times after talking we realize that due to their limited experiences in life, they haven't considered all the consequences of their actions and when we talk, they realize what could have come from their actions. Getting angry and sending them to their rooms isn't going to help them learn from the situation.

~Include your children. Children need to feel they are contributing to the success of a family. By allowing children the right to share in family decisions, share in chores and experience life with you, they tend to not get into a lot of trouble. Both Sophia and Alexander want good things for our family and strive to make choices that are good for our family and for themselves. Does that mean they won't ever get into trouble? We know trouble will come and would worry if it didn't. Learning about life takes trial and error. I am still learning and luckily my family doesn't banish me to my room, take my laptop or some other punishment when I make mistakes. They realize I too am human.
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To find out how my kids view my parenting style I decided to go the source. I asked Alexander and Sophia what they think about my discipline style.

~They both agreed that I am understanding. They said I remember what it is like to be kid.

~They both mentioned that they like that I talk to them about everything and don't leave them in the dark.

~Alexander said he likes that I don't control them but let them know how I feel. His example was, "Once Sophia asked you if she could use a bad word and you told her that you couldn't stop her from saying the bad word because she is responsible for her own actions, but it isn't something you feel represents who Sophia is." (Sophia never did say the word she just wanted to know if she could.)

Ever since the kids were little I have asked them, "Are you being good to your body?" More than anything I want my kids to respect who they are. I want them to put nutritious foods into their bodies because they respect themselves and to make choices that are respectful to who they are. Their choices may not always be the same choice I would make but they also are not me. We learn from each other.