Monday, July 14, 2008

Other Parents

How and should one attempt to convince other parents that behaviourism is ineffective and detrimental in parenting?

Every time I hear "If you do that again, you won't get any chocolate!" I want to try to tell the parent that they nobody wins with such threats. I suspect that there is not much I can say without alienating and offending, which of course would not help anyone.

What do you think?
-- Willow

Honestly? I think it is more productive to focus on the positive changes we can make in our own lives than it is to hone in on the mistakes others are making. Often, I think, we notice things in others that we are bothered by in ourselves. Maybe you’ve moved beyond blatant threats, but it might be worthwhile to look closely at the ways that behaviorism still exerts a subtle grip on your thinking. Or maybe not.

Another thing to consider is simply this: what is it you are wanting – to share your own excitement about ideas that make sense to you? To offer a ray of hope to another parent? To gloat? To articulate your beliefs? To help a child? If you’re clear about your own intentions and desires, it might be easier to find ways forward that will be truly productive and satisfying for you.

At this point in my own journey, I think that setting out to convince others is often a mistake – a misdirection of energy and attention. It makes more sense to me to keep looking closely at our own issues, our own shortcomings, our own successes. To keep building our own lives. If our ideas are as good as we believe them to be, then living by them will indirectly impact many, many other people.

I hope something here proves useful, or at least interesting!

Friday, July 4, 2008

I don't like her!

“What is the best way to react to a child repeatedly saying “I don’t like Sally.” Sally being her sister, and the phrase is repeated over and over and over whenever the child feels this mood and her sister is near – say wanting in the tub with her, wanting to eat at the same dinner table etc. It doesn’t make sense to tell a child that they DO like Sally, but wondering out loud about the possibility of confusing terms and/or feelings does happen. “I wonder if you are just wanting some space from Sally right now. That might be a kinder way to express your feelings.” Though I wonder too if that’s not the same as telling the child what they think. It seems this is more mom’s issue than either child’s for the most part.

I would love to know what Nawny would do in a similar situation!”

I think there is a difference between telling someone what they think and trying to help someone figure out what they want.

I also think that it can be easy to focus on the language that is hard for us, as parents, to hear, and then to focus in on the person saying those things. Sometimes it’s much more helpful in a situation like the one described above to turn our attention to the person that isn’t saying things that tap our parental worry/guilt buttons. Talking to Sally instead of her sister, for example. “Sounds like your sister wants some space. Why don’t you and I go play over there?” Let go of the difficult interaction, come back to it when it is less loaded.

I think one of the hardest things about parenting more than one child is figuring out who to help and how to help when our kids’ wants are directly conflicting. It’s important in such a situation to be really flexible in our attempts to help, and to be very aware of our own biases.

I hope something here proves useful!