None of us are born with a set of written instructions. Having children of our own to raise can be pretty much a crapshoot. Most of us rely on memory of how our parents raised us, plus reading a few books. My parents were strict in the area of discipline. The short list of rules were not up for debate. However, living on a farm, I felt a lot of Freedom to roam the area, with few rules or boundaries relative to running and playing all over the acreage where we lived, plus free to roam adjoining farms of relatives. I had no fear of anything except a rabid dog or snakes.
Aside from my own children, I have co-parented and helped to raise a number of other children. The one thing I discovered early on is a child is going to rule or be ruled in their formative years. And their ability to learn seems to be much greater before age eight. It’s my observation that it seems something in the brain changes around 8 years old, which slows down their learning speed.
This past year, my daughter adopted a beautiful, extremely smart girl, now 6 years old. She lives near me and frequently drops her off to keep for periods of time. She attends private school, goes to church every Sunday, sings in a children’s choir, had lessons in ballet, and is involved in a number of activities. The latest being study for an upcoming spelling bee contest. She also has her own piano to practice on. Her ability to read and spell appears above average to me.
However I have encountered a discipline problem, I’ll explain my approach to it. She is headstrong in the area of doing what she wants when she wants it, with little regard for property of others. She digs and prowls into my things without permission. Being a person who places a high priority on control of one’s property, with responsibility for it, I resent anyone crossing my boundaries without permission and rummaging through my things. This child I’ll call RJ, seems to think she has a la carte to do whatever she chooses when she visits. And found myself being quite upset after she leaves, after rummaging through anything she chooses. And quite tiring constantly telling her not to do that.
Yesterday, I decided I had to change my handling of a behavioral problem. A problem on top of me I had to get on top of it, to cause her to change her habit of disregard for the property of others. I assigned her a drawer in a chest in my TV room for her things, coloring books, crayons and etc. It’s her assigned area to do as she chooses. Then I sat down and typed out a list of rules she must abide by when she’s here. As usual she walked in, picked up a soda drink, and into my fridge without permission. I said no, you can’t have the soda, sit down, you and I are having a board meeting.
I gave her my list of rules and asked her to read them aloud to me. Then I asked her if there was anything she did not understand. She’s very smart and asked several questions, like is the chest drawer mine? We discussed each item of rules and she clearly understood. One thing I discovered a long time ago, and that is, children love structure.
I have a children’s room in my home filled with books, toys, desk, play clothes and etc. They can play there but must put things back in their place before leaving.
My seven year old grandchild, Prince William, has over 100 toy cars he played with, and early on established his territory by posting a sign above his desk, which reads: “Will’s office.” He had his own typewriter which he loved banging on. I never had any discipline problems with him. He’s a sweet-natured child that minds well, and we’ve enjoyed many happy times on his visits with me.
I discovered early on, children take to an understanding of the property concept like a duck to water, when explained in simple terms to them, and love having certain things and property, to them exclusively, to do with as they choose.
I recall an instant with my son Ken when he was around six years old, his cousin Tony came for a visit, and wanted to ride his tricycle, and Ken refused. I explained to Tony it was Ken’s property and he could do as he chose with it. Subsequently, Ken was visiting Tony and wanted to ride his tricycle and I explained the same rules applied to him, with regards to his decision to share or not to. I could just see Tony light up over the fact he had control over his property and he refused Ken permission to ride his tricycle.
The next visit of Tony, Ken voluntarily offered him his tricycle to ride. He had learned his lesson on voluntary sharing, as opposed to coercive sharing that most children are subjected to.
Back to RJ, immediately after reading my written list of rules and our discussion, she asked if she could take a box of toy cars and play with them in the TV room. I told her it’s ok so long as she put them back in the play room when she finished. And she did. I explained to her I wanted her to enjoy happy times when she visited me, and that could only be accomplished by following the rules.
Sometime ago I had agreed to give her an allowance of one dollar a week for good behavior. Prior to her last visit she had ploughed and plundered through my things and I did not give her a dollar for that week, explaining there are consequences for bad behavior. She opened a bank account to deposit her dollar and now has $30.00 in her account.
Yesterday as she started to leave, walking through my kitchen, she stopped and asked if she could have an orange soda. A different attitude from her arrival, when she picked up a soda without permission. Our board meeting of understanding the rules began paying off immediately.
It’s amazing how children respond to structure and understanding the boundaries of that which they can and cannot do, plus comprehending the consequences when they disobey. This six year old RJ very quickly grasped the concept of my list of written rules and decided she wanted to follow them. She loves the one dollar a week allowance, and knew she would lose it if she disobeyed.
Recently a neighbor came for a visit with her brother’s 5 year old boy. While we talked he wrecked the playroom, and I told her he could not come back until he learned some respect for the property of others. She informed me that his mother was incarcerated with a drug problem. I really feel a lot of empathy for children, not taught properly. It’s not that they want to be disobedient and have meltdown screaming fits in the grocery store. They are not taught proper behavior in a manner resulting in their happiness and that of their parents. And it’s really nothing complicated. The bottom line is learning the concept of property ownership and consistent consequences when they disobey.
After an aggravating experience with her last week, resulting in my standing her against the wall, I realized the problem I was encountering with her was my problem, and I had to change the currents of behavior, with a simple plan. And a written list of acceptable and unacceptable behavior carries more weight than a dozen or more verbalizing. When RJ left I gave her a copy of the rules I had typed out to take with her.
Now she has a clear cut understanding of acceptable behavior when she visits, and I have a better understanding of how to handle and deal with a behavior problem. At one time I kept five children, but had forgotten the proper rules of dealing with children. Probably because I thought I was finished with helping raise a child, something that started when I was a teenager, living on a farm, when my mother had lots of work to do and left my two younger brothers with me to care for, while she helped my Dad on the farm.
When I developed my self-program a number of years ago and charged 600.00 for six months of counseling, one of my counselees asked me how long I had been counseling. I replied, most of my life, and had a full load as a teenager, taking care of two younger boys.
I decided to write this article in the hopes it might be of help to another, struggling with childrearing. Stay calm and write out your plan of action.
In conclusion, one other thing is that I never hit a child. My favorite manner of discipline is standing them in a corner facing the wall, which provides the child time to think about everything.
LET FREEDOM RING
JUST ME AC