Have you ever told your child, “Because I said so!”?
Please don’t. Pleeeeeeeeeease! Don’t!
Or at least if you do, do it so rarely that its meaning is even more formidable than using your wee little one’s full name during a telling off. Stop ordering your blog readers around right this instant Sara Jean Landers!! eeeek! okay!
I think that disciplining, interacting with, maintaining control over and being in charge of kids is so much easier than we make it on ourselves.
Here is what happened today on my school bus:
On the way home from summer school I looked in the mirror and I saw feet sticking up in the air where a head should be. A student had his back on the “sit” part of the seat and his legs straight up in the air where his torso should have been. I used my handy dandy microphone thingy and reminded:
“All of my friends should be sitting with their bottoms on the bottom and their backs on the back of the seat.”
I saw the legs swing down and a head pop up and go to where it was supposed to. Approximately thirty-seven seconds later, when I looked in the mirror, guess who had his back on the butt part and his legs in the air again?
I put my flashers on, pulled over, turned off the engine and got up. I had taken only one step forward when I saw feet swinging down and a head zoom back to the proper sitting position. I walked to the back and stood in front of the rule breaker.
I smiled. I used my quiet-yet-friendly-yet-stern voice. I asked Mr. Rebel if he heard me telling everyone that they must sit properly. Not even one nanosecond passed and he said that no he did not hear that. He didn’t flinch or look away or turn pink. He maintained steady eye contact. I asked him if he likes sitting in the back? He said yes. I told him that it is not safe to sit any other way except the way he was right at that moment and that if I saw him sitting any other way again, that he would have to sit in the first seat in the front. I went back to my seat and we rolled along. He sat properly all the way home.
Now there is one other thing you should know about Mister Man. When summer school started over three weeks ago and I was given this route, I was warned that this particular friend was a trouble maker. That he would give me a hard time and that if I could pick him up last and drop him off first, it would make my life much easier.
Because I am a FIRM BELIEVER in letting people’s behavior dictate my opinion of them I waited to see what would happen on our first day of summer school. He did not ride to school on the bus that first morning but in the afternoon when I went to pick the kids up, he was on. He ran straight to the back and started bouncing from seat to seat. I went back there and smiled and introduced myself. I told him, and the few other kids who were also back there though they stayed in their seats, that I would let them sit anywhere they wanted on the bus, but the rule was: they must choose a seat and stay in it. That moving seats isn’t safe and that if they couldn’t follow this rule, they would have to sit in the front. Mr. Reputation-precedes-him chose to sit in the back and stayed in that seat every day. He asked me for a high-five when he got off the bus. He maintained his great behavior almost the whole summer school session.
Summer school will be over in three days. Just three days shy of the four week mark and he finally needed a reminder of the rules. I believe this (this being long stretches of good behavior) is what you can get when you:
- Talk to a child in a clear, explanatory and friendly way.
- Give them an explanation for what you are asking or telling them to do.
- Allow them a second chance if they screw up once or maybe even twice.
- FOLLOW THROUGH WITH YOUR THREATS OF PUNISHMENT WHICH MEANS DON’T MAKE YOUR PUNISHMENTS ANYTHING YOU ARE UNABLE OR UNWILLING TO DO.
Because we don’t give kids enough credit. And we give them too much credit.
This is what I mean by that.
We don’t give kids enough credit because they are SMART!!!! They understand things!! They understand consequences and rewards. They understand danger and fear. They have begun to use logic. Who wants to be told what to do ALL DAY LONG?? Especially WITHOUT explanation? No one. Not even kids.
YES you are the parent/adult/in charge and so what you say goes but that doesn’t mean you should exploit that.
I have to do what my boss says. But if my boss asks me to do something and gives me an explanation why and/or asks me in a normal human way (not shouting or ordering) it makes me glad to do it. It really helps to understand the why, especially if it’s something I don’t really want to do. I also respect my boss more if she talks to ME with respect. This is not different for children.
THIS IS NOT DIFFERENT FOR CHILDREN!
If they understand WHY you are asking or telling them to do something, it helps them in so many ways. They become WEARY of following orders day in and day out. Parents, teachers, bus drivers, other relatives, older siblings, all other adults are constantly telling them to do this, don’t do that. You never ever have to worry that your child won’t learn that they have to do what adults say. Because at every turn there are adults telling them what to do and expecting good behavior.
If your ego is preventing you from understanding this concept, and you still live by the old advice that “children should do as they are told, period” then I beg you to reconsider procreating. And at least if you do, please don’t move to Cockeysville where I drive a school bus, I’d prefer not to cart your little monsters around.
And please don’t misunderstand my meaning. YOU ARE STILL IN CHARGE. It IS possible to give orders to your child, even with an explanation, and yet make it clear that you are in charge. You must be concise and direct, even if you offer a choice (You can sit properly, or you can sit in the front. There are no other options). If you think that by offering a choice and/or an explanation a child may come to challenge you by repeatedly asking why something should be done as to avoid doing the thing, then you are correct. Kids are smart!!! You may be the recipient of that diversionary tactic they love to employ. This is the part where you remember that you are in charge and that you have offered them an explanation and now is the time for listening. Once you’ve offered the choice and/or the explanation, it is up to YOU to follow through with the consequences or the unfavorable choice.
And what I mean by “we give them too much credit”:
Kids are still KIDS. Although they are smart and they understand things, they are not AS smart as you. YOU know that you shouldn’t do things because you have lived on this earth much longer than they have. You have learned your lessons, possibly the hard way, and have been putting them into practice for YEARS. You can’t expect children to grasp right/wrong, safe/unsafe/ without explaining it to them. And you can’t expect them to remember it immediately and every time even if you do explain it to them. Do YOU remember everything the first time you’re told?
How good are you at controlling your impulses? Do you ever lose your temper? Overeat? Drink too much? Binge spend? Say things you shouldn’t? And how many years have you been practicing and trying to control these things? And STILL you aren’t an expert??
Well. Imagine if you’d only been practicing for four years. Or ten. Or sixteen. AND that your cerebrum is still not fully developed. So we need to practice understanding when our wee ones don’t have good impulse control. Or when they’ve been sitting in a classroom for six hours and are finally let out into the world, where they are grouped with ten, twenty or thirty of their friends with only one adult to supervise them, and said adult has to put her efforts into safely driving a bus. (Which by the way, opens up a whole other problem I have, which is education and how we do it, but that will be a blog for another day, Eric 🙂
And finally I would like to stress the importance of number four up there. Here it is again in case you missed it the first time:
FOLLOW THROUGH WITH YOUR THREATS OF PUNISHMENT WHICH MEANS DON’T MAKE YOUR PUNISHMENTS ANYTHING YOU ARE UNABLE OR UNWILLING TO DO.
This is so so so so so so so important. Don’t be the grown-up who cried wolf! Because if you are, you’re making life so much harder for your child as well as any other adult who must deal with your child. If you continually threaten with punishments that never, or rarely happen, your babes will eventually stop running up the hill to see if the wolf ate the sheep.
The fact that Mister upside-down-sitter could look me straight in the eye and lie, as well as the reputation he had for being a handful, tells me that he has been threatened with unfulfilled punishments for a long time and he is a pro at knowing when an adult is crying wolf.
How many times have you been in a store (Walmart) and heard a mother say to her misbehaving child, “If you don’t straighten up right now we are leaving?”
I want to be kind in this blog post. I want to be understanding. I want to lovingly impart wisdom and common sense advice. But if you are guilty of saying that to a tantrum-ing child…..YOU ARE AN IDIOT.
First of all, you aren’t leaving. Because you aren’t there for the child. You’re there because you need to get kitty litter and toilet paper and your babe doesn’t give a shit about that. So your threat to leave is music to his ears. He’d love to leave. You CAN’T leave because there is no bread left in the house to pack lunches tomorrow or nary a drop of laundry detergent and you’re already wearing yesterday’s underwear inside out so you really really do need to be here.
Oh, the writhing-child-on-the-floor-of-Walmart speech needs a blog of its own. So just know, that threatening a punishment you cannot or will not follow through with only desensitizes your kids to your threats. And then all the threats of the other adults who deal with her. So just give it some thought.
And I just want to remind everyone that I am all about the gray. I KNOW there are situations where this advice may not work. I KNOW there are extenuating circumstances and children with special needs and people (like teachers, bless them) who are dealing with too many kids with too many different personalities all at once to be able to explain every little thing.
This is just general advice for the average parent/guardian/caregiver/human. Give your kids some credit. But not too much.