Speaking She-Lion

I'm not a screamer. Never have been. In fact I plead guilty to…well…kind of despising women who find it necessary to constantly scream at their children. 
That said, I literally roared at a two year old this week. 
Two words: "CORTNI! NOW!"
It was effective. The child immediately veered off her intended course, dove for her nap mat, and burying her face in her pillow, went to sleep. Literally did not move a muscle for three hours and a half hours. When her mother arrived and told her it was time to wake up, she kept her eyes clenched shut and muttered, "No!" She slept all the way home.
The child has taken to running around the room, laughing and shrieking hysterically at the top of her lungs whenever I say it's time to lay down. No matter how many times I ask her to lay down, or lay her down, or look deeply into her eyes and tell her very sternly, "Enough! You can't jump over the other kids–you're hurting them." etc. 
The roaring tactic worked instantly. But it felt wrong, you know? 
I've been thinking a lot about discipline lately. What works, what doesn't. 
Most effective, short term, is to remove the problem: I don't want you to play with knives, so I store them out of reach; I don't want you to play in the street, so I build a fence. 
Especially at a State-licensed facility. There are literally hundreds of regulations to keep little critters safe and out of trouble. And it works–I don't have to worry about electrocution, accidental poisoning, burns, etc. I have wondered why I didn't do all of these things when my  children were small. It's so much easier than following them around saying, "Uh-oh, watch out! Hot! Owie! Go down the stairs on your belly, sister."
So much easier. Short term. 
But I am noticing, for the first time, the backlash of "no-proofing" my house. Because essentially, instead of teaching the child to make good choices, we are just taking away the element of choice, period. 
Instead of teaching a child correct principles and then letting them govern themselves and experience consequences in a reasonably safe environment, we are creating a false reality for them, where nobody ever gets hurt, nothing is ever irreparably damaged, and nobody gets angry.
You end up with schools full of children who have no ability to discern boundaries for themselves–because for the first five or six years, the authorities have laid it all out and let them bounce around in their padded little world. The child's thinking runs along these lines: "If it is possible, it must be okay–'they' wouldn't let the possibility for me to do this exist if real danger/wrongdoing might result."
Would my own two-year-old have run around the room shrieking, when I wanted them to lay down? Hmmm. I don't know. I never made them take naps. Did they go to bed when I told them to? Not every time. I remember feeling plenty of, "How many times do I have to tell this kid to…?" But the thing is–I never got to the point of exasperation where She-Lion was the only language they understood. They pushed the limits of their existence and real boundaries pushed back, and somehow we came to a degree of understanding where I could say, hey, it's bedtime, and they'd go. Or, this batch of cookies is for the neighbors, and they'd leave it alone–whether or not I was there, to govern them. For the most part.
I don't see that ability developing in many of the children I watch. Yeah, it's hard to judge the preschool crowd–I'm talking about the older children in my care–the ones who should be at the stage where you frown about their language and they blush furiously and never, ever, ever speak like that again in your presence, at least. They shouldn't have to be reminded, every ten seconds, not to run through the kitchen playing tag. Every day.
Ten and eleven year old boys should be able to retain a concept like that. But they can't. Because it's possible–and because there are no real consequences for doing it, except that mean old lady gets grumpy and her mouth moves and some kind of sound comes out when I run past. 

Did you see the headlines about the teacher in Houston who beat up the thirteen year old boy?
It was a Special Education teacher, taking discipline into her own hands–apparently the boy had beaten up one of her special ed students earlier. So she reciprocated. 
Psycho, yes. But I wonder if the woman had talked to the boy's parents and the principal and asked the kid a thousand times to leave her student alone, to be kind/respectful/not abusive, and the kid just kept harassing. 
I don't know–but I know kids that would do that.
Was her method more effective for dealing with the bully? 
Probably not–he'll probably get so much sympathetic press that he'll just grow smug. 
I don't know. I wish I did. 
I wish there was an easy answer. 
I don't think it involves removing choice or beating the tar out of them, either. Or even yelling ourselves hoarse. 
Because guess what? The next day, that two year old? She was back to running around shrieking. 
After she nearly trompled an infant, I buckled her into her highchair until she fell asleep. Also effective–took less than two minutes, and it didn't hurt my voice, or horrify the children. 
But is that really where this child's life is headed? Artificial restraints because her inner ones are faulty?
I know, I know: she's only two. 
It just has me thinking…

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10 responses to “Speaking She-Lion

  • Random Musings

    Oh, Kimber, I often wonder the same things. I raised my kids in a relatively safe environment but still had situations where they had to make choices and eal with consequences. And they are healthy adults. They learned to respond to the words "no" and "stop".The teacher was certainly wrong to attack the child as she did but in my heart I knew how she came to that point. I taught middle/high school and came close to losing it more than once. Being called a G–D— MF can do that to you. But I always retained my composure, even when contacting the parent of the child who called me that and being told their child would never do that. As if I had nothing better to do than make up lies and call parents. Kids today know few boundaries. Teaching is not easy. But physical violence against a child is never ok,

  • Emmi

    Great points. Since it was someone else's child, I have to wonder if it's a symptom of her parent's modern-day attitude of "my kids are my friends, I'll just beg them to behave for me". I wish someone would make a film of old style discipline so people could see the huge disparity.
    My friend and I were laughing the other day about my camp experience – a girl from my camp hit her head diving into the pool. Blood was gushing from her head, and the camp counsellors stood there debating, "hmmm, should we call her parents? The bleeding has slowed somewhat".
    LOL, today there would be hoards of people in hysterics (the girl was fine and swam later despite the stitches in her scalp).

  • Freedom Smith

    Wow, Kimber, that is deep and makes me think a lot. You have a very valid point. Also, along the same lines, are the schools and the train of thought that we should not grade or have negative consequences. Too bad life is not like that. That must be a terrible jolt when these nurtured, protected, fail-proof kids are no longer safe and have to go out in the work force. Wow. Think of the shock, the horror, when they learn that they can fail, that they can get hurt, that they can get fired!!

  • Emjay

    I agree with RM that there seem to be fewer boundaries set for children these days – and I'm sure I'm not just looking back on my children's formative years with rose coloured glasses. 🙂 I think children progress better (more responsibly?) if there are boundaries and they know where those boundaries are – they certainly push at the edges though which can be so frustrating to an adult trying to enforce them! I just know that I would never have the patience to do what you do or to teach as RM did. My lion would be roaring all the time.

  • Kimmers

    Excellent thoughts. It seems kids are conditioned to not think for themselves. Their parents aren't doing much constructive training or discipline, either. Then we end up with a bunch of little wild animals…

  • Kimber

    Oh wow! I'm glad you kept your composure–that would definitely be tough. I've had parents who have flat out told me that their children "would never, ever do ________". Yeah right. "As if I had nothing better to do" than to make up lies to tell them, is right! Why would I do that? I should use video surveillance so I have proof. Although, I'm pretty sure they'd find a way to excuse their child's behavior anyway!

  • Kimber

    Oh, exactly! My son cut his finger at school. Fifteen minutes before the end of the day. One of the other kids told the teacher–my son just kept working on his art project. Teacher sent him to the office, and they called me–insisting that I come pick him up because they didn't want anything to happen to him on the bus.

  • Kimber

    Yes! Let's not tell the kids that their handwriting/answers/ideas/spelling are not quite up to snuff–we wouldn't want to hurt their budding self-esteem! Who are they kidding? What's wrong with expressing confidence in a child's ability to do much, much better than they are currently doing?

  • Kimber

    Not enough boundaries–or too many artificial ones! I think adults are creating and enforcing only the physical boundaries that make life easier on themselves (the fence or the childproof cabinet locks, say) and not the ones that really matter, that teach kids to make good decisions–boundaries that the parent has to actively participate in–like enforcing expectations that the child tells the truth, treats others with respect, etc.

  • Kimber

    Yes, I think that people have recognized that violence is not the most effective form of discipline, but instead of replacing violence with active, involved, logical discipline–which is exhausting, short term–parents are abdicating all responsibility by not disciplining at all–which can have consequences worse than violent discipline.

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