Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Discipline: Punishment Intended to Correct or Train

My cute grandparents, circa 1982ish.

My grandparents raised six children.  They were polite, cheerful, well groomed and hard workers.  They weren't this way through threat or intimidation, either, although Grandma and Grandpa were both champions when it came to discipline.  My dad was fond of telling how when the kids would bicker, Grandma sent them out to weed the (huge enough to feed 8 people) garden together, or clean the chicken coup.  And heaven help you if Grandpa caught you doing wrong because he'd assign the big jobs.  They learned not to fight, or at least do it quietly lest they be given extra chores.  When you're a kid on a farm plenty of work is already expected.  Extra duties were especially onerous.  When I was a child my dad employed the same approach and you'd better believe my sisters and I obeyed every rule when he was around. 

Now that I'm a mother, I have discovered for myself the beauty that is work being done by misbehaving children and the lessons they can learn while they work.  Rather than time outs or yelling, I have my girls do extra jobs for bad attitudes, fighting and overall worse than expected behavior.  My kids do have a handful of regular chores and they typically trot off to do these with a simple reminder.  Also, as I've written earlier this summer, they've  been volunteering to extra jobs to earn money for big toys.  I don't think I'm teaching them to feel all work is a punishment, but you'd be impressed with how quickly an extra little job or two can correct a problem, especially if it's done in the service of another.

My kids generally get along wonderfully.
As an example, yesterday Miss E was complaining because I told her I expected her to sit with Miss M on the school bus and make sure she learned the way to her kindergarten class.  Miss E really didn't want to do it and was quite mean as she made herself clear.  We didn't have time to resolve the issue before she went off to school, but I told her I expected her attitude to change and we'd talk more in the afternoon.  When the time came, I took her aside and told her to do one of Miss M's regular jobs.  I told her that while she worked I wanted her to consider Miss M's feelings if she had over heard the things that had been said that morning.  I also reminded her how good it made her feel when the older neighbors looked out for her in new situations.  By the time she was finished with the job, she had changed her tune.  She said she would make sure Miss M felt special as she walked her to class, and that she'd watch out for her on the bus.  I won't know how well the lesson will stick until Miss E actually has to perform at school, but for now I feel really good about the whole thing.  A little punishment, a little teaching time and all is well.  I feel like a discipline champ myself!

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