Do we love our children to pieces? YES. Are they always delightful little angels? DEFINITELY NOT.
I've looked into many different parenting books in my desperate search for answers to what seem to be impossible questions on how to "correctly" parent little ones. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "Well, but every child is different...."
Totally frustrating, but absolutely true. It's easy to get caught up in searching madly through books and internet forums for answers to parenting dilemmas like, "my kid hates bedtime!" or "my child isn't eating!" and finding completely contradicting answers. Many times this frantic search keeps us from getting our eyes off of advice columns and our ears onto what our children are trying to tell us themselves.
That said, I have found that there is useful advice out there, if I just take the parts that work for us from here and there and try to focus on getting to know my own unique, wonderful, sometimes troublesome child.
One of the most helpful books I've come across I got from a friend parent who used it very successfully herself. It's "Parenting with Love and Logic," the book explaining the parenting method founded by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. What I like is that this method focuses on giving children choices and empowering them to choose to behave themselves, based on a clear set of consequences. It creates a balance between fostering the independence and confidence they'll need to make correct choices when you're not around, while still incorporating loving, active involvement in the discipline process by parents.
Here's how Dr. Charles Fay (I think Jim Fay's son) puts it in a video that is attached here: "Many of us fall into the trap of providing a lot of good discipline and solid limits without the love. And others of us fall into the trap of providing lots of love, but not very many limits, not much discipline. There has to be a balance."
My assessment of this method:
- I really like the idea of helping my child learn how to make good choices on his own. It is terrifying to think that he will get so used to me always telling him what to do that when I'm not around, he won't know how to make a good choice on his own.
- One part of the method has worked particularly well with my son - basically tricking him into choosing what I need him to do himself. So instead of saying: "You need to put those trains down right now and come to the door," I say "You can pick one train to bring to the door - would you like to bring the blue one or the green one?" or, last resort, "You have to the count of five to come to the door. Would you like to come with one train or no trains? You can choose." All roads lead to the door. It actually works! The majority of the time haha... You have to tweak it for yourself.
- I like the advice to have logical consequences that directly relate to the situation, not irrelevant punishments.
- I think it goes too far in giving children power over certain choices that have more dire consequences. I think there are some situations in which it is still my job as a parent to direct him toward the right decision or away from a very harmful one. So for me, I apply the choice system to minor-to-medium circumstances, but step in on more important issues. I compromise by still explaining the logic behind the good choice.
What do you think? Does giving your child choices work for you?