Today’s post is from guest author, Rachel Thomas, who is sharing her retrospective thoughts on disciplining children with love when they are young. Thanks, Rachel for sharing your insights with us today!
I have raised two children, two very different children, and I have seen my successes and my failures. I have learned something in hindsight that I would like to pass on to those who are just starting out with their own young children. It is ever so much easier to discipline a small child than to wait until they are older. You have to have the rules set down from the time they are born or you will make their lives much harder than they should be and yours as well. There is nothing more painful than to see a teenage child suffer through behavioral problems that you could have done something about when they were young. It also breaks your heart as a parent when you have to stand by and you can no longer do anything to help them because our society today takes it out of your hands when they become teens.
One of my children was an over-achiever and was always trying to please. If she did something good she would try to top it the next time with something even better. This sounds wonderful but in the long run it was a detriment for her. I did not realize it or recognize it until it started to cause her pain and heartache so I am sharing with you now. She was so stressed out trying to better herself and win our praise that she started to have emotional problems. She started to pull her hair out, not consciously mind you, but nevertheless she did. It is a disorder called Trichotillomania and it is brought on by stress or depression. I was absolutely shocked one day as we were drying her hair to find out she had a bald spot going all the way down next to her part! She did not even realize what she was doing.
After going to the doctor and finding out what we were dealing with we started going to counseling and I found out that I was putting pressure on her just by being so proud of her! I had to reassure her that she did not have to make straight A’s and that she could relax and just do what was easy for her. I had no idea she was suffering from my praise and wanting to continue to receive my favor. Beware of the over-achiever. They are under more pressure sometimes than the child that does not want to do anything. I had one of those too.
My second child, a boy, who was seven years younger than his sister was just the opposite. He did very little willingly, he had to be persuaded to do his homework, chores, be thoughtful of other people, etc. He could make a ten minute homework assignment take an hour by sliding down in his chair, whining, distractions, and on and on. You had to take him by the hand to get anything accomplished and make sure he was on task. From the very beginning the teachers were saying he had Attention Deficit Disorder and wanted him on medications. I was doing everything I could to keep him off of drugs because he was only five.
When I was pregnant with my son I went into pre-labor at six months and the doctors said he was not fully developed. They put me on a drug to stop me from dilating which made me shake terribly. When I expressed concern about this and what it would do to my child they said it would not affect the baby but they changed it from taking it orally to a subcutaneous drip. It helped my shakiness somewhat but I was still very concerned, but they told me I had the choice between this or having him come out not fully formed. Some choice. All these years later I find out that they have banned this drug for use on pregnant women but are just now doing studies to find out what damage it has caused.
When he was born it was apparent that his nervous system was not quite what it should be. He cried easily and got upset quickly but he was a sweet child and fairly easy going. When he would do something ornery he would just smile and his eyes would twinkle and at the time I felt sorry for him and let him get by way more than I should have. At the time it seemed like a good idea but later on I found out that instead of doing what was best for my son I was actually hurting him as well. When he complained that his homework was too difficult we got him tutors and when he took too long doing it I would jump in and help him. I and my daughter were constantly helping him do his chores or homework and doing our best to help him with everything because he never seemed able to do it on his own.
Both my daughter and I are sorry now that we helped him so much because when he became a teenager he had a very difficult time doing things on his own as far as school, work, and responsibilities. He got himself into trouble at school because he would not always do his work and had such a hard time keeping up. He got into minor troubles here and there because he was so used to someone cutting him a break at home, but this did not fly at school. Instead of helping him we actually harmed him and made life increasingly hard on him.
Starting out as an adult has been very difficult on my son because he has a hard time taking responsibility and to keep persevering when it gets hard. Sometimes when we think we are helping our children we are not. Disciplining them when they are little and under our care seems so hard when you look into their little faces but if you do not then you will find yourself in a much harder place. Looking into the face of the young adult that you love when they are in trouble and the world system is in charge of making them face the consequences is oh so much harder. At that point there is not a thing you can do to help them and then you realize that you did not love them for their good but what was easiest for you at the time. If you can imagine your little one as a teenager calling you up from the jail begging you to come and get them it might give you the strength to be strong when they are small. Punishing them when they are little may make them sad for a little while but you are there to comfort them. Not punishing them when they are small will make a world of hurt for your child, something they will have to overcome their whole life. Or they may not overcome at all and continuously struggle throughout their lives.
Not too many people think about these things when their children are very young so that is why I am writing this to give you a heads up. Love your children for their good, for their future. We are the parents and our responsibility is to mold them into responsible, loving, contributing adults. Children take, adults contribute, and if you do not see your child contributing more and more as they age then there is something definitely wrong. But also beware of the over-achiever that you let them know that they do not always have to be topping themselves, and that you love them just the way they are. They need to know that by doing their best, not topping their best is enough.
Do not be afraid to correct your little ones while they are with you or the world will do it for you when they grow up and that is hard on everyone.
Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author @ gmail.com.