Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Parenting 101

No, I'm not teaching it, I'm taking it. I have the prerequisite of a kid, and the course is taught daily.

In last night's class, we had an overtired two-year old being silly and manic while we were trying to have her eat at the table with us. At one point Emelia put her feet up against the table and pulled the tablecloth over her legs. It wasn't that big of a deal, but Kathy asked her to put her feet and the tablecloth down. She refused, and I told her that if she didn't do what her mother had asked her to do, she would be removed from the table and put in the chair in the corner. Emelia then put her feet and the tablecloth down, and for the rest of dinner pretty much left both alone.

A few minutes later, while Kathy and I were talking, Emelia took her cup and poured the contents (water, fortunately) onto the table. Kathy was very angry and said so, and told Emelia to go into the other room while Kathy and I finished dinner. Emelia burst out crying, and Kathy literally walked her into the other room because Emelia wouldn't go there on her own. After a minute or so in the living room by herself, she stopped crying, and a minute after that, we had finished eating, and Kathy told her she could come back to the dining room.

Kathy picked her up, and I asked her if she understood why she had been sent into the other room. She responded, "Because I was crying." I told her that wasn't why, and explained why we were unhappy with what she had done. Apparently, it still didn't stick, because as Kathy was putting her to bed, Emelia restated her misconception that she was punished for crying.

When Kathy came back downstairs, she asked me if we were being too demanding. I thought about it for a minute, and answered that Emelia knew that what she was did was not ok, so from that perspective there was no problem. Where I thought we might be being too demanding was in that we are asking her discern the degree of unacceptable behavior. In other words, she knows that some behavior isn't ok, but it's minor enough that we don't necessarily enforce it. Then there's other behavior that she's told is unacceptable, for which she's been asked to stop doing, and she's told that there will be consequences if she does not (e.g., the feet and the tablecloth). But there aren't many actions that generate an immediate response with no warning, such as when she poured the water.

So at the end of all that, I said, "No, we're not being too demanding, and yes, we're being too demanding."

Seems like "kids try to push their boundaries" is applicable here (covered in the third chapter of the course book). Kathy's response was so traumatic to Emelia that apparently Emelia forgot exactly what triggered it (nice that such a small punishment can be so effective -- I'm enjoying that while it lasts). Hopefully though, enough stuck either from the incident or our later explanations that she won't pour water on the table again. And so she'll begin to learn that doing things she knows she shouldn't can have consequences she doesn't like, so that maybe she won't do them. I figure that the key words from in this paragraph are "hopefully" and "begin."

I wonder what sort of grade I'm going to get in this class (even though the final is a LONG way off).