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Karen Brennan
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More on discipline—“Imitation and Example” and “Not expecting results”

Sunday, March 8, 2015

More on discipline this week!  The next two sections of Chapter 6 are GREAT—“Imitation and Example” and “Not Expecting Results.”

Rahima tells us that in the child under eight years of age, if you want to teach a child a behavior, example and imitation are most effective.  We can model for our children what we would like them to do.  We can sit at the table and eat our meal or when it is time to clean up the toys, we can do it with our child.  If you throw in a little humor or song or imagination, that’s even better.  Plus, it’s hard to get upset when you are singing.  I know one family—both parents are musicians—where they fight in opera.  

As you probably have noticed, telling your child to do or not do something while you are doing something else doesn’t usually work.  If your child is throwing toys, instead of telling her to stop, you can walk over to her and help her put the toys down and show her a more appropriate way to play with them.  Of course, if that doesn’t work, putting the objects away for a while or going outside can be helpful, too.

Rahima also suggests that we state things positively whenever possible.  Often children only hear the end of the sentence, so instead of saying don’t hit the baby (child hears—hit the baby) we can say, “Be gentle with the baby,” accompanied by an example of this.  Likewise, if we want our child to learn to apologize, we can apologize ourselves if we lose our temper or make a mistake or we can apologize to the child our little one took a toy from on his behalf (while he is nearby).

But this brings us to the next section, which may be even more challenging for us adults—not expecting results.  “It isn’t until elementary-school age that a child is ready to respond consistently to words that are not accompanied by your actions.  With the pre-school age child, you need to correct and demonstrate the right behavior again and again, but you can’t expect children to remember it.”  Their memories aren’t that developed yet, but we can help them to build good habits.  You can see the beginning of this type of memory and the beginning of a sense of right and wrong around the age of five.

When I first started teaching three-year olds, I tried to get them to help me at clean up time.  I would ask each of them to put something away, although I could never remember who I had asked to do what (imagine doing this with 12 three year olds).  Happily, early in my first year, a wonderful teacher came to observe my class.  She reminded that the young child learns through imitation.  She told me to put the toys away with joy and intention and to trust that the children would learn eventually.  I might never see the fruits of my labour, but somewhere down the line, other teachers would reap the benefits of my work.  I took her advice.  And it worked.  And my clean up time was infinitely more pleasant and calm, and so was I.


Next week, we will finish our discussion of discipline and move into the rest of chapter 6, which includes a variety of interesting topics.  Have a great week!