Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Discipline—Part II

     Braden by nature is very strong-willed. This was especially apparent when he was early-elementary school age and dug in with defiant streaks. I gave him time-outs stacked consecutive that lasted for days. My friend Norm and our pediatrician both had said, “Rule of thumb is about one minute per year of age.” Let me tell you, six to seven minute time-outs weren't working, not when his temper tantrums/acting out spells lasted hours day after day after day. I was also warned long ago by a friend that, ”Strict is good, but you don't want to break a child's spirit.” Braden's spirit broken by an hour of time-out? I doubt it—about as likely as drowning a dragon in a drop of spit. And it never, ever came close to happening. 
     As a kid growing up in slower-than-slow Hilo, I'd been exposed to countless long hours lying on my bed staring up at the ceiling with nothing but my thoughts and feelings for stimulation. It taught me patience. To entertain myself. To organize my thoughts. To make my own sense of things. It'd been time well spent and when Braden emerged from his stimulus seclusions, he too displayed tons better disposition with softened outlook and humble repentance.
     Nonetheless, Deanne after umpteen shouting matches with Braden sometimes fretted, what's to come of him, he's so strong willed? I said that's good, when drug dealers come around he'll say, “No!” and that'll be that.
     Or she wondered are we being fair giving him such long time-outs? I said we sure are. When criminals act up, what happens? Society slams them in jail. We're not abusing him. We feed him. He gets to bathe, sleep in bed, brush his teeth, and wear pajamas. If he acts like a bad-ass dude that's his choice, we'll just treat him like a bad-ass dude. Our consequences match his actions. He knows what we expect by now—that he behave civil and obey and not act up. If he does all that he'll be just fine and never get time-out again.
     She said I still feel guilty at times. I said that's your choice but you should enjoy the free time his time-outs give us, after all, he should be the one suffering for his actions and not us. I rather he learn the hard lessons now than later as an adult. He's just testing and reaffirming boundaries which is natural, normal, and healthy. 
     Braden did eventually outgrow those defiant stages (that came in streaks) about when he hit puberty and emerged better for them, knowing we'll always love him enough to act, evidenced by all those years of repeated discipline. 
     Jaren now appears to be going through this same life stage (see my prior related Making the Grade essay), for he too—blessed with a strong will—has gotten slammed with multiple-days time-outs due to serial misbehavior. (Such discipline was never necessary with Penelope, by the way.) Unphased, he's as happy as ever, the days of time-outs whizzing by for him and us.  And we smile, he's so cute, whenever he emerges to eat dinner, take a bath, or brush his teeth. But seeing us smile seems to encourage him to act up even more, so I try to adopt a stern visage and just grump, “Good night!” for example, rather than hug and kiss him, say prolonged prayers, and douse him with affection. 
     His most recent trouble started as spillover from ongoing sibling conflicts. Braden's been a loving older brother to Jaren and has usually played well with him, but at times too rough and naughty, which he's not supposed to, but it may be unavoidable because that's what brothers do (I sure did when my younger brother and I “played” as kids), so when he's in charge of supervising, Jaren all-too-often wants to roughhouse and won't always quit when Braden says stop it! When I catch them fighting, they both get time-out because neither has obeyed my injunction against roughhousing. Nonetheless, Jaren instigated roughhousing for weeks with Braden and Penelope when I wasn't around (as had Braden to a lesser extent). 
     Then Jaren instigated similar roughhousing with an annoying classmate at school—a big no-no because his school has a “Zero Tolerance for Violence” policy. He got sent straight to the principal's office where he sat through lunch period.  Compounding the problem we found out about it only two days later when his teacher saw and informed Deanne. Jaren, on the day it happened, had told us, “I got a special treat today. I got to eat lunch in class for being a good helper.” When asked what did you do he said I turned in a lost ball—a lie based on an event that happened years ago when we first visited the school (I'm surprised he remembered). Interestingly, on the following day, probably out of guilt, he told me I told off my classmate for annoying me.  What was he doing I asked?  Singing and dancing during study time.  Keep quiet next time that's not your job, I told him. He didn't reveal the parts about pushing/shoving his friend, getting in trouble, or telling us lies, though. So when we found out the truth, I gave him time out for a week; had him write letters of apology to his teacher, the principal, classmate, Deanne, and me; and had Deanne witness him distribute the letters, lest he discard them then and lie about that, too. None of the letter recipients said much except the principal who said, “That was sad. Better not happen again, right?” to which Jaren got a bit teary. 
     Jaren's misbehavior tries us at times, but because he's our third, we've become somewhat aplomb (or perhaps more accurately, inured), knowing he is going through a phase. And it's also easier because his light, airy cuteness is contagious and he seldom cries, as opposed to Braden's somber, serious heaviness and incessant screeching cries that seemed to seep in and question our competence. But neither boy is better or worse, they're just different—God's specially-designed creations.

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