Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is Discipline Worth the Trouble?

So today when I picked up the kids from daycare the owner told me that LittleMan smeared poop on the wall a couple times after using the potty.  "I wanted to ask you if he does that at home," she said.
"No never"  or maybe I should have said 'not yet' or 'not that I noticed.'
When we were all at home later and I told Mari about it, he said, "Oh I used to do that too."  "My mom told me that I used to do that."
Does that make it inevitable?  Are these behaviors ingrained in our DNA or our spirit and...meant to be?
This all reminded me of an incredible This American Life radio show about children switched at birth and raised by the wrong families.  The children maintained the characteristics, hobbies, preferences, and personalities of their birth families.  The blond child grew up to own the picture above her living room mantel as her birth mother did.  The brown haired child became extremely religious, more in line with her birth family's beliefs.  The nature overpowered the nurture.  Makes me wonder... is discipline futile? Is he going to end up how he ends up regardless of what I do?  So if that is the case, then maybe I should not bother getting worked up about getting him in line with other kids and maybe I should focus on living in the moment and understanding his point of view: follow the Daily Groove tips.
But I just don't think I can do that.  Today he was off the wall wild and crazy.  He just couldn't stop climbing and jumping around the house.  Our house is a mess because we are in the process of moving.  He took a big pile of clothes on to the top of the stairs and started sliding down on his belly, face first.  When he got bored with that he moved upstairs to make mischief.  I heard a toilet and then I heard silence, which is never good.  The baby was sitting on my lap drawing circles with crayon on cardboard and making the cutest babbles.  I just didn't want the moment to end.  But I knew there had to be something unusually captivating, and thus probably messy or possibly involving poop and walls, going on with LM.  I yelled upstairs and kept summoning him back downstairs.  He would come down for a second and then go running back up again. each time wearing less clothes.  I started a picture presentation (a collection of themed photos that I found on the internet) for the kids to try to keep them entertained.   He usually gets really into the pictures because they all involve transportation and animals.  I told him that if he went upstairs one more time then he would be choosing to go to bed, because we only go upstairs at bed time.  Well, he tested this twice and then I put him in bed and he started crying.  I went into our bathroom and saw that he had sprayed water all over the bathroom with our mini spray wand, a.k.a our poor man's bidet.  The floor was wet,  the bath mat was wet, my make-up was wet, my jewelry box was wet.  Man, he can do damage so quickly.
Then I have to confess that I yelled that he was bad, which I realized right away was an unintended angry slip.  Mari sent me downstairs to eat dinner with the baby while he kept guard on the boy, who was now banished to his room for the first time ever.
And I still wonder how much of his behavior is under my control and how much is all a part of his personality.  Should I fight these behaviors or embrace them?
Lately I have been trying to switch my approach a bit: instead of telling him not to jump off of things, I help him jump off of them safely.  But does this leniency lead him to validate other extreme actions, like smearing poop on the walls and spraying water around the house?  Does he see the world as a place without rules and boundaries.  But then again, is that really a perception that I would want to abate?  Perhaps the influential and extraordinary visionaries of history were the people who saw the world without limits and questioned authority.


  1. Man, I feel your pain. Discipline is so hard! You don't want to thwart their little spirits, but you also don't want them to think it's okay to continue crossing the line they just crossed. *sigh*
    I read "Positive Discipline," which was encouraging and at least helped me approach the whole deal with a different attitude.
    (PS: Found you via HMN.)

  2. Hmm. I'll try to check that book out. As if we ever have time to read anymore...right?!
    Thanks for the suggestion!



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