As I've been working today, my mind keeps getting sidetracked with the philosophy of discipline. Really, we hadn't even considered discipline a few months ago. Our kids weren't mobile. Less than a year ago, they were in their bouncy chairs or laying under the baby gym on the floor. They certainly weren't posing a risk to themselves, each other, or our material possessions.
We thought we had a long time before we'd need to be in a position to even consider discipline. I mean ... these were 3-pound babies in October of 2004. How much trouble could these little people cause? (SNORT!) All that changed in December, when our trio took their first hesitant steps. Since then ... as I've tried to colorfully illustrate in previous posts ... we are constantly attempting to predict their next move and have launched preemptive strikes before they get in to danger.
I'm typing this during my lunch hour ... and I can hear Charlie chasing someone around the back yard saying "uh-huh.... uh-huh.... uh-huh." It's funny that he's saying that, now. When I told him a couple weeks ago that we were striking "NO" from our vocabulary and replacing it with "uh-huh" he looked at me with a puzzled expression and said "No, NO?" to which I replied "Not NO, uh-huh." So he said "huh" and I said ... "it's uh-huh." It was hugely important that our grunts sounded the same. So, here we were on the same page. The kids would be hearing a consistent sound from both mom & dad. That was good. Yesterday, that was flipped upside down when Charlie heard me say "NO!" and he says "What happened to uh-huh"? And I told him that it wasn't working. The kids weren't listening. So, I started using NO. Funny thing is - that's not really working too great, either.
I was out of the house, this morning, at a business meeting. When I came home at lunch, Charlie informed me that he spanked William when he ... can you guess (???) ... climbed on top of the coffee table and pulled every last item off our mantle. Charlie had turned his back for a moment to put something in the kitchen and that's when the climbing started. As I was hearing this story, Charlie told me that he would NEVER revert to that kind of discipline again. Obviously, the punishment hurt the punisher more than the punishee. I smiled. "Never?" And he said "Uh-huh." I think what he meant to say was "Ah, huh." Anyway - the feeling of validation that I had yesterday that I'd taught our babies an important lesson about not climbing on the table ... is now gone, like dust in the wind. I feel somewhat deflated. Here I was thinking I had it all figured out. It seems that although the babies easily remember the new game of "peek-a-boo" that we taught them, they don't seem to remember that it's not OK to climb on the furniture. Go figure.
We really are trying to communicate with them in a positive way. When they do climb on the table ... or try to eat a snail ... or bite each other ... or whack each other ... we are making every effort to get down at their level - - look them in the eye and say "No jumping on the furniture, sit on your bum" or ... "Ick, we don't eat snails from the garden" ... or "Be gentle with your brother/sister/mother/father/dog ... no biting/hitting/pulling, etc." And once we make that connection - we'll thank them, give them a big smile, and move on to correcting the next baby that is has been inspired to eat an insect or ... whatever. And so it goes ... around and around.
The bigger lesson that I have learned is that maybe, just MAYBE ... they are too young for some kinds of discipline. I don't think that "NO" is a bad word to use ... provided you put it in context. "No climbing on the table. No biting, no hiting, no eating bugs." I really don't want to be the kind of parent that chases their child around yelling "No, No, No, No, NO!" That would undoubtedly make me more obnoxious then whatever it is they are doing.
Our kids are just learning about putting the round peg in the round hole. They are barely scratching the surface of cause and effect. We have to remind ourselves that they are still babies and they won't be this small, forever. Treasure this time. I'm definitely not in a rush for them to grow up. Quite the contrary ... I wish that they could stay little forever. Although, it would be nice if they could stay off the coffee table, too.
In the meantime, the coffee table is moving to a new location. To be determined...