Correcting Children

My response to a friend’s request for recommendations of parenting books.
Yeah, there’s one benefit to teaching children professionally: you get to test lots of experimental parenting techniques. One little book I read on retreat one time that has stayed with me is Preparing for Adolescence by James Stenson. Another good one that we have is called The Work of Children, by Esther
In general, I hold to the principle that I learned in my first years of teaching: never stop trying to find new ways.
One example is letting them do what they’re already doing. Since there are some things they can’t not do, I try to ask myself, before I tell them to stop doing something, if there’s anything better they can be doing at the moment. This is especially common when we’re not at home. Usually they’re doing something that no polite adult (or even 10-year-old) would be doing, but is still fairly harmless, and better than anything else I could see them doing in the present circumstances.
Another is what I have heard an educationist call “structured alternatives”. The challenge is to come up with two things for them to choose from, both of which I can live with, and present them.
With our Θ—, 3, who is of a very pronounced sanguine temperament, corporal punishment is almost totally useless. It has very little corrective influence on him. He continues doing the prohibited action with a smile right up until I spank him, then cries with a surprised look on his face for a few seconds, then goes right back to smiling and doing the prohibited action. S— M—, 10, is more of a melancholic and has always responded well to that sort of correction (although he almost never gets that sort of punishment anymore), and our choleric S— E— does too.
One of the very hard things I think is being willing to sacrifice the time to correct them, when merely effecting the corrected thing takes a tiny fraction of the time. Like flushing a toilet, for example. I could just flush the damned thing in five seconds, but instead I have to go find S— E—, ascertain that she’s the one who left it by questioning her in a non-confrontational way, and then give her step-by-step instructions to flush it (hold the handle down until you see the water disappearing!). And most of the time we feel like we don’t have time for all that, but if we are forming good characters then we are getting something better than a tidy toilet.
Crazy question, G—. I don’t know. I thought I had a lot of good ideas before I got married, but now I just keep trying new things (work, chores, keeping them busy—it’s hard to keep coming up with things for them to do that are good for them to do) and praying.
Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being my gadfly.

About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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