I have written about our belief in parenting without rewards and punishments. This post is about how we translate the belief to day-to-day behaviour and routine. Here, I have listed down the 5 steps that we follow to walk our talk.
If / Then conditional sentences
Rewards and punishments will invariably have conditions attached. IF you do / do not do, THEN you will get / will not get. Even without thinking about rewards and punishments, if / then sentences are ingrained into our minds. After all, we are the so-called rational human beings.
I have taken a simple rule to avoid the If / Then combination in my conversation with my daughters. I do end up using conditionality in my statements even now, though I do feel that the usage has reduced drastically.
Self-behaviour as an example
This is one aspect that I kept dithering about even though the consequences were very much visible. I, as a parent, would want a well-behaved, well-mannered child; just that I refuse to be a well-behaved, well-mannered adult.
My wife, my parents, my in-laws kept pointing out to me that my daughters were adept at learning undesired things from me. Even then, I would not stop.
When I could not hide myself from the proof, I had to admit that I was in the wrong. It was evident that no amount of rewards and punishments would have deterred my daughters from the behaviour that their father was himself practising.
I understand that rewards and punishments are no supplement for self-behaviour to set an example for my daughters. (Bad habits die hard; I am trying harder to get rid of them). Parental anxiety is better dealt with by parents without involving the children.
Be patient. What is there to hurry for? Explain.
I have come to understand that both the girls are amenable to what they are told to, provided they are given a rational/logical explanation. I do not remember how and when it started, but it has been a recurrent phenomenon that the girls are not listening, they are up to their own doing, however, they are explained the what we are trying to do, why we are trying to do, how we are trying to do and bingo, they agree.
It does sound and looks silly that what would a three or a four-year-old understand about logic? Believe me, they do. It is beyond logic also to an extent. I suppose, the girls understand somewhere that their views are being respected and they are getting answered to.
The practical outcome is that we are invariably late for whatever / wherever. Though, now I start off early to ensure that we are on time. We get looked as non-stop chatterbox. I cannot help it.
Identify and eliminate the triggers
What would lead to the application of rewards and punishments for children? A parental requirement of desirable/acceptable behaviour from children.
I suppose a child on her own would not indulge in undesirable / unacceptable behaviour. There has to be action from someone / somewhere / somehow that would initiate the friction. It is surely not possible to keep the tab on all the goings around, but the active observation of child’s behaviour can lead to diffusing the situation before it goes out of control. And before the use of rewards and punishments is warranted.
There is not much of rocket science to observe a child’s interactions with her surroundings. A well fed and well-rested child will not throw a temper tantrum needlessly. It is my task as a parent to ensure that the need for the outburst from my daughters is addressed before it goes out of control. Their needs are not much to ask for and can be settled either way without getting into rewards and punishments arena.
The public meltdown will happen
We are dealing with children, remember. No matter, how much I try to nip the trigger in the bud, keep explaining, keep them away from If / Then statements, the girls do have some residual effect of their fathers’ unwarranted behaviour. So, a public meltdown does happen.
It is fine. I just keep telling myself that it is fine. There are hard moments, difficult moments, publicly.
I treat it as a passing phase. I am sure that we will get over and I do not need the bait of rewards and punishments to deal with it.
These five steps have been the beginning for me to walk the talk of parenting without rewards and punishments.
I am realizing more and more action points for me as the girls expand their horizon and I try to keep up, building a long-term relationship with them going beyond the short-term behaviour management.
I tell my daughters that I believe in them.