Monday, October 8, 2012

Lessons in discipline

We spent the weekend in Malaysia. It was a fantastic trip, with wonderful company and delicious food. I will post about the trip when I'm done sorting the photos. For this post, I want to pen down some thoughts on disciplining Ryan, which emerged from the trip.

As I have mentioned before, Ryan is starting to find his voice now. He has always been quite vocal but he would usually talk for his own entertainment - he would recite/repeat something he heard or he would hum/sing a song or he would say something just to state a fact/observation. Now he is a lot more conversational and interactive in his speech. This makes for many wonderful conversations between us as my Facebook status often describes. For example, today I asked him, "Who's your favourite friend?" He replied, "Mama". I asked him, "Some more?" (which is Singlish for "who else?"). He replied, "Two Mamas". Hee hee.

Well, the flipside of having a voice and starting to assert his thoughts is that he is becoming a lot bolder. To all my friends who thought Ryan was a mild child - I've got news for you, there is a new Ryan in town, and he's not going to be shying away in a corner.

Still, I think I would be correct to say that he is still relatively easygoing and amenable to instruction, so we are not raising the alarm (yet?). In fact, I think it is actually easier to give him instructions now because he is older and he can better understand.

Having said that, it is not easy for me to get through to him when he is playing with his friends, when they are running about and getting "high" on the fun. For example, he may be running about with his friends in a crowded restaurant and when I tell him to stop, he will look at me, look back at his friends still running and then tune me out and resume running with his friends. I've also tried to remove him from his friends to speak to him privately - that only resulted in a lot of fuss. He just wanted to get back to his play as soon as he could.

I noticed that he does listen when his friends' parents discipline his friends. In fact, it was very funny to see - when his friend got a stern word from the father, Ryan went along and listened intently to his friend's father too. Then, this morning I chatted with one of his friend's parents who told me that, if Ryan and his child were together and they were doing something that they should not, then he would have to discipline Ryan together with his child, otherwise his child would get confused. I told him to please go ahead.

I did not think of asking if I could do the same with his child if his child was with Ryan, but now, thinking about it, I realised that that is the solution for us too. It was difficult for us to discipline Ryan in such a situation because we only targeted him. We never discipline the other children whom Ryan is with, so Ryan does not understand or accept why he is the only one that has to stop doing whatever he is doing. We all know that, in order to be effective, discipline has to be consistent and logical. Singling Ryan out for correction respects neither of those principles. A valuable and useful lesson for us!

I should make it clear that this is the only situation that I am talking about - when I need Ryan to understand that the way he is playing with his friends is not being considerate of others. I am not talking about things that would be specific to Ryan (which do not apply to the other children).

I would add that, we can only discipline the other children (who are with Ryan) if their parents are ok with us doing so. This naturally means that, when we go out with our three year olds, we should try, if possible, to be with people whose judgment we trust and whose discipline principles and methods we share, otherwise it would be quite awkward. Also, I'm only talking about minor things. If serious disciplining is required, then it should be left to each of the child's parents.

What do you think? If you have any similar experiences, do share! Parenting is such a learning journey, isn't it?


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