When did it become "mean" or "bad" to enforce rules, limits, boundaries, or consequences of any kind? When did setting restrictions become synonymous with lacking empathy?
I suppose some would say I'm pretty liberal when it comes to discipline with kids in the sense that I see misbehavior not as something to squash, but as a call for help--a plea for the adults in their life to dig deeper and give them the tools they need. They don't know what they don't know, so a child's behavior is the language they speak when they can't articulate their needs. I suppose this is true with adults, too. However, pain or ignorance is not a free pass--personal responsibility plays a role.
When my own child or a student of mine is acting out, I do not go immediately to enforcing a consequence; rather, I look underneath with the intention to connect. 9 times out of 10, there's something bigger going on and addressing that need takes care of the behavior.
And yet, at the same time, I also understand the need for discipline.
Discipline comes from the word "disciple", which is derived from an Old English word meaning "one who follows another for the purpose of learning". Discipline between adult and child is simply an exchange of teaching and learning. Somehow we've lost sight of this and the word "discipline" has gained a negative connotation.
As I see it, the job of adults--you know, those with a fully-developed frontal lobe and oodles of life experience to draw from--is to teach those who do not yet have those things...not the other way around. The ones with the still-developing brains who aren't yet capable of fully understanding the relationship between choices & consequences are not the ones who should be making the decisions. They need US to do that. And, often, that involves the setting of limits and restrictions.
Kids need the safety of structure--the container of our rules and boundaries--in order to feel safe.
Do they realize that? No.
Will they want it? Request it? Heck, no!
Do they need it? YES.
Ask my six year-old if he'd like to brush his teeth every night and he'll say "no thanks". Ask my twelve year-old student if he'd like to learn the monotonous task of computer keyboarding and he'll say "no, I'd rather play games". If it's up to them, they'll have rotten teeth and will be hunting & pecking their way through college papers. Why? Because they are not yet capable of being the decision-makers. So we must be. To use a phrase that seems to be out of fashion, it's for their own good.
I hope you'll hear this: kids need your limits--your restrictions.
They need to understand that, yes, they always have a choice...but that their choices aren't free of consequences.
They'll likely be mad and you may feel uncomfortable--it stinks to be the heavy. I know this because I struggle with it myself. By nature, I'm uncomfortable with confrontation and my tendency with anything is to take the path of least resistance. So I have to really remind myself of the things I know are best and breathe through the discomfort. My comfort comes from knowing that--in the long run--I'm doing right for them.
I remind myself that discipline helped me to accomplish great things in my own life. I remind myself that, without the enforcement of discipline (discipline I did NOT want at the time), I never would've placed within the top 10 in the nation as a dancer--I hated getting up at 5am for practice. I never would've felt the accomplishment or reaped the benefit of finishing grad school (writing papers was hard).
I remind myself that discipline & restriction, while not easy, continues to help me. When the impulsive part of my brain wants to fire back that text while driving, the restriction of the law helps prevent me from doing something that could hurt me or someone else. When I don't want to exercise or when I want to eat the whole sleeve of Girl Scout cookies, I know I must exercise that discipline if I want to live a healthy, good life.
And yet, part of that good life I live is knowing I am loved and cared for by those around me. The loved ones in my life show me empathy and care and authentic connection. They forgive me (and I forgive me) when I slip up or fall short.
My point is this: you can have both and it takes both--restriction AND love; discipline AND connection. One without the other, either way, eventually leads to dysfunction.
It's not about being behaviorally liberal or conservative; being PC or non-PC; a boomer or being "woke". When the world wants us to join a camp, to follow the pendulum swinging to the opposite end--just remember, it's about balance. The yin & the yang.
Somewhere between "my way or the highway" and "the path of least resistance", there's a sometimes rocky, not-always-smooth middle ground that I believe--if walked closely hand-in-hand with those we love--leads to somewhere really beautiful.
I was grabbing a smoothie one morning when a familiar face walked into the store, a former coworker of mine from public school. We greeted each other and she asked where I was currently teaching. I told her I had recently taken a position at a private Montessori school. Her mouth formed into a pained expression and she leaned in close, “ooh, how is that? Ya know, working with those kinda kids?”
My heart started to race & the Mama Bear in me started to stir. Because I knew exactly what she meant by that question--I got different forms of it all the time. The implication behind the questions is usually that they are incapable of doing things on their own or are entitled.
I’d been through this before so I took a deep breath to tame the bear and calmly told her the truth. “Honestly... ‘those kids’ are no different than the kids I taught in public school. Some are entitled, others are not. Some are gifted, others have significant learning disabilities. Some come from wealthy families, some don’t. We have a mix of different kids, just like anywhere else.”
I shamelessly admit that I’m a goal-setting kinda chick--big on self-improvement and setting intentions so that I'm (hopefully) always continuing to grow. The way I figure, it's difficult to reach a new, exciting destination if you've given little to no thought where you’d like to end up.
I'm aware some find people like me annoying. Ya know, the camp that thinks resolutions are pointless because we humans are likely to fold after the shine of the new year dulls. While I can't deny that's it's just in my DNA to be a goal-getter, I do recognize that follow-through is likely the biggest stumbling block to accomplishing our dreams. This became even more evident to me when, at the turn of the new year, I looked back on my own goals over the past decade.
I know the holidays are coming up and it's to be expected, but does anyone else feel like they’ve been tossed into a blender and set on high speed lately?
Or, maybe more accurately, like you're trying to put out all these little fires but they're those trick candle kind of flames where, when you blow one out, another relights?
Our past few weeks have included a 13-hour road trip (well worth it but still exhausting with a 5 year-old), a broken washing machine, a heart attack in the family, an inaccurate & hefty bill we get to spend time disputing, and a leaky roof. (I’ll spare you the “when it rains it pours” pun, but it’s there.)
Add to that the usual stress of the holiday season...
I’m just waiting for my one-year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club to arrive so I feel justified in screaming “Hallelujah! Holy s**t! Where’s the Tylenol? “
Some realizations sneak up on you slowly — you look back & can’t quite pinpoint the “when” or “where”…they just happen over time. And then there are moments when awareness hits you like a bolt of lightning.
⚡️⚡️November 24, 2019 ⚡️⚡️
That’s the exact day I realized a sad, inevitable fact: I’m getting old.
It was 8:09 p.m. & I had just laid down for bed (yes, yes, I know…that should’ve been Clue #1). I turned on the American Music Awards. I saw the first presenter & wondered “hmm, who’s that?” (It was one of the “Lil” somethings…) Then he introduced an act I’d never heard of and she began “singing” in a way that seems to be the new style — a seemingly intentional off-tune whisper/slurring (“whurring”?) that really just seems more like talking.
Can we just agree it’s talking?
And the outfit…I just can’t. (Or couldn’t, I should say.)
“Who are these people and what kind of noise is this?! They call this music?! I don’t get it! What the heck is going on?!”
⚡️⚡️ And that’s when it hit me ⚡️ ⚡️
👵🏻 👵🏻 👵🏻 I’m getting old. 👵🏻 👵🏻 👵🏻
Can I share a little truth about myself? I am not naturally a super happy person. My default setting, from as far back as I can remember, has always been a bit serious & somber.
Look at me here—that little face says it all, doesn’t it? Happy to have the BEST parents & most loving home life a Kindergartner could ask for, yet also busy contemplating the world’s problems & how I might solve them. This was the year my mom found me barefoot one day because I gave my shoes away to a girl who said she needed them. My naturally bleeding heart has given me empathy, but it’s made me feel everything more heavily, too.
At times, too heavily.
These last few months have been rough for my hometown of Stuart, Florida. For those that aren’t local, I’ll sum Stuart up this way: it’s a happy little seaside town (like, officially--Coastal Living ranked it #1 in 2016) that is small enough to retain its charm and character, but developed enough to have plenty to do on a Saturday night. It’s the kind of town you’re too cool to settle in at 18 but lures you back in when you’re building a family of your own and have grown to appreciate its simplicity.
We grow and develop but stay firmly connected to our history. We’re family, friends, and fishing; boat rides, beach walks, and barbeques. It’s where almost everybody knows your name (perfect!) and you’re rarely stuck in traffic (well, at least in the “off-season”).
I love my hometown, and that’s why the past few months have been so hard.
I'm Krissy & I'm so thankful you're here. Teacher-Mom life is rewarding but it's tough--we need fuel (& each other) to keep going. I hope this is a place you can go that feels like caffeine for the soul--uplifting & highly addictive ;) Check out the categories below and, if you like what you read, subscribe to make sure you always have good Sunday morning reading to go with your coffee :)