The Journey of Discipline and the Reflection Required for Each Step
Photo Credit: Baby Half Off
The last few days have been emotionally draining. As I wrote on Friday, but boys are beginning the necessary and infuriating negotiation of shared space and shared stuff. When I’m not wiping runny noses (I feel like these boys have been sick for 3 weeks running), I’m refereeing a toy fight. It came to a head on Saturday morning when Ursa Major actually bit Ursa Minor. He bit his brother! Over that stupid damned fire truck!!! I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was going to lose it.
So here we go, for the second time in the morning, time out for Ursa Major. 2 minutes. Sit in the corner. Cry and then give us the death glare. Ice on Ursa Minor’s finger (he’s fine), and me shaking with the strong urge to want to spank or do something.
I’m not a totally anti-spanking Mama, but I do think that it’s inappropriate under the age of 4. I just don’t think that a child under the age of 4 understands what spanking is or what it’s for. I cannot say that I’ll never spank, because I don’t know what the future holds, but I think that it’s inappropriate for a child as young as my boys. That being said, I really felt like I needed something stronger than just the 2 minute time out.
But I went with it, because I didn’t have any other tools in the bag. And he sat there and thought about it and then he went off to play.
Ursa Major probably sat in timeout about 8 times this weekend. 2 minutes each. Swift and immediate judgement. 6 times because of altercations with his brother. 2 times because he was testing boundaries and chose not to do an action asked of him by me or The Husband. By Sunday evening, I was at my wit’s end. He just turned 2. This is going to be a long year if this is the road we are on.
I am acutely aware that the work that I’m doing right now has implications for the boys for the rest of their lives. Instilled discipline at home translates to good behavior in the classroom which translates to good grades and higher likelyhood of success. I read a fantastic article about the intersection of race, class, education and the prison system here in the U.S. this weekend, and among some of the more interesting quotes, came this:
“Analyzing data from a national survey, [researcher Tiana Williams] found that African-American students were significantly more likely than white students to be suspended from school, even though they did not misbehave any more frequently. She also showed that students who were suspended were more likely to be arrested subsequently than students who were never suspended–indicating that the way children are treated in school helps set them on a path for later life.”
That is absolutely astonishing. Her brilliant report is here, and I think any Mother of children of color should read it. There are implications for every child in that report. That means that the work that I do now is vital for every classroom my sons will ever be in. I discipline for safety, I discipline for sanity, I discipline for peace, and now I discipline for education and future. It takes one bad choice and one uncaring adult to set all of this hard work I’m doing now in the wrong direction. One.
In the back of my mind, however, I keep looking for a governor–an instrument of knowing when I need to pull up. A few months back, a college buddy posted a link to an essay posted on a feminist blog by Yolo Akili. The essay is about being poor, Black and male in this recession. It is beautifully written, haunting in message and wording. One section, particularly resonated with me:
Few of us know how… Male emotional castration was the first act of male socialization.
“Don’t be a punk!”: Were amongst the first words many of us recall.
But we have to get our feelings back.
“Male Emotional Castration” really hit me in the gut. The idea that I can destroy the emotional expression and potentially hurt them by silencing them. How many times have I told Ursa Major to stop crying/whining/”making all that noise”? How many times have I had a deep heavy sigh for the umpteenth time he has started crying for “no reason.” When I put him in timeout and choose not to respond to his angry tears, am I helping or am I hurting him? Discipline means nothing to him it it doesn’t mean something to me. Discipline has to come through me in a respectful and reflective thing, but from me as an angry, aggressive, belittling, restraining thing. I have to remind myself (and will remind myself) over and over again that discipline starts at home, it starts with us parents, but it starts through us too. Through our hard work, through our good example, through our compassion and sincerity, through our consistency and patience, through our controlled reaction, and through our love most of all. When I lose that, even for a moment, I have the potential of doing harm.
In other news, just because I have a platform, I just want to bring to the attention of my readers that The Onion called the beautiful and charming Quvenzhane Wallis the C-Word last night on Twitter. Disgusting. They apologized for it, but it should never have happened anyway. Why do people thing that kind of language is ok under any circumstance–let alone when referring to a child who is 9 years old?
It’s going to be a long week. I can just feel it…