I've read several blog reviews of the book "Bringing Up Bebe". It sounds like an interesting book, but what really catches my attention is this notion of having firm expectations for your children to meet without flipping your lid to get them met. I tend to be a bit of a yeller with my kids. Most of this tendency to escalate comes from being naturally excitable when flustered and an attempt to tweak their understanding of the urgency of a situation when the schedule does not allow me to take a more gentle approach. Or that's what I tell myself anyway.
My parenting Waterloo, thus far, has been four year olds. I have now had three four year olds and each has driven me mad. Infant needs and crying has never bothered me. They get a little older and start walking and climbing which need more attention, but it doesn't make me angry with them. I've heard all about the terrible twos, but the tantrums don't bother me. They really can't help it. They aren't trying to be naughty. Three year olds can get into more trouble, but really they just want to be big. Then they turn four and all of a sudden they start disobeying because they can. Because they want to. And I flip my lid.
I would love to find a way to get the point across and get my current four year old to make good choices without the screaming and yelling and crying. After a few conversations in various Internet locations, my understanding about this French approach to parenting is that you set the standard, you don't get mad, and you make the right choice more socially appealing than the current choice. I decided to give it a try.
Last night before supper, Sam had a few of his train tracks out in the living room. The food was almost ready so he was told to put the tracks back in their bag. It was not an overwhelming request and it was a chore he has done before so it wasn't an unrealistic expectation. He refused. I told him he had to pick up before he came to supper. He refused. Supper was ready and on the table. He made a move towards the table. I reminded him he had to pick up his trains before he came to supper. He refused. We sat down, said the blessing, ate, and talked. Sam floated around the living room. Several times he tried to get some attention, but he was dutifully ignored. He tried to come to the table to eat and I reminded him he needed to pick up his trains first. We finished supper. We had some dessert and still Sam refused to comply. We finished everything and began to clean up. He was mildly upset when his plate was cleared away, but trains were still in the floor. Sam just didn't bother to eat. After the kitchen was picked up, I went to the living room and began picking up the trains because it had to be done and he reluctantly helped me. We went upstairs and that was the evening. Sam had no supper because he chose not to eat. There was no yelling, but there was no obedience either.
I have no greater lessons to draw here. I just did this thing and it didn't work the way I thought it might. I'll try again, but I have to wonder about this parenting magic trick where a little kid obeys without yelling.