Friday, August 26, 2005

Crime and Punishment

Gack. My wife just called. Apparently the younger monkey has been sent home from pre-school today for throwing a train at a girl's noggin and causing a major welt.

This is not good. The last few weeks, in fact, he's been increasingly violent all around. He's kicking and hitting and biting when he doesn't get his way. There's been no sudden change in routine that I can ascertain and yet he's listening less and less. I've always been under the impression that he might be a bit, um, challenged and unfortunately it seems he's heading that way.

When she went to go pick him up, he was seemingly sorry for what he did, (he did something similar yesterday) but I've never seen evidence where he's actively learning from it. Right, I know, he's three and a boy. He doesn't get it yet. They can wake up tomorrow and the universe has reset itself. The only change i can think of is that the Elder Monkey is not around at school anymore. I know that they get away with a lot more rough and tumble around each other than when other kids are around. They are testing their limits and I'm sure those limits are strained in public places.

I was raised in two different households, one being rooted in Christian fundamental ideas, the other in a more free thinking environment but not without it's own share of discipline. For my dad, it was par for the course to give spankings. I was far more afraid to do wrong in my mom's house where the punishment wasn't as severe. I would get get a seething stare and much less inclination to repeat that action again. I wasn't a problem child at all but still, you know what I'm talking about.

For me there is big debate over whether spankings work. In this monkey's case, am I supposed to teach violence is wrong by using a violent act to do it with? Does that make any sense? Especially in a mind that doesn't even seem to care what punishment is all about? Wouldn't that just instill a tendency that will become much worse as he ages? But then again, he doesn't want to listen until you without a kind of physical involvement.

I won't give spankings. I'll admit once or twice I have but it was such an emotionally gut wrenching experience it must be a last resort if at all. I'm not a child psychologist or an expert parent by any means but I do know that every child is different and will require attention in different ways. In his case, I don't see this monkey willingly submitting his posterior without a physical fight. I know life is not all peaches and cream but that can't be the way that it is.

I fear that the Time Out chair will be in use far too much. Although Time Out doesn't seem to work with him yet the way it does with the Elder Monkey. I think he LIKES Time Out. He'll sit and babble to himself, play with himself, stand on his head, etc. You can take toys away for a while but that doesn't work either. And then there are the times he just will laugh at you when you get angry. I don't recommend having children to people with anger management issues. It takes an iron will but not an iron fist.

Another thing that is starting to really irk me is how much junk food they seem to get that I have no control over. And even at that, even if they did get all organic, non-processed whatever, it's the sugar that I'm most worried about now. It has to be affecting some mental processes somewhere. And it's daily. I'm assured that they don't get fed it but I think that's a load of crap. The snacks during school, the desserts at home, even at church there is always some kind of super-glazed doughnut to appease. (On a really awful note, I can't think of any other reason I was looking forward to church when I was young than the free food...) Both monkeys have SO MUCH ENERGY already and so it's like feeding coal to the oncoming steam train. Even once a week is too much in my estimation. Friday is always "party night" and I'm sure they'll be getting another dose of grease laden, hydrogenated soy-based, high fructose processed goodies rapidly prepared by minimum wage employees, because hey, they want it.

I hate talking about all this because I sound like such a dictator. I can't win in this modern urban setting though. I totally get why some people homeschool their kids. And then there's that unsettling notion that I've caused this with all the change in my situation in the last year. I don't live with them and I know that divorce has an effect on kids. I'm not sure if this is a manifestation of me not being around as much.

I am at a loss. I work very hard not repeat what I feel were the mistakes of my childhood that I forget they have their own brains that will totally turn into something unique. They look like us but they aren't us. I so wish I could find some evidence somewhere that breaks this down, but the search gives conflicting reports on matters of discipline. I guess all parents run on part instinct, part trial and error. The values we instill are a good base but it's easy to forget that some things are not universal.

We are taking him to some developmental testing to see if there is anything that can help now before he gets into real public school. In the meantime the game of patience has begun. You can send me any scientific studies you want but actually I think I answered my own questions on where I stand by writing all this out. For now.

Let's save the spankings and the sugar highs for the consenting grown-ups, shall we...



Anonymous said...

I know you may not want advice, but Kids are my business.... I used to be a preschool teacher in fact...

Try making basically clear rules, like listening ears, gentle hands, then make a daily chart with five cool stickers, and he gets to keep them all if he has a good day, but if there are negative behaviors (hitting, kicking, biting) one sticker gets removed.

OR try getting some jumbo paperclips, and instead of just sitting in timeout, he picks up the paper clips...

Just a few suggestions.

David said...

Simon -

You are a great father, mentor, and friend to your boys. Don't beat yourself up for their behaviors. Try some different things that you are comfortable with. Something is bound to work. But trust in yourself, and follow your instincts. It'll all work out. It takes patience, which I know you have; but simply do the best you can by following your heart.

Signalite said...

Anon: Thanks any suggestions at this point are helpful. I think a lot of this is stemming from a lack of concentration and focus on his part. Just as he doesn't respond to punishment, he's not putting basic action/reactions together. Which is why I'm wondering if he is just a bit slow developmentally for his age. Only time will tell I suppose, but thanks for your kind advise.

BFLJock79 said...

You know, I also agree that you're a good father. However, I came from a family where the occasional spanking or yelling or empty threats really did work. I didn't get spanked very often, but most of the time the empty threats were enough to keep me in line.

The problem today is that kids just don't care anymore. They know that their parents won't spank them... so they carry on as usual. And the kids these days know that all they have to do is report their parents to the school counselor, or to CPS... and that's it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Simon,
Just thought I'd say a little... I have a 4 1/2 year old daughter and a 21 month old son w/ special needs. My daughter is very well behaved but has her moments. I find that a little sugar riles her up like no tomorrow. We have a serious no sugar after dinner rule and the days daddy takes her for late night ice cream, she's up untill midnight (instead of 8:30.) My daughter also does very well with threats. She has been spanked (my husband and I both were,) but she's only been spanked a few times. She's been threatened lots. Also helpful but hard to do--reward with something other than food. Time w/ daddy riding bikes, or walking, or reading a book. Kids really only want to hang out w/ us. He's definately testing limits. You'll get through it :)

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