Monday, May 19, 2008

Child Psychology

Saturday night was a challenge in our house.

We had dinner plans with two close (single) girlfriends who adore Seth. Before we all went out to a local family friendly restaurant, they played with Seth in our front yard with his baseball set. He is a little slugger-in-the-making, and all were having a fun time.

Until....for some reason, as Seth walked toward our front stoop, he decided to give our whimsical flying pig a whack. (Those who know me, know that I collect pigs, and Seth is aware that the pigs mean something in our household. Plus, he enjoys them too.) I heard a crack, and the spike supporting the pig broke in half.

What was so upsetting about the situation was his total lack of regard. I know he didn't intend to break the pig stand, but it was a totally unnecessary move on his part. We have said to Seth in the past "don't hit the pig." And, to make matters worse, it happened in front of our friends. Everyone witnessed his blatant carelessness, and the mood quickly went from playful to serious.

This of course led to a heated discussion between Marc and I re: how to best teach Seth a lesson. Clearly, it was evident that Seth is not aware of the ramifications of his behavior. At age 5, he is not thinking that if I hit the pig, it could break. He just followed an impulse, as most kids his age would. So, it's our job to communicate this message to him.

I immediately told Seth he would be punished for his behavior. That saying I'm sorry is not enough. Not everything can be fixed.

Now I had to think quick on my feet and decide what the punishment would be. I marched into the living room and started speedily scooping up toy after toy and putting them into a large garbage bag. I told Seth he would be without his prized toys for some time, including his Spy Kit, Game Boy, multitude of trucks, etc. There would be no television the next day, and no dessert for a week, including no ice cream when Mister Softee comes ringing his bell at the park or in the neighborhood.

Seth is so tough and smart. He turned to me and said "I love you mommy. I'm glad you're taking my toys away because I don't like them anyway," and he proceeded to help pack them up. And, "I'm glad I can't have dessert because it's sugar and not healthy."

I was somewhat stunned. I said to Marc....are we not being tough enough with Seth? Or is he just using reserve child psychology on us and trying to get us to believe that our punishment is not affecting him? That he's not upset by it. So then, what's a mom to do? Do we punish him more, or just let time take its course this week and know that as the days go on he will miss his toys and ice cream? That is our hope. It remains to be seen.

Perhaps someone should create a Discipline Chart?! It would make suggestions to parents as to modes of discipline they might consider for their child. I realize that all kids are different, and what is upsetting to one isn't necessarily to another. But, it's not so easy to pull a punishment plan out of your pocket at the very moment an unexpected incident occurs. Amazing how wise we are asked to be as a parent, when you are raising a wise child!!

Have you had an experience like this with your child? How did you handle it?

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Blogger Mary Ellen Walsh said...

Oh my Godness. I know exactly how you feel. Seth is a good boy and probably just wanted reassurance but, holy moly that puts you in a tough position. What do you do? Melanie says sometimes..."That's it I'm done with MY attitude." just to cut us off at the pass. What is a parent to do?

5:24 PM  

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