The Rule Book


Rule: noun: from Middle English rule, from Old French riule, from Vulgar Latin regula (“straight stick, bar, ruler, pattern”), from regere (“to keep straight, direct, govern, rule”); see regent.verb: from Middle English rulen, from Old French riuler, from Latin regulare (“to regulate, rule”), from regula (“a rule”); see regular.

Rules, we all have them and mostly we all try and live by them. I am an absolute stickler for them. I cannot, try as I might break them and am filled with a sense of dread if I even attempt to. If a sign says ‘No Entry’ then there is nothing, not even a massive box of calorie free chocolate on the other side, that will make me enter! (although I would think about it)

Parenting for me has it’s own set of rules (instinctive ones of course!!) but also some black and white ones that my family and I all abide by. ‘Treat others how you would like to be treated yourself.’ is one. ‘Work hard, play hard.’ another. More ideals and life philosophies than rules I guess.

And there is no place where rules are more enforced than ever, than in a school. A few months ago I went to a parents evening at my daughter’s school, and on chatting to her form tutor for a mere 15 minutes it was clear that my 11 year daughter was breaking quite a few of their rules. She was being rude to others, not handing in her homework and had got a couple of detentions in a couple of weeks. I was mortified. There has always been two sides to my daughter, she’s a Gemini and we’ve often said she has a good side, and a not so good side, and clearly the latter was rearing it’s ugly head more than the norm (if there is one!) for a pre-teen. Interestingly the form tutor’s advice was for me to be stricter with her. It was a moment when I had to do a bit of self reflection. My fiery red-headed daughter had always pushed boundaries with her fantastically outgoing and vivacious personality, and she’d always needed clear boundaries setting. However in the last year, with the birth of my third child and PND I had to admit that these boundaries had lapsed somewhat. It was easier for me to pick up rubbish she left in the lounge than have to have yet another argument about her doing it herself. It was easy for me to say yes to her having the laptop in her room at bedtime than have a battle to get her to go to bed. I’m not proud of my lack of ‘structured’ parenting, but I will admit to it and be honest about it. I had taken the easy route. I felt awful that she’d seen me so ill, felt terrible that she was old enough to know what was going on and that she’d had to comfort me on many an occasion. So, if I could keep her happy in other ways I guess I had felt I was making up for some of that. But now, the lack of boundaries was coming back to bite us both on the ass.

We came home, both of us very upset. There had been so many arguments and battles between us over the last few months, but for once after what the tutor had said, we were both speechless. I felt I had completely let her down and mother’s guilt kicked in with full force. She went to bed and I tortured myself with guilt and fears of being a terrible mother. My daughter and I had done a ‘love bombing’ day a few weeks previous to this which, although wonderful, hadn’t fully solved the issues and as soon as we returned home from our day out, try as we might not to let it happen, the arguments, resentment and frustrations returned. So we needed something new. I thought about what the form tutor had said and wondered how my daughter felt about it. We sat down and discussed what we were going to do, as our situation was affecting so many people. My daughter said she wanted rules. She said she wanted to know exactly where she stood and what she was and wasn’t allowed to do. I asked her how she would like this to be done and she decided on a rule book. We went to Paperchase and bought a massive coloured notebook, and some stickers. (and I may or may not have also purchased several smaller notebooks for me, but we won’t focus on that) We came home and together thought of what we both expected of each other. Each page was written with a rule, and a consequence if that rule was broken. Things like ‘all electronic equipment switched off by 8.30pm,’ ‘make your bed every morning,’ and ‘tidy up after yourself,’ were recorded and agreed. She wanted to sign every page to show she was committed to it. And I had rules too!

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It’s strange, but after the book had been written and the rules were in place she changed. She looked happier, lighter. Without being asked she started following them, and was actually found singing as she tidied up! Upon asking her where this lovely good mood had come from she simply said that she felt a weight had been lifted from her shoulders and that she felt so much happier knowing exactly where she stood. She said writing that book had been a relief, and she was so happy we were working as a team to improve our relationship and her attitude. Over the next few weeks we looked at the book every evening and either stuck in a sticker (again her idea!) if she had stuck to it, or put a warning cross if something hadn’t gone quite right. Soon, as the weeks went by we needed to look at the book less and less and now, it’s hardly referred to at all.

The real test (and subsequent #magicmoment!) came last Thursday. It was her end of Year 7 parents evening. A two hour extravaganza where I would meet every single one of her teachers. I was nervous, she was nervous. The proof, as they say, was going to be in the parent-teacher conference pudding. And it was the sweetest, most delicious pudding I had ever eaten. Phrases like, ‘wonderfully polite, ‘ ‘an absolute pleasure to teach,’ ”a fantastic team player,’ and ‘such an amazing attitude to school and learning,’ were said…about my daughter! She was praised for her perseverance, for her thoughtfulness, her kindness and determination. Together we discovered how truly amazing she is, and I have never been so proud to be her mother. She swelled with pride with every conversation and at the end of the two hours we were laughing and smiling and high-fiving (not cool for a grown woman I know!) all over the place. She was so proud of herself and everything she had achieved. And I had learnt to listen to her needs more, she needed rules and boundaries not my misplaced attempts at making her feel loved to try and ease my PND guilt.

Now, I’m not naive enough to think that my daughter will forever be this polite, hard working and well behaved, she is about to become a teenager in the not so distant future after all, but I do hope that this wonderful phase continues and that it installs in her an innate sense of motivation and desire to work hard and succeed. She set her own rules and stuck to them. She excelled herself and turned it around. That parents evening was a truly wonderful #magicmoment. We celebrated in style with a lovely mother/daughter dinner, something we have vowed to do at least once a week, just the two of us. She’s an amazing child, and I think she is finally beginning to realise that herself!

Behaviour


Behaviour: Behavior or behaviour is the range of actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment. It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary.

‘It wouldn’t do for us all to be the same!’ my Dad used to say. It’s amazing the silly little things you remember from someone who is no longer around. And scary how much you forget. But this little phrase has stuck with me over the years. Whenever I have a differing of opinions with someone, or start to be Mrs Judgey Mcjudgerson, I think to myself how dull life would be if we were all the same. How boring relationships and friendships could be if we didn’t all bring a myriad of different things into them. There are certainly positive things that come out of us all being different, and then there are undoubtedly some negative things. And if there is one area where everyone is doing it differently, it’s parenting. How we sleep, how we feed, how we school, or discipline our children, we all do it differently. But do we respect that? Often no. Parents are often very quick to criticise others and judge them on situations they know nothing about. I was recently judged by someone regarding my daughter’s behaviour, someone who probably doesn’t to this day realise that they made me feel judged. It’s not nice. It made me cry and do something I hate, which is doubt myself. They didn’t know my background, or my daughter’s and judged me on a two minute conversation I’d had with her. Anyway, I digress. The point I wanted to discuss in this post about us all being different, is about the differing ways we discipline our children, and whether our methods help our children to understand their actions, or shame them into feeling bad?

Yesterday I was involved in a Twitter chat about discipline and for a while it was difficult to work out if we were singing from the same hymn sheet or not, but we were both very respectful of the other’s opinions, using them to back up our own. It got me thinking. Disciplining children is often a hot topic for debate, many thinking that it should be simply black and white, right or wrong, and then there are others who adopt a kindness approach where they try and understand the children’s feelings and use this to help them understand that what they have done maybe wrong. Discipline is often historically though of as something which is based upon rewards and consequences. Children are often either praised for what they have done right, or disciplined for something they have done wrong. But are they ever allowed to have their feelings justified? Are they ever allowed to explain why they did something? Talk about how they felt? And if they were, would this be a more effective way of teaching them about what is/is not acceptable behaviour? Bad behaviour often stems from fear, or anger, or confusion. It often stems from an emotion, or an inability to control an emotion. And more often than not it stems from curiosity, from wondering ‘what would happen if?’ Maybe instead of telling your child off for them flooding the bathroom from experimenting with water, you could dunk them in the bath with all the tools they need to explore this further. Instead of criticising them for breaking a toy on purpose, explain that this isn’t how we treat our belongings, and then give them something they can rip, tear, break so they continue to learn and discover. Obviously hurting other people doesn’t fall into this category, but if they are frustrated and need to kick or punch or bite, give them something they can do this to. And then talk about their feelings when they’ve calmed down. Justify those feelings, tell them you know they are feeling angry, but that they must never hurt others. Bottling up angry feelings doesn’t ever have a good outcome, and a tantrum is simply a child trying to communicate to us how they feel.

Children in my opinion have an innate need to please, and crave endless attention. If they are often referred to as naughty and through being ‘naughty’ is how they get all of their attention, is it any wonder that they spiral into a succession of wrong doings or become fearful of experimenting, of using their imagination and nurturing their natural curiosity? Wouldn’t it be easier to say that what they are DOING is ‘naughty,’ not that THEY are naughty? (Personally I don’t even like to use the word naughty!) Sadly I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation that we’ve misjudged, and have fallen into the trap of making empty threats (I did this once, never again!) that are never going to be carried out. I think we need to be consistent, children need to know what is and isn’t acceptable, but they also need to understand why these things are or aren’t acceptable, and then they need to be taught to recognise, understand and manage their feelings.

And finally…NEVER forget the power of LEADING BY EXAMPLE, the more you show your children how to treat others, how to behave in certain situations and how to look after their belongings…then the more they will DO THE SAME!

So, what are your thoughts on discipline and behaviour?