« Mishmash | Main | Can You Hear Me Now? »

December 28, 2004



Hey Linda!

Thanks for sharing the info on the book! Great topic...one that I'm definitely interested in. The Washington Post recently ran an aricle on this very topic which I thought was very good...I'd send it if I could find it. :-)

Take care!


Sounds like a good one. One thing I've found is helpful for the soft structure thing is to know clearly in your mind what things you care about and what you don't. Then enforce the rules (not in a punitive way, just in a completely matter-of-fact way) on the things you care about, but don't make any sort of deal about the other things. That way your kids have plenty of opportunity to choose, but they also know that some things are non-negotiable. The upshot of this is that I'm always out with a garishly-dressed preschooler, because I let him choose his own clothes (within climate appropriate guidelines), but he's also a kid who will run headlong down the block but then stop at the corner and wait for me, because he knows he can't step off the curb without me. I'm hoping it continues to work as he gets older, because it's really nice not to have to care about every single thing.

From Linda:

Yeah, the book talks about going about your business very calmly while you're enforcing rules that the kid doesn't like.

I read another book (I can't for the life of me remember what it's called) that said young kids need 4 types of rules.

1. Rules of Politeness: please, thank you, I'm sorry, you're welcome, etc.

2. Rules of Safely: don't touch the stove, don't run into the street, etc.

3. Rules of bedtime: a regular bedtime and bedtime routine.

4. Chores: clear the table, pick up your toys.

Those rules change as they get older, of course. "Don't touch the stove" becomes "Don't touch the stove unless a parent is home," for example. A and I have talked about which rules are important to us (and I'm sure we'll readdress it quite frequently) and clothes/hair are pretty low on our list. So great-grandma is horrified~big deal. I'd much rather have a polite teen with green hair then a selfish one who is clean cut. Priorities, you know?


I think I may see if I can get my hands on a copy of that book. I'm not really worried about spoiling my son yet, but it's always good to get some imput.

I find it difficult to decide what is "developmentally appropriate". Thomas is 14 months now and we're starting to say no to some things, but how much should we expect from him? Is it willful disobediance for him to want to dig in the potted plants or is it a normal, age-appropriate behavior? And even if it is age-appropriate, at what point does it become a "problem"?

So far, we just say, "No, Thomas" and redirect him to a better activity. It seems to be the most effective at this point, but when do you start expecting obediance?

This is a very hot topic on our house right now. A couple of days ago a relation decided to "discipline" our son FOR me. That did not go over well, as you can imagine. I wrote a little about it on my blog. Anyway, what ARE you supposed to do when someone raises their voice to your kid?

From Linda:

Yeah, I would be pissed if someone tried to discipline my kid. My SIL always talks about how great my mom is. Apparently my mom always asks, "How would you like me to handle this?" if my nephews are misbehaving. I love my mom.

Anyway, I remember reading someplace that 18 months is the age where most kids can start manipulating you and being willfully disobedient. Of course, everyone's kid is different and I have no actual reference to back that up.

I think distraction is always the preferable reaction at this age and for as long as it works. Moxie is wise. Maybe she can help.


I think the age of 12 months to about 18-20 months is the roughest time of all, because you really have no idea where they are developmentally yet. I think I'd tend to agree that 18 months is when they start to willfully disobey.

We did a ton of distraction. For every single thing. And it worked because it stopped the behavior and it stopped me from getting angry. Which were my goals. If my goals for my son at that age had been for him to be able to be in a room with a potted plant and decide on his own not to dig, then distraction wouldn't have worked, but I also don't think anything (short of hurting or shaming him every time he came near the plant, which I think is extremely counterproductive long-term) could make a 15-year-old decide to resist something like that.

Basically, I think this is one of those Malcolm X stages of parenting--By Any Means Necessary. If you need to barricade off half your living room, or put everything up on a high schelf, or do the honkey pokey every time your kid heads toward the cat, you just do it to get through until your kid can understand.


Sounds like a good book, I'll look for it at the library. On the note of discipline (oh how people hate that word), one book that sounds like the one ya'll are talking about is: How to say no to your toddler by um someone who starts with a w :) While I wouldn't endorse everything in that book he does make some good points--like move the plant until the child is a bit older! Save your battles for the things you can't move--like the stove.

Laura K.

I'll have to check out the book.

From a professional standpoint - I could go on and on and ON about families where you can see the effects that a lifetime of overindulgence, overnurturing (we call it enabling by the time they reach 12), or lack of discipline have on kids by the time they get to middle school. I'll just say one word: YIKES!

#3 sounds like one of our relatives - drives C and I NUTS because it just makes us cringe whenever we see the child doing something completely inappropriate, the mother threatening a consequence, and then backing down off of it right away. I don't know if there's ever been follow-through.

I'm finding it interesting with a toddler to work through some of these issues. It's really been a 'learn as you go' type of thing, becasue all toddlers have different hot buttons, and what works discipline-wise at one point does not work at another, and K is too young to reason with at this point. I can tell sometimes that she's getting it, though. Baby steps, baby steps.


I disagree with a good bit of this - and my response is long, sorry.

My son is 7 and is a beautifully behaved, thoughtful boy. He's an example in school, scouts, taekwondo, baseball, camps... He's a great little kid and a pleasure to be around. No, he's not perfect, but he definitely knows when he's not behaving the way he should, when I am being hard on him, and then he always volunteers an apology afterwards.

When he was younger, I read and used Positive Discipline books - the examples were great and they taught me how to respond properly to many issues. Flexibility balanced with judicious inflexibility is key with this school of thought.

As J as gotten older, I like the scheme set out in The Explosive Child - the title is a bit misleading b/c it is for kids who can be high strung, but it is appropriate for any kid. Greene proposes 3 ways to categorize and basket parental intervention. C- He helps to define some things as 'what the hay' if they really shouldn't be an issue and the kid should be given freedom to choose. B- He also defines things as belonging in a kid-centered basket, meaning they should be allowed to develop their own problem-solving and negotiating skills w/out imposing a strict parenting will on it. A- The other is the parent-centered basket, involving things that are non-negotiable, like safety and manners.

Most stuff really does fall in the 'What the Hay' basket if you think about it. When you're going through life, it is good to question how important a specific scenario will be in 5 years. This definitely applies to parenting, too. Much like the coat thing mentioned above - no coat=cold=a lesson in wearing a coat next time. Around our house, this is lost gloves leading to cold hands leading hopefully to taking better care of gloves next time. His father cringes when this happens and considers me too hard, but I think my son has to learn the consequences of his behavior.

(I think these things are kind of 'image' oriented, that parents fear too often about being judged when their kid goes w/out gloves or wears garish clothes or is allowed to continue a tantrum on the floor in the grocery store - the issue wrongly beomes how a given situation reflects on the parent more than the bottom line importance of the situation.)

This leads into the kid-centered basket, where a decision matters, but the kid can be trusted in part to contribute in making their own. For example, if I say something has to be X and my son suggests Y and I see Y (or a negotiated XY combination) as being reasonable and doable, then he's gotten a tremendous boost as a leader, a problem-solver, a witness to how decisions are made, and a vocal participant in his own raising. He learns that give/take, cooperation, and negotiation are important tools, even with his parent.

With this in mind, I have the personal philosophy that I am raising a competent adult, not a good kid. He needs these skills to make it in the world and him constantly being 'put in his place' as a kid is wrong. I don't cram it down his throat that I'm always right and he's always wrong or little or a kid or mindless. He has brains, too, and uses them quite well.

Sometimes I realize into a discussion that something is a 'what the hay' or kid-centered issue and I back down/negotiate, telling him so and why. I let him know that he makes good decisions, sometimes better than I do - so I can change my mind and lean his way if it is appropriate. (You may have observed a parent doing this some time and judged it negatively.)

I don't consider this soft structure. He is mindfully involved in his own raising and he is definitely thriving as a result. Further, he seeks out more rules than I could possibly give him, then he follows his own rules. He has great judgment.

Also, saying 'no' is rather instinctive as a parent. It comes out much too quickly sometimes if enough thought isn't given. Sometimes a wise parent reevaluates and decides that 'yes' is more appropriate. (Just like that parent you may witness with a too quick 'no' who realizes that there is a better way and a kid melting down is not the objective - melt downs can be prevented earlier rather than later.) I would much rather be adaptive than inflexible. Kids learn nothing from an inflexible parent, except perhaps to rebel more intensely as teens.

If you have any doubts, just read the bullying stuff at my blog - about 4 entries over the last 2 weeks. You'll realize that my kid is great at problem solving and even though he is a dark blue belt, he does not ever resort to violence to make his points.

From Linda:

I reread your post twice and I'm trying to see where you disagree with "a good bit of this," but I can't.

Maybe my example of backing down in the store wasn't a good one. I was trying to illustrate a point of parents not enforcing a necessary rule. The book explains it better than I can apparently, although Laura above understood.

I would never discourage flexibility in parenting~if anything, it's a necessity! You read my comments to Moxie above. It's all about priorities. Most of life is "What the hay" issues. There are a few things about safely and (IMO) manners that are nonnegotiable, but most others are full of compromises.

Keep in mind that I am trying to parent infants and can only see to the toddler phase. Parenting a 7 year old is very different.

As for your son being involved in his own parenting: that's exactly what I'm talking about. He is performing appropriate developmental tasks. If you were rigid and never let him negotiate with you, you would be an extreme example of the opposite of soft-structure.

So I guess to me we're in agreement.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

December 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31        

My Parenting Arsenal