Monday, June 9, 2008

Coercion



co·er·cion
1.the act of coercing; use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance.

I'm trying to raise my children without coercion...I don't say I'm there yet- old habits die hard.

But the intention is always to live with my children, without coercion.

I'm not sure if it is possible to be coercion-free with a toddler...I'm learning all the time.

Tombliboo (18 months) demands it, to be frank, and I can't remember if all toddlers are like this- but I suspect most are.

And it's hard sometimes letting him do the things he wants to do- because sometimes it's inconvenient, sometimes dangerous, sometimes downright frustrating. I'm trying not to force my will upon him, but sometimes I do.

On those occasions, I apologise to him- I don't want to thwart him...sometimes it seems I have no choice, but I need to analyse that (when I have time!)...is there always no alternative?

Tombliboo doesn't like to get in his carseat right away- he has never liked carseats. I have recently discovered that he does not like to get buckled in if he needs to use the toilet. I had supposed he *never* liked to be buckled in...but that is not strictly true.

He also likes to play in the car before getting in his seat.

We try to allow extra time for this...but sometimes it doesn't happen, and I have to squash a little person on his seat against his will.

It's heartbreaking.

Not only for Tombliboo, but for me as well...and his siblings. He stops screaming after a bit, usually with something to distract him (a handful of popcorn, a song, or a book or toy)...but we all carry on feeling shattered long after he has cheered up.

Coercion isn't pretty.

Parenting gets easier (or rather different) as children grow...before long you can start reasoning with even a very young child. You can offer them choices- real choices, not just '"Would you like the red or the blue cup?"

Sometimes toddlers need the same book read over and over (and over), and coercion might seem like a good idea...but it's not necessary at that point. There are other alternatives which the child will usually accept...even just getting out of the house to read that same book in a different spot can help change the mood. I read of one lady who was so bored of the same book- she read it to her toddler backwards...well I've done that too, and it's hilarious!

But what of coercion with older children. I' m trying to think of occasions when I assert my will on to my children. J-Man doesn't often like to leave the house, especially not in the early morning (by that he means beofre 12pm). Sometimes we need to go out for appointments I couldn't make in the afternoon, or to a movie we all want to see, or just because the Princess likes to go out and her preferences matter here too.

We try to make it as easy on J-Man as possible...we don't go out unnecessarily, if it is something that could wait until the evening when Daddy gets home. We might stop in at a gaming shop for him to look around, or go to some other place of interest to him. Or we might get some sort of special food he likes. We try to have regular days at home, where he knows he doesn't have to get out of his jammies all day. I make sure I take the Princess out on her own every weekend. She loves to go out. Sometimes we need to go out when J-Man doesn't want to...but he is accepting usually...or he will argue the reasoning the outing. Sometimes he's right- it doesn't have to be done today, and we will adjust things.

Princess is different...I find coercion never enters the equation with her. Hmmm- perhaps I will have to think harder, there must be some insidious way I am over-ruling her natural desires. Currently, I am trying to have her avoid dairy products because they affect her ears. But it was done with her consent, and if she wants something with dairy in I will remind her it has dairy in it, and then give her a little bit if she is still wanting some.

It wasn't always this way... I can remember the days she was unreasonable about things. Like not wanting to wear a hat, so I took it off, but she didn't want to carry it, so I offered to carry it, but she didn't want anyone to carry it, but I wasn't happy to leave it on the path and walk away, and she wasn't happy to take it home and then carry on our way...lol...yes, it all comes back to me. But, there was a way through...it just took time, and patience, loads of patience...and lots of listening.

It's good to think about where one is coercive, and whether or not one needs to be. Trying to eliminate the "have to's" and "shoulds" in our life with children. Going easy on ourselves and our children. Treating these little people with the utmost respect. Recognising we might not always be right...we might not even *often* be right. We have a lot to learn. Our children are our best teachers.


Photo Note: Tombliboo stamped himself all over with a little red smiley face stamp...he stamped me as well, and that made for an embarrassing trip to the letterbox (after I'd forgotten I was splotchy). Today he built an 8 block tower...it's only the second time ever that he has built something rather than knowing stuff down :0)

1 comment:

Colleen said...

I honestly don't know how you do non-coercive parenting with a toddler!! It seems so hard. Not with everything but sometimes (like with the carseat) there are safety issues. I do like reading about how people find ways to do it though. My sister has a toddler who's very, uh, sparkly (or spicy as my friend, Zefra, says) and I keep wondering what advice I can give her from the radical unschooling philosophy (she's been reading up on it herself, too). It just seems so tricky! I think you do an amazing job with it Lishelle. Like that day that you all stood in the rain watching the horses before you came to our house. That was so sweet. What lucky children you have!! :)