Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Because it is My Name - Thoughts on Raising a Well-Behaved Child

My son is 4.

He is a good boy. He is kind and compassionate. He shares his food with me whenever I ask. Sometimes, I ask just to see if he's willing, even if I "change my mind" after he says yes. And I am happy to say that he always does, though he sometimes hesitates at first. 

He is interested in many different walks of life and happy to chat with everyone we see. He is generally very helpful around the house. He says please and thank you and I'm sorry. He loves his friends and his family, and, though still a small child, is pretty good about sharing his toys.

But lately, he has been getting quite an attitude.

He has begun to sigh when I ask him to do something.

He has sassed back when I've corrected him or instructed him to do something.

I have caught him rolling his eyes at me when I do not give him what he wants immediately.

And tonight, he went too far. He not only sassed me when I told him to eat his dinner, he did so with the mimicky, high-pitched voice that warranted an immediate response from me.

I am frustrated with this increase in attitude. Steve and I do not spank, but we are very clear in our expectations and, I like to think, very consistent in our responses to misbehavior. We treat each other with respect and make it a habit to model the behavior we expect from our son. We certainly do not sass each other, nor do we perform the mimicky voice he pulled this evening. I have to presume he learned some of this from outside the home, and developed the rest on his own as he tests the limits.

We do not spank, but we do correct.

As I commanded his attention, directing him to look me in the eyes, I suddenly remembered this scene from The Crucible. I was surprised to discover that, by about mid-January, I missed my 11th grade curriculum. I have taught The Crucible for the past 8 years, and suddenly, quotes from it come floating to me at the most random moments.

PROCTOR, with a cry of his whole soul: [...] how may I teach [my son] to walk like [a man] in the world? [...]Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! [...] How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!

It is my name. My son has my name. Everything I do and for everything I strive - I must teach my son, guide my son - so he is worthy of my name, and so I am worthy of the title of 'Mommy.' 

There is a meme floating around cyberspace that says, if I remember correctly, "Leave a better planet for our kids? Why not leave better kids for our planet!" How can I ensure my son will be able to help in some capacity when he's older? 

I corrected him. Immediately and clearly, but calmly.

Will it happen again? Of course. He learned this somewhere, but he is also of the age where he is testing limits - seeing just how much he can get away with before he is called on his behavior. He will also forget. We all forget. The only thing I desperately hope he remembers the first time around is when safety is involved. The rest, I may be frustrated or disappointed, but I understand repetition and consistency are necessary.

I love my son - so much so that I insist on his being respectful to others. So much so, that I will not allow him to get away with sassing others. He is a good boy and I am proud of him, but I know there is still a lot of work ahead of us all.

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