Consequences of our Behavior

The Wizards hardcore sense of fairness continues to please and impress me.

Yesterday, I got to take the kids to the jail to visit The Husband, and then immediately had to drop them off with my dear sister Brette, who The Squid has taken to calling “Auntie Butt” which gives both me and The Wizard much entertainment.  However, I ended up doing decently well @ work (especially for not being on the schedule, which provided me with the opportunity to yell “I’m not even supposed to BE here today!” in an enjoyable homage to Kevin Smith), and so after I got off, I took the kids out for a rare eating-out type experience (fast food yes, but we need to find our highlights even while balls-deep in poverty, and 5 dollars for 2 burgers, fries and an ice cream cone cannot be complained about), in order to discuss their feelings about our visit, and have a nice chillaxing time.

Beforehand, we discussed how ice cream would be an option if everyone did a good job and was well behaved in the restaurant.  For The Squid, the most I can really ask is not climbing out of the booth and running around, and this was one of those running around kind of occasions.  Poor kid.  I never was angry with her, rough with her, or raise my voice, but we did discuss the fact that she had lost her ice cream opportunity.

The Wizard, who, having six years on The Squid, of course had a much better time managing his behavior, and was well aware that he was going to receive an ice cream cone for this.  However, he asked me if he would be allowed to share some of his cone with his sister, and let me know that if this was not an option, he would pass on the ice cream, because having an ice cream while his sister couldn’t have any violated his sense of fairness.  Is it strange that I’m pleased to be the mother of an eight year old communist?

I told him that his ice cream was his own and whatever he chose to do with it was up to him.  So he did share with his sister.  This might go against the common perception of “punishment”, but while I don’t tend to have a really big reward system for good behavior (other than letting my kids know that I’m proud of them), because I want my kids to know that good behavior is what is expected from them, my “punishments” tend to run much more along the lines of consequences.  I try for those consequences to be as natural as possible, but at the same time, there’s only so often that natural consequences even apply.  The most common consequence for The Wizard is a loss of video gaming privileges, or an occasional writing assignment when I feel like he really needs to take time and think about his behavior.  The Squid’s most common consequence is a time-out.

I also try to always take into account the circumstances surrounding my children.  This will not prevent them having consequences for their behavior, but it may gentle them.  The Squid, for example, is acting up a lot since her Dad-Dad’s incarceration.  Her potty-training came screeching to a halt.  She started having tantrums, and has even taken to using a pacifier occasionally.  However, even at the ripe old age of two, she needs to know that regardless of circumstances, she is still accountable for her behavior.  I feel for her.  It’s impossible to explain to her when her Dad-Dad is getting out, or why he’s gone.  She cannot understand why she only gets to see him through a little window one hour a week.  All she knows is that Dad-Dad is “in a big time out”.  I believe she understands it better than she can communicate, but it still is a difficult situation.

I do not agree with the legal system in this country (nor any other, as far as I know), but I believe the best way to keep my children from becoming involved with it one day, and to show them how to deal with it if they ever chance to become involved, is by teaching them accountability.  No matter how much we hate the figures of authority that come down upon us, the only way to be able to exist as sane individuals within the insane system of government, is accepting accountability for our choices.  If we make the choice to protest, we are accepting the possibilities of pepperspray, police brutality, and incarceration.  Does it make it fair or okay?  Of course not.

But that’s the way it is.  This is the world we live in.  If anyone is to change it, it will not be from fear or anger at our unjust punishment.  As unjust as it is, it is a possibility every day in this world, and we must be willing to accept the consequences of our behavior with our heads held high, and with a righteous disagreement.  I don’t have to agree with the fact that when I had 5 police officers beat the shit out of me in Santa Barbara I got charged with assaulting an officer.  But I do accept that I am the one who placed myself in a situation that brought about those consequences.  I wish we lived in a world without those consequences.  I believe someday we will.  But the only way that Anarchy will EVER work is if humanity is able to start personally, one by one, to accept their own accountability for the things that happen in our lives.

I have lead a devastating life.  I have been abused by countless people in pretty much every possible way.  My mind was twisted at an early age.  I am not responsible for the things I have suffered.  …I am accountable, however, for the person I am today.  Each day, we choose our own behavior.  Regardless of our circumstances.  We choose the risk, sometimes, of very negative consequences.  If you believe the risk is worth it though, you have already accepted accountability.  If you say, “I am aware of the things that could happen due to my behavior, but this is important enough to risk it.” you have accepted accountability.  No matter what comes of your behavior, you can hold your head high.

To everyone who has children, I encourage you to raise them with a sense of consequence and accountability, but respect their right to make their own choices.  Don’t be angry at your children for choosing something against your wishes.  Do make sure that they’re aware that there will be consequences for their choices.

To everyone without children, I encourage you to greet each day with a sense of accountability.  We are not victims.  We are warriors.  We make our own choices.  Each creature on this earth makes choices each day, and our consequences can vary.  As long as we believe in our choices, we have no reason to feel shame.

This post is dedicated to everyone who is being a strong voice in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  Keep your heads up, and continue the fight within yourselves every second of the day.

-Domestic Anarchist

Discipline?

As an anarchist parent, and someone who affirms independent thinking in my children, people frequently think that I do not believe in or approve of discipline.  This isn’t true.  Discipline is necessary.  A home, even when run as an autonomous collective, must have rules, so that all living within it can be happy.  It needs boundaries, respect and contribution from all members.

Children, while completely valid human beings, do not have the maturity or life experience to know how to set or respect boundaries, and they’re instinctively selfish which means they do not have the instinct for contribution.

There is nothing wrong with this.  The selfishness which is inherent in all children results from the fact that when starting out, they have had to do nothing.  A baby’s responsibility is to grow.  Their selfishness IS their contribution, because they have to develop before they can contribute.  A toddler’s responsibility is to explore and become independent, but this is soon joined but necessary discipline.  They need to very young start learning that other people have rights, and that violating these rights is not okay, or else they will not be able to be respectful, contributing members of their collective.

As children become older their responsibilities increase.  Cleaning up after themselves, and helping take care of the home, as well as younger children and pets, become daily responsibilities.  When they try to balk at these added responsibilities, there must be disciplinary action.

What kind of disciplinary action?

Much of it is just logical consequences.  If you make a mess, you clean it up.  If there is refusal, then there is a removal of privileges until the necessary action has taken place.  If The Wizard refuses to fulfill his responsibilities, he goes to his room until he is ready or willing to do so.

Today, he did not want to respect others, listen, or contribute to cleaning the house, and was sent to his room.  However, we didn’t want to just put cleaning the house on hold and wait for him, nor did we want to just let him “get out” of his responsibilities.  The Husband, in a burst of ingenuity, told him to write a letter, explaining why he should listen and contribute.

Now, The Wizard is seven years old, and in the second grade.  This obviously would not work for younger children, but they could be asked to write a short apology, or even younger children could draw a picture of how they feel, or showing the negative result of their negative behavior.  These alternatives could also be implemented when there is learning or behavioral disorders, or if it’s a very difficult assignment to start.

With The Wizard, as this was a disciplinary action that had never happened before, there was of course, revolt.  Screaming, yelling, statements of the injustice of it and of the world, kicking the wall.  Which resulted, in tired, frustrated parents, yelling in return.  A “time-out” and assignment that should have taken no more than a half an hour, took instead, an hour and a half.  However, we told him repeatedly to write what he was screaming about instead, and once he ACTUALLY started doing so, it was a big relief for him.  It allowed him to express himself, and at the same time think about how his contributions are necessary.  It allowed him to say why he was upset, and slowed and calmed him.  At the end, even he declared it a success.  Which is a good way to measure these things.

Kids are not going to like disciplinary actions.  But the disciplinary action will demonstrate itself to either be a success or not.  Sometimes it might take a battle in order to get our kids to follow through, sometimes we need to use alternate methods to find what works for our kids particularly.

Positive disciple ends with discussion, with our children understanding the reasoning behind the action, and it is adapted for the children and the situation.  It results in everyone being able to express themselves, and resolving the original problem.

Positive disciplinary methods are respectful, and when in our frustration, we treat our children with a lack of respect, we owe them an apology.  Everyone makes mistakes, and showing our children that they’re not the only ones who need to apologize, and they’re not the only ones who need breaks and time outs and “cool downs”, makes them feel equal and understood.  If we treat our children with respect, and ask for it in return EVENTUALLY (when they have the emotional and mental maturity) they will return the favor.

In other news, The Wizard lost his first tooth today!

-Domestic Anarchist