Some mothers have said to me : why did Mary and Laura Ingalls seemed to pretty much always do what they were told? And they never really “talked back” either! What was the secret of Ma and Pa Ingalls and what are we doing wrong?!
Kim John Payne says that this question actually came up when he spoke, and at first he didn’t know what to say….And then he realized the answer was quite simple: Pa Ingalls didn’t say too much, so when he did say something, he was listened to by the children! You can read about this in the book “Simplicity Parenting” (the review is here:) http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/26/favorite-waldorf-resource-2-simplicity-parenting-using-the-extraordinary-power-of-less-to-raise-calmer-happier-and-more-secure-kids-by-kim-john-payne-and-lisa-ross/
Personally, I think there were other factors as well…..Read on!
First of all, I think in our society we equate talking small children to death as a sign of respect. We believe we are providing dignity to the young child, giving them a voice, when in fact we are giving them choices, options and a give and take way beyond their years and developmental level. Why is singing to our child, or giving our children a strong rhythm not seen as a measure of respect for where they are in our country?
Second of all, we seem to think that the more peer interaction a child has, the better off a child will be. They then become peer-oriented and peer-dependent at an early age. Gordon Neufeld addresses this beautifully in his book, “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Matter More Than Peers”, available here:http://www.amazon.com/Hold-Your-Kids-Parents-Matter/dp/0375760288/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267010344&sr=1-1 ..I am re-reading this right now, and it spoke to me when my children were very small, and it speaks to me now that my children are a bit bigger but still small. It should be required reading in this country, where we seem to think it is normal to send a two-year-old off to “school”. It baffles me that separation from the family, the pressure for an adult day, the academic foisting on small children has changed so much in the generations since World War Two
Third of all, the reason our children don’t listen is that we talk WAY too much and we give them WAY too much insight into how we make decisions instead of just telling them the decision! We don’t listen enough, and then when we do listen and “factor” this into our decision-making, we prattle on through all the adult choices, all the adult reasoning (and this three or four-year old is listening, and unfortunately, they really don’t see our decision-making process as such I am afraid) and I think it comes off as not being decisive to them simply because they cannot process this adult reasoning pattern.
So what can we do?
Connect with your children! Connect with them in the morning! Connect with them during the day! How do we connect? Hold them, laugh with them, sing to them, play with them. LOVE them, delight in them! Stop separating them from you when they do something not right – love them and guide them through it! Have them make restitution, that means much more than sending them off to sit in a chair! Have them own the problem and fix the problem, and leave their dignity intact!
Listen more and talk less! Here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/04/a-mouthodometer/ and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/14/stop-talking/
Go through the decision-making process in your head, not out loud. Say what you mean and do what you say. This is called INTEGRITY, and this is a good thing to model for small children so they will grow up to be people of integrity.
Have confidence. It continually amazes me that in this day and age, there is so much complete MIS-information about the small child, the baby. I have heard parents say their five-month old is “manipulating them” or their one’-year-old is “defiant”. What??!! This is wishful thinking, folks! See back posts on defiance in the small child here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/
Develop yourself and have a PLAN for how to improve your parenting. What is your plan for becoming the parent you want to be? In business or in your career, you might have had a goal, but you also would have made a plan to get there! Make a commitment, write it down – what needs to happen in your home and how will you get there? Enlist a friend to keep you accountable!
PS see the many interesting comments below…some of them focused on the physical punishment part of the Ingalls family….hard for many of us to fathom and painful to read…Steiner talks about the evolution of humanity and human consciousness and how we really don’t understand the consciousness of another time and place because we are different now…something to that effect. Very interesting stuff, but for the sake of this post I wasn’t really focused on that end of it, more the communications end of it, but thanks for your comments! It’s just that a lot of mothers bring up Ma and Pa Ingalls and their listening children…that’s all, nothing really deeper than that! :)