Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Art of Discipline & other parental clashes


Since Maya has turned two, we have had to deal with natural behavioral problems like tantrums and pushing limits, which are typical to her "terrible twos" age. At times, it is hard to handle, but it's not really a big deal as it is just how kids grow up. The thing that I have been struggling with is that husband-ji and I are on completely different pages in terms of discipline. And the hard part is that we both think we are right and the other is wrong!

Discipline is one of those few things that I think we should be on the same page about. I feel we need to be consistent, and like a team - because Maya already knows that when I say "no" to something, she can go to her Daddy! Of course, other things like feeding and playing - we can be on different pages about and it doesn't matter. Husband-ji will play with her differently than I do, and that's a good thing. It's an individual thing. 

Previously, another thing we needed to be on the same page about is sleep - what time she should go to bed. That one we really struggled with last year, because husband-ji did not want to let her settle herself, which made the entire house (including my MIL) get no sleep for 2 months during a sleep regression. In that instance, husband-ji had to follow my lead and let her cry it out for a few days until she was able to sleep soundly for 12 hours at night. As a mother, I know my child's cries. I know if she is fake crying or real crying. Husband-ji does not yet know this, although he is getting there...

In that instance, he followed my lead and he trusted my mother's intuition. Yet in terms of discipline, he feels he knows better (and I still KNOW I know better!). Similar to the sleep situation, we are clashing a bit. I think it has a lot to do with differences we have as individuals, as mother/father, and as well as some cultural differences.

I think that it's a good thing to say "no" to your child - you have to set limits and boundaries. They cannot have everything they want. They cannot have every toy that's in a store. They cannot have cakes at all times of the day and especially at night. They cannot go to bed at any time they please. We have to set healthy limits for them - because they don't know their limits. If I don't start our bedtime routine wind-down (stories, bath, massage) then my daughter probably won't decide she's tired for two days - she is just soooo high energy! And we are not staying up with her - hell no!

My daughter has been doing this funny little act where if you tell her "no", she screams and cries. She only does it for a few minutes if you let her be and let her soothe herself. If you try to soothe her - she will take you as a willing audience, and it will go on for hours like some Bollywood movie with no intermission (on LSD!!!)

My technique of handling her is: I will firmly say no and why, she will have her outburst, and I will go on with my day until she settles down, and then we will talk about it. I want her to self-soothe, because I know that in those high-pitched moments - there is nothing I can do. And just like adults - children have emotions that pass through them. It's okay to feel sad or angry, and then the emotion passes and it's fine.

Husband-ji is handling her a completely different way. As soon as she has a shout/cry, he is running to her as if she is a helpless newborn infant and he is getting mad at me for "ignoring her", saying "BUT SHE IS JUST A CHILD!!!" The tantrum will go on for hours as he coddles her. 

I think this difference in our methods happen for two reasons - one is that I don't look at her as a little baby anymore. She is a big girl, who is doing lots of big girl things like speaking sentences and using the toilet. Husband-ji feels she is still a newborn baby. It makes me wonder if he will always look at her like his newborn baby...?

Another reason, I believe is cultural. Both husband-ji and my inlaws immediately rush to her if they think something's wrong. This is because they all used to live in a joint family - there are just so many people to help pitch in. But...it creates an environment where children become very dependent and babied - for life. After a certain age, it can become detrimental. We live abroad now, where I can't rush to her every need - where I have nobody to watch her and no maid. Where we have very few parent friends. It's a different world here - a more independent world - for better or for worse.

It is quite odd though with the discipline, because he is quite strict with her in other ways. For example, he is very strict when she is doing her artwork. He doesn't want her to wreck her crayons. I have to tell husband-ji that "the crayons are like 1 rupee - relax!" I want her to feel free when she draws and when she reads. I don't want to be strict with her in those moments.

So, it is quite interesting to see how things play out as parents in this journey together. Over the past decade, we have gone from being friends, to dating, to engaged, to married, and now we are parents handling toddler tantrums!

I feel that we should be on the same page about discipline (rather, he should be on MY page! LOL) or is it okay to not be? Or should we find a middle ground? The answer: I don't even know! (which is basically the answer to every parenting-related question!)

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Dear readers, have you ever been through a similar situation? How do you deal with differences in discipline? Or differences in parenting?


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12 comments

  1. Well, maybe it's not a bad thing, it's like the nice cop and the stern cop... So long as you don't resent being the stern one, which is so often the role of the mother (especially with daughters).

    And also, you are an intercultural family and your child is of mixed culture so it is important Maya can relate and feel at ease both in western and Indian surroundings. It is a great gift to give a child.

    However I think it is important you agree on basics like importance of reading, making art, exercising, which apparently you do... And that you don't voice your parental clashes in front of her.

    I want baby T to sooth herself while her dad (and all Indian family) can't stand to hear her cry or even moan. In India it was funny because as everyone noticed I didn't rush or scold when she was moaning, but asked "what's up", everybody started doing the same, which was very touching. But with her dad I admit I hugely take advantage of the situation ; as soon as I'm fed up, I hand the baby to him and let him handle the crisis. Baby's happy, I'm happy and he feels happy and proud so it's a win-win-win situation :)

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  2. The middle ground will never take shape. Tht's something I can guarantee after having been there, 'n after having done all that...and even as I continue to still do all that, though my lil' girl, India is 4 now. Interesting read Maya's Maa :)

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    1. Yeah, I think we just have different ways as individuals. Oh well! Lol

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  3. I am presenting this as information not as a way to say you are wrong. It is just another way of looking at child care :)

    There is a school of though in the world, that giving your child everything she/he wants up until they are five years old, will actually help them to become independent sooner. The reasons behind this philosophy are:
    1. Children under five are not emotionally capable of understanding discipline. They may grasp some concepts mentally but emotionally they only see discipline as the parent saying "I don't love you" "You (as a person) are wrong" They can't separate what they want from themselves as a person.
    2. If the child grows up getting everything they ask for (with in reason of course) they get a solid foundation of feeling like they are loved and cared for, and that the feelings they have experienced are validated. They feel like they are "Right" and "Correct" as people. They will have more confidence in their own decision making as adults.
    Discipline to early on is what actually creates insecure, dependent people because the child is searching through out their life for someone/everyone to validate their feelings instead of getting it from their parents when they were the most vulnerable.
    That is one school of thought...

    Also you might look at you husband and ask yourself if he is an insecure, overly dependent person because he was raised "The Indian way" Is he not a functioning, contributing, wonderful person, who you married?
    There cannot be that much wrong with the way he was raised.
    These are just my thoughts. I know you love your daughter and you will always do what is best for her. I don't what to offend just putting some ideas out there.
    -Dasi

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  4. Dasi, I am very curious about the way children are raised in India. As you point out, Indian adults generally seem to cope very well with stress and hierarchy, and often find proactive, creative solutions to problems. I'm very envious of these qualities and I wish my child will be like that.

    However you educate a child to function happily in a given society. As we currently live in Europe, I trust my husband and his ideas, but at the same time I think it is important our child functions easily in creche, school etc... For example, in India a baby goes from arms to arms and is never left crying, whereas in Europe people ask permission before taking a baby from his mother's arms (otherwise she may bite) and it is considered good for a child to cry a little bit, under certain circumstances... So a baby used to being held all the time may be labelled as needy and clingy by nannies etc... Being the product of an intercultural marriage myself, I have very bad memories of my first years at school. In the end I could relate only to other intercultural kids. As a matter of fact, as an adult, I only feel relaxed with people who are interested in other cultures.

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    1. What bad memories? Related to not being held, not having free interaction with other people, etc.? Please elaborate! I'm in an American/Indian intercultural relationship right now - already giving thought to parenting future children and the challenges they'll face as intercultural/biracial...

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    2. What bad memories? I'm in an intercultural (Indian / American) relationship right now and already giving thought to how to parent intercultural/biracial children. Any advice you can share will be invaluable! Thank you.

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  5. I came over from a blog post about the struggles of Indian living. I do not agree with some comments about discipline and kids not knowing them emotionally. Babies are born with a natural order, discipline, routine - anyway one like's to name it. They like routines, predictability. Not just like, they need it for smooth functioning.

    IMHO, parents need to show their love in giving them the freedom and independence to explore, express and experiment; at the same time find out their own definition of limits for their kids and set them. Kids learn very early about tantrums, who encourages their behavior and when people give in.

    I have seen parents that say yes to everything the kid asks, I have seen parents that say no as a general answer for everything. I struggle between the two every single day. You already seem to be on the right track. Your husband may not like this particular comment but looks like he is subconsciously for the Indian way of parenting (which is not all that great, TBH). Indians baby their kids even at 30 but ruin their lives by not giving them healthy space and independence. This is my personal opinion and I think you're doing good. Leniency during creative work and setting bed time routines are perfect.

    Wish you the best!

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  6. Excellent blog post! I too am struggling with something similar. My husband is from South India. He is an excellent father to our 7 month old daughter, almost too good. We are having the same issues when it comes to allowing her to self-soothe. He jumps and runs to her when she cries, rather than allowing her to self-soothe. Every night he brings her to our bed to sleep when she awakes crying, and I am trying to convince him to leave her in her crib.

    As you have mentioned, us Mother's know our children's cries (at any age/stage in their life). It is hard for my husband, just like your husband-ji, to understand that the babies are fine. I am trying to ingrain into my husband's brain that if we do not set boundaries now, then we will have issues later in her life.

    I am glad to know this is happening in other multicultural households and I am not alone. Thank you Madh Mama for sharing. :)

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