At the book store last week Elisha met a little girl his size who was there with her father.
Both kids were dinging around (not-listening) and after a while I had to round up my three and take them to the bathroom for a diaper change (not going to leave anyone unsupervised, of course).
The dad (he seemed young to me) saw me herding them all and shook his head saying, “And I thought my hands were full!”
Smiling at the new thought I told him, “You’ll find that your hands grow.”
~ ~ ~
But the incident made me realize that I needed to do something about Elisha’s not-listening. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and finally got to do something about it today.
While out grocery shopping (morning-shopping is *awesome* even with three little kids in tow) Elisha wanted to be out of the cart like his sisters. He then ran the other way when I called him to come closer.
This earned him a swat and a time-out in the cart. He came four or five times on the first call before he tested me again. He is relishing his new freedom, as I am relishing his growing understanding and obedience.
We both know now that he can come when called, and that there are positive and negitive results for every behavior. All that remains to be worked out (and I’m having to re-train the girls a bit in this, as his understanding depends on their modeling) is what freedom looks like.
When we shop the stores are mostly empty, so I let the girls run around as much as they like, as long as there’s no one else in the isle and we can see one another. This allows for a great deal of freedom while still having specific (if invisible) boundaries.
These I’m much more lenient in enforcing, because I think they might be a little too subtle for Elisha to grasp.
But this training reminded me that having to “count” to make a child obey means they’ve already disobeyed. Counting (and I count backwards: 3-2-1) is the parent’s way of saying
I really don’t want to enforce this rule right now. Are you going to make me?”
And the kid decides (or doesn’t) that s/he doesn’t really want it enforced either.
I counted once with Elisha– out of habit, I do it so much with Melody– before I realized how silly it was. He has no concept of the counting, and for him to learn to obey at once will be much more pleasant anyway.