Chris at Come to the Table recently posted a cute story. Read it and come back for my take.
The comment I left said, "Next time I am tempted to yell, I will think about how I might respond if there were baby skunks around." Why should I treat skunks with more consideration than I treat my own kids? When I yell at them, they may hurt on the inside, even if they don't give off an offensive spray. I need to think about that very real hurt and be as diplomatic as I would be in dealing with baby skunks.
We actually had a real run-in with skunks earlier this month. The dog was outside barking up a storm. When we looked out the window and realized what was making her bark (not "another little dog" as my husband initially thought), we opened the door, and then quickly and quietly, yet firmly and gently, called the dog. My husband was calling her name, but then I suggested, " Tell her 'come.'" We did invest in obedience training when she was a puppy and those commands have stuck.
In thinking about my reaction to the real-life skunk and my real-life reactions to my kids, I was struck with how crucial it is to have clear expectations. In those situations where my kids know the expectations, I can calmly remind them of the rules, expect them to respond, and move on. Even if they don't respond right away, I don't usually get all worked up, because I have "right" on my side, and I just continue insisting. The times I get all worked up are usually consequences of all those gray areas where a little whining and wheedling convince me to change my stand. How can they know that this time I really mean "Do it, and do it now"? It's confusing. For all of us.
The "come" command worked for the dog. We avoided a big stink. In obedience training (for kids and dogs), consistency and clear expectations are so important. I have tried to teach my two-year-old that when I give a command, I expect him to follow through. I have tried to help my daughter understand that just doing it is much easier than arguing about it.
This happens to tie in to some great advice that I heard on the 1/12/07 podcast of Homeword by Jim Burns about defeating disrespectful behavior in kids. From that link, you can download it, or listen to it right on your computer. This was my first time to the website, and it looks to have a wealth of information. If you need a little podcast tutorial, or want to see how to specifically subscribe to the Homeword podcast, they have a great article with very clear instructions.