Wow - I feel like I am dealing with some behaviour this week ... One of the benefits of home education is having the time to spend talking through and dealing with issues of behaviour and attitude properly. I am amazed at the range and depth of discussion we have throughout the day about so many subjects .... just by going about our daily lives, and talking about what we encounter.
There is a tendency in our culture to use a 'stick and carrot' approach to discipline .... This is the approach advocated by many parenting books, and by programmes like 'Super Nanny'. I read Alfie Kohn's book, 'Unconditional Parenting' with initial dismay as he spends the first half of the book tearing down this approach to discipline. This left me feeling so upset as these are the methods we are all encouraged to use, and I wondered if he was going to come up with an alternative approach ... and, if so, what that could possibly be.
Well, the great thing about the 'stick and carrot' approach - manipulating behaviour by offering a reward or threatening a punishment - is that it brings results FAST ... and in a world in which we need children to comply NOW, in which parents are stressed and do not have enough time, it does seem to provide a solution. However, Alfie Kohn points out how this method encourages extrinsically motivated behaviour ... when what we really want is people who are intrinsically motivated, who behave because they understand why they ought to. This type of behaviour management is really about mentoring a child, continually discussing and evaluating their behaviour, attitudes and choices whilst walking life's path together. This is a costly process, but it is one of the things I like about home education - having more time to invest in the things which really matter.
Sometimes I despair and think that all the effort is in vain .... and I have one son in particular who will test the boundaries, and push and test me, who seems to have little empathy, who is very single-minded and seems not to consider the effect of his behaviour on others .... but then I get a small glimpse of an attitude change or the realisation that he has unwittingly hurt someone, and I realise it is going in ... like fluid through a drip: drip, drip, drip .....