Monday, November 5, 2007

When we (start) spank (ing)

All right moving on...

We started training Sofi pretty young and (as you can probably see from the last post) are doing the same thing with Judah. So far it seems to be working pretty well. Today I told Judah "No, no" when he grabbed for the dog's nose and he jerked his hand back right away. Of course he then reached back out for it, but it's a start! There was recognition in his eye....

So, the question is why bother to start so young? Well, I'll tell you. I'm a Suzuki teacher, so when Mr Pearl introduced to me the idea of starting this training in obedience at a very young age, it rang a bell for me. You see, I've been trained by learned professionals in my field that if you begin to introduce your child to his instrument at a very young age, they are able to almost effortlessly incorporate the technique into their every-day movements. Holding a violin in proper, balanced position feels very awkward to an adult for a long time. Daily dedicated practice will soon cause the adult to feel fairly comfortable with his instrument, but (and some may disagree with me here) I would go so far as to say that an adult beginner will never have the seamless accuracy of movement that belongs to the player who learned to hold his violin as he was learning to walk and run.

How does this apply to child-training, you ask? Patience, my dear reader. Let me first explain the 'why' of my violin example. The reason child beginners have an advantage is related to muscle memory. When you begin to create the muscle memories necessary for good violin technique (curved wrist, high fingers, heavy elbow) before you have conflicting muscle memories to deal with (let's say... flat fingered tendency due to long nails getting in the way after 20 years of weekly manicures), the result is a much more natural "acceptance" of the technique on the part of the child. There aren't any bad habits to un-learn.

I apply this concept to child-training in this way: if I begin to teach Judah to listen to and heed my words at the same time I am teaching him to crawl, walk, talk, eat, etc. he will have a much easier time accepting the concept than if I wait till he's established the "muscle memory" of getting what he wants and never having his will thwarted. I've seen some extreme cases where a child was never crossed in his will until almost three years old! Think of the trauma and confusion in the mind of a child who's whole world (small as it may be) is turned upside down when one day, out of the blue, he's expected to "share", "mind his manners", "play nice" and etc.

I think the reason most people object to this is an emotional reaction; "I don't want to "punish" my baby, she won't understand what's going on, she's not old enough!" I disagree. Maybe she won't totally get all the complicated ramifications, but she's going to learn the basic idea of "No, no, don't touch that" (the first lesson we teach in obedience). Just like she doesn't learn all the details of how gravity works, but she does learn pretty quickly that if she lets go of the coffee table, she's going to fall on her bum. And "punishment" is not what's going on here. We're simply introducing a "hitting your bum on the floor" aspect to mommy saying "No, no, don't touch that". I want my children to be as naturally responsive to my commands as they are to the laws of gravity. I would never try to protect my child from experiencing gravity until I feel that he's old enough to "understand" it. I might put cushions around him on the floor so he doesn't injure himself. But he's got to tip side to side a few times so he learns how to hold his own balance. My baby knows that if he lets go of the coffee table he's going to sit down hard--he doesn't like that, so he holds on tight. My baby knows that if he touches when mommy says "No, no" he's going to get a swat--he doesn't like that, so he doesn't touch. That simple.

Next time.... "What we spank (for)" a post about what situations we use spanking for and why.

(yes, I realize the titles are getting a bit labored, but I'm having fun with it :)

1 comment:

Polly said...

"Them's my sentiments egzakly!" I've been thinking the same things with regard to the Suzuki method and how its philosophy plays out in so many areas of life . . . The "law" comes first and is easily incorporated into everyday life, before you come to understand all its ramifications. I would hate to think I had to understand something fully from all angles in order to start practicing it! It's like the four stages of learning. What are they . . . grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, right?