Monday, November 8, 2010


The events involving the glue gun, the subsequent blog post, as well as the responses to it via facebook and the blog have given me the opportunity to further hone my parenting skills. I don't know what I was hoping for when I posted.

A lot of emotions went through my head before I wrote that entry. One emotion was admiration for my son's creativity. Another was fear for his safety and, as my dear sister-in-law was not shy to mention, the safety of my home and everyone in it. Yet another emotion was the enjoyment of experiencing yet another story I can share with the world.

I guess I was kinda hoping for some kind of King Solomon-split-the-baby-geniousness that would drive the point home and ensure my son would never sneak behind my back and do something potentially destructive again. Oh, and because it was still fresh for me... also, I would have enjoyed a side order of vindication.

The truth is that this particular incident happened between nine months and a year ago. (We are certain it was in our old home but he didn't get the K'nex until Christmas.) In the life of a child, that is a very long time. The particular situation and development that led to this particular crime simply no longer exists.

John is not the same person he was a year ago. But, as some of you point out, consequences exist regardless of how long ago the event happened. We certainly don't want to teach our children that if they remain in hiding long enough, they can dodge their responsibilities.

The wonderful discussion and observations by people who love my family caused me to reflect. And that's always an opportunity for growth.

Given time to reflect, I have to examine my purposes. Whenever I discover one of my children has done something wrong, I have a desire to dole out a punishment. (Or get back at them...) And conversely I desire to dole out a reward when they have done something right.

What I have learned in 9 years of parenting, is that punishments and rewards aren't necessary for every behavior. One can praise and reward too little as well as too much. It is the same with punishment.

When I was in college, we talked a lot about behavior and discipline. One important discussion was the definition of punishment. Punishment is a consequence enacted after a behavior which lessens the likelihood of that behavior happening again.

Upon remembering this, I realized I don't need to punish John for sticking a plastic toy in a glue gun. The liklihood of that specific infraction happening again is unbelievably low. Whatever experiment he was testing, he completed. He satisfied his curiosity. He won't need to do it again.

So I have to look at what is the real issue here. The real issue is that he broke a stated rule and then lied to cover it up. That part we're going to work on. And guess what, we have lots of opportunities around here to practice.

If we are talking about a police/societal situation, we can't deal with intent. We only have the law. But in this case, I'm a parent... and my job is to teach. So intention is actually very much to the point. I desire my children to operate morally and be responsible for their decisions.

The beauty of homeschooling and having my children with me so much is that I have a chance to see these character flaws magnified in our daily lives so that it becomes obvious they must be dealt with. Ironically, these are two areas (breaking stated rules and lying to conceal) we have been focusing on with John for a few months.

The consequence of this pattern of behavior is already being dealt with. The discovery of this particular act just solidifies our need to stay the course. But one thing it did bring to light was to remind me of John's need to experiment physically with things.

So we had a talk with John the day after my blog entry, reminding him that we have rules for his safety not to curb his joy. We talked about practices that we have in place to remind him how important it is to obey. We also expressed our understanding of his need to find out how things work.

So we have a new class at Laughner Learning Labs called things John wants to know. And we will endeavor to walk him through the scientific process to ask questions, hypothosize, test. And if something doesn't work, we are going to help him research why.

So, be prepared. He's been wanting to light an aluminum can full of dry leaves on fire for a while. He thinks he can make a fire starter. Sounds like a perfect subject to start studying. Safety will be our first consideration, of course. I guess you could say we've decided to fight fire with fire.

Do they make baby-sized safety goggles?


Mary said...

What a wonderful idea!! I love learning what your family is doing and how you handle situations. I'm paying attention for my own little experimenter!

Mary said...

I love hearing about your family experiences. I've got my own little expirementer!