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January 18, 2002
a year ago
three years ago
four years ago

Positives Are Useful

This morning started on a very interesting note and problem. John needed the checkbook to write Joan a check for the week. He couldn't find it and we started walking through all the events of the last week since I had gone swimming Wednesday night. I'd brought the checkbook with me to the rec. center, and I'd used it to write a check for my punch card for my water aerobics.

I was pretty convinced that I'd somehow lost it between the time I wrote the check at the beginning of the class and now. I was very sure of it, eventhough I'd been very careful to keep the checkbook in my purple bag, and I'd double checked it probably every time I put something into the bag or taken something out. I could have also sworn that I put the checkbook carefully back into the drawer it was supposed to be in, but I also know that my memory is faulty. Lots and lots of nights of not remembering John getting up in the middle of the night to put Jet back to sleep has made it very clear to me that my memory cannot and never will be perfect.

So I was pretty convinced I was the culprit, but John never once blamed me and he never got into anything that even approached accusing me of being careless with the book. Instead, we went through every detail we could think of, and we tried everything we could think to try. He called the rec. center, and they said that they hadn't seen it. We looked through all the coats. We looked through all the kitchen drawers. We searched Joan's car, and we didn't find it. Finally, we came home from Joan's, and we just gave up.

I went up to do some work so I'd have something done before my noon cleaning appointment, and John worked at the desk in the kitchen. After about ten minutes I heard an, "Oh!"

I rushed to the railing and John was laughing. He'd put the checkbook in the box that held our stock account checkbooks. He'd just been cleaning up the drawer, and tucked it in there thinking it was the stock account book. Yay! We found it! I thanked him for never resorting to blame and he laughed and said that he *knew* that if he blamed me, we'd find that he'd been the one to misplace the checkbook.

It just all made me feel good. We had tackled the problem, sidestepped whose mistake it was, whatever blame and fault finding that might have happened, and we ended up happy with the result and happy with each other. I liked that.

I'm reading a book called Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., and it's a wonderful book, especially for new parents who are trying to figure out an effective way to help their kids learn responsibility, self-esteem, and a positive outlook on life. It's really interesting. It would be somewhat harder to use it for any relationship, as one is far more motivated to get it to work for child in ones care, but there are some useful concepts for even general relationships.

I can see John using a lot of them daily, and there are aspects of how he works that now make far more sense to me. One of the things he does when a situation starts to blow up emotionally is that he simply doesn't blow up. He is very calm, he doesn't get grim, and most of all he stays kind. He's noticed that some people get upset when he doesn't get upset. I sometimes think people need everyone to blow up just to give them permission to behave badly without guilt, and when John doesn't do that it throws a monkey wrench in their usual habits. Plus, people expect retaliation and when John doesn't give that to them, they react badly to that. It's like a pop machine that doesn't spit out a pop when they put money in, they kick it just because it doesn't do what they expect it to do.

John's calm, however, makes many things, in the long-term much easier. He doesn't tear down my self-esteem. He doesn't do the revenge cycles of 'well you hurt me so I can hurt you'. He doesn't do things he'll regret later.

I like that. I want to do more of *that*.

Jane Nelsen's book is all about *that*, with very practical guidelines, rules and things to remember. They're *useful*, practical, and there are a lot of examples of how it can start out looking like it's not going to work, along with the attendant doubts and fears, and then what it looks like when it does work in the long run. Best of all it makes a great deal of sense.

It really doesn't make sense to me that there seems to be an axiom of discipline that a child *has* to be made to feel bad in order to do better. It's just nutty. Why would that motivate anyone to be better? Why wouldn't that just make someone want to quit or really resent the bad feelings, first, instead of even caring, anymore, about the original problem?

I really liked how this book pointed out specific problems, how to be aware of them, and how to try and fix them, and the big, big, big emphasis on the fact that failures and mistakes are opportunities to get better and to sharpen the tools needed to fix things. There are no perfect people, there are relationships that are fun, loving, powerful, interesting and rewarding between imperfect people.

The long-term goal is to teach kids how to do things for themselves, everything from how to take and keep responsibility to how to evaluate their own achievements independent of self worth. The book contains a lot of interesting social commentary on why it's so important, now, that kids learn how to make their own choices and decisions and why it's not something that used to happen as much.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with kids. For my own sake, it also helped me figure out a lot of what happened with me with respect to authoritarian upbringing and some of the things I can be doing, with John, to help my self-esteem. There's a lot in here for simply working out problems that any two people run into and doing it with mutual respect and responsibility. It would probably have helped me with some of my old roommates, the principles behind why nagging doesn't work with kids would probably have helped me figure out why nagging never helped with roommates, either.

Jet came home asleep from Joan's. I went off to my cleaning appointment, and it was, in the words of the dental hygienist, "A very boring cleaning." Which is always good news. My toothguard was bugging me a little bit, so I made an appointment to get it looked at, but it's nearly three weeks out as we're gone to San Diego for a week, and then Dr. Davis is out for a week. I think I can last that long.

Home again, home again, to a cranky baby. Jet had only slept for 15 minutes past when I'd left. I nursed him, and he didn't take a nap, so I had lunch with him and then took him upstairs with John and I. He kept trying to climb into my lap, so I finally went and changed him. He then played for a while by himself, with some of his bath toys, and then with the cords off the home desk. Luckily, they were only attached to a light speaker.

Eventually John took Jet down into the basement with him and John biked while I finished off work and my status report and a few other things. I actually got a lot done today, as I was fairly focussed and I knew what I had to get through. That was nice. Simply to know.

Jet came up from the basement really, really cranky. So I nursed him and he fell asleep for a late nap. I was just glad that he might be less cranky when he woke up.

I made chicken enchiladas for dinner, there were five corn tortillas left in the fridge, part of a red onion, a big chunk of cheddar, and some of the roast chicken from the weekend. They baked in the oven while John showered, and then he made spinach salad and we had fun eating it while Jet slept. Jet woke up when we were done, and he was still really grumpy and cranky.

Jet played and played and went on past his usual pumpkin time. He nursed for only ten minutes, and refused to go to sleep. When I put him down, he was falling over himself from tiredness, but he just kept going anyway and would cry and wail whenever he did fall over. He would get frustrated at everything, and he wouldn't nurse, and even when he did nurse, his eyes would be wide open, looking around.

Finally, at 10:30, I took him up to his room, away from the TV, and we nursed up there, and he went right to sleep. Whew. John went to sleep himself, then. It was really late by then, and I hadn't written a thing and I really wanted to finish reading Positive Discipline. So I stayed up to do that. Jet woke up at 11, and I bounced him back to sleep and after that interruption, I went to bed myself.

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Copyright 2002 Liralen Li. All Rights Reserved.