Brad and I have spent a lot of time planning and discussing how we want to raise our son (perhaps me a bit more than him with the research and obsessing!) All the while I realize that things never go according to plan. I am reminded of the saying of (apparently) Helmuth von Moltke who said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” (thanks to my friend Jeramy for introducing me to this saying). I realize that sounds like I’m calling my baby the enemy but that’s not the intention. What I mean is that I can’t predict how he will be and whether my ideas for him will work.
Nonetheless, I think it’s a good idea to be prepared and so I have mapped out a “battle plan” for our intentions of dealing with child rearing…
We believe in a philosophy known as “positive discipline.” There’s a misconception that that means letting your kids get away with anything and telling them that they are special and above the rules. This is not the case at all. Rather, it assumes that even young children can talk through their feelings and learn to cope in productive ways. They should still be held to a high standard and discipline problems dealt with swiftly but kindly.
I think that the most important thing we can teach Garrick Ravi is how to recognize and cope with his emotions. To that end we are making a “feelings corner” that will function a bit like a time-out. When he is misbehaving, one of us will take him to this area and talk to him about what’s going on. There will be a laminated figure of a boy with a spot to place an emotion. There will be emotion pictures and he can choose one to stick to the boy’s hand. On the other side will be a wheel of coping strategies for him to choose what will help him calm down. The choices are: deep breaths (with a pinwheel to help), count to ten (with cotton balls to help), a glitter calming jar (watch the glitter settle), jumping jacks, hug a big stuffed bear (or hug one of us), color/draw/journal.
Also in this space will be a mirror to help him identify what he’s feeling, soft pillows and blankets, and the book my husband has for his classroom: Moody Cow Meditates.
Our number one plan for discipline is to get down on his level and talk to him. If he needs to be removed from a situation we plan to do that calmly and without anger. I also plan to make some travel versions of some of the calming down techniques.
We would both dearly love for Garrick Ravi to be bilingual, but it seems unlikely we’ll be able to make that happen. I certainly have lots of kids materials for Hindi (board books, blocks, cartoons, stories, etc.) and I can teach him to read Hindi, but with neither Brad nor I being fluent, I don’t think we’ll be able to get him truly bilingual.
Knowing all the benefits to growing up with multiple languages, this is an area where I feel like I’m letting my son down. We’ll give him as much Hindi as we are able and perhaps my skills with the language will grow in tandem with his. We will see. It’s a shame there isn’t a bilingual preschool around here for Hindi or any Indian language.
I want to try to minimize the number of toys. I mean, he should have plenty to play with and lots for developing his creativity and brain. But I hate to see kids overwhelmed by the number of options they have. One idea I like is to keep toys in rotation. Play with one group for a while and then switch them out for a different group that was held in reserve.
I would like to focus on creative play and do a lot of crafts and making things ourselves. I’m also going to try to minimize the bright plastic toys and have more wooden toys. I’m not too attached to that plan, though.
I’ve always thought that children should get a solid foundation in religion when they are young and make up their own minds about it later. That said, Brad never had that and he was still able to find spirituality. And I also don’t want to narrow Garrick Ravi’s experience too much. Meaning that, although I will give him a foundation in Hinduism, we will also teach him about other religions and to be open minded about the experience of God/Gods.
Chores and Allowance
This is one area I’m still not certain about. On the one hand I hear the idea that kids should learn to do chores without compensation because it’s part of being a family and working together to keep the household running. On the other hand having their own source of income teaches them about money and responsibility.
I’ve heard a few different ideas on how to balance this. Such as having chores in the child’s room be uncompensated but chores around the house they get money for (viewing their room as “home” and the larger house as “work”). Or having a base set of expected chores and then a list of optional ones that can earn them money.
I do want Garrick Ravi to have his own money so he can make his own choices and learn to manage it. For example, if clothes are important to him then he should be able to buy the ones he likes. Because if it’s left up to me we’ll all be buying our clothes from the second-hand shop!
One thing I am certain about is that even young children can have age-appropriate chores so by three or four he’ll have responsibilities of some sort around the house.
I want to try to follow his lead when it comes to his hobbies. I want to be aware and paying close attention to his personality and what he likes rather than forcing him to do things I like. It’s always hard to know how much to push a kid when it comes to hobbies. If they want to do something but get bored with it after a week, do you force them to keep going? It’s certainly good to teach them not to give up on something too easily and to persevere. But if they’re miserable, do you let them keep trying new things?
We certainly hope that he will follow our geeky lead and like board gaming over sports. But if he gets into, say, American football, I guess I will have to finally learn how that game works.
To start out with we’ll put him in activities we like (such as Brad’s martial arts classes) and we’ll go from there trying to figure out where his interests are.
I like a lot of hippie/natural/attachment parenting-type things but I also like when I can find a compromise between that and modern advantages [Brad says if Dr Sears (attachment parenting) is one end of the spectrum and the King method is the other, with Dr Spock in-between, I’m about half way between Sears and Spock]. For example, my plan to give birth at a birth center rather than at home or at a hospital. Best of both worlds, in my opinion. And that’s also why we plan to co-sleep with an attached crib. My cousin gifted us a lovely crib and we are going to put it together with three sides and attach the fourth side to the edge of our bed on my side. That way he is sleeping close enough to touch but not actually in the bed with us. This should make night time feedings and changes much easier on all of us, at least when he is very small.
He does have his own room but right now it is filled with a changing table, rocking chair, books, toys, and clothes. No bed. We will see how he does with the co-sleeping and let him decide when he is ready to move to his own room.
Some people say that this kind of attention would be detrimental to his independence, but I believe that the opposite is true. We do want to raise an independent and self-sufficient son and I am convinced that the foundation for that starts with reliability and strong support from his parents. I have no intention of turning into a “helicopter parent” but while he is young he will have the security of knowing that he is safe and close to us at all times. That security should allow him to develop confidence and independence.
Food is a tricky one for me. I was an extremely picky eater as a child and I can still remember the fear that I associated with most foods. People will tell you that picky eaters are doing it for attention or to test limits, but those things were not true for me. Being asked to take even one bite of something I wasn’t comfortable with was truly terrifying. I believe that these issues stem from a mild sensory processing disorder but I have never been diagnosed. So while I understand the reasoning behind cooking one thing and telling the kid to just go hungry if they won’t eat it, I’m not sure that’s the approach I want to take.
We’ll have to see what Garrick Ravi is like and go from there. I’m trying to eat a wide variety of foods now so he will be familiar with diverse tastes. He’ll be breastfed and so again the flavors that I’m eating will have an effect on him (my ability to deal with food has gotten a whole lot better!). When he starts on solids I plan to start with foods that have flavor rather than bland rice cereals.
I also don’t want to pressure him to eat. It’s okay if he doesn’t clear his plate. He can eat what he feels like and I’m not going to push him to eat more. But I will also try to avoid excessive snacks so he is actually hungry at meal times and maybe deal with a few meltdowns while he gets used to the idea of eating enough during meals to keep him satisfied.
I will try to encourage him to view food as art and appreciate it’s beauty and the colors and shapes and textures (which is how I started to get over my food problems), but if he does have food issues like mine then I will cater to his tastes.
I realize I say “I” a lot in this post. For the most part Brad and I, luckily, see very eye-to-eye about child rearing. Being a Montessori middle school teacher, he has a lot of knowledge and experience with slightly older children while I have more experience and knowledge about infants. We’ve discussed most of the issues listed here quite a bit so we’ll be prepared and consistent and not be arguing about it after the fact.
We watched this show together, which was great for bringing up thoughts and discussion about baby raising.
To make sure I’ve covered any blind spots I may have, I also asked a friend who I know to be very good with kids, to keep an eye out for anything he thinks I’m doing that’s not the best for Garrick Ravi. I know we all can’t help but have some judgy thoughts when we observe other people’s parenting and I’ve asked him to tell me when he has those thoughts so I can better see and evaluate what I’m doing.
It’s possible I may be overthinking all this, but that’s just what I do! Like I said, I want to be prepared but I also recognize the necessity of flexibility.