I've recently begun a new job, which brings me into contact with children. Other people's children. You know what they can be like. Wonderful, challenging... surprisingly unlike your own.
I laughed at myself when I had a moment for reflection on my first day, because I found myself using the same language with these 'other' children that we do here at home. For example, making them look each other in the eye and say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you". I expect them to respond respectfully to my authority as the adult in the room. (I'm not a martinet by any means, but when I say "Don't hit him" I expect to at least hear an "ok", not, "I don't care")
Imagine my dismay then, when I found myself chasing a child around the room while 23 others sat in a circle on the floor. This boy would not join the others, would not sit on a chair for a time out, would not come to me when I called him, or stop running. I chased him around the play kitchen, the art easel, the activity tables, the bookshelves, trying to literally corner him to a stand still. I had an out-of-body experience brought on by the death of my pride. I knew it was ridiculous behaviour on my part, not at all conducive to encouraging his classmates to consider me someone who had a handle on the situation. I knew it was the wrong thing to do: you don't run after a child - it encourages them to keep on running, and it sends all the wrong messages about who is in charge. I knew all that, and told myself that,and yet I still did it.
I couldn't believe that five year-old boy would not listen! I've got a pretty good drill sergeant look, perfected from years of observing my dad use it on his men (and on me, big old softy that he was). The Peanuts here at home are by turns contrary and rebellious so it's not like they jump every old time I or their parents tell them to. We get questions, protests, refusals like any other household with children experiences. But ultimately, the lines are clearly drawn: we are the adults, and they are the children. They know they've gone as far as they can when we tell them that very thing, case closed, often in the words we promised ourselves we'd never use: Because I said so.
Remember consequences? Being grounded, kp'd, and so on? The concept seems very out of vogue these days. There are consequences in this house for disobedience, however old fashioned that may be. Whether it is sitting on the stairs for a timeout, or going to bed early, or no tv or Wii privileges for a specified time, an effort is made to help the little, unformed, not-quite-ready-to-take-on-the-world people understand that not everything they can think up is a good thing, that when you flood the kitchen floor on purpose because you thought it would be fun to have your own water slide, you have to make up for the damage somehow.
The only recourse we seemed to have in this situation was to tell the child we were going to write a note home to mom that he didn't listen in class. I'll bet he's very sorry for his actions, and will never, ever do it again.