Saturday, August 8, 2009


Enthusiasm is generally considered to be a positive thing. To be Enthusiastic about something is to be excited about it. The lack of that excitement usually signals a problem. I spent many years of my life not being enthusiastic, but being very negative and only seeing the down side to things. Since marrying David I can gladly say that that has changed to a great degree. Being negative bothers him immensely, so I began to learn very early in our marriage to try and be more positive.

As with almost any personality change it started from a desire to make him happy and not cause a problem and later blossomed into my own desire to feel happier by seeing more good than bad. Admittedly I struggle a great deal with that still, especially with the increase of what my sister termed the fetal girth. It's hard to be positive when a tiny and bony person is trying to turn your belly button (or the spot that used to be your belly button) inside out. But still I always try to find something good about a situation, kind of Pollyanna-like.

For instance, this darling little girl is extremely active, going for what feels like hours on end with constant movement. Enough that I felt physically sick to my stomach at times. Not a happy feeling. But! On the upside, if she's moving, I know she is alive. I'm sure it sounds silly to many, but it helps me.

Anyway, back on track. Enthusiasm. Basically I have issues. Some stem from childhood and things that happened then, some I believe are simply part of who I am as a person and who I would be no matter what happened to me in this life. As a mother I have tried many different discipline techniques, one of which includes denying enthusiasm. Mostly I have done this with Mark, my oldest. As we all know, the oldest usually gets the worst of the parenting mistakes, but hopefully with divine grace will survive it all.

When he was younger and would do things he shouldn't like climb on cabinets, or into the crib, or do anything that he wasn't supposed to do, I would try to get him to stop by taking something from him. I always tried to take something that I knew meant a great deal to him, hoping that his desire to have the item returned would triumph over his desire to do the wrong thing. Very quickly he learned to squelch emotional attachment and not care about anything very much because if he did he would lose it. No, I'm not making this up, Road Less Traveled, remember?!

One of Peck's patients he writes about has a grave lack of enthusiasm for anything bordering on suicidal. He cares about nothing and nothing makes him excited or happy. Over months of therapy they discover that between this man's brothers and parents, every object of enthusiasm was either ridiculed, removed, or squelched in an effort to torment on the part of the brothers, or to discipline on the part of the parents. The man said one thing that really stuck me to the core: "Everything I was enthusiastic about they took away. Everything I loved I lost."


What have I done? Why am I still doing it?

Mark's personality, I believe, has some similarities to mine. He tends to focus on the negative rather naturally. Was he always this way, or is it a result of what has happened to him in his short life? I really don't know. We have talked with him about it in an effort to help him understand how much better it feels to be positive. I can honestly say that I have seen him put effort into being more positive and less negative, so hopefully he will have a more enthusiastic adolescence than I had. Besides the fact that he is not me, nor is his life mine (that was a hard lesson to learn).

So on the level of discipline. I justified my actions by believing that I was using Love and Logic parenting. Trying to find a natural consequence for his actions. So if he takes a cookie without permission, he is denied the privilege of having a cookie for a week. Somethings there just are no obvious consequences for, like getting out of bed at night, all the time. After nine years of child raising, we still have not figured out how to keep kids in bed without physical restraint. So I usually threaten the removal of his most prized privilege. Wii time. He is freakishly good at video games. I don't know how or why, but he is. I am sure it is due in part to the fact that that is where he expends the majority of his mental powers, but still, it is a little creepy how easily he wins or completes them. So I routinely would take away from him the one thing he loves and truly believes himself to be accomplished at. Can we say killing the spirit? yikes.

What do I do now. My first step is to never use the Wii time as a negative consequence again. So what do I do when he breaks one of the basic house rules (no stealing, no hitting, etc.)?

Well, if I ever figure it out I'll write a book. Lucky for me that as he gets older, he powers of reasoning mature and he is breaking those rules less often. (see me being positive, I almost can't stop myself now, which is a good thing of course). I am glad that all of my children present different parenting challenges. That way if you have a terrible time figuring out how to parent one, learning how to parent the next, might not be so hard:)