August 31, 2011

Philosophies and Motivations

A couple days ago, I had to put Joy in time-out TWICE for hitting her sister (to be specific, the second time she pinched Grace's arm, which she seemed to think was perfectly reasonable and should not result in a time-out, yet was strangely reluctant when I offered to pinch her arm so she could see how it felt to her two-year-old sister). As we talked about why she was getting disciplined, I realized that my parenting philosophy, the principles and guidelines I want to instill in my girls, has finally crystallized into something solid.

No "hitting is wrong." Instead, we talked about the need to love other people, especially her sister, and that love means wanting to protect them from being hurt, not causing them hurt. We (or rather, I, since Joy's contribution to the conversation consisted of "Do you like your shirt?" and "No, I don't love sissy" when pressed for an outright answer. Which is okay, because she's not yet four, and has plenty of years to understand love) talked about how important it is to be the kind of person who shows their love by acting in a loving and kind manner, and how all our actions ought to be motivated by thinking of what is best for others, not for us.

And that, in a nutshell, sums up my thoughts on life, and how I want my girls to grow up thinking. If I set them a bunch of rules and regulations, they might look very good on the outside, but what of their motivations - will they be prideful and smug? No, I want them to look at their insides, to think about their motivations, and then act upon that. My mother, who is currently studying philosophy as part of her MA in Classics, tells me this is "Virtue Ethics," which sounds pretty good to me.

When they do something well, we praise their sweet spirits, their helpfulness, their thoughtfulness, anything but the deed itself. When they do something wrong, we talk about why the deed was wrong more than the deed itself.

This all has an added side benefit - girls especially are so driven by outward appearance; so much emphasis is put on beauty. I want my girls solidly ingrained in the idea that it is what is inside of you that makes you beautiful, not how pretty your features and figure are (and let me tell you, with those two beautiful elfin girls, it is HARD not to gush all the time about how pretty they look!). They will be getting enough pressure from outside sources, the older they grow, to focus on the image they are presenting to the world. I want to start them with a firm foundation that it is what motivates them, rather than their actions themselves, that is important.

It would be a whole lot easier to just set a list of rules - do this, don't do that, but hey, who ever got into parenting expecting it to be EASY?

And seeing this sort of behavior between the two of them makes it all worthwhile. Wouldn't you agree?


  1. I actually think it sounds far easier to have one over-arching rule: love one another. (Apparently Jesus did, too, right?) It's thinking critically about how to apply that one rule to everyday actions that's hard, but critical thinking is a skill to build like everything else.

    I agree on the "beautiful girls" thing: I have a hard time not telling Lulu how pretty she is all the time. Whenever I do, I try to follow it up by saying, "And you're smart, and kind, and generous, which is better than pretty." But it always feels a little bit like an afterthought since "pretty!" came so spontaneously. All this--and she can't even understand words yet. Sigh.

    I agree that your girls are beautiful, as well--inside and out.

  2. I know what you mean about the follow-up - I usually come out with something like, "And you are beautiful inside, which is what makes you so pretty on the outside, and far more important!" And they stare at me like I'm talking gibberish. Sigh.