In Home Education Charlotte Mason discusses misbehaviors and consequences. My husband and I both practice positive parenting techniques which meshes well with a Charlotte Mason philosophy. Both of our children went through a stage of not wanting to brush their teeth. This is a fairly common habit among young children, can you agree? In fact, if my husband and I were not careful it could easily turn into a battle.
It got to a point that we approached the bedtime routine with dread because no one wanted to brush their teeth. I would love for you to believe that we are parenting to perfection and have it all figured out, but that doesn’t really apply to anyone so I won’t lie to you. However, in time we learned and our experience relates well to Miss Masons teachings.
Parenting, Misbehaviors and Consequences
“There is a law by which all rewards and punishments should be regulated: They should be natural, or at any rate the relative consequences of conduct; should imitate, as nearly as may be without injury to the child.” (Charlotte Mason Home Education pg. 148)
My husband and I quickly learned that this needn’t be a battle at all. As Miss Mason suggested we applied a relative consequence or we also refer to it as an associated consequence. It was a discussion we had with each child prior to bedtime. Our conversation went something like this:
Mom: “I want you to prepare yourself, so tonight expect to brush your teeth.”
Child: “I don’t want to.”
Mom: “It is your choice but should you choose not to then you will not be allowed any special treats tomorrow.”
This worked nearly instantly with my second child. I’ve been so consistent in my discipline (sorry first child you were the expirement) with him, that he does as he is expected to. Now my first child well that’s a whole other child-each one is different.
“It is evident that to administer rewards and punishments on this principle requires patient consideration and steady determination on the mother’s part.”
My oldest has some sensory issues and it affects all aspects of her life. To simply brush her teeth can be daunting, so it took careful consideration regarding the smell and texture of the toothpaste. We had an open and honest empathetic conversation until she trusted to trial and error various toothpaste. Eventually we were able to navigate through the offending sensory stimuli.
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(This was the “one” that was least offensive to her, it has a pleasant smell, the bubble gum flavor is mild, and it isn’t grainy so no issues with texture. I would have preferred Tom’s brand but it was a no go for her.)
There may have been some residual fear approaching teeth brushing but we were always quick to respond in kind empathetic tones. As we moved towards progress we had this dialogue with our child with different needs:
Mom: “Tonight I know you can brush your teeth.”
Child: “I can’t.”
Mom: “I know your scared (validates feelings) and that is ok to feel scared but I know you can brush your teeth. You have your safe toothpaste and the tooth brush you picked out. I know you can do it.” (<—encouraging statement)
Child: “I don’t want to.”
Mom: “It is your choice but I cannot allow you to get cavities, treats usually have extra sugar which cause cavities. Therefore, if you choose not to brush your teeth then you are not allowed any special treats.”
Charlotte discusses that a mother should have steady determination, in this same passage she mentions that mothers should be “continual” in their discipline. I took this to mean persistent and consistent. I think with my child who has different needs, I tend to pity her and I may be soft at times out of sympathy. Yet to allow this pity could actually hinder her so I must be firm and diligent in my duties out of love for her. For three solid days we approached teeth brushing with the same dialogue and for three solid days I held fast to the associated consequence: no special treats.
I remember her breaking point- watching her brother eat a popsicle her favorite: orange. She wanted one so badly and she asked with puppy dog eyes. “Can I please please please have a popsicle?” I felt that pity again and I wanted so much to give it to her. My children melt my heart but I know the importance of these small lessons, so I stood my ground.
That night my daughter brushed her teeth.
Special Note: I want to be clear, never withhold meals or healthy snacks from your child as this is detrimental to their health and simply cruel.
“The child who has done well gains some natural award.” (CM Home Education pg 148)
Which brings me to driving this good habit home, when our children brushed their teeth (after they wouldn’t) the very next time they asked for a special treat we emphasized “Yes, because this morning you brushed your teeth.”
The above book is a detailed approach to positive parenting solutions and I keep it in my mother’s morning basket, right next to my bible and Home Education.
It is phenomenal.
It may seem so small and so insignificant but these small habits build up and form upon each other. Do you have any struggles or battles? What are your thoughts on natural and relative consequences?