Category Archives: discipline

2012 Top Ten

What a year for parenting. Between Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, there was no shortage of avenues for crazy ideas. Laptop-shooting dads, public shamings on Facebook, and negative and anti-kid “pins” were all the rage this year.

As I went through my stats for the year to get this post together, I realized that once again my most read pieces were those that responded to these popular trends.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  On the one hand, it makes sense…. these are things that people are thinking about, and talking about, and are just generally in the public’s consciousness.  On the other, it bothers me.  Bothers me because they’re also the posts that garner me the most negative attention, the most “Why don’t you stop judging everyone else and worry about your own family” kind of comments.   It was not too long ago that I was told I should stop picking on everyone.

That’s not who I am, and it’s not what this blog is.

Still, there were things that I think needed to be said, and with few exceptions I don’t regret saying them.   I do imagine the blog going in a bit of a different direction in 2013, both as a conscious decision and just because I’ve gone in a different direction.    As an authentic extension of myself, this space is a growing, changing, fluid organism.  And thank God for that.

Here are my most read posts for the year, in order of most to least views:

Not My Idea of a Hero:  My response to Tommy Jordan, the man who gained his 15 minutes of fame when the video of him shooting bullets through his daughter’s laptop went viral on YouTube.   I took a lot of flack on this one… for “judging” him, and for not respecting him and his decisions as a parent.   But the man took a gun, shot it through his daughter’s property, and used fear, intimidation, and public ridicule as a way to discipline.  I stand by this one.

I stole your stuff.  Now I’m holding it for ransom:  My take on the popular Pinterest idea of collecting your kids’ things that were left lying around, putting them in a big bin, and then having them do chores to earn them back.   A lot of negative responses to this too (people hold very tightly to their treasured pins :)), especially to my use of the word, “steal.”  But in my house, my childrens’ things are their own, and taking something that doesn’t belong to you is stealing.  I stand by this one too.

Dear Chick Fil A, I Love You But:  Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick Fil A, made a public statement about gay marriage and what he called traditional family values.  People boycotted, people supported him, and everyone went crazy.  The brouhaha on both sides of this issue was just too much to ignore, so I had to say my piece.  My only regret on this one?  That I wasn’t brave enough to say how I really felt about homosexuality.  That I hid behind hypotheticals and political correctness and the same “traditional family values” that had started the whole thing.   What I didn’t do was come right out and say that yes, I’m a Christian who absolutely loves God and loves Jesus…. and doesn’t happen to think that homosexuality is a sin.  I didn’t say that I think that the way homosexuals have been treated in the name of Christianity is absolutely abhorrent, and I didn’t say that I think something needs to change in a HUGE way in this country (and that that change should not involve denying gay individuals the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.)  I didn’t share that I too was once an adamant “It’s a sin, but…” Christian, or the journey that it took for me to feel otherwise, or the years of researching on my own, trying to find out what the Bible actually did and did not say, or my gratitude for people like John Shore, and other Christians who were brave enough to question the status quo – and write about it – long before me.   So there it is.   And in 2013, I won’t shy away from talking about it anymore.

Mom’s Rules and Is it Okay to Let Your Child Cry?  and The Problem with Facebook Parenting:    I don’t want to keep repeating myself, so I’ll comment on these all together.  Some things are worth taking a stand about.  The way children are treated is one of them.

Unschooling, Christianity & Other Misconceptions and The Five Rs for New Homeschoolers and Unschooling:  Don’t You Worry That They’ll Miss Something?   I’m glad these made the list.  I’m in a season right now of not wanting to really talk about unschooling so much as just LIVE it.  I know that people are still out there looking for information and reassurance though, and I’d love to think that they’re able to find some of that in some of my past posts…. if nothing else, as a jumping off point for further research.

The Boy Named Johnny:  About an awesome, energetic, different kid in Everett’s cub scout troop.  I’m glad this made the list too, especially in light of the Connecticut school shootings, and the attention being paid to the fact that the shooter had Asperger’s.  I think it’s an important conversation to be had.

And a bonus number 11:

When is it Okay to Judge?:   When I saw this was in the number 11 spot, I knew I had to include it.  Please read it, especially if any of the above posts make you want to call me judgmental.  🙂

Love you all, and I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.


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The Black and White of Spanking

 

Yesterday morning, I was getting a bath ready for the three-year-old.  As I was adjusting the temperature of the water, I tossed several of the countless bath toys that live in the tub over to the other end, so I could get to the plug.   Tegan came up behind me, sounding extremely concerned.  “Stop!  Stop throwing those toys!”  At first I thought she was afraid it was going to hurt them in some way.

“Oh it’s okay, they’re just foam,”  I told her.

“But you should stop throwing them!”

“Why?”

“Because Daddy says we shouldn’t throw.”    Ah, there it was.  I’m not sure what the incident she was referring to entailed, but I’m very certain that he’d asked her to stop throwing only because there was risk of damage or impalement of some sort.  We talked about throwing for a minute, but I’m not concerned.  I fully trust that as she grows and matures she’ll learn the nuances about throwing.  Throwing balls and frisbees and wadded up paper is okay.  Throwing pillows and stuffed animals is usually okay.  Throwing rocks is okay if they’re thrown in a river, but not if they’re thrown at someone’s head.   Certain places lend themselves to throwing:  playgrounds, parks, her own house.  Others, not so much:  Church, the library, a dentist’s office.  The socially accepted norms about throwing are filled with shades of grey, so a blanket statement of “we shouldn’t throw,” would be neither appropriate nor truthful.  Of course we can throw… but sometimes we shouldn’t.

Hitting, however, is not a grey area.  It’s black and white.

Hitting is wrong.  Forcefully striking another person is wrong.  Striking someone smaller and weaker than you is especially wrong.   There’s a reason that hitting someone can land you an assault charge.  Being hit is hurtful, damaging, and violating… not just to a person’s body, but to their psyche as well.   We should all be able to expect personal space and safety, as well as freedom from being harmed at someone else’s hand.

Don’t agree with me?  Ask yourself if you’ve taught your own children that they shouldn’t hit.  Ask yourself if you’d sit idly by while your child was striking a peer.  Ask yourself if you wouldn’t immediately react if your six year old were hitting a one year old.  Of course you would…. because you know hitting is wrong.

Per dictionary.com:

Hit:  (verb) To deal a blow or stroke to

Spanking is hitting.  That makes spanking wrong in and of itself, but I want to take it a step further.  Not only is spanking hitting, it is hitting someone much, much smaller and physically weaker than ourselves.   Say an average toddler is 25 pounds.  His mother is at least a good five or six times his size, his father possibly eight times.    If you’d intervene when your child were striking a smaller child (and you would), why on earth would an adult striking a child be in any way okay?   It’s not.

A child depends on his parents, more than anyone else, to keep him nurtured, safe, and protected.   How frightening and confusing it must be then, when he finds himself in trouble in some way (he’s angry or frustrated or made a mistake)  His feelings are big and scary and overwhelming, and he’s then physically hurt at his parent’s hand on top of it:  A hand that he expects to hold him, comfort him, protect him, love him.  Not hurt him.  Not only does it not help the situation, it exacerbates it.  It takes the pair further from a loving, connected relationship, and deeper into one of fear and mistrust.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “But I’m a Christian!  I’m commanded to spank!  Spanking’s biblical!”, my answer to you is no, it’s not biblical.   People use a few different justifications, but the (taken out of context) scripture most often used to propogate this misconception is this one:

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son,  but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” Proverbs 13:24

The rod referred to in this scripture – as well as the other “rod” scriptures – is that used by shepherds of that time, which were used to guide and protect sheep, not hit them.   And honestly, if you’re going to start pulling out old testament scriptures to justify your behaviors, then I hope you don’t ever braid your hair or wear jewelry or dresses or fancy clothes, because the old testament prohibits that too.

In any case, as Christians we are no longer supposed to be living under the old law but the new one that came with Jesus, which is one of love and freedom.     I want to challenge you – seriously – to find me one scripture, any scripture, anywhere in the Bible, that even hints at the possibility that Jesus would remotely consider striking a child.   If you can bring me that scripture, we can talk… otherwise there isn’t a conversation to be had.  I don’t advocate against spanking in spite of being a Christian, I do so in part because of it… because to be a Christian is to aspire to be Christ-like.  And Christ would never, ever, hit a child.

Finally, if you are here as a former spanker, whether the last time you spanked was last year or last week or five minutes ago, please know that you are absolutely welcome here, without judgment and without reproach.   I can give you help, support and/or resources for taking another path.   I have made parenting decisions that I would now make differently, to be sure, but spanking doesn’t happen to be one of them.  So I do hope that you’ll share your story, because your testimony as someone who has walked through it is far more powerful than any that I could ever give.

And while it’s true that we can’t change the past, we can learn from it.  We can heal from it.  And we can make better choices, starting right now.


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So I Hit Him

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The other day, my husband came home tired after a long day at work. He wasn’t feeling well, he’d had a fight with a co-worker, and he’d encountered snag after snag in a report that had to be done by the end of the day. He had yet to tell me, but he was also very concerned about upcoming budget cuts. He came inside, changed out of his work clothes, and sighed as he sank wearily into a living room chair.

I told him that he hadn’t yet fixed the drain in the kids’ bathroom sink, and that I expected him to do it as soon as possible.

“Are you serious?” he asked me. “I just got home, and – ”

“I asked you to do something,” I told him firmly, “and I expect you to do it with a good attitude.”

He wordlessly shook his head. He rolled his eyes.

So I hit him.

I did it for his own good, though. He had to learn that he couldn’t be so openly disrespectful and defiant. He had to learn that he couldn’t treat me that way, and that it was unacceptable for him to talk back. I didn’t hit him in anger, and I didn’t hit him hard enough to leave a mark. I just hit him hard enough and long enough for him to open his eyes to his own sinfulness. I hit him until he apologized, got up from that chair, and headed off to complete the task that I’d given him.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

No, the above never happened. But minus the hitting, it certainly could have. We all have bad days. We all have moments when we’re less than cheery with those we love, especially when we feel like we’re not being heard. We all have moments when we want, with every fiber of our being, to tell the person who’s ordering us around – and not considering our feelings – to BACK OFF. We’re human.

Most of us wouldn’t consider striking a spouse, or a friend, or a coworker for a moment of humanness (and even if we did, we recognize that it’s not exactly LEGAL) Yet the above scenario is something that’s played out with parents and children over and over again. The above justifications for spankings are ones that I hear verbatim every time the subject comes up.

They need to learn to obey the first time!
They need to learn to be respectful!
They need to learn who’s in charge!

You may argue that it’s not fair for me to compare a grown man to a child. He should already KNOW how to treat people. A child is still learning, still immature, still figuring out the way the world works. It’s our job as parents to make. them. understand.

Wouldn’t it follow then that they should receive more compassion, and not less? That they should be treated more gently, not less? Children are people… people with big feelings and strong emotions. They are looking to their parents for reassurance, for love, and for a positive example of how to treat themselves and how to treat others.

Will spanking meet that need? Or will it do the complete opposite? At its very very best, the most it can do is send a confusing message about blind compliance with people bigger than them… and that their own thoughts, opinions, and feelings do not matter.

I want my kids to feel safe in their own house, and in their relationship with their father and I. I want them to know that they can say anything to me without fear of punishment, and that they can trust that I will give them an honest and thoughtful response. I want them to know that I will apologize freely when I’ve hurt them, and I want them to know that I will forgive freely when they’ve done the same.

As for learning to be respectful: In the above example, I could’ve started by not treating my husband like he existed to meet my every whim and demand. He doesn’t, and neither do my kids. If I’d taken a step back and really listened and watched and empathized, I would have seen that nothing more was needed than a kind “Rough day?” or “Want to talk about it?” Either response would have garnered a far more positive outcome (for both of us) than any blaming or punishing ever could. Either response would have spoken volumes to how a person should be treated, and to how a person should be respected.

I think it’s interesting that companies hold all these meetings and conferences and seminars about effective communication and positive conflict resolution. I can’t help but wonder if it would even be needed if more people practiced the concept on their own children.

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline!

This post was selected as one of the Crème de la Crème of gentle discipline blogging! Click on the image to view more Crème de la Crème posts!

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Gentle Discipline: So what DO you do?


I have been thinking about discipline a lot the past several days (as have, apparently, many of you) I realized that what was bothering me the most about the negative comments I was receiving about the spilled milk post – aside from the people who felt led to name call – was the pervasive assumption that not punishing equaled not disciplining. That because I do not take a punitive approach, that I do not PARENT. The opposite is true.I got comment after comment after comment that said, “If you just let your kids do whatever they want…” which usually led into a diatribe about them never learning right from wrong, never having any respect for themselves or others, and ultimately turning into loud, dirty, trouble-making teenagers.

Parents who ignore their children’s behavior, parents who are not involved, parents who really do let their kids “run wild” (for lack of a better phrase) are being neglectful. Those who parent mindfully and who discipline gently are consciously present with their children. They are VERY much involved in showing, leading, modeling, and guiding their children.

It’s easy and immediate to offer up a “Go to your room!” or a “Look what you did!” It’s dis serving and neglectful to turn your back.  It’s deliberate and thoughtful to respond in a calm, and caring way. 

If you get nothing else from this post, please hear this:  Ignoring what your children are doing, and interacting with them respectfully are two completely and diametrically opposed things. 

One common thread I saw emerging in my comments, even when it was not expressly said, was “Well if you don’t punish, what DO you do?  How do you teach them right from wrong?  How will they learn?”  I’m going to take that for the honest question that it is.  Some people, for any number of reasons, do not know about alternatives.  They don’t know that there’s another way.  Some people want to do things differently, and want to break their cycle, but they honestly do not know where to start.  It’s for those people that I started to think about the following… a (partial) list of what I do do with my children in terms of discipline.

1. Listen

My friend Vickie, of Demand Euphoria (which is a blog you should immediately head on over to check out when you’re finished here) recently said it best when she said, “If you have a question about parenting your child, try asking your child first!”  We all act the way we act for a reason.   When I’m unclear about what’s going on with one of my children, I first try to stop and just listen.   I let them tell me why they’re thinking/acting/feeling a certain way.  Even young, non-verbal children can communicate what the problem is as long as we’re paying attention.  Are they tired?  Hungry?  Frustrated?  Sad?  Angry? Regardless of the situation, we can’t even begin to effectively deal with it unless we understand why it’s happening.  And we can only do that if we’re really in tune with our children.  We can only do that if we’re really listening.

2. Talk

While I think the listening has to come before the talking, we of course have to have an ongoing, respectful communication as we help our kids navigate the world.  I think that sometimes as parents we have a tendency to talk way too much (which is why I place listening first)  When Tegan threw the shoes in the water, a very brief and simple, “We don’t want those to get ruined,” was much more appropriate for the situation  – and her age – than a long-winded narrative about responsibility, respect, and ownership.  With the boys, who are older, I might use more words… but my experience tells me that less is still more, and that the listening has to come first.

3. Empathize

This to me is at times one of the hardest – but most necessary – facets of peaceful parenting.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it’s like to be three (or 7 or 10 or 14)  Sometimes it’s hard to see past the frustration of a moment and truly put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.   But I can think of few other acts that diffuse a situation as quickly as when I really take a deep breath and let myself feel what my child feels.   I can listen more effectively, talk more authentically, and respond more compassionately when I’ve let go of me, and allow it to be about them.  This isn’t just about kids either, but is an important aspect of dealing with anyone, in any situation. 

4. Model

One thing that I think a lot of people are confused about is how children can learn things like manners, respect, and the like without it being somehow drilled into them.  My answer is this:  I model the behavior that’s important to me.   I say please and thank you.  I say excuse me.  I’m polite to waiters and bank tellers and cashiers.  I’m true to myself.  I respect other people’s things.  I respect other people’s feelings.  I don’t lash out at strangers on the internet because they do things differently than me.  I say I’m sorry when I make a mistake.  I treat my kids – and other people – the way I’d like to be treated.  My children have learned it because they have lived it.

5. Provide alternatives 

This point is much more applicable to small children than older children.  One thing I hear a LOT is moms of toddlers who say things like, “But how do I stop the hitting?  The pinching?  The biting?  The throwing?”  If it helps for commiseration sake, Paxton (10) was a huge thrower as a toddler, and these days the only thing he throws is a baseball…. without ever having been punished for it. 🙂  All those things I mentioned are normal for growing, learning toddlers.  At three, Tegan is on her way out of most such behaviors, but when something arises, I 1) Protect the person who’s taking the brunt of it, in whatever way I need to do it… whether that means moving to another room, going outside (or in), or gently holding her hands in mine.  2) Move on to step one – listening.  Is she tired?  Needing attention?  Just trying something fun?  3) Talking: I’m sorry, I can’t let you throw that remote at his head because he might get hurt, and 4) Provide alternatives.  Does she want to throw?  There are lots of safe, fun things she can throw.  Does she want to hit something?  How about high-fives, or punching an exercise ball, or boxing on the Wii?  Does she want to experiment with water?  Lots of safe, fun ways to experiment with water.   Does she just need more personal attention from me?   I’ll suggest a game, or a puzzle, or a coloring book, and sit down and do it with her.   Sometimes it takes a healthy dose of creativity, but there’s always an alternative. 

6. Take a time out

No, not in the more well-known, punishment kind of way, but a time out together.  A time away from the situation.  A chance to re-connect and re-group.  A chance to calm down.  Sometimes listening, talking, empathizing, and providing alternatives just doesn’t do it.  Sometimes you need to call a time out… whether it means a change in scenery, a good book, time alone, a bowl of ice cream, or a good old fashioned round of “what kind of shapes and animals can we find in the clouds.”

7.  Be gentle.  Be forgiving.

Just I was finishing up this post, I received another comment.  It said in part that I came across as if I think I’m perfect.  It makes me sad because that is just about the complete opposite of my intent, and it is just about the complete opposite of the truth.  I will take it to heart, and measure the tone of future posts, but can I just hereby officially state for the record that

I am 100% categorically IMPERFECT in oh so many ways!!  

SO many ways.  If you’re not convinced, I have friends and family members who would gladly give you a list of my flaws if you would like it.

I’m not perfect.  My kids aren’t perfect.  They screw up.  I screw up.  We’re human.  The best we can do is try to do better, be gentle with ourselves and others, and apologize honestly and forgive freely.

I’m not a perfect parent, and I don’t have all the answers.  I do know though that my kids are HAPPY.  My kids are confident.  My kids are thriving.   And I can’t ask for much more than that.

 


Welcome to the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline!

This post was selected as one of the Crème de la Crème of gentle discipline blogging! Click on the image to view more Crème de la Crème posts!


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Why we do the things we do…

I think the strongest reactions I’ve ever gotten to something I’ve written have come from other Christians when I’ve posted about discipline, particularly spanking.  (These are a couple that come to mind…Discipline, Christian Parenting, He Who Spareth) And while there’s lots to write about what the Bible does – and does not – have to say about spanking, this time I’m going to leave it out.  Another post.  Another day.  This time I’m not going to talk about the Bible, or Jesus, or Christian parenting tenants that I may or may not agree with.  This time I’m going to call on the power of common sense, of logic, and of reason… things that cross over all boundaries, and all faiths.

I’ve always been a huge question-asker, particularly fond of the word, “Why.”  I drove my teachers (and likely others) crazy.  But my incessant “whys” have served me well, both in my own life and in patiently dealing with my children’s questions.  If you’re going to learn, you have to ask questions.

If you’re going to really learn, you have to ask hard questions.  And one thing I’ve learned is that often the most important questions aren’t the ones you ask others, but the ones you ask – and answer – yourself.   By far, the most growing I’ve done as a person has come from questioning, well, everything, about WHY.  Particularly why I think, believe, and do the things I do.

And because I’m such a questioner, it makes me…. frustrated, for lack of a better word… with people who are not.  A couple of days ago, a friend of mine posted a couple of articles and studies about spanking.  They sparked some heated comments from parents defending spanking.  Parents who, from what I could tell, had never honestly asked themselves why they spank:

I was spanked as a child and I turned out fine. This to me is one the strangest, most illogical reasons I ever hear… not just for spanking, but for all kinds of things.  Previous generations did LOTS of things that we now know better about.   Most of us were raised without car seats.  We now know that car seats save lives.  Many of us had mothers that smoked when they were pregnant.  We now know how extremely harmful that is.  This is not to condemn our own parents, or our parents’ parents, who were doing the best with the information they had at the time.  But we know better now.  Doing something because our parents did it is not good enough.  Justifying it by saying that we turned out “fine” (whatever fine means) is not good enough.  It is no different than peer pressure, than following the crowd and doing something just because everyone else is doing it.  We were given working, thinking brains for a reason.

Some kids need to be spanked.   No one deserves, or needs, to be spanked.  As a society, we recognize that when a man hits his spouse, that it is wrong… that no one deserves that, no matter what.  Period.  Children are even smaller, and even more vulnerable.  How can any logical, thinking mind reconcile hitting a child as being okay?  NO ONE deserves, or needs, to be spanked.

Spanking is the only thing that works or If I don’t spank, they’ll become out of control/unruly/criminals. I hear these a lot too.  “Sometimes you have to spank to teach them a lesson.”  Or to teach them right from wrong.  Or to keep them safe.  It’s the only way they’ll learn not to put their fingers in the light socket!  It’s the only way they’ll learn to stay out of the street!   I have four children.  Four children who are kind, honest, and know right from wrong.  Four children who keep their fingers out of outlets, and know not to run into the street.  Four children who have never been spanked.   And spanking children to hopefully thwart future unwanted behavior? This seems to be based on some kind of supposition that kids are inherently “bad,” and that they couldn’t possibly grow into loving, caring adults who know how to peacefully exist in society until and unless it is beat into them.   Again, I’m getting lost in the logic.

At their roots, all of the above reasons for spanking are based in the same thing:  fear.  They all come from fear.  Fear of breaking out of a familiar and comfortable cycle.  Fear of doing things differently than they’ve always been done.   Fear of asking yourself the hard questions, and of thinking on your own.  Fear of the unknown, and fear of taking that leap of faith.  Fear of the “what ifs”  Fear of accepting something other than the status quo.  Fear of what your parents might say, what your friends might say, what your church might say.

Is fear a good motivator for your parental decisions?

And finally, I think the reasons that I don’t hear in defense of spanking are even more telling than those I do hear.

I never hear anyone say, 
 “I spank because it feels right to me.”  
THAT’S BECAUSE IT DOESN’T.

I never hear anyone say,
“I spank because it strengthens my relationship with my child.”
THAT’S BECAUSE IT DOESN’T.

IT  DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT to hurt other people, especially people we love.  It goes against our nature to hurt the very people that we are supposed to be loving and nurturing the most.  It doesn’t feel good, and it doesn’t feel right.  We all know this.  We know this, which is why we try to instill it in our children.  Parents teach their children not to hit, not to fight, not to hurt others… because they know it’s wrong.  And then they try to reinforce this important message in their children by hitting them? 


I know, I know.  Spanking advocates argue that spanking is not hitting.  It’s not fair to call it hitting.  It’s entirely different than hitting.

To that, I say:

BULLSHIT.

Let’s be real.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  Spanking is hitting, and hitting is wrong.  We know this.  We know this.  There’s a reason that hitting another adult could earn you an assault charge.

Let’s use logic.  Let’s use reason.  Let’s use common sense.

But beyond that, let’s let the Golden Rule apply first to our family.  Let’s treat our children the way we want to be treated.  Let’s treat them in a way that strengthens our relationship, instead of tearing it down.  Let’s show them the respect that we want them to show to us.  Let’s ask ourselves the hard questions, and let’s see where we could do better.

And please, if you don’t have a good “why” for hitting your kids (and you DON’T, because there isn’t one) please.  Please.  Stop.


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