Non-Punitive Parenting: A Starting Primer

Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 in writings | 16 comments

This piece was written as a participatory exercise for The Great Spank Out. All comments on this post will be heavily moderated. No comments endorsing punitive parenting will be allowed through, although of course you can write your own blog post saying whatever you’d like. Send me an email if you’d like me to link to it.

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I’ve heard every rationalization for punitive parenting in the book, and then some.* I’ve heard that using these strategies doesn’t really hurt nor humiliate a child. I’ve heard Yeah, it hurts/humiliates, that’s the point, and it works well! I’ve heard “I was hit, and I’m fine” (about… a thousand times). I’ve heard punishing/hitting/grounding/time-outs are necessary and if you don’t do them, you will absolutely generate “spoiled, entitled brats”. I recently had a friend tell me he thinks something is wrong with my partner and I that we do not spank (hit) our kids as a parenting tool – although he grants my children are the first children he’s ever liked – and that he envies our family life but holds no hope he could raise children without violence. He explained to me his carers beat the shit out of him (his words), but it was for his own good; he lived in a dangerous and crime- and drug-laden neighborhood. I bring up this anecdote because it is an elegant example at the extreme end of this (common) worldview: “the world is tough and my kid needs to know about it, and I’m going to help him learn early to keep him safe.”

And of course, arguing against those who promote spanking, I’ve heard many words said against hitting children – while still maintaining we absolutely should exploit our power position to “mold” them. This worldview is represented by those who hold that spanking is inhumane and/or child abuse, while they advocate for so-called “gentle discipline” methods cited as time-outs, restriction/grounding, removal of privileges, lectures, etc.

I’m going to get down to brass tacks to state in my opinion there is little to no concrete differences between the following: hitting (also called “spanking”, “swatting”, “smacking”, or “beating”, depending on your culture/family), yelling at, scolding/lecturing, grounding, removing toys/items as a lesson, “natural and logical” consequences (applied at the discretion of the parent/carer in order to groom for desired behavior or eliminate undesired behavior). On the flip side of the coin, praise and rewards are perfectly complimentary to this type of punitive/manipulative parenting schema – and those “carrot” (as opposed to “stick”) systems are relatively common too.

So I’d imagine some people are reading (if they’re still reading) with their jaws on the floor – or perhaps they’re sporting a sarcastic smirk. It would seem I don’t hold there’s any way one is allowed to raise a child. Next you’ll be guessing my house is a loud, craven mess with children shouting at me at the top of their lungs, their mouths set in garish and sticky Kool-aid grimaces, and that these children are the terrors of the town, and I’m in “denial” about it all, and I’m Ruining America.

Well, first of all, let’s banish this “allowed” business. You’d be surprised what you’re “allowed” to do as a parent. Actually, everything I’ve listed above is fair game and usually encouraged in our country. Indeed, in the United States you are legally sanctioned to hit your child – as long as you don’t use an implement nor leave a mark (grownups and animals are protected by at least the letter of the law). As for grounding, restrictions, time-outs and the rest – these are generally thought of as Good Parenting. In any case, I have neither the ability, the right, nor the interest to drive around inspecting how you’re doing things. If you parent or care for a child you are pretty much free to do as you see fit and nothing I say here can force you one way or another.

Secondly, you should know I do not think parents/carers who employ the above listed strategies are bad people, monsters, stupid, “crazy”, or any other pejorative. If I thought that I’d pretty much think all parents/carers were jerks. I’d also have a hard time forgiving myself for my own “monstrous” behaviors, because for reasons I won’t go into detail here and now I have let myself and my children down many times, yes, even against my own better judgment or principles. Now while a sense of sadness in knowing one has violated one’s own spiritual practice or strayed from one’s moral compass can be helpful in course-correcting, shame and guilt as forces for improving one’s parenting don’t work very well. I do not wish to promote these experiences. Sadly, when it comes to parenting – or mothering, as most finger-wagging diatribes usually concern – almost any discussion of bad strategies vs. better ones will prod the injuries most parents (/mothers) carry. This is a sad thing, but perhaps unavoidable unless we decide not to talk frankly.

The good news is, I’m here to deliver some hope.

Because what many people are too afraid to hope for, and too convinced otherwise to entertain, is the possibility of raising a happy, healthy child – complete with a compassionate and moral and fierce spirit – without punishing them, or at least while actively resisting punitive methodology. That’s right. No grounding, yelling, lecturing, time-outs, spanking. Yeah, I wouldn’t have believed it either. Until I started experiencing it firsthand. It’s been one of the most humbling and exciting and amazing partnerships of my life. And my kids seem to feel pretty good about it too.

Parenting non-punitively is possible, rewarding, and incredibly freeing in about twenty discrete ways I could probably list (and will do so at some point). Most parents/carers are too scared to try. They intuit, correctly, that if they attempt to give up punitive measures they will have to give up things they want. And they’re right. Here is, as of today, my best thoughts on these sacrifices as I’ve experienced them.

Primarily, we give up the illusion of control. Hear that? We don’t really have control – we have the illusion of it. We maintain the facade of control as long as our child is not developmentally aware enough to perceive how she is being controlled; later, we may maintain this facade if our child either chooses to let us win out, because we have made things so unpleasant for her should she assert herself, or if she chooses to hide her nature, opinons, feelings, and/or actions (indeed, duplicity in a child is a first-string symptom of punitive parenting). We maintain the illusion of control until we observe our child regularly employing self- or other-harm. I am often very sad to hear adults promote narratives where their teenager “suddenly” starts acting “crazy”/sullen/angry/anxious/like an asshole. Thus many parents and adults put forth junk-science rhetoric regarding the “teenage brain”, pathologizing teens themselves and/or setting down young adult expressions of anxiety, alienation, anger, sadness or severe disassociation to hormones or some kind of temporary innate contrariety, etc. (what’s deeply sad is to witness teens internalize and then repeat this denigration and erasure; I was one of them). I personally think espousing “teen brains aren’t ‘normal'” / “teens are jerks” rhetoric is a last-ditch attempt to avoid admitting the damage many endemic mainstream parenting and teaching practices have inflicted upon our children. It’s too bad, too, because I’d like to believe it’s never too late to admit our mistakes, acknowledge our fears, and in doing so improve our treatment of the children in our lives.

Again: what do we give up, when we decide we will no longer punitively parent? We give up many accolades and praises from mainstream parenting “gurus”, from our family and friends, and from our micro- or larger culture. Believe me, if your child has a loud emotional display in a store (for instance) you stand to gain approving nods if you come down on the child with a stern and/or loud voice, especially if delivering a threat. Giving up punitive parenting strategies, then, means many adults will expect these displays of you and, when you do not deliver, tsk tsk – or worse. You may be told to beat your child. You may be encouraged (usually implicitly) to put him down or speak about him in a sarcastic and dismissive manner so he at least knows what a pain in the arse he is. Fortunately, although it can sting to give up the many surface-level commendations you receive as a demonstrably-“strict” parent, if you can cast off punitive forces or provide better caregivers or environs for your child, you’ll likely soon be receiving genuine expressions of delight regarding your children’s character and behaviors. The funnest part of this is, for me, a state of far less attachment to outcome; e.g. appearing virtuous or a “good mom” by result of my children’s behaviors (however I am nowhere near immune to this vanity, sad to say). When my children are complimented (as they often are), I can know it is not me in the driver’s seat, but the kids’ own individual qualities emerging. I do not accept compliments regarding my children’s behavior, but of course my children themselves are allowed to handle those as they see fit (they usually say, “Thank you.”).

I’m wracking my brain to think more about what we give up, but really those two things are about it (although they’re biggies, I grant it). I suppose we give up allowing ourselves episodes of retaliatory anger. Or rather, when we inevitably give in to such displays (as I do, still), we can relatively quickly abandon the premise that this is our right or responsibility, apologize sincerely if we did something asshat, and return to our better selves a lot quicker.

So that, I suppose, is the bad news. (Except you can see it really isn’t. Bad news.)

Now: what do we stand to gain?

For one, we stand to gain the experience of a healthier, happier, braver, more empathetic, more alert, more humorous, and more fair-minded child. We also begin to see how children raised this way are less likely to experience or evidence the following: depression, low impulse control, habitual duplicity, generalized anxiety disorder, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, repetitive bullying episodes (either as the bully or the target), self-harming rituals, and susceptibility to peer pressure. Please note I said less likely. Believe me, if I knew of any formula to raise a child safe from all large-scale harms, I’d be tempted to can it and put it up in my pantry.

What do we stand to gain? More enjoyment of our time together. More knowledge of who our children really are (and who they continue to grow to be). When we trust our children, we really trust them. It’s a wonderful experience. I’ve often been told by other parents, “Wow, I can’t believe you let your kids run a restaurant / ride the transit / pay your bills / use your phone / walk to the library. I couldn’t trust my kids to do that.” At first I thought these parents were talking into their sleeve, essentially chastising me for being me too permissive (and perhaps some of them were). But I began to understand I really do trust my children in a deeper way than many parents trust theirs. This wasn’t necessarily easily won nor is it fully accomplished, but is primarily due to and results in the fact: I don’t feel I should, or have to, fiddle with them too much. I am their advocate, I am their mentor and advisor (when they need me), but mostly I am their nurturer as much as I can be.

What do we stand to gain? Children we want to spend time with, and children who want to spend time with us.

What do we stand to gain? A home that is peaceful, fun, funny, compassionate, fierce, tender – and doesn’t feel scary … to anyone (including the parents… many whom I believe are often very scared indeed).

And a final note: although I have met other grownups who agree with principles of non-punitive parenting, I haven’t yet met one who claimed he/she had raised a child to adulthood and never hit, grabbed, yelled, or performed some other small or mean-spirited lecture, petty theft, or retaliatory creepitude (many parents/carers have done all the above). In other words, believing in a better way doesn’t automatically make one a saint.

But believing in a better way is the first step to living a better way. And so far, it has been the most encouraging experience of my life.

And next time I write, I’ll talk more about how it looks in practice.

***

* Here is a working definition of “punitive parenting”, from a site called the Positive Discipline Resource Center (I have not read nor formed opinions as to the site’s content, but do find this definition to be pretty good):

“Punitive parents assume children have to feel bad in order to learn – though they may not use those words to describe it. When confronted with inappropriate behavior in their children, punitive parents search for a punishment to extinguish the behavior. Punitive tools include: time outs, spanking, lectures, grounding, loss of unrelated privileges or property, physical exercise, and physical discipline such as hot sauce on the tongue. Reward/punishment systems are part of a punitive paradigm. ”

Further Reading
“Spanking Traumatizes Children” by Laurie A. Couture. I love this article by Laurie, for many reasons. Here are two: she discusses neuroscience and its findings on childhood development with regard to punishment, and she also provides one of the most convincing and brief yet well-rendered explanations of why so very many adults defend punitive strategies regarding children.

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16 Comments

  1. I am one of those people who was spanked as a child, and I turned out OK. Of course, my mom smoked while she was pregnant with me, and I didn’t wear a seatbelt until I was in second grade, and although I am, as I mentioned, “OK,” all of those things are things I choose not to do in my own parenting life.

    Thank you for writing about other options for parents who wish to keep physical violence out of their homes. There’s surprisingly little support out there for parents to wish to travel this different path.

  2. Thank you so much. Linking and sharing on FB. :)

  3. Love. It.
    Word.

  4. I look forward to reading your next installment about this. I really hadn’t realized how strongly I felt about it myself until I started writing about it.
    I didn’t look at the reality that I probably won’t be perfect at gentle discipline…. I appreciate the way you include those things.
    Thanks for the link to the “Spanking Traumatizes Children” article!

  5. Thank you for writing and sharing this. You keep opening up my world.
    Linking on fb too, hope that’s ok.

  6. Thank you for taking part in Spank Out Day! Kelly, I knew you were an excellent writer, but you really knocked one out of the park with this one. I’ve encountered Alfie Kohn before, but I haven’t come across Laurie Couture, I don’t think. I’ve been thinking hard about the continuum of punitive parenting and while I do think it depends on the child how much spanking or time outs, etc would affect them, it’s not worth taking that chance. I’ve been searching for my Spank Out Day post and it has run the gamut from connection, nvc, punitive parenting, withdrawal of love, rewards vs punishments (I’ve got fodder for like 6 different posts to flesh out later. Ha!) But, none of them was sitting right with me. I’m ending up back at the start, the core: non-harming to anyone. Not harming kids or parents. Not judging. Just holding them and really being present with it.

    Because really, that’s what it comes down to with parenting without punitive actions: being fully engages and present as often and as much as you can (while still respecting where you are and what your experience has been)

    So, in regards to your earlier questioning whether this post would fit in with Spank Out Day? It truly does on its most fundamental level, address that primal part of parenting with the finesse needed to really be read and understood.

    Do we really have to wait an entire week for the juicy irl stuff?

  7. It is ok if understanding that a teenager is experiencing huge surges of hormones, while still growing physically and emotionally is a way of reminding a parent about being compassionate to them. To stop, take a breath, listen, console, give a hug (if wanted by the child). But, I understand your experience of the use of that information” was done so in harmful way by people that were unhealthy or unhealed themselves. The way they misunderstood that and used that information was wrong. But, for other people being aware that a child is experiencing something intense is a way for them to calm down, take a breath and not yell or be impatient or perplexed in way that could lead to belittling.

    I was severely abused as a child. And it absolutely harmed me.

    So, I do what I need to do, to be a healthy person, a healthy parent. I parent in a way that is gentle and consistent and works and is imperfect (and non-shaming). But, truly the best thing we can do for our kids is to heal ourselves (and heal any anger we may have inside us). To not put our pain onto them. And it is possible to go too far in trying to do everything different (in my humble opinion and experience). Our children will have their own pain, we will make our own mistakes. We are not enlightened after-all. But, if our kids come to us and tell us their pain…We can listen and apologize and not say, “But, I…” and not be condescending and not be narcissistic about it either…as in making a big “show” of our apology (just saying this from my own bad experiences).

  8. Yes, I also was spanked as a child. And I am not fine. I am working on getting more and more fine as time puts more distance between me and my childhood, and I progress in my recovery from the depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorder and abysmal self-esteem that were, in large part, the result of or triggered by routine humiliation by my parents, both physical and psychological… I think people often believe that they are more “fine” than they actually are. I know that I and my siblings were definitely trained to believe that we deserved our punishments and that they were for some sort of greater good (greater than our dignity or sense of safety or self-esteem being preserved at least) and we all, and our parents, continue to pay a very high price for their choices in anger-driven punitive parenting. I am terrified of becoming a parent because when I see a child throwing a tantrum, one of my first thoughts is still “I would never have behaved that way, because I would have been hit for it. Maybe that kid needs a good smack.” I am looking forward to reading more on non-punitive parenting… I think just reading about it may be helpful in my own healing process.

    FWIW My parents both have their own issues, addictions, traumas, and healing processes… my brother and sister and I unfortunately got caught in the crossfire of their damage, and I am learning to be understanding and forgiving… they did the best they knew how to do. But in the end, in some of the most important aspects of parenting, they did rather poorly. I don’t want to repeat their mistakes.

  9. I am a non-punishing parent, myself, though I was not raised that way. I would like to say that I disagree that “there is little to no concrete differences between the following: hitting, yelling at, scolding/lecturing, grounding, removing toys/items as a lesson, “natural and logical” consequences. As a person who was punished as a child, I can say with great confidence that I would have been *far* less damaged if I had gotten all those forms of punishment minus the spankings. Granted, the spankings I got were extreme to hugely abusive, but I think there is something about any kind of hitting that coveys to a child that they are less than worthy. If a person (the parent) who is supposed to love you unconditionally and protect you from all the bad in the world decides you are worth hitting, that is psychologically more damaging than grounding, time outs, etc.

    That being said, I do not advocate punishment, either. Even if my mother had never spanked me, we still would not have a better relationship, because she has never seen me as a person, never respected me as an individual (and I’m 45, now). She has always (and still) sees me as an inferior being that lacks “street smarts”, as she calls it, and regardless of the volume and quality of education I have, my opinion (professional or otherwise) means little to nothing.

    On top of that, I am *NOT* a better person for having been punished – much less spanked. In fact, before I started healing myself and forgiving myself for being such a “terrible child/person”, I wasn’t such a great person. I was terrible to myself, fearful, easy to find fault (in myself and others), and anxious. I *still* considered myself a person who had been spanked/punished and “turned out fine”. I wasn’t a very good parent before I started the healing process.

    I am a much better person and parent, now. I’ve worked hard to unlearn old ways and to learn new ones. I’ve learned to forgive (I’ve not learned to forget), at least myself. I’ve learned to forgive a portion of the nastiness dealt me by a parent. I’ve come to like myself and who I’ve become – who I’m becoming. I’m making progress: my youngest told me last week that my husband and myself were, “…the best mama and daddy I could ever hope to have!” Punishment wouldn’t have gotten me here, where my children trust me and I, them. It wouldn’t have gotten me the respect I now have of my children, nor me of them: I found that it is impossible (at least for me) to respect someone and punish them.

    Thanks for putting these wonderful words out for all to absorb!

  10. While I firmly support your ideals in theory, I have used almost all the “punitive parenting” techniques, other than physical violence, on different occasions. In your article you put those techniques down but don’t offer any alternatives on how to change bad behavior. (and yes, children do behave badly on occasion)

    I would appreciate some DOs rather than an entire list of DO NOTs.

    Thanks.

  11. Thank you everyone for wonderful comments – and I’m sure we have more to come. Many of you are new here; you might want to read my comment policy (it’s pretty brief and simple). You should also know I typically try to respond to every comment in some form or another, because I very much appreciate people taking the time to share here.

    First: zoie, cj, teresa, and dulce: thank you so much for your pieces for Spank Out Day, and thank you for your commentary here. s* and devon, thank you for the support.

    @nissa, thank you for your incredibly compassionate words regarding the parenting of teenage children. I also believe you are on point regarding our own pain and how that can influence our parenting practices. I find myself very interested in hearing more about the “big show” of apology you’ve experienced in the past!

    @gs
    “I am terrified of becoming a parent because when I see a child throwing a tantrum, one of my first thoughts is still ‘I would never have behaved that way, because I would have been hit for it. Maybe that kid needs a good smack.’ I am looking forward to reading more on non-punitive parenting… I think just reading about it may be helpful in my own healing process.”

    I hope reading more does help. I think it will! Your anecdote made me so very sad for a few reasons. I think many adults would have a similar response – whether it involved hitting or no, it is, “that child needs to be controlled” or “I wouldn’t stand for that behavior if that was MY kid!” The fact you are aware of this reflexive impulse is leaps and bounds ahead of many who begin to parent. I have behaved more poorly regarding my own children than I have to any other human being on the planet. Sadly, before I had children I could not have guessed the violence within and the tendency to dominate that would manifest itself within me – a direct product of common narratives regarding “good parenting” (and badly-behaved or bad children). Thank you so much for your comments.

    I’d like to respond to this aspect of de smith’s comment to keep things on point:

    “If a person (the parent) who is supposed to love you unconditionally and protect you from all the bad in the world decides you are worth hitting, that is psychologically more damaging than grounding, time outs, etc.”

    That may have been your perceived reality from your own childhood, but that is not everyone’s experience. Let me also take a minute to say I am very sad to hear this was part of your upbringing. I commend you for working earnestly on the healing process. My experience with my own has been, it is a lifelong journey.

    However, I have heard from many others contrary to what you report as universal fact, and I don’t think it is appropriate to tell other people how they experienced their own childhood. In fact it is quite classic to hear people say the spankings bothered them far less than the emotional, spiritual and/or verbal component of parent/child relationships (as you yourself also cite regarding your mother placing you as inferior). I do think “highly abusive” spanking/hitting can be on an extreme end of the continuum of adult/parental exploitation, and I have a hard time believing an adult could hit a child in this way without employing other forms of punishment as well.

    I recently heard an example of relatively extreme but non-physical exploitation of the parent/child relationship. I have a loved one whose father weighed her every day and monitored how much she ate for her weight, as well as “lovingly” monitoring most aspects of his daughter’s development. This was part of his “care” for this young woman. As one might expect, she developed a severe eating disorder over time, and recently told me she believes she will “never get over it”. She has other problems she cites as the result of her upbringing, and she has been seeking healing through therapy and religion and books. As far as I know, she was never hit. I hate to reduce someone’s life story or sruggles to a single paragraph, and I hope it serves as illustration well enough.

    To anyone reading: I think there is a danger in placing hitting as a separate thing entirely than other punitive parenting behaviors, but that is what I generally see on the blogosphere by many who claim they do not support hitting (and remember, many people and sites DO support hitting children). There are plenty of spaces to go if you’d like to continue to maintain that illusion. As for this space, any comments attempting to hair-split regarding dominating and punitive techniques will not be permitted further; neither will anything that attempts to define for another person how they should or did perceive their own abuse.

    Everyone:

    Response to this piece has been very positive, and VERY interested in hearing more (so, yes salia, a list of “DOs” is coming!). I have a lot more to say about living without punishment and domination (whether people want to call it that or no) in the adult/child relationship. I was going to wait a while to write another piece but I might get up to it sooner! In which case I’ll email everyone (Bcc) who has participated, to let you know it’s up!

    Thank you again!

  12. I love this. You write so clearly. Ideas I’ve had swirling for quite some time but put so well. I shared on FB.

    Is there an option to subscribe to your blog? I look forward to reading more, especially your follow up to this.

    Susan

  13. Hi Kelly, In response to your question. I was sexually abused (and all the other kinds of abuse as well) as a child, by multiple offenders (not protected by my mother), but the most damaging abuse was by a live-in boyfriend that my mother had for 7 years during my early childhood. It was very all encompassing. I was not abused as a form of punishment, he just did whatever he wanted to do to me whenever and made me do what he wanted me to do as well. If he was angry he hurt me, it had nothing to do with me misbehaving (although I thought everything I did was wrong and made me bad or that I must be behaving sexually without knowing it). Of course the abuse was in private, but also in front of my mother he would hit me in the face, hold a knife to my throat, say sadistic sexual or terrorizing things were going to happen to me. He would laugh and just treat me like a joke. And there were so many other things that were overlooked. My mother would ignore the deep reality and act as if she was the perfect mother. That made it feel more hurtful because I believed I deserved the abuse and that it was ok for it to be done to me…etc. But, she would find things to apologize about (little things). It was sorta insincere and she would make a big deal out of apologizing for it, and then tell everyone that she apologized to me for something and talk about how she is a good mother because she apologizes. I didn’t even really care about the thing she was apologizing for. So, it was very confusing to me. And people would always say I was so lucky to have her as a mother and they wish they had a mother that protected them. Again it set up this situation where my reality was in conflict with hers and I thought I had to hide my reality from everyone and play a part/a role, to protect her image/ego/reality. I believed that for a long time. But, when I became a mother I asked her for specific apologies. I just wanted her to tell me she thought I was worth protecting and I did not deserve to have whether I lived or died be treated with such disregard by her ex-boyfriend. She could not apologize for anything that she did or said (like when she said that I made up that I was abused to get attention…when she was the one that had asked me to tell her). So, with my mom, I felt harmed on an emotional level. She feels she has apologized to me. But, to me an apology is not empty words like, “I am sorry that you got abused, I am sorry that you felt scared every night.” Especially when often the apology was said in a condescending way..as in, “IIIII’mmm Sooooorry you got abused, but lots of people get abused!!!” Any way, I do not mean to put my mother down. She is not a bad person. She is just hurt herself and doesn’t really understand. But, I will never be able to trust her until I see it in her actions that she really understands how her actions still hurt me. I am forgiving her, but it hurts to have so many experiences never addressed. When she chose other people over me, and did not hear my pain or tell people not to treat me badly. She thinks its all in the past, but it’s not. It’s her ongoing behavior. I know some people won’t understand why I feel the way I do. But, it is just how I feel and I am being honest about it. And it is not my intention to hold a grudge or to hurt anyone. I feel that when I evaluate my past with honesty then I can and will be a better mother. I will let the anger out in a healthy way because I know what it belongs to. I will keep my kids safe and respect their needs and feelings because I am honest about how I felt as a child and how to do things differently. Any way, I could go on and on (this is getting into an emotional place for me).

    I’ve learned also to not be too hard on myself and that to not use some kind of gentle discipline to help our kids feel boundaries and safe and supported and guided (in non-controlling ways) would also be a form of neglecting their needs as a child.

  14. You have a lot of great information here!

    I’m interested now to figure out why we feel it is so necessary to ‘control’ our children rather than guide them (as someone who was in the camp of thinking we needed to have control, before I had children of course)…I’m wondering why it is so prevalent in our society.

    Maybe it dates back to all of us being spanked and wanting to take back the control that was taken from us?

    Thanks for the great post!

  15. Thanks Kelly. I don’t know. I never was one of those people that thought children needed to be controlled. I knew that I did not thrive under control. I felt like I was incompetent and couldn’t make decisions or trust myself, and I would shut down when I was around my mother (even as an adult). I thought kids needed to be loved and people needed to understand that kids are people and they are kids (learning, growing, testing the limits). My mother would always try to “teach” me, but it was actually just being controlling. So, I have a good idea of how things can go wrong, but I’m still learning since I don’t have a reservoir of my own childhood to draw from in learning to be a parent. I know this… that kids should not be raised to be narcissistic hellions. But, people need to be a bit more understanding about the experience of childhood. Kids get tired, they get hungry, they get angry (often for good reason), and they test limits. As parents we may know that our child needs to take a break, go home, take a nap, rest, talk about their feelings. But, in that one moment we can’t control them into being perfect robots or hit them to shut them up. My kids have had moments when they tested the limits. But, I didn’t hit them. And they are growing into understanding, grateful, loving and compassionate people. I also always thought reward charts or whatever were not good. But, we are a creative family. I did make a foam board that when they do their chores (or whatever) then I open a part of the window and at the end of the day when all the windows are open they get to see the full picture underneath (and I can slip in different pictures that I draw for them or a picture they drew). They enjoy it. I don’t do it everyday, just if they ask to do it. I don’t think that is child abuse. I’m open to trying things, flexible, learning. Also when I was a child and being harmed I made the decision that I never wanted to harm anyone. I knew what it felt like and I did not want to be like the abuser (evil). Thanks for listening.

  16. Hello again, all! I wrote a follow-up piece, of sorts, to this one. Saila, I’m sad to say I tried to email you to let you know, but your email addy bounced. I hope this post gets to you, and if you want more “DOs” you can email me anytime and tell me more about your scenario!

    That goes for anyone else here or reading – kelly AT hogaboom DOT org.

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