I sat in a classroom full of eager college students years ago learning the ins and outs of basic human development. I learned about the id and the ego. I learned about positive and negative reinforcement. If you asked me to detail the difference between the two, I would completely fail you. Honestly, looking back on it, I think those were two different classes, at two different institutions, at two different points in my life.
The point I am trying to make is, what I have learned about children and parenting through reading books and taking classes and reading articles is a faint memory and a disaster to recall. It is basically archaic knowledge to me. Most of what I learned about parenting went straight out the window once I actually assumed the role of parenting.
For example: I wanted a natural birth – no drugs. I second guessed myself and got the epidural anyway. Those moments leading up to receiving that huge stupid needle and moments following were some of the darkest moments of my birthing story. The pain was not actually that bad. I had back labor; it felt like someone uprooted a magnolia and slapped me across the back with it. But there was natural relief. Walking eased the pain and being up on all fours relieved the pressure. Did I really need the epidural? No, absolutely not! I was afraid, weak, nervous, a first timer. I didn’t know what to expect or how long it would be so I decided to take the easy route. I don’t regret it, not by any means; Daniel was born healthy and harmlessly. And the relief allowed me to rest a bit before the big show! Knowing now that I could’ve held off for just a bit revives my sanity but also reminds me that what we want, or think we want can change rapidly; in the blink of an eye.
When it comes to disciplining my child, most people are shocked to learn that I do, at times, strike him.
Daniel is very well-behaved. Because of his kind heart and natural favor towards doing “the right thing”, he is uncomfortable when he observes children acting out or behaving badly (which is pretty awesome). However, he does have his moments when he behaves, erm, “not so good”, and discipline is in order.
Here are my takes on discipline:
o Discuss the problem. The first thing that we always do when the meltdown happens or when there’s some kind of issue is talk it out. What are you feeling? Why is this happening? WHY ARE YOU CRYING? If we can solve the problem in a calm, rational manner, then there is no need for striking. This typically works for us. I’d like to think that I have fostered an environment that favors open communication between my son and I. When he does something that is not favorable, I typically ask him why he did it and then go on to explain how it made me feel that he did it and discuss ways that he can do better next time.
o The punishment must fit the crime. It is difficult to remain calm when you have a screaming child and your foot! We all know this. This is one of the biggest things that I have heard from other parents, and something that I, too, struggle with. However, I ask myself, “Am I upset with him, or am I upset with what happened?” and “How would I handle this if this were myself; how would I want to be treated/spoken to?” Drawing on the wall, after being told not to..? Yea, you’re getting popped. Crying for no reason, absolutely not! Defiance is one thing, but displaying emotion as a response, in my opinion, never warrants a spanking.
o Never embarrass him in public. We all know the story “Don’t touch nothing, don’t ask for nothing, don’t even look at nothing” Child touches something and parent loses it: “Didn’t (wack) I (wack) tell (wack) you (wack)…” That does nothing for the child but damage them. It embarrasses them, makes them feel small and makes them the center of attention, but in a very negative manner. Once again, communication will win, if properly implied. (more on this later)
o Striking is not okay. There are definitely times when providing physical discipline is the way to go. However, it is important to be mindful that you are not fostering an environment where your child considers hitting “a thing”. My fear was always that when Daniel would go to daycare, that he would strike the teachers because, in hitting him when he has done something unfavorable, I was unconsciously giving him permission to hit others when he felt they had done the same. I didn’t feel that was a healthy mindset for him to be in, and in turn could see residual effects later down the road. I opted to find other ways, effective communication being one of them, to solve conflict with Daniel.
Have I failed at these steps? Yes! Do I go back to the drawing board? More often than not. What’s most important here, or at least, the take away from this is, there is no right or wrong way. I just make sincere attempts at being cognizant of what I am doing with him and to him and how that will shape and mold his view of myself and others. I want to set him up for success, not punish him for every little thing. He is human, above all, and he is allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, but he is not required to get his ass beat for each mistake he makes. To me, he is an angel, and not because I birthed him, but because he is patient with me as I figure this thing out.
This is such a tricky subject, and I do believe it is case by case. However, if you or someone you know suspects maltreatment, neglect or abuse of a child, please check out this link here to get that child the help that he or she needs. Children are precious gifts and life long teachers. Their minds and hearts are made to be nurtured and fertilized, not broken and abused.
I am no expert, not by any means; feel free to take with a grain of salt! 🙂