Hitting Out of Fear

 Today is National Spank Out Day, I’m sad to say. In a society where we speak out against the hitting of women, against the hitting of racial minorities, against the hitting of animals, against the hitting and bullying of anyone, there are still a large number of people who think hitting children is perfectly acceptable or even necessary. It boggles my mind.

The thing is, parenting can be scary. We go through pregnancy with the child secure inside its mother’s womb, and then suddenly this little person is on the outside, completely dependent upon….us. Children depend on us for food, shelter, warmth, guidance, and love. It’s a lot to take on. The fact is that while some people who hit their kids really don’t care, most of the parents hitting their children actually love them and do so because they are afraid.

They are afraid….

  • that by not hitting their kids, society will deem them unfit parents.
  • that their children won’t respect them.
  • that their children will be hurt even worse.
  • of losing control.
  • of the pressures of life.
  • of not knowing what to do.
It’s a scary world out there, full of unknowns, but when it comes to parenting, you don’t have to be afraid! Your children come into this world knowing only you. You are everything to them. They look up to you. They love you. They just want to spend time with you and learn with and from you.
Forget about what other people might think. The only people who matter are your kids. Besides, haven’t you heard that you shouldn’t jump off a bridge just because your friends did?
You won’t gain respect by hitting someone. In fact, you will lose it. Hitting a person, especially a smaller person, in order to control them is called bullying.
Hurting your child will not protect them in the future. Helping them navigate life and giving them tools and techniques to deal with life’s situations will.
There are a lot of things in life you can’t control, and that includes other people. Accept it. Deal with it if you need to, and then help your children to learn to control themselves.
Life can be rough, but that idea that your kids are born loving you? Still there. Come home to your kids and remember that no matter how bad life gets, they love you.
If you don’t know what to do, don’t resort to violence. Learn a new way. Learn how to help your children navigate that allowing your hurt to rule your actions.
In the end, no matter why some parents hit, they still make that choice. With every day and every situation, you have the opportunity to choose not  to hit. Your children love you. Live up to that love. Be deserving of the respect they want to show you. Be deserving of the love they freely give.

 photo credit: dhammza via photopin cc

Living in Fear

No Going Back

Photo by Mariano Kamp

I was up most of the night of December 2. I had been mixing applesauce cinnamon dough for a co-op class the next morning and had a severe allergic reaction. Around five o’clock in the morning of December 3, I kissed my husband goodbye as he headed to the airport for a week long business trip. I then headed to bed in the hopes of getting in a little sleep before the kids woke up and we had to get on with our day.

The class went well. All of the kids had fun rolling out their dough and cutting out ornaments to take home and dry. I carefully wore gloves anytime I had to touch it. We chatted with friends, and after they all left, we had a nice little lunch and read some books. We needed to run a few errands, so we headed out about 1:30 PM. It was a lovely day out and we decided to head the park and try to get some great photos to put on cards to mail to friends and family.

We pulled into our driveway just before 3 PM, ready to grab clean shirts for the kids and my camera for some photography fun. I saw that the lights on the outside of the garage were on and made a mental note to remind the kids to double check that they were only flipping on the inside garage light and not the outside light. The switches are next to one another and sometimes the outside lights are accidentally turned on. I hit the button for the garage door to go up, parked in the driveway, and proceeded to help my younger children unbuckle, grab our purchases out of the back of the van, check the mail, and head in through the garage, which we used as a mudroom due to the limited space. I noticed that the garage smelled like cinnamon, as our house had earlier, and thought it odd that the smell had permeated so strongly into the garage. Later, my oldest child told me the door was wide open when he went in. He thought I had gone up to unlock it before getting the mail.

We went inside, dropping the diaper bag and purchases by the door as we rushed to get to the park before we lost the fantastic light we were being afforded. I began going through my two year old’s shirts while my other children started checking what they had clean. My eight year old came to me with three shirts, and I informed her that there was a basket of clean clothes in front of the dryer. She headed down to check and immediately came running back up the stairs saying, “Mom! Someone broke in!” My immediate thought was denial, so I ran down the stairs. I was halfway down when I saw the baby gate around the television had been moved. Turning, I saw our back door was wide open with the trim boards broken and laying on the floor.

I raced back up, scooping up my youngest child and telling the kids we had to get out. Luckily the diaper bag still sat by the kitchen door, and I grabbed it as we raced back out to the driveway. I pulled the phone out as I gathered my children close and called 911.  I tried reaching my husband, but he was in a meeting halfway across the country. I called a friend who made some calls so that we would have help securing the door that evening. I cried. I didn’t know if the perpetrators were still there. I thought about my children, my babies, being in the house where there might have been strangers who could have harmed them. I shook.  cried some more, and I hugged my crying children close.

We were lucky. We weren’t home at the time, and no one was hurt. The people who broke into our home were professionals. They didn’t trash the house, they just took most of our electronics. We think the garage door scared them off, as our desktop computer was moved and partially unplugged. They didn’t get our external hard drive, which housed all of our photos. Everything they took was something that could be replaced.

However, it was scary. My husband couldn’t get a flight home that night. When bedtime, albeit much later than my kids had been going to bed, rolled around, the questions came about what the perpetrators would have done if we were home. I didn’t want to lie and say that that would not happen, so I explained that most burglars do not want to be caught so they won’t break in if someone is home. As I was explaining this, I was also preparing for battle. I left all of the outside lights on. Most of the inside lights were on. I brought spray bottles of homemade cleaning supplies into the master bathroom, set the phone by the bed, brought in my son’s bow and unlocked the case ready for me to grab, and barricaded the bedroom door. I then proceeded to stay up all night while my children slept around me, listening to every tiny sound in case just in case the people came back. My husband grabbed the earliest flight home the next morning and we all hugged each other.

Since then, we have worked to make our home feel safe again. We have made changes to our home to make it more difficult for someone to break in. Most importantly, we have done everything we can to show our children that we will do whatever it takes in order to protect. Our children should feel safe and it is our job to make that happen. Home should be safe.

However, many, many children do not feel safe in their own homes. Many are the victims of abuse, while others are afraid for reasons that do not legally qualify as abuse. I can tell you that living in fear is not healthy and it does not lead to optimal growth, something which most parents want for their children. It is stressful on our bodies and minds, and limits us in learning and resolving conflicts. Ruling through fear by way of hitting, yelling, or other punishments does not provide that environment. It’s our job as parents to provide the safe environment for our children to learn and grow.

NPN Blog Blitz: The Best of Babywearing

I am proud and honored to be a volunteer with the Natural Parents Network (NPN), a community of natural-minded parents and parents-to-be where you will be informed, empowered, and inspired.

When you visit the NPN’s website you can find articles and posts about Activism, Balance, Consistent Care, Ecological Responsibility, Family Safety, Feeding With Love, Gentle Discipline, Healthy Living, Holistic Health, Natural Learning, Nurturing Touch, Parenting Philosophies, Practical Home Help, Preparing for Parenting, Responding With Sensitivity, Safe Sleep, and so much more!

Today I would like to share some bookmark-worthy posts that highlight all aspects of babywearing. These posts were featured on the personal blogs of the Natural Parents Network volunteers and are some of my favorites.

We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we enjoyed writing them. We are always looking for new volunteers so please, contact us if you are interested. Just a few hours per month can help other mamas in a huge way!

Benefits of Babywearing/Reasons To Babywear

Types of Carriers/ Choosing A Carrier

Babywearing Safety

Babywearing How-Tos

BabywearingToddlers/More Than One Child

Personal Babywearing Stories and/or Photos

Babywearing Series/Multiple Topics

Babywearing – Other Interesting Topics

A special thank you to Erika Hastings of the blog Mud Spice for creating and sharing her babywearing art with the world!

Growing Children

Photo by Rev Stan

When we grow plants, we give them what they need to grow and be successful: sunlight, water, supports, fertilizer, and other nutrients. If they are having trouble growing, we look to see what else they may need or what we need to change. We don’t blame them when they fail. Instead we look at what we need to change. Hurting the plant or putting it away and ignoring would be pointless. We look to what we can change to help the plant thrive. Our success as a gardener is dependent upon whether or not the plant is thriving.

Growing children is not so different. Punishing them doesn’t help them to be better. Hitting only hurts them and our relationship. Putting them away in time out doesn’t address the situation or help them to be better. Growing children have needs that must be met: sunlight, water, nutrients, support, and love. When their needs are met, they thrive and we get to watch them develop and unfurl into the wonderful people they are.
If there is a problem, rather than blaming the child and punishing him, we need to look at what needs are not being met and work with him to help him grow.

I’m Not Raising Corporate America

Photo by Justin Lowery

I’ve often heard parents rationalizing punishments and rewards by citing the real world. When the kids grow up, they’ll be in the real world. In the real world, they’ll have to get a job and then, they had better be prepared. Punishments and rewards are everywhere, in the real world.

This misses a key point. I’m not raising Corporate America. I’m raising my children. So, while some day they may find themselves in a corporate position faced with a choice to make, right now they are children living their lives. I don’t run my family by Corporate America’s values – to gain as much money (i.e. reward) as possible, often at the expense of others. And frankly, if my children are ever in such a position, I hope they look beyond the immediate reward and follow what they know in their hearts is the right thing to do – not because of someone else’s beliefs or because of some extrinsic reward – but because they are following what they believe.
In Corporate America, a person can make the choice to walk away and leave. They voluntarily choose to be in that position to earn a wage with whatever consequences go with their choices. Except in rare occassions, children do not have the choice to leave their parents and family of origins in order to find a more suitable position should they deem it necessary. Arbitrary punishments and rewards only exacerbate that parental power. If you want to compare punitive parenting with the work force, a more likely comparison would be with slavery. There is no chance of leaving besides running away with the hope of not being found.
Most of us look for jobs that are rewarding. However, that reward generally isn’t the almighty dollar. The most rewarding jobs are the ones where people are doing what they enjoy intrinsically. A few companies recognize this. Google is a prime example of this, despite its huge size. Employees at Google have a voice in matters. Recognizing that happy workers are more productive workers, Google strives to provide an enjoyable work environment rather than trying to control its employees.
At the end of the day, however, work isn’t all there is to life, and most people would say that their relationships are what really matter to them. Rather than trying to control our children with punishments or rewards, we talk to them – like the people they are. Sure, some of the people in our family are smaller and younger, but these are still relationships. And the last time I checked, we are living in the real world.

Rewards: the Other Edge of the Sword

Photo by Lemsipmatt

Behavioral training uses punishments and rewards in order to extract desired behaviors from the subject in question. Numerous studies support that the use of punishment in children, regardless of whether or not the punishment is physical in nature, has detrimental effects. Besides dissolving the connection between parent and child, punishments do not help the child to do better or improve the behavior. Many parents deem this to mean that they should rely on rewards instead. What they fail to realize, and what research also  supports, is that rewards are merely the other side of a two-edged sword.

It may seem benign to offer a reward in order to get a child to do what we want. It seems simple enough. However, by offering a reward for a specific behavior, you are simultaneously offering a punishment in the form of the withheld reward in the event that the desired behavior is not produced. Regardless of form, they both heavily involve extrinsic motivation – fear of punishment or the hope of a reward – in order to coerce others into behaving in a certain way. Behavioral training does have its place. Used short term, it has helped many people change habits. Used as an extrinsic tool to aid an intrinsic desire, behavioral conditioning has its benefits. However, B.F. Skinner, the founder of behaviorism, along with other noted researchers in the area such as Ivan Pavlov, were adamentaly against the use of behavioral therapy as a parenting technique. Long term, behavioral conditioning erodes a subject’s reliance on intrinsic motivation. Eventually, when the reward or punishment is no longer offered, or no longer is considered substantial by the subject, there is no longer motivation to continue the desired behavior. Reputable behaviorists do not recommend punishments or rewards as the basis for a parenting system.Lack of intrinsic motivation has aided in many monstrosities over time. When people rely on fear or rewards to motivate them, they are less likely to stand up for what they believe in or to have a strong sense of values. They are more easily manipulated and swayed by others. Some parents may view this as a positive side effect, but that opinion generally changes when the parent is no longer the figure the child turns to for extrinsic motivation. Children who are raised without extrinsic motivation are more likely to have deeply held personal beliefs and to act upon those beliefs, regardless of what other people may think.

training daughters…

A coworker was relegating to my husband at work about an incident he had experienced with his teenage daughter the night before. He had been yelling at her for something when she said something he felt was in a disrepectful tone – backtalk, at which point he slapped her across the face hard. I can only imagine what my husband’s face looked like at that revelation. His coworker went on to explain that he hated to do it but that it had to be done. My husband made a sarcastic comment about training daughters for how they should be treated by men and then said he wanted better for his daughter.

Children come into this world unknowing of the world or its inhabitants. They haven’t yet learned of social graces or how to interact with others. They learn these things by watching us. How we treat others, especially the ones we love, has a lasting effect. It shapes not only how our children treat others but also how they allow others to treat them.

A strong, confident, loved woman doesn’t suddenly allow a man to hit her and accept that that is the way of life. Abused women, and those who abuse them, have learned somewhere along the way that it is acceptable or that they are an undeserving exception. Most fathers would protect their daughters from some other man hitting them, and yet many of these same men are teaching their daughters that being hit, being belittled and degraded, by a man is acceptable.

two wrongs don’t make a right…

Misbehavior and punishment are not opposites which cancel one another out. They enforce each other,breeding resentment, hurt feelings, and more of the same. No matter how you look at it, two wrongs don’t make a right.

coping mechanisms to parental power…

Children’s coping mechanisms to deal with parental power:

  • Resistance, defiance, rebellion, and negativity. People will fight back when their freedom is threatened.
  • Resentment, anger, and hostility. People want to be in control of themself. When others hold power over them, they feel resentful.
  • Aggression, retaliation, and striking back. Parental domination via authority leads to frustration. Frustration in turn can lead toward aggression. If you hurt me, I’ll hurt you. 
  • Lying or hiding feelings. People may lie to avoid punishment. Lying is a learned response and not a normal part of life.
  • Blaming others, tattling, and cheating. When multiple people are competing for rewards or to avoid punishment, they may resort to trying to make others look bad in an attempt to make themselves look good. Punishments and rewards promote competitive behavior ina family rather than cooperation.
  • Dominating, bossiness, and bullying. Children may attempt to dominate smaller or younger children based on the power over behavior modeled by parents.
  • Needing to win and hating to lose. A person may develop a strong desire to win and look good and want to avoid looking bad losing or looking bad. Life becomes a competitive world with the child against everyone else. This is evident in reward-based families where the parents give out positive evaluation including but not limited to money, gold stars, sticker charts, and verbal rewards.
  • Forming alliances and organizing against parents. Children may band together and agree to tell the same story in order to avoid punishment. Instead of identifying with family, where authoritarian parents hold all of the power, children begin to identify instead with same age cohorts dealing with similar power struggles. They may feel pressure to do drugs, have sex before they are ready, skip responsiblities, or participate in illegal activities.
  • Submission, obedience, and compliance. Children may submit out of fear of punishment from parents. For some, this may suddenly switch to resistance and rebellion. Others will retain the intense fear of people in positions of power, passively submitting to authority, denying their own needs, afraid to be themselves, and avoiding conflict.
  • Courting favor. Some people will work to play up the authority figure and become a favorite or pet. They are often targeted by others.
  • Conformity, lack of creativity, fear of attempting anything new, and fear of failure. Creativity comes from a freedom to experiment and to try new things and combinations. The fear resulting from being powered over stifles creativity and results in conformity.
  • Withdrawing, escaping, fantasiing, and regression. A person who quits trying to cope with reality may withdraw in order to escape it. This can be manifested by daydreaming or fantasizing, inactivity, passivity, and apathy, regression to infantile behavior, excessive screen time, solitary play, sickness, running away, joining gangs, eating disorders, and depression.

conflict: the no-lose method (part4)…

The no-lose method of conflict resolution allows parents to discover what is really going on with the child. When you use your power to enforce your own solutions, you don’t unveil the true underlying feelings and needs. In order to deal with an issue, you have to know what the real problem is first. Once you have worked with your child to discover the cause of conflict, solutions generally become apparent.

Aspects of the no-lose method of conflict resolution:

  • Both parties possess equal or near equal power. Neither holds power over the other.
  • The solution must be acceptable to both parties. This is  method for finding solutions which work for everyone. This may look completely different in different families or with different individuals.
  • Involves the principle of participation. Individuals are more motivated to carry out decisions when they are involved in the decision making process. Less enforcement is required in order to implement the proposed plan because all parties are vested in the plan and the outcome.
  • Encourages and requires each involved party to think.
  • Results in less hostility from everyone because both parties are agreeing on a mutually acceptable solution. Both parties leave the situation feeling good because the conflict has been taken cre of and no party has lost, ultimately bringing them closer together. 
  • Eliminates the need for power. Both parties are working together toward a solution. There is no need to grapple for power and no need for coping mechanisms to deal with another person’s power. Allows each party to respect themself and the other person, allowing everyone to win.

The no-lose approach to conflict resolution treats children like people. Parents are able to communicate to their children that the children’s needs are important and that the children can also be trusted to be considerate of the parent’s needs.