How do I condense into a short blog the journey we have been on with our eldest and the long road of discipline? I’ll give it my best shot here…
As you can see from the last blog, temper tantrums have been my life. It got to the point of 2-3 hour meltdowns and tantrums at bedtime, us walking on eggshells, not sure when the next tantrum would erupt, and our poor child was just not fun to be around. Enter me lamenting on Facebook, which led to a comment from my brother, father of seven, which led to many conversations with my brother and sister-in-law on my wonderful, trying, brilliant, and very strong-willed little girl.
They recommended a book, Train Up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl. Now…word of precaution. This book is incredibly fundamental. It’s very traditional. You really, reallyneed to take it with a big grain of salt. A large, large grain. Um, so large that I’m nervous recommending it. But…this book changed our lives.
My synopsis of what I learned…raising children isn’t about just disciplining bad behavior–it’s about training and correcting them so they thrive–so I am not merely reactive to my child’s behavior but proactive in promoting the positive behavior that is important in raising future adults that are thoughtful, respectful and a joy to be around.
Spanking gets a bad rap. I completely understand why. Seeing the parents who react in anger, who swipe up their kid and hit him on the bottom at every wayward behavior, kids that learn that you hit to get your point across…I definitely had reservations on ever spanking, even though I was spanked as a kid. But then again…I did get spanked as a kid. And nope, haven’t been through therapy because of it. I don’t actually remember anything negative from it, other than me not wanting to get in trouble.
My top tips for effective spanking vs. abuse…they have to know it’s coming. It sounds awful, but we talk about the spanking and why she’s getting it before it happens–she knows it’s coming and she has to accept her punishment–no kicking and screaming while I hold her down. Reason for this? If she can’t accept a consequence for her behavior at three, how can I expect her to accept it when she’s sixteen and I have less control over it?
Next, we use a spoon…dubbed “the long arm of the law”. Why? Because it isn’t our hand that does the harm, first off. It’s also something that causes a sting on the surface without lasting damage. You don’t hear of trips to the hospital because of a wooden spoon spanking. Using your hand to spank a bottom can damage a kids’ spine if done too hard, and also, in my opinion, is way too convenient…which means it’s more likely that you will spank in anger.
Which leads me to my biggest point. A spanking is not to be done in anger. Never, ever hit when you as the parent are mad. If you retaliate to their bad behavior by displaying your own, then what you’ve passed on to your child is not the importance of good behavior, but that anything goes–it’s just a matter of who’s bigger (and who wins).
And always end with a positive-because spanking is just a minor part of discipline. We use time outs, breaks in the “reflection chair”, spanking, distractions, incentives and talking things over. We don’t immediately rush to the spoon if a break from the situation will do. There are certain times when we have to consider that she is three–she doesn’t have a perfect grasp on why she feels the way she does (heck, I have a hard time grasping why I feel certain ways sometimes!) There are times when lack of sleep, allergies, or high emotions take over and a hug is the best preventative discipline for her.
What it ultimately boils down to is that our goal as parents is to empower Ladybug Girl to be the best person she can be–and that means teaching her to understand her limits and how to cope in this world in a positive way. As a child getting a grasp on her emotions, we as parents stand as her sounding board and hope to impart what we know and help her to create her own path with a firm foundation.
It’s not about spanking. It’s not about discipline. It’s all about training…or the more socially acceptable term–”raising” a child. I want to be her safe haven–I want to be her listening ear and gentle guide. I want to be there for her–literally and figuratively. Most importantly, I want her to know she’s loved. No matter what, I love her, and I love her enough to push her–to be the best Ladybug Girl she can be–one that has a good grasp of the world and how to be a positive light in it.
I don’t have it all figured out, and I can guarantee that both girls will throw me for a loop countless more times in the next twenty years (and beyond). But I think all we can do as parents is the best we know at the time. And right now I feel at peace with where we are at with discipline. Since Nathan and I “laid down the law,” we have gotten a child that constantly comes and gives us hugs and tells us she loves us, who dances and sings 80% of time, and who is a genuinely happy kid. The more clear boundaries we’ve laid the more secure she’s become, and I’m amazed at the little girl who’s emerging–she’s not a toddler anymore. She has a better grasp on things than I give her credit for, and she keeps us laughing most of the time with her funny precociousness.
I feel the weight of parenting–the importance of what we do right now setting patterns for life, and we’re very, very careful about making sure we’re doing what is in Ladybug Girl’s (and now Snugglepuppy’s) best interest. We all fail, and Nathan and I have our moments of frustrations, but the girls are rich in an abundance of loving support. We have accountability all around us–we have so much family invested in these children that I’m confident that even if we don’t have it all figured out, we’ll be the best parents we know how to be, and we’ll have plenty of support to keep us in check if it were ever a negative effect on our children.
I’m so thankful for everyone in our lives that invests in our girls-grandparents, uncles and aunts, godparents, teachers and coaches…I’m immensely grateful for every positive influence in my girls’ lives, and I know that regardless of us having this whole parenting thing figured out, my girls will always feel our love.