I’d like to encourage you to take a moment and read a short dialogue that discusses the value of valuing others, and the value of validating children.
An Example of Validating a Child’s Feelings – “I want Mama!” – Click for article
And now, the opposing example: A bit of background.. The child in the story that follows from the NGJ site is two years old during this event.
This story describes abuse, and is horrid, so please be warned.
Blog Author’s Note: A child of this age cannot grasp fully what is happening during most of his day, especially when he’s tired, hungry, in need of comfort or security, in a strange or uncomfortable place, or otherwise simply needs the reassurance and love of those he trusts. This is the worst time a parent can betray the trust of the child by terrorizing him instead of attending to his needs. The responses and results this child produces are not due to what Mr. Pearl believes; this child is not a brat, or a manipulating little rebel, but a child with some need that he’s trying to communicate. Due to the terror this method (NGJ) produces, and the child’s loss of trust of the most precious kind (that of his parents), he cannot do anything but try to self-console and SURVIVE this trauma and horrible event, with his undeveloped brain that cannot properly comprehend any of it.
Late one night we were riding back from a seminar when the little fellow noticed that he was on the other end of the seat from his mother—with other siblings between them. He was riding in a restraining seat and whined to sit in his mother’s lap. The father SUGGESTED that it would be best if he stayed strapped into his restraining seat. The mother began to sympathetically explain why she couldn’t hold him. Based on past experiences, he knew that this was just the opening round. Their rejection of his proposal was only tentative. He was just testing the waters to see if they would yield. If by continual insistence he should demonstrate how very important this issue was to him, they would eventually come around to seeing it his way. As he pleaded further, asking for water, I could see that the mother was feeling guilty for not being close to “HER BABY”. Didn’t his tears demonstrate how important this was to his emotional well-being? After six or eight rounds, it finally reached the brokenhearted crying stage.
Mother was reaching for her baby when the father turned to me and asked, “What should I do?” Again I explained the principle: by allowing the child to dictate terms through his whining and crying, you are confirming his habit of whining and consenting to his technique of control. So I told the daddy to tell the boy that he would not be allowed to sit in his mother’s lap, and that he was to stop crying. Of course, according to former protocol, he intensified his crying to express the sincerity of his desires. The mother was ready to come up with a compromise. “He was hungry. He was sleepy. He was cold.” Actually, he was a brat, molded and confirmed by parental responses. I told the father to stop the car and without recourse give him three to five licks with a switch. After doing so the child only screamed a louder protest. This is not the time to give in. After two or three minutes driving down the road listening to his background wails, I told the father to COMMAND the child to stop crying. He only cried more loudly. At my instruction, without further rebuke, the father again stopped the car, got out, and spanked the child. Still screaming (the child, not the rest of us), we continued for two minutes until the father again commanded the child to be quiet. Again, no response, so he again stopped the car and spanked the child. This was repeated for about twenty miles down a lonesome highway at 11:00 on a winter night.
When the situation began to look like a stalemate, the mother suggested that the little fellow didn’t understand. I told the father to command the boy to stop crying immediately or he would again be spanked. The boy ignored him until Father took his foot off the gas, preparatory to stopping. In the midst of his crying, he understood the issues well enough to understand that the slowing of the car was a response to his crying. The family was relieved to have him stop and the father started to resume his drive. I said “No; you told him he was to stop crying immediately or you would spank him; he waited until you began stopping. He has not obeyed; he is just beginning to show confidence in your resolve. Spank him again and tell him that you will continue to stop and continue to spank until you get instant compliance.” He did. The boy was smart. He may not have feared Mama. His respect for Daddy was growing, but that big hairy fellow in the front seat seemed to be more stubborn than he was, and with no guilt at all. This time, after the spanking, when Daddy gave his command, the boy dried it up like a paper towel. The parents had won, and the boy was the beneficiary.
Now you may wonder why I did not tell the father to tell the boy that he was going to spank him until he stopped crying, and not resume driving until he had stopped. Never put yourself in the place where you may lose the contest. What if the boy didn’t stop? Would you spank him forever, or would you stop when it bordered on abuse, in which case the child would win? Your word would fall to the ground; you gave in before he did. You would have actually hardened his resolve to rebel. Furthermore, when a child is being spanked and shortly thereafter, he may be too emotionally wrought to make responsible decisions. Our concern is not just to silence the child, but to gain voluntary submission of his will through respect for our command.
Blog Author’s Note: Silencing a two year old… the best way to do this is to assess what they need, determine their cause, and act accordingly. Not terrorize and hurt them. They are not out to make your life horrid, even if it feels like it sometimes. They are tiny people without the skill or ability to cope and manage in an adult world. Why does this group seem to think that we must begin in infancy to destroy our children, so that they will not become embarrassments and inconveniences.
Father tells the boy to stop crying or he will stop the vehicle and spank. Father stops, spanks; the child cries, and the father resumes the drive. He waits three to five minutes, ignores the crying and continues to talk as if all is well. Five minutes later, the father again commands the child to stop crying. By this time there is no lingering pain and he has had time to quiet his emotions and reflect on the parental mandate: “Stop crying or get a spanking.”
Again the father commands the child to stop crying or he will receive a spanking. The child continues crying only because he assumes that the status quo continues. That is, he is not at all convinced that the father means what he says. Judging from past experiences, he is sure that he will win this contest eventually. By breaking it up into several sessions, the father is reprogramming the child—Father commands with a threat; child disobeys; Father carries out threat; child loses and suffers the consequences; it is an unpleasant experience; repeat all of above five to ten times. The child concludes: There is a new order; Father is consistent; he always means what he says; I cannot win; there is no alternative to instant obedience. Get smart, be a survivor, just say no to self-will.
Blog Author’s Note: The value of breaking the will and spirit of our children. Please refer to this entry, which contains a story of a woman who writes of her own experiences.
I, for one, do not believe my child should have to become a survivor – that’s my job. I will not only keep her alive and surviving in every way I possibly can, but I will endeavor to allow her to thrive in every way I can. In fact, I can’t even fathom having this thought of my own child. BUT if the child were an abuse victim, an orphan on the streets, or in a situation of extreme poverty, I would probably have the thought that this was an extremely strong child, a “survivor”, with an amazing self-will. And if in my power, I would do anything to change this little person’s circumstances, love them dearly, and teach them to love.
I will seek additional material related to the all encompassing harm and destruction that occurs when a parent or care-giver, or abuser, is bent on, and accomplishes breaking a child. I will go one step further, step out of my character, and even find Biblical references that instruct in an opposing manner – to never destroy a child’s spirit.
The beauty of this kind of contest is that when the parents conquer, it applies across the board. The child is not just yielding to the circumstances; he is yielding to his parents. The rebel in him is dying. This submission will translate into every aspect of their relationship.
Blog Author’s Note: That isn’t all that is dying… Early Childhood Trauma
The child has learned that the parents have more resolve than he does. They are not liars. When they say stop or else, they mean it. There is no way to bend the parents; their word is final.
….There are those of you who will think that the twenty miles of spanking was cruel. Remember, this was not a daily event; it was a war to end all wars. The spankings were not wild, violent affairs. They were not greatly painful—to the child, that is. They were done in quiet calm and dignity. It is not the severity of the spanking but the certainty of it that gives it persuasive power. Our object in spanking is not to cause the child to so fear the pain that he obeys. It is to gain the child’s attention and give him respect for the parent’s word. I know that there are abusive, angry parents out there who, through their own inconsistency, find themselves in a position where they excessively spank every day. Spanking should just be the early part of a training program. It is our consistency that trains. The rod just gives credibility to our word. If your word is not credible, no amount of the rod will ever be effective. You will become abusive. If you feel abusive, you probably are. Get counsel and advice from a close friend who has a Biblical perspective on child training.
First, if you feel you are bordering on something that feels abusive with your child, do not seek the counsel of a close friend because this is not going to result in an objective review and perspective of your situation. Close friends allow sex to continue between the parent-figure and child, they allow mothers to terrorize their children by pulling their hair and flinging them around in the name of obedience; they permit abuse to continue. Close friends won’t likely tell you they disagree, at least not sternly. Chances are, they’re close friends because of your commonalities, and this does not lend itself to any sort of objective review.
The certainty of the spanking is not what causes the child’s behavior to become modified, but instead it is the certainty of the terror and pain they know they will experience at the hands of those they are meant to trust openly and deeply, on every level that is needed by the human mind. To treat a child in this manner is to betray them at their core.
I do not believe in allowing a child to rule my life or run my day in its entirety (well, some days I am perfectly fine with it actually), though the priority I place with my child and her development and well being often dictates that my day be centered around her.
I believe in a parent’s instinct, and that the child is the priority. My marriage is not suffering because of this priority, nor is the rest of my life or work because all are balanced accordingly, but while my child is young and totally dependent upon me for her survival and development, she will remain my utmost priority.
She cries because she needs something. Sometimes, at 28 months, she cries when she hasn’t gotten her way, and her cries are how she expresses the feelings associated with her not getting what she wanted, just as she wanted it. These cries are not rebellious or wrong. They are her expressing her frustrations, her disappointment, and all the other emotions that she can’t understand yet, but that are there and need an outlet so that she can move on to the next thing her tiny little focus find to dwell on.
If she is prevented from expressing and experiencing her emotions, and allowing them to run their course, at this young age, she begins to turn inward and without any mechanism within her mind to accomplish this inward reflection (that adults and older children have), she experiences an inner turmoil at the deepest part of her.
As she grows, and her mind matures from year to year, with each episode of experiencing emotional response, her mind begins to understand and learns to examine and utilize these emotional responses. In time, instead of outbursts that include crying and fits/tantrums, she is capable of processing these emotions in a more subtle, internal manner. This is not the unhealthy sort of internalizing that is a result of forced coping and survival. This is the sort of internal thought and emotional process that is found in an emotionally healthy, confident and socially functioning adult. This process begins of growth begins at birth (or prior) and completes itself somewhere along the way to adulthood. The timeline for this completion is unique to each individual.
In the case where a child this young persists in crying.. there is a reason.. He is not simply being a “brat”, as Mr. Pearl would have you believe. If he’s 10 years old, he will communicate his reason, and if there is crying, it will only be brief (unless he knows this is the best technique to force his preferences) but at two, his cries are his communication method. He is not manipulating you to the point where you need to strike him, or strike fear in his heart.
If the child is perfectly provided for, you have already addressed all his concerns, he is comfortable and not tired, and is simply crying or throwing a fit in effort to get you to give in to his desires, there is a very simple, non-violent solution. Do not withdraw from the child, do not isolate him by setting him in time-out or off on his own, stuck in his room, etc.. Stay with the child, in visual or audible range, while he/she works through the emotions experienced in response to their desire being refused.
Tell the child, while the child is screaming, that you’re there. Tell them that it’s ok for them to be upset, but that their response is not going to cause you to change your mind. AND don’t let it. If you decided, for instance, to not allow your toddler to play with a certain toy, do not relent and give it to her just to stop her crying or screaming. Just remove the object from where she can see it, or where she will be reminded that she cannot have it, and allow her to be upset.
Within a few minutes, sometimes 30, (I have seen the fits go on for this long on days when the tension in the house is particularly thick, or if she is too tired) and stay with the child. That does not mean you sit there and stare at them, aggravating them further. And that also doesn’t mean you continue to plead your case to them, hoping they will grasp your reasoning; they can’t grasp your refusal of the toy in the first place, there is no way they’ll grasp the abstract thought of why you have refused, etc…
Once the episode dwindles, and they become calm, you can remind them of what they cannot have, by simply stating that you have put it away for the day (or more) and that you will bring it back for them to play when you are ready to.
Then be loving, affectionate, and change the subject/focus to something that they CAN do and will enjoy, without a bunch of restrictions. Now is not the time to engage them in some complicated task where they are doomed to fail somehow and end up in another emotional battle with you.
Nearly every researcher agrees that early childhood traumas (i.e. those that happen before the age of six) lie at the root of most long-term depression and anxiety, and many emotional and psychological illnesses. Severe traumas can even alter the very chemistry and physiology of the brain itself! Among mental health professionals, and even some childhood development specialists, there is sometimes a lack of understanding over exactly what constitutes childhood trauma.
In addition to physical, sexual and verbal abuse, this can include anything that causes the child to feel worthless, unlovable, insecure, and even endangered, or as if his only value lies in meeting someone else’s needs. Examples cited in the report include “belittling, degrading or ridiculing a child; making him or her feel unsafe [including threat of abandonment]; failing to express affection, caring and love; neglecting mental health, medical or educational needs.”
The AAP also includes parental divorce in the list of potentially harmful events which can traumatize a child.
Many things on the AAP’s list of factors leading to childhood trauma benefit from further definition. For example, what do “belittling” or “degrading” mean in terms of a child’s development? What actions–or inactions–on the part of parents or child carers would lead little Tommy to feel degraded? Under this category I would include criticism, and even failure to praise him (for accomplishment, for effort as well as just for being a “great kid”), listen to his opinions, and take an interest in his activities or friends. Praise and encouragement are essential to a child’s sense of competence and emotional security, and absence of positive feedback can be extremely damaging to a child’s self-esteem.
Other stressors include parental fighting, domestic violence, and bullying, including failure to curb bullying behavior by siblings or peers. An absence of consistent rules and boundaries also makes a child feel unsafe.
According to the AAP, childhood trauma can also include witnessing community and televised violence. So Tommy may also grow to feel unsafe if he is allowed to watch violent movies or traumatic news footage on TV. In fact violent TV is seen by many researchers as one of the causes of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The important point is that a traumatic event or interaction must be a “repeated pattern” to cause lasting damage. The occasional slap on the wrist probably won’t cause permanent harm; an ongoing pattern of corporeal punishment, or threat of such punishment, almost certainly will.
All types of child abuse and neglect leave lasting scars. Some of these scars might be physical, but emotional scarring has long lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self, ability to have healthy relationships, and ability to function at home, at work and at school. Some effects include:
- Lack of trust and relationship difficulties. If you can’t trust your parents, who can you trust? Abuse by a primary caregiver damages the most fundamental relationship as a child—that you will safely, reliably get your physical and emotional needs met by the person who is responsible for your care. Without this base, it is very difficult to learn to trust people or know who is trustworthy. This can lead to difficulty maintaining relationships due to fear of being controlled or abused. It can also lead to unhealthy relationships because the adult doesn’t know what a good relationship is.
- Core feelings of being “worthless” or “damaged.” If you’ve been told over and over again as a child that you are stupid or no good, it is very difficult to overcome these core feelings. You may experience them as reality. Adults may not strive for more education, or settle for a job that may not pay enough, because they don’t believe they can do it or are worth more. Sexual abuse survivors, with the stigma and shame surrounding the abuse, often especially struggle with a feeling of being damaged.
- Trouble regulating emotions. Abused children cannot express emotions safely. As a result, the emotions get stuffed down, coming out in unexpected ways. Adult survivors of child abuse can struggle with unexplained anxiety, depression, or anger. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb out the painful feelings.