Little One.. You do nothing wrong.. You are never bad.

My heart aches with the weight of knowing tonight.

Words are not coming slow enough to write…
My mind is a windstorm, swirling without form.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Catch something
anything
hold it
until I understand

My family is struggling right now.
My little one is lost in the mess of the adults’ world and its expectations.

When silence is there not to soothe, but because the scream has no voice to give.
Yet, a serenity exists here.
A simple knowing, that goes to the depths of its complexity and returns.
Jamais vu. – What to do with it?


Little one, you are beautiful.

You are amazing in your transparent, curious, exquisite self.

We hear you.

We see.
Your Papa and I…

We know now.

And without a moment’s hesitation or reluctance,
I accept.

~~~

I will seek the solution until it comes.
I will resolve this for you.

Responding to Imminent Danger: Physical & Emotional Threat

In a separate post, I discussed the difference between the terms “listen” & “comply”.  Toward the end of my thoughts, I ventured into the ever present, “But what if there is a reason my kid HAS to do what I’ve said, like, oh say, to keep him from plunging 1000′ to his death!”.

Rather than addressing this very important aspect of compliance in the same vein as the value of respecting a request, communicating expected compliance, and discovering what it really is to “listen” all in one, very long winded dissertation… I figured I’d split them up a bit.

From the previous post… continuing –
…That said, there are instances when the adult cannot fully articulate the entire phrase, including something along the lines of “compliance is expected”.  These sort of instances might be when walking in the city and or parking lot and the child is suddenly in some sort of danger.  In times like this, the adult often cannot sputter out much more than a “STOP” or other imperative in time, and the child’s safety depends on compliance. I’ll discuss this in a separate post.   This is when the sound of the adult’s voice, and the tone that is used (that being of imminent danger – the adult is responding out of fear and the kid can hear it, the urgency and importance, in the adult’s voice) is all that is required for the child to comply.

If the parent has established this foundation (their interactions and expectations being worthy of the child’s trust) and level of respect with the child from the beginning (whether from birth or whenever the child comes under the protection and guidance of said adult), they are in a positive position to provide the consistency and stability necessary that in a situation of threat/safety, the child will interpret accordingly and, if they are developmentally capable, respond appropriately. This is giving the benefit of the doubt to the child and his/her intelligence.. but it’s one that the adult has developed from their end and so is reliable; the adult is comfortable and so is the child.  Given, however, humans do not always behave predictably, so I would encourage the parent to be within reach of physically sparing your child harm, in the event they don’t process your words as you need them to.

AND IF THEY DON’T (process correctly), after the danger has passed, please simply reiterate to them what happened in a flat and respecting tone, reiterate your command and the value of their response having matched, and move on (unless they want to talk about it).  Don’t rub it in, don’t demean or diminish. And don’t think this is your chance (while the body is on heightened alert) to teach a lesson… as it will be one delivered and received with an association of fear.

___________________________________________________________

When my little one was just learning to walk, I took her to the park one day.  At this point (she was not quite 10 months old), she knew many signs that we used to communicate to her.  She didn’t start signing much back until a few months later, but she understood them.  She also understood an expansive list of verbally communicated words.  (We so often do not give enough credit of comprehension to our littlest ones until something happens to forces us to realize just exactly how much they are absorbing and processing.) 

We were walking, hand in hand, just a few feet from our home over to the park (across the street).  I had stopped to grab the mail and releasing her palm for a moment, reached into the box to retrieve the letters.  In a matter of less than two seconds, she’d decided to explore at full speed and, after somehow traversing the curb (didn’t know she could do that yet), she proceeded into the cul-de-sac, dangerously close to the through street.

Now, mind you, I was within reach of grabbing her back and protecting her, but I decided to use my voice instead.  (I’m not sure I actually made a conscious decision either, but that’s what ended up as my response.) I instructed her to stop walking and stand still.  She turned to my face, stopped and stood still, reached out her hand and said, “Mama, come.” 

From that day on, my trust in her intelligence grew and grew, as has my trust in my own regard for her and the value of it.  So, again, while I wouldn’t recommend relying entirely on a little one to process your verbal instruction sufficiently to prevent harm, there is a really good chance they will if you have set up a foundation for them to draw upon, even unconsciously.

__________________________________________________

Why do you think we are sometimes compelled to scold or punish our kids when they do something (or don’t do something) that causes us to fear for their safety? What exactly is going on there in the adult’s mind and response systems?

Also, what connections might be drawn between parents who respond immediately to infant’s cries, and a baby/toddler/young one responding immediately to the parent’s communiations?

For additional reading on this topic, please visit Dangerous Situations

Why Command or Demand When All You Have to Do is Request?

Instead of a command or demand, (how often do you see parents barking orders at their kids, big and small, and becoming very irritated and resorting to punishment when the child doesn’t offer immediate and utter compliance), try making a reasonable and considerate request.

I received a comment/response to an earlier post in which a mother describes a scenario in her home. In this case, the mom explained directly to the child directly that “the volume level (his preferred level) was more than she (or the family) could enjoy with him at that time, and asked him if he would please turn it down”.  Her manner of handling the situation  was absolutely brilliant, and kind.  Perhaps this mom knows that referring to the family as a whole works better in her home, and maybe another home would work better if it were individualized, either way, the adult taking time to treat the child as they would their spouse, friend, co-worker, or even a stranger in the room, elevates the child’s self esteem and ability to connect and co-exist to such an extent that instead of the parent having to try (or force) to get cooperation, all they have to do is ask.

BUT here’s the catch…

A parent willing to demonstrate compassion and such a level of maturity and awareness as this type of scenario, must also be willing to bend.  Treating her child as she would an adult in the grown-up world, (sitting in one’s office, guy in the cube next door blaring awfully annoying noise – asked to please turn it down – guy either refuses or does so to such a degree that it doesn’t help), she knows that sometimes she gets what she wants and other times she doesn’t.  If the child knows he or she has the right to deny the parent’s request (scary, I know.. but hang in there with me), then the child can choose how he/she behaves, and becomes responsible for those choices. While sometimes it means the parent has to accept their request being denied (just like in the real world), it can just as easily be extremely satisfying and rewarding when the child chooses to grant the request out of genuine selflessness, compassion, or empathy.  Talk about parenting on a different level. Imagine having a teenager that respected you so greatly, and your respect of them was equal, that instead of power struggles and fear based control tactics by the parent, the parent could simply establish boundaries, set expectations, request cooperation, and trust the loyalty of the friendship between the parent and teen, and trust the teen to make his/her own choices, to accept responsibility for them, and each enjoy the other and their shared life.  This takes courage.

Hard to imagine?

Well… when you set it up from day one as a mutual partnership, a mentorship, a friendship, a love that does instead of just says, it’s not difficult and it is not imagination either, it’s reality.  Day one can be at birth or as soon as you become aware and decide to allow the paradigm shift in your mind and home.  And keep in mind, no human is consistent 100%, but grace and compassion take care of the inconsistencies until the inconsistencies take care of themselves.


 

Request vs. Demand

Request Demand
Attention Attention is on the needs of others and myself Attention is on strategies
Intention To get everyones needs fulfilled To get the others to do what I want
Appreciation My appreciation for the other person does not change, if the other one says “No.” I do not appreciate the other person as much, if the other one says “No.”
Trust I trust, that my needs will be considered and satisfied. I am scared, that my needs do not count.


 

>>> From the blog: The Key to Getting Your Needs Met

The number one reason people’s Needs are not met is unclear requests.” – Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Mastering Requests

Why:

Requests ensure that I am giving the people around me something actionable and clear so that they can respond to my Need.
Making requests of each other, rather than demands, assures that we are doing everything for each other out of an energy that will not later interfere with the quality of the connection.
As I said earlier, one of the most important insights in NVC is that whenever we do anything for one another, I for you or you for me…
…the energy with which we do it is just as important as the action itself. Because when we or others act motivated by fear, guilt, shame, obligation, shoulds and have-tos, the relationship pays a big price, usually in terms of resentment and often an erosion of trust.
Unclear requests create confusion, and waste time and resources.
 Demands squander goodwill and trust.

What:

A true NVC request is distinct from a demand, and meets four criteria (below).
In a demand the other person’s Needs are not perceived as equally important, and the other person may do what we’re wanting out of a motivation of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, shoulds, have-tos, etc.
When I make a true request, your Needs matter to me just as much as my own. And I remember the consciousness that NVC teaches me in which I prioritize the relationship over specific outcomes, and when we are connected we find that we co-create mutually satisfying outcomes.
If I have made a true request, I can hear a response of no with as much love as a yes. Below are the four criteria for an NVC request:
(1) Specific. (Vague requests are less doable, and therefore less likely to result in your Needs being met. They are also prone to being misinterpreted; e.g.: “I want more space in this relationship.” Response: “Are you saying you’d like me to contact you in five years?”)
(2) Present. (Actionable in this moment. Even if what I want is a future action, what is actionable right now is agreement about that future action.)
(3) Positive action language. (What we do want the other person to do rather than what we don’t want them to do).

Discipline & Being Non-Punitive

The term discipline, and how our society as a rule uses it, is about to drive me batty. Discipline, the way it’s used, means punishment. To me, discipline is a quality of inner self, of integrity.

Punishment is something that happens to someone.
It’s a quality. Something that has been fostered and developed. When a person has discipline they have the inner fortitude to make right choices, to do what needs to be done.   – Source –

The other night my daughter (just 4) was playing with pine cones in our family room. She had them flying through the air, one in each hand.
We were working on various projects in the room, and as usual, I was barefoot. So was she.

After playing for a few moments, one of the pine cones came crashing to the floor, spraying splintering pieces of wood in its wake. So, I spoke to my daughter in a command to not throw the pine cones onto the floor. I did not ask, did not explain, did not expound. I was busy and annoyed. She knew it.

…Not one of my better moments.

Three or so minutes later, another pine cone hit the floor and I initially snapped at her. This, however, not only demonstrates a complete lack of respect on my part, but it elicits a similarly disrespectful and rather dismissive response from my daughter. Thankfully, I caught myself mid sentence, stopped my mouth, took a deep breath and walked over to her and took her into my arms. We then had a conversation.

This time, I decided to remember how to be decent to her, remember to see the world through her eyes and mine, and remember that she is equally valued and equally considered in our home. In other words, instead of being controlling and speaking down to her (or what some might consider a proper authoritative tone), I spoke evenly and with respect.

I explained that I was upset that after I’d just asked her to not throw another pine cone on the floor, one hit dead center and left pieces everywhere. Then I corrected myself, and recalled that actually I had not asked anything but “told” her not to “throw pine cones”, when I should have said, “Please do not allow any more pine cones to hit the floor BECAUSE when they do, they split apart and send sharp pieces of wood flying all over the floor that one of us is then going to either step or sit on and end up with a pokey sticking out of our skin.” This she would have comprehended… This she would have heard. This, she would likely have granted. My demand and annoyance instead immediately caused her to shut off her willingness.

When I restated what would have been a better comment to have made to her initially, her defensiveness dropped and she made eye contact. I could see her shoulders raise, her chin relax (from being rather set just a moment before), and the stress reaction to fear of the big person (who was not behaving very well) disappear from her face.

A moment later, I set her down, knelt next to her, and asked (yes, asked) her to clean up the pieces. My words were, “Bugz, so that no one gets hurt with all these pieces on the floor, will you please pick up every single piece you can find and put them in the trash?”

She began, and, handing them to me (instead of the trash), we both cleaned up the floor together.

I could have thrown her into time out. I could have spanked her for what so many would consider deliberate defiance. I could have ridiculed her, demeaned her, squashed her for not doing what I wanted. I could have lorded over her, assumed my role as parent and thereby big person who is so much bigger that I can MAKE her do what I want, one way or another… Instead I chose to remember the value of not resorting to threat or condescension.

I chose to take a breath and pause. I chose to change my attitude and treat her with the same amount and sort of respect I would an adult who had my admiration. I communicated by explanation, honored my need by my own example (I got down on the floor and picked up the pieces with her), and reconnected by helping to renew and strengthen her sense of self, value, and ability.

Three days later, I have seen a pine cone on the floor (where it doesn’t belong), exactly once. I asked her to relocate it to where she’d like, but where it wouldn’t get stepped on and where we wouldn’t have to worry about the sharp pokey ends breaking off and getting left for our feet to find. She decided to grant my request. She picked it up, took it to the tree, placed it where she wished, with no fuss, no hesitation, and instead of dread or annoyance (having to do a chore), she exhibited interest and delight because she was in control of where it should go.

End result desired – achieved by the mama.
Education and empowerment – gained by the kiddo
.

In our house, my daughter does not comply out of fear of punishment. In fact, she doesn’t know what punishment is and compliance is reserved for safety and inescapable social situations. She chooses to grant requests, when she does, out of her own sense of purpose and reason. She knows she can choose to refuse our requests, and she knows we can choose to refuse hers. This works because, in our home (unlike so many I have seen), we do not choose to control her and do not fear being unable to retain control because control is not what makes our home function. In our home, we live together, support each other, and collaborate on life. All of us. We work together, we work independently, we share and cooperate, we value each other equally and we each know that it takes all of us, together. If today one of us is too tired, then we make up for it tomorrow. Is everything always even and fair? No. Does the Mama (or Papa) screw it all up sometimes? Yes. But humility, grace, and compassion fill in the gaps and keep things going.

Grace and compassion – not permissiveness. Our daughter knows when compliance is mandatory. In her 4 years here, she has demonstrated only a few times her reluctance when it’s clear to her that she “must”. At her young age, we have had to step in a few times and physically cause compliance to preserve her health, but as she’s grown, these instances have become fewer and fewer. In fact, at this point, about the only time I try to actually force compliance is when I am being impatient, demanding (as in no longer requesting her cooperation) or unwilling to see through her worldview. To date she has not once refused instant compliance when she hears threat of danger (or fear) in my voice (i.e., stop! – car coming!). It is rare that I must speak this way anyway, as she has been educated well enough and makes wise decisions appropriate for her age most of the time. But every once in while, a situation arises, and it is during these that the most compelling positive evidence for grace and compassion based parenting, instead of punitive and trained/controlled governing of little ones becomes so easily observed.

_________________________________________________________________What about you? What experiences have you had where you either caught yourself mid stream and changed your approach to a more respectful and considerate one, or where from the very beginning your way of existing with your little ones caused a successful outcome of an event that would result in punishment in a typical home? Share your experiences please, we can learn so much from each other.

I Had Always Just Assumed I’d Spank My Children – One Mom’s Journey to Seeing

This is, quite possibly, the most eloquently written composition on this subject (specifically the Biblical aspect of the subject) that I have ever read.

This woman has two subsequent related posts, of which I will address in separate posts here.  But start with this.. just read and sit with it for the time it chooses to leave you its essence.

____________________________________

Grace

January 8, 2011 by discipleshipmothering

My Letter to Focus on the Family

Hi,

I am a long time listener and supporter of Focus on the Family. From the time I was a teenager, I listened to and from school and college, collecting much wisdom for the path ahead of me. A strange thing for a teen to do, I guess. But, I truly love the Lord, and wanted His best for my future. I hold a high respect for Dr. James Dobson and his marriage advice. I’ve been very happily married for almost ten years.

However, when I had my first child, Dr.Dobson’s advice nearly broke my heart. I’d always assumed I’d spank, and followed his advice for my spirited 2 year old. I cannot express to you in words how wrong it felt. The spirit of God was convicting me, and this precious son, whom I’d nursed for 21 months, and had continued a very close, in-synch relationship with, even through the addition o a new baby, when he was 28 mos….become afraid and distrustful of me. Not only that, it wasn’t working to improve his behavior. He fit the bill for “strong-willed”, certainly. But, could he be beyond hope, since the very method tailored to his personality wasn’t working?

With much prayer, my husband and I began to research other discipline methods. I came across gentlechristianmothers.com in my search, and discovered some very eye-opening statements about Biblical discipline.

Out son is now 4 yrs old. We are complimented often, at church, by family and friends, and even by strangers, on how happy and well-behaved our children seem. Life is not perfect, and he’s not a perfect child. But, we are a much more peaceful, loving family since learning to discipline with the Grace of Jesus.

What I see lacking on your website is acknowledgement that these verses in Proverbs may not mean what we think they mean. You can do the research yourself and find that there are many reasons to doubt that these are commands to hit children. More than likely, they are wise principles for being a constant source of authority for our children. The OT has many things to say that are covered under grace. Another good example is the treatment of women caught in adultery. We all know how Jesus chose to react. This should be the ultimate example, among many in the NT, of how to apply grace.

I write this because the advice from Dr. Dobson about strong willed children is at worse, very dangerous advice for new parents. And, at the very least, it is impractical and unecessary. I say dangerous because it’s using God’s Word to convince parents they must hit their children. I believe there are FAR more Biblical principles we can apply to child discipline, besides a few commonly misunderstood proverbs, written by a king who ended his life in such disgrace against God, and was held with such irreverence by his own sons  (Solomon). Let’s instead apply the wisdom of Christ, Himself.  How did He disciple? How did He view children? What principles of love, forgiveness, reproof, and correction can we glean from the NT church?

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind completely about spanking. It is so ingrained in our culture, most people don’t think twice about NOT doing it, as I once thought. However, I hope my letter will at least open the eyes of Focus on the Family and it’s wide-spread influence, to impact the world with Christ’s love.

My husband and I have experienced a total life change, and it has not been easy in the face of criticism. But, thus far, it has been one of the best decisions of our young life. It is my prayer that one day, Dr. Dobson will realize his mistake and change his heart on this subject.

Many Prayers,
(My Real Name)

I’ll keep you posted if I receive a reply.

 

Difficulties of Directing Our Children Instead of Guiding Their Exploration

‘Tiger Mothers’ leave lifelong scars

By Lac Su, Special to CNN
January 20, 2011 9:41 p.m. EST
tzleft.lac.su.ctsy.jpg
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lac Su says he was raised by two “tiger” parents, a Vietnamese mother and a Chinese father
  • Su says he still has emotional scars from their harsh parenting style
  • He chides author Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”

Editor’s note: Lac Su, a psychologist and business executive at TalentSmart, is the author of I Love Yous are for White People (HarperCollins, 2009).

(CNN) — When CNN called me this week to see if I’d share my thoughts on the backlash surrounding Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal article “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” I told them I would have much to say. You see, I was raised by two tigers.

My Chinese father and Vietnamese mother personified the parenting style advocated by Chua. Chua’s January 8 article — based on her new memoir “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” –unleashed a firestorm of criticism for its unabashed assertion that the harsh stereotypically Chinese style of parenting is superior to that of the West.

I received more than 1,000 emails from fans, family, and friends the day Chua’s article ran. When I finally had a free moment to read the article (writing isn’t my day job), I was briefly overwhelmed by a visceral, gushing panic.

Tiger Mom: I’m not backing down

You see, growing up in a home like Chua’s was no piece of cake, and although I’m close to 40 now, I still bear wounds that haven’t healed.

Tiger Mom: I’m not backing down
Amy Chua on being a “Tiger Mother”
Author: ‘Tiger’ parents leave scars

I believe that Chua’s abusive parenting is motivated by her own unhappiness. How do I know this? My father told me so. He’s the man whose tiger-infused parenting produced the catch phrase that became the title of my memoir, I Love Yous Are for White People.

The only difference between Chua’s and my father’s parenting technique is that Chua never laid a hand on her daughters (as far as we know).

Chinese Mom: American ‘Tiger Mother’ clueless

All the same, Chua’s modus operandi is to keep her daughters in check via the emotional mind game — brain-washing, derision, negative reinforcement, and reverse psychology.

Writing I Love Yous Are for White People helped me to cope with the wounds the tigers’ claws left behind. Since its release I’ve met countless others who bare similar scars.

A ‘Tiger Mother’ rebuttal from across the ocean

All my young life, my parents were quick to remind me of my stupidity. Their burning desire to see me achieve at any cost resulted in the same belittling imparted by Chua on her daughters. My parents were particularly preoccupied with my lack of progress in school.

Fixated on the idea that I was a slow learner, they confused my cautiousness with a lack of desire, and my need for affection as the wants of a spoiled American brat.

In telling me that I was a stupid, worthless, waste of space, they believed they were spurning me on to do great things. Like Chua’s daughters, they didn’t allow time with friends, and no matter how hard I worked, or how dutifully I obeyed their commands.

It was never enough.

When the mind games — and even beatings — didn’t make me smart enough, my parents resorted to an ancient Chinese “cure” for my stupidity. One Saturday morning when I was in third grade, they sat me down at the kitchen table and plopped a throbbing, round lump of pink flesh the size of a softball onto a plate in front of me. It landed with a splat. I knew it was meat, but nothing I’d ever eaten before.

The oblong hunk of flesh was a cow’s brain, and my parents made me eat one every weekend for a year. I didn’t get any smarter from the effort.

Three years ago, during a family gathering, my father confessed regret about his choice in parenting. I didn’t know what to say. The damage had been done.

I feel for Chua’s daughters and imagine they’ll have similar conversations with her one day. Chua doesn’t seem to wonder if her tiger techniques are overboard, and neither did my father while I was young. He never asked if the abuse was unwarranted, and never questioned whether isolating me from the world was the best way for me to learn how to maneuver in it. In his mind, he had done the right thing.

Now that her parenting has been subjected to intense public scrutiny, Chua has gone on the defensive, saying that the Journal article got it all wrong and her book is really about discovering the error of her ways.

Of course, she also went on the Today Show and said that, if she was given the opportunity to do it all over again, she would, “basically do the same thing.”

Not exactly the words of a reformed tiger.

Only by seeing me as an adult, taking a nurturing, accepting approach in rearing my children, did my father realize that there is a better way.

I’m sure I appear successful and happy on the surface … In spite of this, my parents’ approach failed. I’m torn to pieces on the inside.
–Lac Su, author “I Love Yous are for White People”
RELATED TOPICS

Now in my mid-thirties, I’m sure I appear successful and happy on the surface. I’m a published author, a successful executive, and I have a Ph.D. in psychology.

In spite of this, my parents’ approach failed. I’m torn to pieces on the inside.

I’ve been through countless hours of psychotherapy, and my lack of self-worth beckons me to rely on alcohol to numb the pain.

I should be chasing my dreams, not chasing pain.

Children need their parents’ love and acceptance in order to develop real self-esteem. Belittling children sends the message that they are not worthy of love and support — as do mind games, emotional abuse, and tight-fisted control.

This message lasts a lifetime. I still question every day if I am, indeed, stupid. I didn’t even raise my hand in class until graduate school because I honestly believed that a moron like me has nothing worthy to say.

If I could say one thing to Amy Chua, it’s that I would trade every last bit of my success in life to live without the deep wounds given to me by a Tiger Mother.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lac Su.

 

Resorting to Violent Correction in Dangerous Situations

This is absolutely beautifully written.  I shall direct you to her blog for many more tender morsels that hopefully will encourage you on your journey.

S O U R C E

The Danger Dilemma

One grey area in the Gentle Parenting debate seems to be what to do about dangerous situations. Many spankers argue that they only find spanking necessary when their children attempt something dangerous, and they feel no compunction against using physical punishment in those cases. I feel qualified to dissect and hopefully expose this argument, because I was one of those parents. I thought it better to smack my child’s hand then to let him experience a cut or burn.

One of the moments when a child MUST know absolutely that his parents love him- no matter what- is the moment he has found himself in danger. Children need a refuge- a safe place to run.  Think Prodigal Son. So what happens when, after obeying Mom’s order to come back off the street or to drop the sharp knife, a child is punished? Don’t they need something ‘for shock value’ just to communicate how terrible that thing was they almost experienced? Shouldn’t a parent ‘do something’ to inform the child of her fear for him? Pain is a deterrent, right? If my child learns to associate pain with a certain thing- say the oven for example, or the word ‘hot’- isn’t that a good thing?

Life threatening situations are the one thing that parents think gives them the right to at least punish, and usually spank or confine or both, a child.  It is our fear speaking in that moment…a fear that often turns to anger at being afraid. We direct that anger towards the child who, ‘should have known better’. When a child who has never attempted anything dangerous attempts something dangerous (and he/she will) punishment still doesn’t work. Either the consequences of the act will be enough, or they won’t be- and then a parent’s job becomes to modify the environment or provide supervision until the fascination with the forbidden thing ends.

Maximus learned very early what HOT meant. I’d pour coffee while he was balanced on my hip and he’d reach for it. Over and over every day he’d hear, ‘Hot! No touch! Hurt baby!’ He stopped reaching for my coffee. A year later we started cooking together. He complied with my instructions regarding the stove and oven. I NEVER expected him at the ripe old age of 3.5 to lay his hand on the burner. Angels must have been working overtime that night, because he barely got burned. A while later, he snuck cheese off of a pizza right out of the oven and burned his fingertips, mouth and his forearm where he laid it against the rim of the pizza pan. That burn has healed- but a red scar remains… Now when I’m cooking and he gets too close, I remind him, ‘remember what happened to your arm?’ and he steps away. I watch him as closely now as the 2 year old.

My warnings were not enough. No matter that I had taught him that ‘Stove’ was ‘hot’ and ‘hot’ meant ‘hurt’ he STILL didn’t understand that a burn equals pain. That is something he would never have understood without the experience. Of course I wish he could have learned that lesson without the pain, but I think we all know life really doesn’t work that way. So many people would suggest I smack his fingers so he ‘learns’ that if he touches the stove he’ll be hurt. But children do not learn well by conditioned response. This is one area where Dr. Dobson’s reasoning and my experience conflict wildly. When you repeated smack a child’s fingers for touching things, two things happen. The first lesson that the child learns is that it’s bad to touch things, period. That leads to problems later when you wish your child would be interested in trying new things, but you have inadvertently taught her to avoid anything interesting. The second is that the child becomes desensitized to pain in this regard. If you’re a spanker, you’ve probably seen this phenomenon. The shock of the smacking wears off.

Another thing- in regard to ‘shock value’; Not every child perceives a spanking in the same way. I have realized that Maximus may not feel pain very sharply. Spankings never seemed to have any shock value to them, ever. When I think of the things I tried to get his attention…..I feel sick. That time he burned his forearm? He never told me! He nevercomplained about it…until the blister popped when he scraped it on something. I never knew it was that bad! It took a month or more in healing and the spot is still visible.

In regard to running away- into the street, etc. – Maximus responded quite predictably when I spanked him for running away. He started to run away whenever he thought I was angry with him. When he saw me coming, he ran farther away. 🙁  The first time I got to him and did not spank him…he didn’t know what to think. After a bit, I could call to him, ‘Maximus stop and wait for me.’ and he would- because he knew I wouldn’t hurt him. A while after that, I could call to him to come back and he would meet me halfway, take my hand and walk calmly back to the house with me, often telling me he was glad I was there.

My point is that when I stopped trying to enforce the wrongness and danger of what he was doing, I started to get the results I was aiming at- Safety!  He started to pay attention to me, and take my instructions seriously when I. Calmed. Down.  That was (not so) coincidentally the same time I actually started enforcing the boundaries for him that I had previously set. I began going out and getting him immediately as soon as he left the house without me (instead of yelling several times). I put a second lock on the screen door that he could not open. I started going outside with him more often- I realized he needed the sunshine and the free space to roam. We took more walks. (I got off my lazy duff) Every time he tried to get out without me, I re-stated the boundary- ‘You may not go outside without Mommy or Daddy.’

Gradually, he began to stop trying to get out by himself. He started asking to go out more often. One day he asked to go outside when I was cooking and Minimus was napping. I told him I couldn’t go out, but that if he could stay on the porch, he could go out without me. He did! We worked our way up from there, each small success granting him more freedom as my trust in him grew. He had to stay where I could see him from the porch, and he HAD to answer me when I called his name- or he had to come right back in. The amazing thing is that when I needed to go out and bring him in because he had violated those boundaries, he would often come in without a contest! Sometimes I just had to ask, other times I had to go get him, but he didn’t run from me anymore. I had earned HIS trust back once again.

The surest way to help a child deal with danger is to first keep them safe; second, allow room in the boundaries for small developments in safety skills; and third, set a clear boundary and enforce it.

 
greenegem

Here, Let Me Do That… Let Me Help

I came across this blurb (end of post) a few months back.  I don’t recall what led me to it specifically.  Sometimes I’ll find something so profound that I’ll compose a draft with its contents knowing I will want to write about it later.  Tonight, I started to go through my “drafts” for the purpose of writing out of discipline.  This stuck out… But before I address said contents, I want to digress.  🙂 ________________________________________________________ The other day, I had a simple and brief conversation with my husband that I think is one of the more “successful” instances where we actually communicated effectively, bi-directionally.  Further, I think the conclusion of the conversation was mutual and effective; the far reaching benefits of a very simple concept are already starting to be evident.

Let me give you a brief bit of background information so you can follow the dialogue I will use to share the experience with you.  My daughter, who will be three in the very near future, has taken to a specific doll.  When we began our nomadic journeys, 4 months ago, she suddenly became very attached to this doll (she calls her “Baby”) and we fostered her interest.

Every day, my daughter’s waking thought is to care for her Baby; she won’t get out of bed without first tending to her.  Sometimes my daughter will personify her own needs through those of her baby (“Mama, my baby is hungry for breakfast”), and often she will simply communicate her Baby’s needs, independent of her own.  She keeps track of her Baby as we do her.

The doll is never left at home alone, she won’t leave her in the car alone, she takes her everywhere she goes.  We have never tested her loyalty by, for instance, leaving the doll in the car overnight (having taken my sleeping daughter in from the carseat).  We have too much respect and value for our child to test her dedication to this doll, or to attempt to make her prove how that dedication represents her internal values.  We don’t want to know her anguish at waking in the middle of the night to find her Baby not lying next to her, but instead discover that baby had been left alone, in the cold and dark, abandoned.  This is the extent of value her Baby has: We have two children now, one just happens to be stuffed with cotton and the other is stuffed with bones, nerves, arteries, and muscles.  This is also the extent of admiration and awareness we have of our what our daughter holds as valuable… and what we hold as valuable.

I assume you get the picture.

We have taken to commenting on our daughter’s attentiveness by statements such as, “Your Baby is such a lucky baby to have you”, and “It’s so awesome to see you take such great care of your Baby…. You always know just what she needs”.

We have even, on occasion, indicated to our kiddo that her baby seems to need her, taking our cue from our daughter saying things like, “My baby is scared of _________, she needs me to hold/fix/take care of her.”  As well as the baby being hungry, thirsty, hot/cold, tired… etc.

I often remark that my daughter is a wonderful mama for her baby.  And sometimes we say that she’s “such a good Baby Mama”.  She understands and acknowledges our praise and recognition, usually with some sort of intelligent response that demonstrates and affirms our comments.  However, the other day I noticed a different response…

Instead of affirming our comments, she rather sulked. It was barely perceivable, but I happened to catch a glimpse of a momentary facial expression, followed by just a tiny flash of body language that was inconsistent with pride, confidence, and self-esteem.  In its place, I saw what almost appeared to be invalidation and a touch of diminished self-value set itself in her countenance and little form.  Her shoulders dropped a bit, her head angle changed, she looked somewhat conflicted internally (like she wanted to say something but didn’t know what/how), and she just sort of – missed a beat.  This is the kid that never misses even 1/16 of a beat, but at that moment, she skipped out for almost an entire phrase.

So, I brought it to her Papa’s attention and told him what I observed.  I identified some of it immediately, and some of the concept developed subsequently, but we concluded that she was indeed affected “not positively” by what had been said.  And through conversation (in code, I might add), we realized that, from the best we can tell, our quantifying and qualifying of her actions, assigning an ambiguously positive adjective to them (based upon us assuming we have the power to assign such value), was what sat wrong with her that day.

She knows how attentive she is.  We don’t need to tell her. She is well aware of herself, and is not seeking empty praise. She is seeking recognition and acknowledgement; confirmation of her success and a shared sense of value and commonality. She also knows that we see her value of/for her baby and we approve.  We approve directly as well as inwardly. We both appreciate her actions because they seem an indicator of how she perceives our care of her.

Our assignment of a quality/value (such as “good”) that was not her own self assessment, triggered something inside of her that was not “good”.  She didn’t beam with pride and confidence, which is our goal.  She sunk and struggled with an internal “offset” instead. She did not benefit from us telling her something is “good”, “great”, “bad”, or any other ambiguous adjective of qualified value, assigned by us, as if we hold the power to bestow such an assignment.  She benefits from our approval and awareness of her efforts, the reasons for those efforts, and the values that she holds for and of herself. These are the comments that build her up, give her wings, and cause her to soar.   – And no, we’re not inflating her pride, we’re giving her the building blocks to construct her self-esteem and foundation.

All that said, I believe there is a connection with the concept identified above, and that of the one discussed below, that I initially mentioned at the beginning of this post.  The exchange above is positive, below is not so positive, but the unifying understanding is significantly similar.  I hope you’ll catch it. Above, I talked about the value of acknowledgement; of not assigning one’s personal value system to another, but instead giving the other person the respect and due recognition of their efforts and values, and acknowledging their own assigned levels of quality.  Approval and acknowledgement are not synonymous, but sometimes are very intricately linked, as in the above example. In what follows, you will see something that initially may look positive, but I submit that it is indeed actually demeaning, diminishing, and causes far reaching damage.  This sort of interplay can be overt and with malice, which usually results in a diminished recipient (who may then be invalidated further by the denial of the existence of such invalidation). However, such behavior can just as easily be inconspicuous and with an apparent intent to be constructive and beneficial, and is then often very confusing to the recipient and others within observational range.  In reality, taking into consideration the very real likelihood that the individual controlling the dynamics of the exchange suffers from his/her own insecurities and a need to raise themselves above others, at the cost of the others’ autonomy and self-value, it is an entirely unsuccessful approach at anything in the realm of positive and beneficial.

Loosely quoted:  Source is here

For example, a father conveys the subtle message of “I don’t think you’re capable” by taking on a (the child’s) task to do it right.

“Here, let me help you cut that out”, as he takes over the child’s school project.

When the child states, “I can do it myself”, the father keeps working on the project.

“I know you can. I’m just helping. Now doesn’t that look better?”

If the child should protest angrily, “You don’t think I can do it right!” the father might respond, Of course I do”, “I was just helping”, or “you are so ungrateful!”   Do you see the three levels of damage here?

In this situation, the father has escalated the situation to cause the child to become angry and then to criticize the child for being angry. (This is called a setup, in case you aren’t seeing what the problem is yet.  The father instigates the conflict and the child’s loss of self-value by devaluing and having no courage to trust in his child’s own abilities, and telling him as much.  Then the father sets the child in a position of defense or subjugation (child can pick), which he then berates the child for acting out his need to defend. And then the father adds insult to injury by telling the child he is further lacking in value and lacking in a common socially expected behavior patter.  The father hopes the child will surrender to the barrage, thereby giving the father his sadly desired “victory”.  Might as well add an “I told you so, stupid”.  The kid is low enough at this point that he would agree.)

This teaches the child that his emotions are unacceptable, as well as that her father doesn’t believe he/she is capable.

Let that last sentence sit for a moment.  Read it again.  Can you identify the ramifications of those two concepts in their entirety?  Grab a pencil and start making a list.  Seriously.  It’s multi-layered and extends far greater than what appears obvious at the surface.

Over time the child learns to not trust her own perceptions of reality.  That’s not all she learns… but let’s just think on what bad sort of stuff might result in her experiencing doubt on this level, when so vulnerable.

Another example of this sort of devaluing is a parent telling their children that they should respect or love them because they are their parents – nothing more.  Not a mutual respect, a respect learned by example, or even a natural respect allowed to grow and develop due to a distinct absence of hindrances.

“Love and respect is something that occurs due to the underlying relationship not because of a demand.”   And to that, I add, love and respect are due to many things far greater and in more depth than just an underlying relationship, but that’s a good place to start the understanding and exploration.

Love and respect are intrinsically interconnected with recognition, acknowledgement, and value.  Look up validation.