Refusing to Diminish: Holding High Our Children’s Value

From the naturalchild.org website
Emotions are Not Bad Behavior by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting



A Child’s Right to Receive Attention

One of the most commonly heard parental laments is about how children try to get attention. So many behaviors that adults don’t like are brushed off as “merely” attention-seeking devices. “Don’t worry about him,” we say, “he is just doing it to get attention.”

When children use oblique ways to get attention, such as causing a ruckus, exaggerating or feigning their hurts, picking on other children, showing off, being coquettish – they risk being ignored or put down, as nearby adults roll their eyes in exasperation. Sometimes, this also happens to children even when they directly and openly call for the attention they crave. Instead of scorning the child, why don’t we ask these questions: When a child is being manipulative, instead of direct, how did he learn to do this? How did he come to feel that he shouldn’t openly ask for a hug, an answer to his question, sympathy or just to be noticed or played with?

All children begin their lives with complete frankness about their needs. Babies and toddlers reveal their longings with no compunction: what you see is what you get. If a child reaches out for attention and for warmth and she gets it, her ability to be open and directly assertive is reinforced. By begrudging our children’s healthy attention-seeking behaviors, we unwittingly train them to be indirect. We leave them little room for much else, so they go for the attention they need and deserve through the back door.

We unwittingly train our children to be indirect.

Our society tends to consider children’s needs for attention as a bother. No wonder children become indirect attention seekers, some even going to great lengths to fall ill or get injured in order to be noticed. Children who have too often been denied attention can become insatiable, as if no amount of limelight ever fills their cup. Attention is life-giving, a basic need and a human right. Children deserve all the attention they want.When you wholeheartedly give a child the attention she asks for from the beginning, she soon has her fill. This is precisely what helps her to become more autonomous. As she grows, she asks for less of your attention (research shows that well-attached babies grow into children who are more independent), and when she does want attention, she asks directly, boldly and clearly.


Punished for Feeling

Time and time again children are heavily reprimanded for committing the offense of crying or being angry. Let’s get this straight: emotions are not bad behavior. Emotions don’t hurt anyone. Suppressing children’s emotions does, on the other hand, cause them harm: over time, if done repeatedly, it unbalances their brain chemistry, it stresses their immune and digestive systems, and it undermines their ability to relate to others.

Emotional censorship starts early. One of the most common things we say to a crying baby is “Shhh!” We say it soothingly, but why exactly do we shush them? Think of all the lullabies that start by telling our little babies to “hush”, and “don’t you cry”. Have you ever paused to wonder why, in trying to comfort our babies, we ask them to be quiet? It seems as if the first thing we want is for the crying to stop – instead of connecting with our baby until the reason for crying has gone.

Attention is a basic need and a human right.

Instead of berating your child for feeling her feelings, give her the space to feel, and comfort and support her if she needs it. Sometimes when our children cry, sob or yell in anger we feel overwhelmed, irritated or burdened. Our children don’t deserve the blame for this. When our child’s emotions press our buttons, we need to own the problem. We need to somehow honor our own need for support or rest without making our children responsible.


What Does Listening Mean?

The listening I am talking about here is not just about receiving and storing information, not just about remembering what your child said. I am talking about listening with your heart, not just with your ears. Real listening is all about feelings. All you need to be a good listener is a genuine interest in your child’s emotional world. When you truly want to hear, no special skill is needed. Your child senses your interest in the tone of your voice, in your body language and the look in your eyes. You know you have listened when you feel moved. You might feel compassion, protectiveness, you might feel some pain about your child’s hurts, pride or excitement about his achievements, or joy to meet his joy. Listening means letting yourself feel touched somehow, and being aware of the feelings that move through you.

Real listening is all about feelings.

________

What Listening is Not

Sometimes listening comes easy. You find yourself intently listening in stillness, without even having decided to, and there is a wonderful and natural flow between you and your child. But sometimes listening can be hard. Our children’s emotions spark off our own, and in discomfort we turn away, or we try to talk them out of their feelings. Whether it’s because we cannot bear to see our children in pain or because they are freely feeling something that we were never allowed to express – anger, joy, sadness, fear, passion – we block them out, we nip the connection in the bud.

Anyone can be a profoundly good listener.

I remember the embarrassment many of us felt as students of counseling psychology as we awkwardly practiced our listening skills together in the classroom, how often we appeared to be listening, while inside we were miles away, disengaged from the person speaking to us. It was often funny, and always quite confronting, to ask ourselves and each other: Are you listening right now, or just nodding your head a lot while you wait for your turn to speak? Are you actually listening, or sitting in judgment? Are you really listening, or just taking mental notes and storing facts? Are you listening, or just thinking about how you can change me?

How often we tell ourselves we are listening intently when in fact our minds are wandering elsewhere. It is unlikely that consistently good listeners exist. For most of us, good listening is a skill that comes and goes with our fluctuating moods. All counselors, psychologists and anyone in the helping professions are imperfect (and sometimes lousy) listeners, and we should be honing our listening capacity for the rest of our lives. It is humbling to note that anyone can be a profoundly good listener without any training whatsoever, since all it takes is an open heart and an interest in the other person.


Blocking Empathy

It’s a fact of human relationships that our capacity for listening is elusive; we lose it, we regain it, we lose it again. Sometimes it is hard to see whether we are listening so that our children really feel heard. We kid ourselves. We think we are listening when really we are avoiding contact – and then we are bewildered by and surprised at our child’s frustration. It can be very useful to get a clear picture of what is listening and what is not. When our own fears, our shame, our jealousies or our emotional exhaustion get in the way, we tend to play some pretty clever games to deflect our children’s communications so that their feelings won’t touch us. One of the biggest reasons we avoid listening is because our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty. Our evasive tactics are called “empathy blockers”. Empathy blockers save us the trouble of listening, but they cost us our connection with each other.<

Our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty.

Sometimes we use empathy blockers inadvertently because we are anxiously trying to save our children from emotional pain. Ironically, the greatest salve for our children comes from being heard, not from us trying to change how they feel. For all of these reasons, we all use empathy blockers from time to time, quite automatically and unconsciously. You could say we are all quite skilled at blocking. Here are some of the most common examples used when children become emotional:

EMPATHY BLOCKER EXAMPLES

Downplaying Oh, don’t cry. I’m sure it’s not that bad! It’s not the end of the world.

Denial There is nothing wrong; nothing for you to be upset about. Everything is OK.

Reasoning Don’t cry. Can’t you see that the other child didn’t mean to hurt you?

The positive spin Look on the bright side. Can’t you see, this probably happened for a good reason?

Cheering up Don’t worry. Here, let me tell you something funny I heard the other day. Here, have an ice cream. That’ll cheer you up.

Advising/giving options Why don’t you try doing this, or that? I think you should just ignore that so-and-so.

The expectation You should have known better. Get over it. Don’t let it get to you.

Put down Don’t be silly. Don’t be ridiculous.

Diagnosing/labeling You are being over-sensitive.

Distracting/diverting Hey, have a look at the pretty puppet.

Stealing the thunder Now you know how I felt when the same thing happened to me.

As you can see, on the surface most empathy blockers are not malicious, they are not ostensibly attempts to shame the child, and sometimes they can even be well intentioned, but they do not help the child to feel heard and connected to you. It might seem surprising, even bewildering, to hear that when you try to cheer up a child who is upset, this can often backfire – she might even feel more distressed, even angry. This is because she feels that her feelings are not accepted when what she actually needs is support for feeling the way she does. If this is hard to understand, then think of the last time you felt deeply upset, offended or anxious and someone told you to lighten up. How did that make you feel?

Empathy blockers leave anyone on the receiving end feeling shut out and frustrated, and as if there must be something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Our children just want to be heard. Take a few moments to check this out for yourself. Have you ever heard yourself use one, a few or perhaps even all of the above empathy blockers with your child? How did your child respond? Can you imagine what you could have done instead? Now, in case you’re tempted to become self-critical, remember: we all put up barriers to listening from time to time. Those of us who teach others about empathy blockers know them too well because we’ve used them so much ourselves.

By the way, not all of the responses in the table above are always inappropriate. There sometimes is a place for advice or a helpful opinion, but unless we take the time to hear our children’s feelings first, advice comes too soon and it alienates our child from us. Before jumping in with advice, we need to ask our children if they want it. The most important thing for us to get is that primarily, our children just want to be heard. First and foremost they want evidence that they are not alone, that someone sees how they feel and cares about them. This makes more of a difference than all the advice in the world.

Empathy blockers really muddy the connection between parents and children; they create detachment and distance, and they frustrate children’s attempts to reach out. The more we use empathy blockers, the less our children are inclined to come to us with their feelings, the less they want to tell us about their lives and the less they want to listen to us. When we are concerned that our children don’t listen to us, perhaps we need to take an honest look at how well we have listened to them.

Listening is at the heart of connection.

It is sad when blocked empathy diminishes our sense of closeness with each other, and particularly worrisome when our children feel lost or in some kind of trouble but don’t turn to us for help. Our children’s trust in us is a function of how safe they feel to open up to us without feeling manipulated, expected of, judged, put down or criticized. Listening is at the heart of connection, and if we can’t listen well, we cease to be an influence in our children’s lives.

Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting with permission of the author. It is available in Australia through ABC Bookstores. The USA edition will be available in May 2011 and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.Robin Grille is a Sydney-based psychologist and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World. He has a private practice in individual psychotherapy and relationship counseling, and can be contacted by email at robingrille (at) gmail (dot) com . More Articles by Robin Grille

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.

 

Listen to My Heart

Yesterday I talked about the concept of how our society uses the term “Listen” with our kids.  In our home, we use ‘listen’ differently than what I have observed in the majority of families with whom I’ve come into contact.  In our home, when one of us says ‘listen’, what is actually being said is, “Please stop a moment, I want to share my heart, the thoughts that are really big in my mind right now.  Please, look at me, hear me with your ears, and hear me with your heart.  I want to connect.  I want your acknowledgement.  I am needing your validation of my feelings and thoughts at this moment/on this topic.  And once I finish sharing my thoughts, I want to receive your response and share a conversation about this…”.

So, you won’t hear us say “Listen to me” unless it’s important and we expect to have an in depth conversation (kid to adult, kid to kid, adult to adult). Further, the “listen to me” aspect will be with a “please” because it is a request.  Always.

In limited instances however, you will hear one of us say, “Please do/don’t  _____________; I expect you to comply/expect your compliance.”  Then, immediately following (or as soon as possible), we will provide a concise explanation for the expectation if it is beneficial or requested.

When a communication is delivered in our home without the “expectation of compliance” as a part of the entire message, everyone knows that a request is being communicated.  Everyone also knows they have the right to deny any request, or grant any request.  This is universal; there is no double standard where the parent can deny a request but the child can’t, for instance.

Do we always interact with this concept being the underlying and motivating factor?  Are we explicitly consistent?  No.  We (big people and little people) screw it up sometimes.  Humans ability to use manipulation is uncanny… And we are not perfect, nor do we intend to be.  However, each person (and dog) in our home knows deep within them the value we hold for one another, as well as the value of consistency and forthrightness.  We each know that it does not feel good to be on the receiving end of manipulation, and it is our responsibility to make the conscious choice to not allow ourselves to be in the position of delivering an attempt at manipulation.

Sometimes we fail.  When that happens, acknowledgement is what makes the difference.. That acknowledgement begins as an internal acceptance of something that requires adjustment, followed by that same awareness being communicated outwardly to all involved.

_________________________________________________________

When compliance is expected, the communication is never delivered as a request, it is always delivered as a command, and phrased in the format the child is accustomed to.

The command is always communicated with the expectation of compliance as a part of the entire communicationThe “comply” aspect is not one that is resorted to (or tacked on) in the event the child doesn’t give the adult what is expected/wanted.  This is crucial.

Our communication doesn’t look like this –
Kid, I want you to do/not do something.
Kid hesitates.. doesn’t choose to do as the communication indicates.
Ok Kid, since you didn’t decide to give me what I want, I’m going to now say, “comply”.

This sort of approach is unfair and does not uphold the child.  Why?  Because the adult is retaining an upper hand that they perceive they have due to their size/age/status/etc. By phrasing as a request what is actually a command for which compliance is expected, they are being manipulative.

When the child, who interprets the communication as a request (because it wasn’t clearly delivered as a requirement initially), and chooses to deny it (for whatever their reason), is then forced to accept that the autonomy (self-governing) and right to choose he believed was his was actually never there, he can experience everything from confusion, to betrayal, to a much decreased sense of self. When the adult uses manipulation and then resorts to dominance to force compliance, they are stripping their child of his autonomy.  It’s insulting and demeaning, and undermines the child’s internal reasoning and sense of self.

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 to prevent harm, and the child’s safety depends on his compliance. I’ll discuss this situation in a separate post. ~>

________________________________________________________________

In the mean time, what scenarios can you recall when you and your child successfully interacted on an almost innate/intuitive level – where they sensed your dire need for their compliance, and they granted it (whether threat of physical or emotional harm – which is equally valuable). Please share your experiences.

Spanking is Not God’s Will

This means not allowing your child to go down the wrong road that could lead to a premature death.  This has absolutely nothing to do with actual crying as Dobson and many other Christian advocates of spanking believe!  Children need limits.  We wouldn’t let a toddler run out in the street to be run over by a car.  But instead of spanking the toddler, we should firmly tell the toddler that the street is dangerous, and then show the toddler the safe way to cross the street holding onto Mommy or Daddy hands.  Does hitting a toddler really teach him or her why the street is dangerous and how to be safe?  No!  It teaches them that danger makes Mommy and Daddy hurt me.   That Jesus wants me to be hurt when I’m in danger.  Remember, young children cannot make abstract connections like adults can.

 

Please take a moment to read the rest of the article found here, as well as the three that precede it in the series.

Refusing to Diminish: Holding High Our Children’s Value

From the naturalchild.org website
Emotions are Not Bad Behavior by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting



A Child’s Right to Receive Attention

One of the most commonly heard parental laments is about how children try to get attention. So many behaviors that adults don’t like are brushed off as “merely” attention-seeking devices. “Don’t worry about him,” we say, “he is just doing it to get attention.”

When children use oblique ways to get attention, such as causing a ruckus, exaggerating or feigning their hurts, picking on other children, showing off, being coquettish – they risk being ignored or put down, as nearby adults roll their eyes in exasperation. Sometimes, this also happens to children even when they directly and openly call for the attention they crave. Instead of scorning the child, why don’t we ask these questions: When a child is being manipulative, instead of direct, how did he learn to do this? How did he come to feel that he shouldn’t openly ask for a hug, an answer to his question, sympathy or just to be noticed or played with?

All children begin their lives with complete frankness about their needs. Babies and toddlers reveal their longings with no compunction: what you see is what you get. If a child reaches out for attention and for warmth and she gets it, her ability to be open and directly assertive is reinforced. By begrudging our children’s healthy attention-seeking behaviors, we unwittingly train them to be indirect. We leave them little room for much else, so they go for the attention they need and deserve through the back door.

We unwittingly train our children to be indirect.

Our society tends to consider children’s needs for attention as a bother. No wonder children become indirect attention seekers, some even going to great lengths to fall ill or get injured in order to be noticed. Children who have too often been denied attention can become insatiable, as if no amount of limelight ever fills their cup. Attention is life-giving, a basic need and a human right. Children deserve all the attention they want.When you wholeheartedly give a child the attention she asks for from the beginning, she soon has her fill. This is precisely what helps her to become more autonomous. As she grows, she asks for less of your attention (research shows that well-attached babies grow into children who are more independent), and when she does want attention, she asks directly, boldly and clearly.

 


Punished for Feeling

Time and time again children are heavily reprimanded for committing the offence of crying or being angry. Let’s get this straight: emotions are not bad behavior. Emotions don’t hurt anyone. Suppressing children’s emotions does, on the other hand, cause them harm: over time, if done repeatedly, it unbalances their brain chemistry, it stresses their immune and digestive systems, and it undermines their ability to relate to others.

Emotional censorship starts early. One of the most common things we say to a crying baby is “Shhh!” We say it soothingly, but why exactly do we shush them? Think of all the lullabies that start by telling our little babies to “hush”, and “don’t you cry”. Have you ever paused to wonder why, in trying to comfort our babies, we ask them to be quiet? It seems as if the first thing we want is for the crying to stop – instead of connecting with our baby until the reason for crying has gone.

Attention is a basic need and a human right.

Instead of berating your child for feeling her feelings, give her the space to feel, and comfort and support her if she needs it. Sometimes when our children cry, sob or yell in anger we feel overwhelmed, irritated or burdened. Our children don’t deserve the blame for this. When our child’s emotions press our buttons, we need to own the problem. We need to somehow honor our own need for support or rest without making our children responsible.

 


What Does Listening Mean?

The listening I am talking about here is not just about receiving and storing information, not just about remembering what your child said. I am talking about listening with your heart, not just with your ears. Real listening is all about feelings. All you need to be a good listener is a genuine interest in your child’s emotional world. When you truly want to hear, no special skill is needed. Your child senses your interest in the tone of your voice, in your body language and the look in your eyes. You know you have listened when you feel moved. You might feel compassion, protectiveness, you might feel some pain about your child’s hurts, pride or excitement about his achievements, or joy to meet his joy. Listening means letting yourself feel touched somehow, and being aware of the feelings that move through you.

Real listening is all about feelings.

________

What Listening is Not

Sometimes listening comes easy. You find yourself intently listening in stillness, without even having decided to, and there is a wonderful and natural flow between you and your child. But sometimes listening can be hard. Our children’s emotions spark off our own, and in discomfort we turn away, or we try to talk them out of their feelings. Whether it’s because we cannot bear to see our children in pain or because they are freely feeling something that we were never allowed to express – anger, joy, sadness, fear, passion – we block them out, we nip the connection in the bud.

Anyone can be a profoundly good listener.

I remember the embarrassment many of us felt as students of counseling psychology as we awkwardly practiced our listening skills together in the classroom, how often we appeared to be listening, while inside we were miles away, disengaged from the person speaking to us. It was often funny, and always quite confronting, to ask ourselves and each other: Are you listening right now, or just nodding your head a lot while you wait for your turn to speak? Are you actually listening, or sitting in judgment? Are you really listening, or just taking mental notes and storing facts? Are you listening, or just thinking about how you can change me?

How often we tell ourselves we are listening intently when in fact our minds are wandering elsewhere. It is unlikely that consistently good listeners exist. For most of us, good listening is a skill that comes and goes with our fluctuating moods. All counselors, psychologists and anyone in the helping professions are imperfect (and sometimes lousy) listeners, and we should be honing our listening capacity for the rest of our lives. It is humbling to note that anyone can be a profoundly good listener without any training whatsoever, since all it takes is an open heart and an interest in the other person.


Blocking Empathy

It’s a fact of human relationships that our capacity for listening is elusive; we lose it, we regain it, we lose it again. Sometimes it is hard to see whether we are listening so that our children really feel heard. We kid ourselves. We think we are listening when really we are avoiding contact – and then we are bewildered by and surprised at our child’s frustration. It can be very useful to get a clear picture of what is listening and what is not. When our own fears, our shame, our jealousies or our emotional exhaustion get in the way, we tend to play some pretty clever games to deflect our children’s communications so that their feelings won’t touch us. One of the biggest reasons we avoid listening is because our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty. Our evasive tactics are called “empathy blockers”. Empathy blockers save us the trouble of listening, but they cost us our connection with each other.<

Our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty.

Sometimes we use empathy blockers inadvertently because we are anxiously trying to save our children from emotional pain. Ironically, the greatest salve for our children comes from being heard, not from us trying to change how they feel. For all of these reasons, we all use empathy blockers from time to time, quite automatically and unconsciously. You could say we are all quite skilled at blocking. Here are some of the most common examples used when children become emotional:

EMPATHY BLOCKER EXAMPLES

Downplaying Oh, don’t cry. I’m sure it’s not that bad! It’s not the end of the world.

Denial There is nothing wrong; nothing for you to be upset about. Everything is OK.

Reasoning Don’t cry. Can’t you see that the other child didn’t mean to hurt you?

The positive spin Look on the bright side. Can’t you see, this probably happened for a good reason?

Cheering up Don’t worry. Here, let me tell you something funny I heard the other day. Here, have an ice cream. That’ll cheer you up.

Advising/giving options Why don’t you try doing this, or that? I think you should just ignore that so-and-so.

The expectation You should have known better. Get over it. Don’t let it get to you.

Put down Don’t be silly. Don’t be ridiculous.

Diagnosing/labeling You are being over-sensitive.

Distracting/diverting Hey, have a look at the pretty puppet.

Stealing the thunder Now you know how I felt when the same thing happened to me.

As you can see, on the surface most empathy blockers are not malicious, they are not ostensibly attempts to shame the child, and sometimes they can even be well intentioned, but they do not help the child to feel heard and connected to you. It might seem surprising, even bewildering, to hear that when you try to cheer up a child who is upset, this can often backfire – she might even feel more distressed, even angry. This is because she feels that her feelings are not accepted when what she actually needs is support for feeling the way she does. If this is hard to understand, then think of the last time you felt deeply upset, offended or anxious and someone told you to lighten up. How did that make you feel?

Empathy blockers leave anyone on the receiving end feeling shut out and frustrated, and as if there must be something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Our children just want to be heard. Take a few moments to check this out for yourself. Have you ever heard yourself use one, a few or perhaps even all of the above empathy blockers with your child? How did your child respond? Can you imagine what you could have done instead? Now, in case you’re tempted to become self-critical, remember: we all put up barriers to listening from time to time. Those of us who teach others about empathy blockers know them too well because we’ve used them so much ourselves.

By the way, not all of the responses in the table above are always inappropriate. There sometimes is a place for advice or a helpful opinion, but unless we take the time to hear our children’s feelings first, advice comes too soon and it alienates our child from us. Before jumping in with advice, we need to ask our children if they want it. The most important thing for us to get is that primarily, our children just want to be heard. First and foremost they want evidence that they are not alone, that someone sees how they feel and cares about them. This makes more of a difference than all the advice in the world.

Empathy blockers really muddy the connection between parents and children; they create detachment and distance, and they frustrate children’s attempts to reach out. The more we use empathy blockers, the less our children are inclined to come to us with their feelings, the less they want to tell us about their lives and the less they want to listen to us. When we are concerned that our children don’t listen to us, perhaps we need to take an honest look at how well we have listened to them.

Listening is at the heart of connection.

It is sad when blocked empathy diminishes our sense of closeness with each other, and particularly worrisome when our children feel lost or in some kind of trouble but don’t turn to us for help. Our children’s trust in us is a function of how safe they feel to open up to us without feeling manipulated, expected of, judged, put down or criticized. Listening is at the heart of connection, and if we can’t listen well, we cease to be an influence in our children’s lives.

Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting with permission of the author. It is available in Australia through ABC Bookstores. The USA edition will be available in May 2011 and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.Robin Grille is a Sydney-based psychologist and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World. He has a private practice in individual psychotherapy and relationship counseling, and can be contacted by email at robingrille (at) gmail (dot) com . More Articles by Robin Grille

Go to Your Room

Effects of Emotional Abuse

Reposted from here – Please, take a moment to read and visit the originating site.

Many of us who have every good intention toward our children may find the need to re-evaluate the environment their children are developing in.  With grace and patience for oneself and others, honestly reflect on what is written here and in your own home.

The ultimate goal here is to give our children an environment that honors, respects, and builds up.  To never diminish. To love and cherish, without condition.  And to do so wholly and in action, not simply intent.


HOW DOES EMOTIONAL ABUSE HURT?


The effects of emotional abuse are often silent. Verbal and psychological wounds leave a child forever changed. Emotional abuse is often overlooked, unnoticed or confused with other causes.

Emotional child abuse attacks a child’s self-concept. The child comes to see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection.

The wounds of maltreatment, in children who are shamed, I can’t believe you embarrassed me like this!,” humiliated, “You idiot!,” terrorized, “You’re really gonna get it now!” or rejected, “Go to your room!” are as equally significant, although seemingly invisible and harder to recognize or quantify than the wounds of the worst physical and sexual abuse.

An infant who is being deprived of emotional nurturing, connection and bonding through close contact, even though physically well cared for, can fail to thrive.

Less severe forms of early emotional deprivation still can produce drastic effects of emotional abuse such as babies who grow into anxious andinsecure children who are slow to develop and who may fail to develop a strong sense of self-esteem.

Other types of abuse are usually noticed because marks or other physical evidence is left, however, signs of emotional abuse can be very hard to define.

In some instances, the effects of emotional abuse are so subtle that an emotionally mistreated child may show no outward signs of abuse. For this reason, emotional abuse is the most difficult form of child maltreatment to identify and stop.

This type of abuse leaves hidden scars that manifest themselves in numerous ways.

Insecurity, poor self-esteem, destructive behavior, angry acts such as fire setting or cruelty to animals, withdrawal, poor development of basic skills, alcohol or drug abuse, suicide and difficulty forming relationships can all be possible results of emotional abuse.


BEHAVIORAL EFFECTS


Emotional child abuse can result in other more serious psychological and/or behavioral problems. These include depression, lack of attachment or emotional bond to a parent or guardian, low cognitive ability and educational achievement and poor social skills.

One study which followed emotionally abused children in infancy and then again during their preschool years consistently found them to be “angry, uncooperative and unattached to their primary caregiver.” These children more often also lacked creativity, persistence and enthusiasm.

The effects of emotional abuse in children who experience rejection demonstrate that they are more likely than accepted children to exhibit hostility, aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior, to be extremely dependent, to have negative opinions of themselves and their abilities, to be emotionally unstable or unresponsive, and to have a negative perception of the world around them.

Parental verbal aggression (e.g., yelling, insulting) or symbolic aggression (e.g., slamming a door, giving the silent treatment) toward children can have serious consequences.

Children who witness abuse in relationships or emotional spousal abuse demonstrate higher rates of physical aggressiveness, delinquency and interpersonal problems than other children. Children whose parents are additionally physically abusive are even more likely to experience such difficulties.

Children who see or hear their mothers being abused
are victims of emotional abuse.

Growing up in such an environment is terrifying and severely affects a child’s psychological and social development. Male children may learn to model violent behavior while female children may learn that being abused is a normal part of relationships. This contributes to the intergenerational cycle of violence.

The consequences of emotional child abuse can be serious and long-term. Emotionally abused children may experience a lifelong pattern of depression, estrangement, anxiety, low self-esteem, inappropriate or troubled relationships, or a lack of empathy.

As teenagers, they find it difficult to trust, participate in and achieve happiness in relationships, and resolve the complex feelings left over from their childhoods. As adults, they may have trouble recognizing and appreciating the needs and feelings of their own children and emotionally abuse them as well.


Effects of Emotional Abuse: Return to Emotional Abuse Info
Effects of Emotional Abuse: Return to Home

No Defense, Just Reflection

A beautiful reflection of a heart wounded…  Please take a moment to read and reflect on your own life.  I also want to encourage any of you who feel so compelled to reach out and share yourself with this writer.

S O U R C E

Processing Spanking

Spanking.  A huge hot button topic. I know.  And now, with post #1, being somewhat normal, and post #2, being an emotional cry, I figured it was okay to break up the hot button topics in post #3.Knowing that my parents loved me, and would do anything for me, and yet still processing how spanking affected me is a very painful process.  I feel like I am the problem. I feel like the feelings and effects spanking had on me are unique to only me, and that if I were just “better” in some way, I would not have the severe emotional trauma from such a “normal” childhood event.  To put this post in perspective, let me just spend a few moments to brag on my wonderful parents.  My dad is a wonderful Godly man.  He isn’t afraid to take the uncomfortable road.  He is more generous that most people I know.  He is deeply committed to taking care of the needy, and reaching people with the gospel of Christ.  I am, and always have been, a daddy’s girl. <3 I remember going on daddy daughter dates.. I remember being a able to cry in his arms. I remember how excited I would be when he would get home.  My daddy was always the #1 man in my life, until I met Pine.. And now, he still is very important to me.  I want his approval, and I have strode to get it my whole life.  I feel safer, and more secure if he tells me I am doing well.

My mom is a very strong woman, with a heartbreaking past.  No one should be able to be as healthy as her considering what she has gone through.  My mom probably would understand the deep soul searching I am doing now, if it didn’t hit her personally, because I have seen her do the same things.  Evaluate the way she was raised.. Try to keep the good, and get rid of the abusive, unhealthy patterns she was raised with.  My mom was committed to our characters no matter the cost.  And she has cried many tears, because she felt as if she never lived up to it.  I can totally understand that feeling now as I look at my own little boy, and think of all the mistakes I have made in such a short time.

Spanking.  To this day, we (my parents and I) do not agree on the topic of spanking.  I can point you to a hundred different studies that show why spanking is unhealthy.. I can show you a hundred different stories like mine to show how it affects people. Not all people, but enough to make me think twice.  But that’s not the purpose of this blog. For once, I am not going to defend what I have come so strongly to believe.  Instead, I am just going to write out my feelings.  My vulnerabilities, my anxieties, my memories.  This is part of a process towards healing..

I remember being spanked often as a child.  Sometimes several times a day.  I remember the panic that would well inside of me as I was forced to bend over.  I remember instinctively, uncontrollably rolling off the side of the bed to avoid the spoon, or belt, or hanger.  I remember trying so hard to stay still as they hit me.. Because I knew that if I did move, I would get more. I remember crying out in fright, frustration and anger “I am not trying to move! I can’t help it!”  And I remember getting the extra lashes anyways.  My parents did spank in anger, but some of the worst spankings I got were done “correctly” My parents were not visibly angry.  They explained in quiet tones why I deserved what was coming.  They explained that it would all stop as soon as I repented.  The amount of shame…  A sick, dark cloud of shame would hang over my soul.  I am not talking about my conscience here.  I think that the word shame means something very different than guilt.  Guilt is something you feel because you committed a wrong action. Shame is something you feel, because you are worth less.. Your very value is defined by an action, or how someone perceives you.  I would be spanked, a minimum of 10 times.  That seemed to be the starting point to the best of my memory.  When I got better at staying still, it would only be 10.  Otherwise it would be until I had received 10 in a row without moving away from the blows. Every time I flinched to hard and moved to the side, the count would restart.  After the spanking was over, my parents would hold me.  I remember being terrified, humiliated, and scared to do anything that would displease them in the least, lest the nightmare repeat itself.  I would sit in their laps and pretend I was sorry.  I learned that tears of “repentance” really made them happy.  I became a fake repenter.  I felt bad about what I had done, don’t get me wrong.  I even wished I had not done it. But not because it was wrong.. But because with the punishment came the terror of shame.  The sick feeling of worthlessness, and a total and complete failure as a person.

This dynamic I think, is why I am having such a hard time understanding the grace of God.  God does not love me because I “perform”.  And God’s love does not change when my actions or attitudes are not pleasing to him.  God’s love is constant.  I learned the opposite.. That acceptance and otherwise love is conditional on performance.  And I also learned that if the person you were trying to please thought you were doing right, then you could earn your acceptance, and still behave the way you liked.

There is more than that though.  A darker side of spanking.  One I have voiced very rarely, and one that is deeply humiliating.  And that is the sexual side of spanking. Even typing this out makes me shake a little bit, and the nerve endings in my bottom twitch uncomfortably. Its something people don’t talk about.  But I am not alone in the way it felt.  Before I had any idea what sex was, or how different parts of our bodies reacted in different ways, I always felt… encroached upon whenever someone even brushed up against my butt. Spanking was a nightmare because of it.  I felt dirty, and deeply humiliated by the act of bending over, and willingly allowing someone else to invade that which was so deeply private to me.  By humiliated, I don’t just mean embraced.. I mean a feeling so strong and dark it would make me physically ill.  I don’t remember any of my siblings struggling so much with staying in the one position while the spanking was administered.  But I literally could.not. stay still without trying to move away.  It took years of training before I could force myself to, and even then my entire body would flinch.  I didn’t realize until after my husband tried to show me sexual attention with my butt just how unsafe I feel. I have a hard time when he shows me intended and healthy sexual attention, because every time he touches me, it throws me down across a bed, and my whole body flinches to get away.  The invasion of the basic boundary of my body was devastating.

My parents did not sexually abuse me.  There was not one spanking that was intended in any ill manner. I know this with 100% certainty.  I also know they have no idea how it felt.  And I have no intention of telling them.  It would cause to much heartache.  If they even believed me.  Processing these feelings has been very hard.  Actually confronting them, instead of shoving them so far under the surface has been deeply painful.  But even now, I know my parents loved me.  They sacrificed, money, convenience, and so much more for us kids.  They did many things right. They taught us the value of hard work and honesty. They taught us that wrong actions often have unpleasant consequences.  And they never once fathomed a simple routine “godly” spanking could cause so much harm.

That thought scares the bejabbers out of me.  Aspen!  My son.. The one I would die for much in the same way my parents loved me.  How is he going to understand and feel the things I do only for his benefit?  Am I going to so deeply invade his personal boundaries, to where the simple thought of it makes him quake and shiver with fear, hopelessness, worthlessness?

Not all children have such a harsh reaction to spanking.  But if you presented everything in this post to my parents, I am sure they would say with certainty it never affected their children this way.

I have so much fear of hurting Aspen unintentionally. But yesterday I realized something.  God is forcing me to deal with the hurt and pain I suffered.  He is working healing in my heart. I have forgiven my parents, and love them dearly.  Really, what God is doing in me now, is a fulfilment of his promise to my parents.  He is being faithful to them to fix the mistakes that they made.  I can only trust that he will do the same for Aspen and Sappling, and any of my other kids.  There is no such thing as a parent that will not cause their children emotional distress. That I am sure of.  I am equally convinced that God has the power to heal the wounds I make in my children, that I have no idea of.  He is faithful!  And that is so encouraging to me.

I don’t think my parents would understand that I am not angry with them if I shared this with them.  I don’t think they would understand that my facing and processing this is a sign of His deep and everlasting love and faithfulness not only to me, but to them.  I have no desire to hurt them, so I probably will never share this with them. There really is no purpose.

I praise God for the changes he is making in me… And tonight, for the first time, I thanked him for healing the wounds I will inflict on my own children.


A few related posts…

A Letter
Why Spank? Well, It Works. Embarrassment is a Powerful Tool
Why Timeouts Are Even Worse Than Spanking
Beyond Spanking, Beyond Training: A Look At Our Littlest Minds
Humiliation – Far Reaching Effects on Children, Adults, Society
Toddler Spanking


One Kid Spared.

In March of this year (2010), I began this blog.  I honestly expected a very limited audience and wrote primarily out of my own need to purge.  However, within the first week, 400 people had viewed the site.  A month later, Google was indexing the blog and that 400 a week sprang up to 400 a day.

9 months later, we have surpassed 5000 readers a week – on average there are 300 unique views of at least one entry per day.  Most of these viewers don’t stop at just one entry either.

What does this mean?  Perhaps it means that there is a chance that a few children are going to sleep tonight with a little less fear in the hearts, and fewer bruises on their body and soul.  Maybe it means a few less children will grow up damaged.  For these children, perhaps love and respect, honor and safety will prevail, and what could be worth more?

To date, I have received confirmation of 7 families who no longer choose to harm their children in the name of discipline and order.  To me, this is amazing and is all the incentive I need to keep writing. Confirmed means they communicate with me either via comments or direct email and our conversations include their choice to stop punishing and harming their children, in favor of raising them with love, respect, and admiration. They are actively choosing to stop damaging their kids, stop heaping guilt upon themselves due to the constant struggle and failure following the Pearls (etc..) brings, and stop hurting the little ones that hold our future, in the name of anything (order, good parenting, God).  These families are relearning how to be parents, how to be children, how to be a family that loves openly and encourages life and childhood to thrive genuinely and freely.

You keep me going.

The hope that even one child might no longer suffer under the damage and abuse is THE reason I write.  That which I experience personally when I actually learn that my hope has taken the shape of reality for one of these kids is beyond words.