Trusting the Process

Being worthy of their trust, by first demonstrating our trust in them

 
A while back, I saw the following comment on a page from which I often take a few moments to share, learn, and find my inspiration.  The site is Natural Motherhood, and the FB page has continuously active conversation.One day, I came across the following request for encouragement, and it stayed with me for a while.  So often, I wish I could reach out and wrap my arms around these brave women and men, choosing to parent against the collective, and instead forging ahead in the way they know is most beneficial for their children, their family, and our world.    I wish I could step into their space, smile gently face to face, and share the quiet knowing that flourishes inside us.
Here is the thought; I hope you will journey through this with me.
“Hi, I need some advice please. My little ones are almost 3 and 15mos. We practice gentle, compassionate parenting. Lately I have been getting the, I told you so” from family members. I am having a hard time and am at a loss. My kids are both wild, rambunctious, whiney and just don’t hear me when I talk to them. We can’t take them places because of how they behave. My littler one screams and throws tantrums almost all day long…if I don’t give her exactly what she wants when she wants she loses it completely. I am just exasperated and exhausted. I’m not sure what to do and I feel like I’m failing miserably as a parent. My grandma says my parenting style has “created little brats.” It breaks my heart.”
Reading requests for help like these, my first response is to shake my head side to side, like an eraser is used.  I actually visualize an eraser sometimes, like the Mister Eraser on the show, “The Color Crew”.  Aeehghhh… I want to say.. “Neh, stop, back up, start over, scratch all that.”  I want to say, “Go to the beginning.  Start there, find your gentleness and find their eyes, then take a step forward in the process.  The forest, the trees, the entire system, we have to have water, sunlight, and roots.”  Find some dirt, and start drawing whatever comes to mind, maybe you’ll be blessed and your children will join you.

When we can see the world through our children’s eyes, from the perspective their minds can comprehend, our own eyes are opened and our understanding, compassion, wisdom, and most importantly, our grace expands exponentially. Gentle grace with ourselves and one another allows us to patiently trust the process of life as it unfolds and develops.

When we are struggling, it is most often a result of discomfort, strain, or our own emotional needs being unmet to some degree. Our children are mirrors. Step one, identify expectations and determine whether they are there out of mutual benefit and meeting of needs, or an underlying fear/concern/need for control.

The judgement of others comes, and when we let it in, it impacts us and we end up questioning ourselves. Instead, we can choose to empower ourselves by choosing to bring our mind to a place where we can see the world through our children’s viewing portal.  Instead of expectations imposed by the adult world, we see the value of being a child. Bringing yourself to their physical height, while making this choice to see through their eyes, has a profound effect, btw.

Children hear so much more than we sometimes realize, both in the words we do say and those we do not.  They “hear” us at a core and integrated level that we, as adults, have often forgotten.  Compliance and Listening are two very different concepts.

How often, as an adult, do we appreciate our day being managed extensively?  How apt are we to happily comply with constant overseeing, herding, redirection, correction, scolding, disapproval, annoyance, irritation, expectation, and the reproach of someone who sees themselves as “over” us, for whatever reason.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not much in the market for being told when to use the bathroom, what I will eat, when to get myself dressed and what to wear, how to speak, when to speak, what I should respond to because someone else thinks so, how to spend my free time, and finally, precisely when and how I am to cause myself to sleep.  It’s a cacophony of being controlled and not being good enough.

Step back.  Step out if you have to.  Change your expectations, discover what is worth appreciating and being downright in awe of, and watch how your approach and reactions follow the shift.

If your children are whining, they are not being heard by you.  Their needs are not being met in ways that they need most, or they cannot trust that you will respond reliably.  This is the purpose of whining, to be acknowledged and have our needs be addressed.

If your children are wild and rambunctious, relish their energy.  Find a way to catch their excitement and their enthusiasm, and enjoy some for yourself. The more you move, the more energy you will have. The more you laugh and squeal, the more laughter and joy your life will know.  The more you look, the more you will see.  The more you listen, the more you will take in, the greater your perspective and understanding will be.

Screams, tantrums, outbursts that are not positive, these are desperate attempts at being heard and understood.  Adults do the same, but some with a bit more refinement and calculation for effect, children act on impulse.  I love their purity of spirit.  They do what they know, what they have been shown, and whatever they have discovered is effective.  If you want your child to stop having such outbursts, then hear them and respond in a loving and fair manner BEFORE they have to resort to such efforts.

It’s a tough job, and it requires something that all of us can give, but some of us have to find and develop first.  But when we realize the difference parenting in a way that guides but doesn’t diminish, encourages curiosity without expectation of performance, and truly reveres the process and challenge that is Childhood, we end up with harmony and flow.

I will begin to write with specific example/scenario for the purpose of comparison, and to bring to real life all the concepts here.

Also something to remember… Our Little Persons are just that… they are not supposed to be small adults. The mind develops on its own schedule, and when we, with grace and wisdom, nurture those minds with acceptance, and trust the process of growing and developing, we are able to step beyond the realm of negativity, fear, expectation, and judgment…

When we choose to revere their childhood, and admire their accomplishment of meeting the challenge of growing and developing, then the natural result is our respect and admiration of them and their autonomy, and we can then truly love them, unconditionally.

 

 

When Your 4 Year Old Happily Cleans Her Room

At 10pm, no less…

Yes, you heard me right.  Last night, my little one came to me with all the sincerity and gentleness she could muster (I’ve been sick, she knew I was exhausted), and asked if I would be willing to get her “princesses” (Polly Pocket collection) out for her.  She wanted to play with them with her Papa before she went to sleep.

I collected this, um, collection about two months ago and put them up because there are so many pieces that she was having an impossible time managing them. Everything was consistently strewn, which just caused her and me frustration.  (Not to mention the pairs of shoes that were no longer pairs.)

I think Polly Pockets are intended for kids about 6 and up.  My Bugz inherited these about a year ago and she seemed to dig them, even if they drove her nuts not being able to dress the dolls and such without assistance.  But eventually, it just got overwhelming, so I put them away for a while.

Last night, she presented this request, and instead of heaving a big sigh (which, I try not to do because well, it doesn’t feel good to have someone sigh or roll their eyes in exasperation at me… so why do it to my little person), I smiled.  I looked at her for a moment, to determine if she was serious or just grasping for something to stall the sleep sequence (she’s recently become reluctant to go to sleep – something I’ll address in another post).

She was serious.  She’d already spoken to her Papa to get his agreement to play the activity with her, and she a scenario going in her head for the princesses to play out. Though I knew she was tired, I saw a chance to honor her choice to genuinely request (instead of whine), and respect and grant her desires. Even though I thought there might be better uses of time, it didn’t matter, she is her own person and this is what she felt  was valuable at that moment… I had the pleasure of saying “yes”. 

There was one caveat, however.  Her room was rather untidy (like, the floor had gone missing) and I knew that if we tried to add anything to it, it would just frustrate and ruin the experience.  I have been meaning to get to her room for a week or two now, but with all the traveling and randomness of our present life, and my excellent ability to selectively procrastinate, I hadn’t worked with her on it.  So, what a great opportunity (I hoped) to give her exactly her little heart’s desire, AND get her room cleaned… at 10pm, while hacking up a lung.  – This is when I laugh, the kind of laugh that warms the entire room.

I told her, and I quote, “I would be happy to get your princesses out for you, however I think your room has to be clean first, or you won’t be able to find a place to play with them.  Would you be willing to work with me (note: “work with me”, not, “help me”) to pick things up to make room for the princesses?”

“Sure.”

And she did.  She found it tough at the beginning, not knowing what to do and quickly becoming overwhelmed. (How many times have you told your older kids to clean their room, a power struggle ensues, and nothing gets cleaned?  There is likely a really good reason…)  Rather than run her out, tell her to just keep trying (which is defeating in a situation like this), or enter a battle, I have found it very successful to simply give her a task.  In our case, I asked her to start by rounding up all the shoes and putting them in her closet.  Later, I asked her to organize them in the closet by shoving them to one side, but initially just getting them in there was a step she could manage with confidence and success.

As I worked on the various miscellaneous stuff that would overwhelm any kid, I continued to make little piles and ask her to do certain actions with each.  She continued to help, then yawned a bit and sat down.  I asked her if she was tired.  Yes.  Did she still want to play princesses tonight?  Yes.

Now, here is where some parents would respond with, “Well then, you have to keep cleaning.”  In our home, bribery and coercion are tactics that are avoided as much as possible.  So, instead of saying something like this, I simply acknowledged her fatigue, and I continued cleaning and organizing while she relaxed.  No expectation of her, no shame imposed on her need for rest, and no resentment coming from me.

Within a few moments, she happily resumed working with me; she saw something that sparked her interest, that she knew she could succeed at, and she jumped right in.  Within 10 minutes we had completed the task together, one that would have taken her hours alone, one that she would not have succeeded at because of her current neurological development.  And one that, had I insisted she do alone (after all, she did make the mess alone), would have diminished her and left her feeling a failure (sometimes parents force the issue believing they are teaching responsibility… that’s not the lesson that is received however, and the child does not come out the other side with more self esteem or confidence).

Her room was spectacular!  She was beaming with pride, accomplishment, and self satisfaction.  She was also exhibiting gratitude, as was I.

Papa came, princesses were unearthed, and I went to relax with my lungs.

I don’t know when they finally drifted off to sleep, but I don’t care either; thankfully our schedule allows for this. More importantly, I trust that she will now forever have the memory of being safe enough to ask Mama for something that really mattered to her, being valued enough by Mama to be granted her request, being capable enough to work with Mama to complete an important task, being cherished enough by Papa to be played with (even when we’re all tired), and being unconditionally loved so much, that her sleep could come gently.  

That Doesn’t Smell Good. Yes it does.

I invalidated my kiddo today.  I didn’t mean to.  And I tried to remedy and repair, as I managed to catch myself, three times (in one day, yes.. I know).
Nonetheless, I did precisely what I try to encourage others not to do.

The incidents were simple, each time my daughter voiced her opinion that something annoyed her (didn’t smell good, didn’t look good, she didn’t like it), and each time I countered that it was fine (did smell good, did look good, no reason to not like it).  Stupid.  Stupid.

The rub is the reason I responded as I did, because normally, I would simply acknowledge her opinion, acknowledge her for voicing it, ask questions perhaps, and let her have her thoughts and feelings (just like I want to be allowed my thoughts and feelings, and the validation of them and me).  But today, for whatever reason, each time she expressed a negative opinion (stated above), it happened to be in public, and in the presence of adults within hearing (and being offended) distance.

Today I decided, in a rather knee-jerk fashion, to allow my need for social acceptance from other adults to supersede my respect and value of my daughter. To me, this is unacceptable.

Each time I countered, I caught myself and was able to restate with something along the lines of, “You don’t think this smells good?  Well, I actually think it smells good, but you don’t. Ok.”  Mind you, this only after my immediate response of, “It does smell good”.

I might as well have told her, “Don’t say it doesn’t smell good, and it’s not ok for you think that.  Stop saying things that others will look at me funny out of assumed insult, where I might end up being embarrassed.”

Pathetic. I know.

What’s worse is… I know. I know better. I know how important it is to validate her, even if I disagree. I know how crucial it is to care more about her than what others might think (especially the general public).  SERIOUSLY.  I am not typically even remotely affected by what others think, why it got to me today, I don’t know. And it did get to me – at the expense of my little one – the one I’m to protect and uphold.

Lesson: Take my own advice and pay more attention.

Thankfully, my daughter allowed me to restate and try to repair each time (but really, I “caught” my error after the first time, why oh why did I repeat it twice more!!).  Yet, I know it is there now, and I can’t take it back… I can only improve.

How many times a day do we, as adults, invalidate our little ones without even realizing it? I would encourage you today to intentionally become aware and if you catch yourself (or hear others) simply countering your little ones, think before you open your mouth next time.  Remember, they are their own person. We have the responsibility to acknowledge their feelings and opinions as valid and worthy of existing – even if we don’t agree with them.

I wonder how many parents of teens would see a complete 180 in their relationships if they decided to zero in on this aspect of interaction with their teens, and make changes in their behaviors toward their teens.

Punitive Timeouts & Spanking: Equally Damaging

As you read this, if you are unaccustomed to my beliefs or written tone and rhythm, please go here first.  Then, as you read, keep Ken’s comments in mind.

I am in a state of aggravation, spurred by injustice, impossible scenarios, no sleep, trepidation over the damage I may be causing my child with all this transition (moving, traveling), and struggling through a significant crevasse between my husband and I.  Right now, I am not whole.  I am torn in two, with a thread of goo left dangling in between. Please forgive my attempt at coping by using sarcasm instead of sheer wit and completely pure communication.  I’m jaded and in protective mode right now… and as if life isn’t large enough as it is at the moment, I have found myself being expected to conform or defend some of my core beliefs to some very real and large, tangible people (outside my home’s walls, but not far from them).  One of the topics is the use of timeouts.

Somehow, me saying that timeouts are torture in my opinion isn’t enough to get the various people to which I refer above to leave me alone.

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What is the point of a time out?

From the adult’s perspective, if we’re honest, first and foremost, hopefully the answer to that question is to insist a child realize they have evoked your disapproval by their actions and behaviors.  Second, to be completely honest, it is to give the adult a moment’s peace, during which they do not have to contend with the child’s behaviors and actions that are causing frustration.

We accomplish our task by forcing our child to endure rejection, isolation, and dehumanizing “space to think”, which if they had managed to “think” in the first place, they would never have allowed themselves to be forced into the position they found themselves in – the experience of ostracism by a trusted, loved, care giver.

Below you will find links to subsequent posts as I complete them related to the subject, picked apart concept for concept, and sometimes sentence for sentence.  I hope you will summon your curiosity and continue the learning process, open your mind to your child’s world view, and soften your heart so that a greater knowledge and understanding might enter your parenting and the future health of your child (and you).

Too spiritual, mystical, out-there talk??

Ok, here’s the same thing without the flowers and fairies:  Timeouts cause the brain to sense physical pain because it is in fact, a deliberate action of forced isolation, rejection, and detachment, even at the most “dutiful and appropriate” level. What’s worse, that isolation, rejection, and detachment is being forced upon a child powerless to prevent it by the very entity that is supposed to represent a safe, secure, and protected place/person (be it a parent, teacher, etc).

The betrayal, on multiple levels, is astounding and horrifying.

It’s real.

Don’t believe me?

Try this: Cause those around you to purposely ignore your presence, the other adults you see as valuable for one reason or another, in your daily life. Now, make it so you cannot stop their lack of or refusal to acknowledge you (otherwise known as “removal of positive reinforcement”) until you conform to their will and wishes, or until you regain their approval in some way (if you are capable).  Tell me this is not damaging.  Tell me this doesn’t hurt you. Tell me that it doesn’t make you squirm, angry, resentful, vengeful, and ultimately needy.  I dare you to try.

Now, take that one step further and view the same scenario through the eyes of an under/undeveloped child, inexperienced in social and emotional behavior patterns, still forming a fundamental sense of self and confidence, not capable of fully understanding why, or what they have done to loose the approval of others that resulted in this forced rejection and isolation. (May bet is that if you use timeouts, or spanking for that matter, you do not fully disclose pertinent thoughts to your child, as that might just give them too much knowledge to use against you at some point, so there is a good chance that the child is not fully aware of all aspects of their infraction.)

My take?  Smacking a child may possibly cause less scarring than using timeouts/ostracism, and you all know what I think about using violence and spanking, smacking, hitting, whipping, or using any sort of like action – that being to strike, in any manner.   The reason is simple: Spanking causes humiliation, fear, and physical pain.  Ostracism causes all the same, in addition to a loss of perceived self value, loss of approval, pain of rejection, fear of isolation, and the prevention of remedy (while they sit there thinking about what they’ve done, they are effectively prevented from generating a resolution or remedy).  The amount of psychological scarring and damage is doubled.

Please understand that if I am made aware of your choice to hit your child, and you’re within arm’s reach of me, I will hit you in the exact manner and force you used on them.  And then… maybe I’ll ignore you after, just to make sure you get the full effect of the devaluing and dismissal.

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Ok, here we go……

I have had parents tell me that using timeouts is an excellent option for them, it gets great results.  I cringe.. if you understand anything about me, you know that first and foremost, I believe it paramount that we raise our children with intelligence, the ability to reason and understand their world, respect for their world (this includes those who are in a position to care and provide for them), and a curiosity to explore, develop, and learn.  THE moment I hear a parent tell me that they’ve figured out a system to manipulate their child, for the sake of their own will and desire, regardless of why or what, I start to ache for their little one.  Then, I find out they hit them (ok, spank – really, show me what the physical action of a spanking is, now repeat the action with the same force using the same tool either against a piece of foam like the kind you use in the base of a fake plant, or a brick wall if you’re brave and dumb enough.  It’s the same action as hitting, and when the object makes contact, let’s see what happens).  OR I find out they faithfully don’t spank, “would never dream of it, that’s awful and abusive”, but oh yes, they definitely use timeouts, otherwise known as rejection, which includes the transmission of obvious disapproval, and then of course the torturous forced isolation aspect.  Yes, that’s a great solution.

That same parent, in their next breath, ridicules their child passively, dishonors their child’s autonomy and dignity by speaking about them as if they are less, and typically though standing right there, the parent behaves as if the child is not in the room. Then, as if to redeem themselves in the face of, well, my face, which is typically by then contorted and unable to hide the pain it feels due to the unavoidable sense of compassion and dismay I feel for the child, they begin to offer semi-relevant praise “about” their child, that they sort of direct through their child in hopes that I’ll buy it and encourage them that they’re really a great parent after all.  All the while, their child is standing there knowing full well that the praise is empty, that it has a hitch or some sort of catch and they’ll hear about it as soon as I’m not in the room, and that their parent will insist they acknowledge the efforts and praise offered, as if it is an obligation for the child to also validate the parent, as the parent insisted I do.

But I don’t. And to date, only one parent has stood their ground long enough to start asking me why I won’t buy into their ploy and help them feel good about themselves, so that their kid is forced to do the same thing… Only one parent has ever had the courage to question my refusal to help them make their child feel inferior, of course that’s not really what they want, they just want to be superior.

The parent that asked me why it was that it seemed as though I appeared to think they were full of shit, is the same parent that an hour later broke down in front of their child, crying, while sitting on the floor in front of the child, begging the child to forgive him for his arrogance, sense of entitlement, and gross oversight of the true value of his child.  The child responded with compassion and bewilderment, and didn’t say much.

The two left that night, together, connected in a way they’d never been, with a mutual respect present that was brand new.  The child admired the parent, though he was confused and didn’t seem very trusting or certain of the situation.  The parent discovered the immense worth and complexity of his child, and found that he too held a high level of admiration for the child, it had just been hiding under the surface for years – 9 years to be exact (the child was 10 years old).

I heard from this father about a month ago, his child is now 12.  This father is still struggling with allowing himself to truly acknowledge and respect his child’s autonomy and worth. He is driven to seek reasons and actions that justify him feeling and thinking this way, before he demonstrates this belief to his child.

We talked about this concern and the father indicated that he, himself, held a deep resentment toward his own parents and other care givers for never allowing him to feel as though he was a legitimate and useful contributor, simply because he was nothing more than a child.  He grew up assuming that all children were nothing more than something to be dealt with, tolerated until they’re grown, appreciated for what they do that pleases the adult (and in truth, mimics the adult’s preferences), but not too highly appreciated lest the child become arrogant… it goes on and on.

It’s a simple point of attributing a lessor worth and diminished degree of legitimacy to a person, simply because of their age.  We, as a human race, do this to each other based on ethnicity, language, religion, wealth, and gender. We’d be truly crazy hypocrites if we didn’t do the same thing because of age too. Come on, really.. we’re not that dumb, are we?

The positive side the father reported, however, was that his child and he shared a mutual respect for each other, and instead of punishment for error, the father had learned to use logic, reason, natural consequence, and give his child room to error, room to disagree, room to explore and discover, room to question and seek guidance – instead of shoving it down the child’s throat, and room to return respect and admiration for the father that can so deeply love, if he allows himself to be that vulnerable.

The real catch is, this father changed not only the dynamics of his relationship with his then pre-teen child, but that decision affected his relationship with the child’s mother immensely and brought the two parents back together in a mutual love and respect that neither had ever experienced in their former relationship together. Now, each member of this family knows they are valued, appreciated for who they are and what they think, admired for their efforts and dedication, and respected because they are, not because of what they do or don’t. Love found a place to call home and it took root. And this kid, let me tell you, is one emotionally healthy, intelligent, and confident kid, with a boatload of personal integrity and ability to demonstrate compassion and dedication like none I’ve recently seen or known, of the same age.

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Now, to discuss specifically the harm and damage that is the actual result of using a timeout punishment system – quite possibly the most poignant and intelligent perspective I have ever come across regarding the use of timeouts:

What you probably didn’t realize is that the silent treatment is a form of ostracism. When someone is ostracized it affects the part of their brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. Do you know what the anterior cingulate cortex does?

The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that detects pain. When you give someone the silent treatment you are causing that person physical pain. Simply by ignoring someone else’s existence you can inflict pain on them. This is what the ever popular “time out” with a child is so effective. The child feels ostracized, therefore is feeling pain even though no physical pain was inflicted on them, and therefor they want to behave so they don’t have to feel that way again.

The silent treatment can be a very destructive behavior when it involves personal relationships. Let’s say with a husband and wife for instance. The silent treatment breeds bitterness on both ends and it borders on emotional abuse… I’m not making that up to be dramatic. That’s what “they” say.

S O U R C E

Then, we take a look at this from another angle –

Numb to the pain

It turns out that “hurt feelings” may be a more valid term than most of us think. Research by Williams suggests that ostracism triggers the same area of the brain that’s active when we feel physical pain. He and his colleagues used FMRI to examine what happened in the brain when people played several versions of “Cyberball”: Participants were either included in the game, excluded having been told their computer wasn’t hooked into the network, or intentionally excluded.

Each time participants felt excluded—even when it was unintentional—the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex lit up, according to findings published in Science (Vol. 302, No. 5643). This area is well-known for being part of the brain’s pain detection system, says Williams. Participants also reported feeling emotional pain.

Williams’s findings make sense from an evolutionary perspective, argue Leary and Geoff MacDonald, PhD, in a 2005Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 131, No. 2) article. They propose that social pain piggybacks on nerve pathways in the brain originally laid out for physical pain. The two now share many of the same pathways, resulting in similar responses to the two seemingly disparate phenomena, they say. It makes sense, says Leary, a Duke University professor of psychology, because social rejection and pain serve the same purpose—alerting an organism to a potentially life-threatening risk.

It may also support a counterintuitive theory proposed by Baumeister and his colleagues: that social rejection leads initially to emotional numbness. They have conducted studies in which they tell participants that based on a psychological evaluation they will end up alone later in life. They’ve found that the participants’ behaviors are affected by the news, but their moods aren’t. Baumeister compares this emotional numbing with the analgesic effect that can happen after an injury. We don’t feel pain until we’ve gotten to safety. This same pathway, he argues, may cause emotional numbness after rejection to allow the brain to begin to cope with the pain before it sets in. In fact, in a series of studies, Baumeister and colleagues find that after rejection, not only are people emotionally numb, but their threshold for physical pain increases.

Williams agrees that emotional numbness can happen. In qualitative interviews he conducted with victims of long-term ostracism, many people described their trouble engaging emotionally. However, he says, it’s not clear yet when or under what conditions people feel numbness versus pain.

Rejection’s link to aggression

Regardless, it’s clear from the research that ostracism and rejection have very real consequences. Williams’s student Lisa Zadro, PhD, now at the University of Sydney in Australia, interviewed 50 people who were either ostracized or perpetrators of ostracism. Those who’d been ostracized reported depression, eating disorders, promiscuity disorders and even attempted suicide. Almost all said that they would have preferred physical abuse to ostracism.

S O U R C E

In fact, long-term rejection can have disastrous consequences in the form of anger and aggression. Leary examined cases of school shootings and found that as many as 80 percent of shooters suffered from prolonged peer rejection. These are, of course, only correlations, but many lab studies support the idea that rejection can lead to aggression.

“There seems to be a failure of self-regulation in people who feel rejected,” says Baumeister. “And this allows a shift toward anti-social and aggressive behavior.”

But aggression is only one reaction people can have, says Williams. He and others find that people may also become more socially attentive in an attempt to win approval. Aggression, he argues, is more likely to occur when people have lost a sense of control. They use aggression to reassert themselves—a motivation that becomes more salient than any desire to be liked.

If you use timeouts, any chance you see the correlation here with either the aggressive response, or the opposing passive response? Do I need to draw to connect the dots or can you?

… on his first day, I witnessed the teacher giving a 4 yo boy a time-out for grabbing a toy from another child. They made him go and sit by himself on a chair away from the other kids and told him to “think about what he had done”. Then they eventually led him back to the group, and said, “next time you want a toy, you will use your…” and he said right on queu, “…words”. So obviously this is not the first time it has happened. I was just shocked. I was told in my tour they didn’t use time-outs. Apparently they do. They didn’t speak meanly, they were calm, but everyone was staring and I felt bad for him. I felt he was humiliated a little, ostracized, singled out.

S O U R C E Go read the rest of this.  The article is a bit choppy, but insightful.

Research suggests that ostracism is an effective form of controlling contranormative behaviors, punishing deviance, and increasing in-group cohesion (Alexander 1986; Barner-Barry, 1986; Basso, 1972; Boehm, 1986; Mahdi, 1986). For example ostracism is still one of the more common methods used to discipline young children, by parents and teachers alike. The issue of enforcing time outs, in schools and special education programs alike, has been discussed at length by social psychologists. The common denominator of most forms of time-out is the reduction of social attention. But this can be carried out in a number of ways, from physically relocating the child to a time-out room, to systematically ignoring the child who remains the same social environment (Brooks, Perry, & Hingerty, 1992; Heron, 1987). It has yet to be determined as to whether time-outs are a beneficial form of discipline.

S O U R C E


Note #2 – the ancient Greece part – I added a bit of something to the definition.

os·tra·cism
–noun

1.

exclusion, by general consent, from social acceptance,privileges,friendship, etc.

2.

(in ancient Greece, and in most contemporary homes and schools where children spend their time, across the United States and other countries) temporary banishment of a citizen,decided upon bypopular vote.

Peace-Centered Parenting, Non-Violent Children

S O U R C E

I came across this site today in search of an image that depicts my hope to gain the attention of those who skim over the front page of this blog.  You’ll see I added a pic from the page, and have linked it back to the page.   But I also wanted to take a minute to commend and outwardly appreciate the efforts of those who have created this work of art.

People always say that children should come with an instruction manual, well that is part of the problem. There are tens of thousands of manuals out there and all of them say different things.

Even in the new millennium the experts can’t quite agree on the “right” way to raise a child.

The problem is, each of us has our own idea of what defines successful parenting. Sometimes those ideas change from day to day. Experts can’t agree, and we can’t agree.

For me, my parenting philosophy came from many sources. My own childhood was a huge factor but so was my fascination with psychology, with finding out what makes the human mind tick.

When I realized how easily we can damage our children for life, how careful we must be with their fragile minds I actually scared myself. As parents, we have one of the most important jobs on earth, shaping a future generation.

… What we do in our home can affect society for many years to come. That sort of puts your parenting goals in perceptive doesn’t it? …

… All I really intended to do in the beginning was remove the hypocrisy from my parenting. I refused to ask something of my children that I was not willing to demand from myself. I didn’t realize I had become an advocate of non-violent parenting until well after the decision had been made. I just began wondering why people hit their children and then tell them not to hit. Why they are disrespectful of their children yet demand respect from them.

We are our children’s first and best models of expected behavior. Our children are going to do what we do, not do what we say. When we lie to someone saying we aren’t feeling well so we can’t attend that birthday party, our children are watching us. The person on the other end of the phone might not know we are lying but our children do. They are learning from us even then. –

… I had to work very hard with my own children to help them understand that being disrespectful of another person, even if we don’t like them or what they are doing, is always wrong.

I didn’t do it just to protect the teacher, I did it to protect myself in the future as well.

If I am going to demand respect from my children, I must demand it in all situations, not just situations of my choosing –

I am in complete agreement.  I have witnessed the carelessness with which some parents behave in the presence of children and am appalled by their complete lack of respect for themselves, the entity in question, and their children.  However, I am then not at all surprised when I see the poor behavior and attitudes of their children displayed either when the parent is not present, or often in direct confrontation of the parent.

… What goes on behind closed doors often transfers to public. Respect is important in public, but even more so in private. When parents are openly disrespectful to their children, or even towards one another they are encouraging the cycle of disrespect to continue.

Such a crucial understanding to accept and adopt, religiously.  Seriously.  If the masses would do just this one thing, many of the world’s conflict and sorrow would cease.  Just think, in a single generation, if enough of us chose this path, what difference could be made in our communities and society of the future!

Why Spank? Well, It Works. Embarrassment is a Powerful Tool

Yesterday I received a comment related to the Bare Bottom Spanking post that has me thinking beyond my initial response to the father that sent the comment.  I have copied in the conversation below, but want to add a few additional thoughts on this subject before letting it snooze for a while.
Concerning the subject of humiliation as it relates to development of the very young through to adulthood, I want to offer you a few morsels to chew on.
Here is an excellent site, and one that I encourage any of you who might struggle with some of the issues on either side of the wall to take a look at.  (Click the title link for source)

What is Emotional Abuse?

Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased.

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.

My interpretation of spanking a child is to force the will of the person who wields greater physical strength and a faster intellect than the child entrusted to their care.  To spank does not solve a problem, does not teach wisdom or deliver knowledge.  To spank stops an annoyance, teaches fear response, and closes the door on a willing spirit to learn (both of the parent and the child).  It serves to do nothing but give the adult some immediate satisfaction that they’ve done something to correct the issue at hand, but they have not.  Though it may seem as though this has been achieved, it is simply a facade.  When we use violence, physical or emotional, verbal or nonverbal, we instill our children with the need to develop response systems that provide them with some sort of self protection and survivability.  This is the complete opposite from teaching respect, appreciation, wonder, confidence, responsibility, and love.
Today I feel like I am banging my head against a wall because of how obvious it is to me that violence begets violence, regardless of the intensity level.  Yet, so many are completely unable to see this.  I think I might have an inkling of an idea what Magellan must have felt when trying to explain to the populous that the earth is indeed a sphere and no, we won’t fall of the edge if we keep going.
I’ll try to write more later tonight.
Take a look at this article, somewhat inserted here but you’ll need to visit the site.
(Source is Title Link)

Humiliation

No one likes being treated like dirt
You have been insulted, your ego is bruised, your pride is hurt, you have been show powerless and diminished in some way, and now you are hurt and mad as hell! You have just been humiliated, it is unfair, and you don’t like feeling foolish. Humiliation often results in violent retaliation and revenge.
Remember, at the end of the day, the only opinion of yourself that matters is your own.

Definitions:

  1. Feeling disrespected.
  2. A loss of stature or image.
  3. An image change reflecting a decrease in what others believe about your stature.
  4. Induced shame
  5. To reduce the pride or fail to recognize the dignity of another
  6. An event perceived to cause loss of honor and induce shame.
  7. Feeling powerless.
  8. Being unjustly forced into a degrading position.
  9. Ridicule, scorn, contempt or other treatment at the hands of others

Root: from Latin humilislow, lowly, from humusground. Literally, “reducing to dirt”.

Synonyms include losing face, being made to feel like a fool, feeling foolish, hurt, disgraced, indignity, put-down, debased, dejected, denigrated, dishonored, disrespected, dis’ed, defamed, humbled, scorned, slighted, slurred, shamed, mortified, rejected, being laughed at. While humility is considered a strength, humiliation is hurtful; the distinction pivots on autonomy.

Appreciation is the opposite of humiliation.

Humiliation involves an event that demonstrates unequal power in a relationship where you are in the inferior position and unjustly diminished. Often the painful experience is vividly remembered for a long time. Your vindictive passions are aroused and a humiliated fury may result. There are three involved parties: 1) the perpetrator exercising power, 2) the victim who is shown powerless and therefore humiliated, and 3) the witness or observers to the event.

Because of the powerlessness and lack of control that it exposes, humiliation may lead to anxiety.

is recognizing and accepting our own limitations based on an accurate and modest estimate of our importance and significance. The humble person recognizes he is one among the six billion interdependentpeople on this earth, earth is one planet circling the sun, and our sun is one of a billion stars in the presently known universe. Because of this broad and sound perspective on her significance, the truly humble person cannot be humiliated.

Humility reduces our need for self-justification and allows us to admit to and learn from our mistakes. Our ego stands down.

Humiliation and Shame

The essential distinction between humiliation and shame is this: you agree with shame and you disagree with humiliation. Humiliation is suffering an insult. If you judge the insult to be credible, then you feel shame. Others can insult and humiliate you, but you will only feel shame if your self-image is reduced; and that requires your own assessment and decision. A person who is insecure about their genuine stature is more prone to feeling shame as a result of an insult. This is because they give more credibility to what others think of them than to what they think of themselves. This can result in fragile self-esteem.

People believe they deserve their shame, they do not believe they deserve their humiliation. Humiliation is seen as unjust.

Forms of Humiliation

Humans have many ways to slight others and humiliate them. For example:

  • Overlooking someone, taking them for granted, ignoring them, giving them the silent treatment, treating them as invisible, or making them wait unnecessarily for you,
  • Rejecting someone, holding them distant, abandoned, or isolated,
  • Withholding acknowledgement, denying recognition, manipulating recognition,
  • Domination, control, manipulation, abandonment,
  • Threats or abuse including: verbal (e.g. name calling), physical, psychological, or sexual,
  • Assault, attack, or injury
  • Having safety or security reduced by intimidation or threat,
  • Dismissing, discounting, or silencing your story,
  • Losing basic personal freedoms such a mobility, access, or autonomy; being controlled, dominated, intruded on, exploited, or manipulated,
The list goes on.  See the article here -> S O U R C E

(from) Mark
August 5, 2010 7:01 pm

As a child who was spanked and later as a parent who has chosen to spank, I see nothing sexual about spanking. What made spanking effective as a discipline tool for me as a child is its dramatic nature. Grounding may ultimately hurt many children worse. However, telling me I was going to be grounded carried nowhere near the emotional connotation for me as hearing that I was going to get a spanking. When I heard that I would be spanked, my throat would get tight and I would feel genuine fear.

I have tried to resort to other punishments for my own children besides spanking for several reasons. First, any punishment that is used too much becomes ineffective. Second, I would prefer to discipline without using the kind of physical force necessary when you spank. Three, I would prefer to give out a punishment that doesn’t leave my children crying.

Even so, I have found a couple of situations as a parent that I felt really called for a spanking. One involved a situation when my eight year old son insisted on playing with firecrackers and a friend when he had been told not to do so. Another involved a situation with the same son a couple of years later where he took a spray paint can and with the help of two friends sprayed some bad words on the wall of a house that was for sale. His misconduct here involved lying about where he was and taking a spray paint can from an open garage of a neighbor. Other discipline was used as well. However, I felt nothing could have conveyed my message as effectively as an over-the-knee spanking of his butt.

I disagree with bare butt spanking. Its unnecessary. I have taken down their pants though and spanked them in their underwear. It preserves their modesty and still causes enough embarrassment that they think long and hard about what they’ve done.

I applaud this father for his choice to speak, to describe, and to add his insight.  And I want to encourage further conversation on the subject matter from all of you.
Here is my very long winded reply  –

Hi Mark,

Thank you for your remarks and insight. It is encouraging to hear the voice of a father who is actively parenting his children. I want to take the opportunity to reply to your thread because I think it raises a couple of interesting and thought provoking concepts.

First, I’d like to address your concluding remarks on the effectiveness of embarrassment as punishment, and the long and far reaching effects it has on children, and adults. I’m going to site a few articles and tie together a couple thoughts on the subject; I welcome responses.

Please review the following posts/articles:

Corporal Punishment, Psychological Effects

Obtaining Obedience at What Cost

The Long Fingers that Dig Deep

________________________________
“Children should not be the scapegoats of adults’ painful experiences. The claim that mild punishments (slaps or smacks) have no detrimental effects is still widespread because we got this message very early from our parents who had taken it over from their own parents. This conviction helped the child to minimize his suffering and to endure it. Unfortunately, the main damage it causes is precisely our numbness as well as the lack of sensitivity for our children’s pain. The result of the broad dissemination of this damage is that each successive generation is subjected to the tragic effects of seemingly harmless “correction”. Many parents still think: What didn’t hurt me can’t hurt my child. They don’t realize that their conclusion is wrong because they never challenged their assumption.” S O U R C E

__________________________________
Next, I’d like to draw a connection for some of you that perhaps you’ve not yet considered. The act of punishing our children’s deeds by use of spanking, grounding, or time out is something that doesn’t make sense to me because the consequence has nothing to do with the offense. Let me paint a picture for you that addresses this concept from one angle.

Our judicial system is full of people who have done something that the community views as wrong. They’re stuck in a cell, and our taxes basically keep them out of our way because of what they have done. Most of them will never have to confront the victim of their wrong doing, nor will they be expected to make reparation. And if reparation is ordered it is very unlikely it will have any direct correlation to the actual crime they committed, and even less chance that the offender will be expected to make any personal reparation to their victim. This lack of expectation of one to take personal responsibility has a lot to do with a given individual’s propensity to continue to commit crimes throughout his or her life.

There is a movement among some judicial systems to pave a path of justice and reparation, instead of simply trapping the offender. In Colorado, there is a group called Restorative Justice and their goal is to cause offenders to take personal responsibility, make personal reparation, and ultimately reintegrate into the community a whole person who is then capable of not continuing in their ways of difficulty because they wholly understand what harm it does. In the few cases where the individual is unable to rehabilitate and reintegrate satisfactorily, the typical judicial recourses are employed and basically, the system gives up on them.

My contention is that spanking, grounding, and other forms of punishment (this is not discipline, these are punishments) are ineffective in the long run because they are in essence no better than sticking the offender in a box and saying, “You did something bad, now sit here and think about it until the judge thinks you’ve thought long enough.” And how will that judge know? Recommendations from those who control this individual’s every move. They see how the individual responds and chooses to behave in this controlled environment with instant psychological and sometimes physical consequences that sometimes fit their actions. Further, the judge asks the person what he’s been thinking about while stuck in this box and told to think, which if he had done in the first place, he wouldn’t have been stuck in the box in the first place… so if he’d been able to figure things out properly on his own then, or after his incarceration, we wouldn’t have repeat offenders.

This, alas, is not how it works most of the time. In my opinion, we treat offenders much in the same way parents who use certain forms of punishment do. Natural consequences don’t apply, authority derived and determined punishments are instead delivered. And the only connection the offender is allowed to conclude is the authority figure decided I did something wrong, so they’re going to punish me in a way that satisfies them, but doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whatever I did, oh and it will humiliate me, which is the only thing I will remember (unless there is physical pain), but chances are I’ll forget what that humiliation was really for… just that on that day, I lost another piece of me and my self-confidence.

_________________________
That said, I want to just throw out a couple of alternative ideas regarding the two incidents you described where you felt it appropriate to spank your son:

For the offense of playing with fireworks after having been warned against it, AND after (your son) having been informed of the reasons for the warning (i.e., dangers to self, to others, to property – not just because mom/dad said so), I submit the child be taken for a session of volunteering at the Burn Unit at Children’s hospital. Such an event will offer the offending child a very real world and tangible experience to call upon when decided whether to involve himself with the play of fireworks in the future. And if you can get the other child’s parents to agree, have them both go at least twice. (Note: Discussing the situation with the adult coordinators in advance of arriving to volunteer, and in the absence of your child, will allow you to censor appropriately for your child’s age and sensabilities.)

This sort of experience gives the kids the chance to make the very real connection what fire and like items can do to a human child, and they won’t forget what they learn. They will have the opportunity to turn the experience into good for the community as well. Instead of humiliation they will gain wisdom and a sense of pride for their contribution and new found knowledge. This is something useful for your future and theirs, and in ways that may not be immediately obvious.

Responding with this sort of discpline allows you, the parent, to gain the same end result you’re after – the kids stop being careless with really dangerous stuff. They, the children, grow in maturity, wisdom, compassion, and self control, instead of learning how to play the game better and just not get caught the next time.

It is then the continued responsibility of the parent to enforce the experience by discussing any concerns or thoughts the child might have, perhaps facilitating a friendship between your child and one that has suffered a burn (if there is a need for an ongoing reminder of real world consequences).

I realize this sounds like a ton of work and time commitment for the parent, and how much easier would it be to get your way by spanking once, and assuming the humiliation will sit long enough that they’ll not commit the same offense ever again. But you and I both know that the moment your son is old enough to stare that humiliation in the face and turn it back on you in rebellion, and the moment he’s old enough to figure out how to control his time and resources (I wager, about 14 years of age), he will again do exactly what you have insisted he not. He will do it because of his curiosity that has been intensified by it being put off limits, and because he is strong enough to reject the humiliation you put on him. He may also be reluctant every year the country uses fireworks as a celebration, and may not understand why he has these feelings, but you will know that they stem from the humiliation that his mind unconsciously attaches to the objects.

Alternately, he will never challenge you and will follow in blind obedience, and our world will have another drone.

Forgive me for my bluntness, but if you’ve read any of my posts, you’re probably well aware of it already.

Concerning the spray paint incident… My gut reaction is that your son is acting in a pattern and if it were me, I’d be trying very hard to figure out what was behind/beneath his actions (say, perhaps any/all of the wrong doings over the last 5 years) and address the source before I did anything else (literally, before dinner, before tomorrow, whatever). However, as a response to the incident, instead of spanking him and telling him that I, the authority figure, disapproved of his choices, I’d again allow real world consequences to prevail, and real world lessons to be learned.

In the event that my child made the decision to be so disrespectful of another’s property, I would begin by asking him just that, “Why do you think it is you don’t have more respect for these people, and the things they have that matter to them?” Then, I would listen to his response. Very intently. I would continue to ask him questions that encouraged his thoughts and feelings, and at each response I would not respond with my own, but acknowledge his words and remember well what he is communicating (and what isn’t successfully being transmitted, but is there nonetheless).

Then, I would explain to my child that he must make reparation for the damage he chose to cause. Further, I would plainly inform my child, in the presence of the other child, that they have both made decisions that are now going to prevent them from spending unsupervised time together for the forseeable future. Then, I would inform him that his reparation would incude him either cleaning the marks off the house himself, or if that was not possible, he would join the professional and do whatever the professional would have him do to repair the damage. If new siding or something similar were necessary, he would offer whatever money he had to pay for it. He and I would take our time to help the home owner obtain whatever supplies they might need, and do any of the work they’d allow us to do to repair (us, yes us, meaning my offending child and me, the parent ultimately responsible). If my son’s funds were insufficient and mine had to be tapped, my son would be in my debt and he would commence working whatever was necessary to gain the real money necessary to repay me.

My son would be as present as the owners would allow, and if they wouldn’t allow it, he’d be at the next Habitat for Humanity opportunity, or something similar, doing the same physical work related to building/caring for a house. AND it would be his hands that would hurt because of a splinter, having to grip a hammer for a long time, or whatever other discomfort just comes along with that sort of work (hot sun, standing for a long time, carrying heavy stuff back and forth, tending to the needs of the grown ups who can do what he cannot, etc).

Additionally, for the second part of his offense, his room would be left open for strangers to come visit during a garage sale (this would be a surprise to him). If there were many valuable items that would cost me, I would prearrange a visit from some neighbors that he didn’t know, and ask them to take what they wish from a selection of items that will get the point across to him, but not hurt my pocket. And no, I would not then replace the items out of my own pocket.

Finally, I would address what was behind his choice of words. What satisfaction did he gain from the selection of words he chose? Does he perhaps harbor some resentment toward these people?? Has he made some sort of judgement of them and felt the need to passively tell them? Were these words specifically “taboo” according to his parents, and therefore if he managed to not get caught, would the resulting level of satisfaction and passive statement made be worth the risk?

When our children act out, whatever their age, we must take a moment to look inward. Chances are, there is something there we could improve, change, or cease that would make a difference in our children. However, the younger they are when we take this responsibility and awareness upon ourselves, the better chance for success and well developed children in their older years.

– I was three years old when my mother first spanked me, and I lost a considerable amount of respect for her intelligence and compassion that day. I had lied about taking some stickers off the refrigerator, and as a result I was forced to endure the humiliation of being bent over her knee. I complied, I complained, and I learned that next time either lie better or don’t get caught. Did I mention I was three?

The kicker was that I didn’t know ahead of taking the stickers that it would matter, but when my mom confronted me I sensed that she thought what I had done was wrong, so I responded because I didn’t want to feel her disapproval. Even though I hadn’t intentionally disobeyed an order or expectation, I knew I would suffer her disapproval anyway if I fessed up. So, my tiny 3 years of experience prevailed and in my effort to not have her disapprove of something I had done with no malicious or rebellious intent, I figured my best option was to pretend I didn’t know what she was talking about thereby preventing her disapproval of ME specifically. I hoped that she would just be sad that the stickers weren’t there anymore and leave it at that… and maybe give me a chance to return them since it had become apparent it mattered to her.

No such luck. She cornered me, I lied, she countered, I gave in, she spanked me, I was humiliated, she tried to reconcile, I rejected her, she left me alone, I drew my own conclusions and you know what, I don’t give a hoot about stickers anymore – they annoy me. Now, my two year old loves them and sticks them everywhere! My mother uses them as a reward and gift for her grand daughter. I think it’s great because it’s an activity they mutually enjoy and share untarnished between the two of them. But you will never find a single sticker or even a magnet that resembles one on my fridge, as it would serve as a reminder of a dark and brooding feeling inside of me that turned to resentment toward my mother. A small amount of resentment, perhaps, but there just the same.

That was the one and only time my mother ever spanked me. Maybe she was wiser than I thought she was.


Parenting Disciplin (Source of below quote ->)

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary lists the definition of discipline as:

1. punishment

2. obsolete: instruction

3. a field of study

4. training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character

Why is punishment listed as the first definition and the Latin root meaningto teach has become obsolete?

I suspect that this description perfectly mirrors our current parenting paradigm in which generation after generation has passed down parenting discipline advice and techniques based on cycles of punishments and rewards, dangling carrots and taking away privileges and love in an attempt to modify behavior. This philosophy of discipline has not taken us very far.

From Your Partner’s Point of View

This is an excellently written article, and a concept well worth contemplating.  It is something I think a lot of our parents attempted to teach us as children, but likely often failed at modeling themselves.

What does this have to do with gentle parenting and respect of our children?  Everything.  If we can teach ourselves to live in harmony with one another, seeing the other first, each in turn, than our children will learn the same. Furthermore, we are then also able to see our children’s world through their viewing portals, instead of our own or that of our expected and imposed view of their world.

One who has this skill and routinely and consistently employs the practice makes harmony automatically around them and in their home.  This “being able to walk in another’s shoes”, or “see through the lens of another”,  decreases frustration instantly, especially in either an intimate relationship or a parent/child relationship.  With children, this way of being fosters a natural and mutual respect, an appreciation, an admiration (and it will be bidirectional, by the way), and has the tendency to calm them, encourage and build them up, decrease power struggles and childhood related aggravations, and generally keeps daily life more peaceful.

If you consistently allow yourself to see through your partner’s and child’s view of their world, truth and trust is also a natural byproduct.  In cases where one individual is struggling, those struggles can become apparent and support can be given.  In the case where one individual harbors negative feelings toward the other, those feelings can be explored safely, together.  And in the case where one individual is not being cared for in the manner which he or she needs to thrive, this lacking can be acknowledged and through awareness, compassion, and attentiveness, love can begin to flow freely.

Ultimately, we will enhance our marriages and friendships, and in so doing, our children will not only flourish in the love and harmony of their homes, but they will go on to have a stable emotional self that can regenerate and recreate itself in their futures, and the futures of their own children and relationships.

S O U R C E

Remember when you first fell in love with your partner and how the world was so rosy and your partner was simply wonderful? And how you felt deeply connected and understood? Ahhh, the joys of the early part of relationship.
What we really want is to be truly understood. And to be really seen by the person we care about. To find someone who can read our minds and meet our needs. To find true love and intimacy that lasts a lifetime. To be loved unconditionally by our partner. We want love especially when we are angry and wounded by our partner. We want to stay in that euphoric space of new love. To get the ‘Happy Ever After’ promised by fairy tales.
But despite our deep longing to be connected with the one we choose to be with, Happy Ever After rarely happens. Most often, when one partner is angry, the other person becomes angry back or shuts down. During conflict, the two partners disconnect from each other. The relationship suffers as people become disillusioned with their partner. The two people may even secretly start to look for exits from the relationship. Common exits are addictions, silence and withdrawal, increased fighting, self-blame and depression, anxiety and threatening to leave the relationship.
The main purpose of a committed love relationship is to become a responsible loving adult and complete unresolved childhood issues says Harville Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want–a Guide for Couples and Keeping the Love You Get–a Guide for Singles. Hendrix’s approach, more than any other current marriage-counseling model, helps couples move their union towards a Conscious Relationship.
Hendrix fashioned the name Imago Therapy to illustrate how we fall in love with the image that we put on another person. Imago is a Greek word for illusion. We get caught up in those euphoric brain chemicals that the rush of new love brings. You have heard that love is blind? It is true. We don t see the real person, imperfections and all, but we put our illusion of what we expect in a romantic relationship on the other person.
Later, when the bloom goes off the romance, we have to deal with what the person is really like. And often we try to exit the relationship. Energy that is needed for the relationship building is put elsewhere. Ask yourself, ‘Where do I put my energy when I am upset with my partner?’ What exits do you leave open to deal with your pain?
Imago Therapy teaches major tools of communication and connection to bond couples together.’The job of each partner is to create a Conscious Relationship where you learn to hang on and reparent your partner. Blaming, criticizing, withdrawing and pouting are the common distancing defenses in relationships. The big challenge for a happy relationship is to stop using these destructive defenses! We can replace these negative defenses with actions that keep us in partnership even when time get rough.
‘We all got wounded in relationship as children with our parents and siblings,’ Bonnie Brinkman, Imago Therapist, explains.’The healing can only come in relationship. We need our partners for this. The old mom and dad stuff becomes the template for selecting a partner. We choose people to be in relationship with that represents the best and worst of our parents. The psyche holds an unconscious agenda to select the right person who can help us heal. Our partner, with all of their frustration about us. has the blueprint for our healing.’
The heart of Imago Therapy is to use the relationship to mend the pain of being hurt and disappointed in childhood. Brinkman continues,’ We are the walking wounded. Our partner holds the blueprint for our healing and growth. The elegance of this process is that we heart flutter over only a few people in the entire world. We fall in like with some of them and then find a person to fall in love with and hook up with. We unconsciously pick the perfect partner to help us do the growing up work. God, the Universe, Fate or whatever you call it, helps us zero in on that perfect partner who will push our buttons so we can get on with our work. There are no accidents why we get together with the person we choose out of all the millions of potential partners. The one we choose is someone who is familiar to us–we have met aspects of him or her before in our mother and father. That sets the stage for doing the work of growing past our present defenses.’
Chemical Soup Equals Love?
We are chemical beings as well as psychological beings. The peptides–that feel-good stuff that goes on in the brain that we call euphoria happens when we fall in love. The chemistry goes off when we find a person who can help us heal our childhood pain. That s why love is blind, we are so infatuated with the high emotional chemical soup that we are in that we overlook the warts of the partner. We fall in illusion!
Falling in love creates the Symbiotic Stage of relationship where the people are joined at the hip symbolized by ‘You and I are One.’ Too often this turns into and ‘I m the One and you need to do what I say, resulting in big time anger and pain.’ Too often this stage turns into in self absorption by one or both of the partner with ‘If you are don t see things the way I do, then I must punish you so I can avoid re-wounding myself.’
The high of the peptides wears off after about six months–we are not meant to remain in this chemical rush forever. The romantic stage lasts about six months in most relationships then wears off to settle down. As the high runs its course, then the Power Struggle stage kicks in. The Power Struggle Stage is illusion also. Our illusion is that we are the nice guy. Our partner, that wonderful one in the Symbiotic Stage, is now the enemy. Suddenly the partner s warts start to look REALLY warty! Things that used to be cute in their partner now grate on our nerves. The couple loses their feelings of being connected. Each feel hurt. Conflict happens. Big time Power Struggle! Distancing sets in.
The war of wills hits big time. Insistence on having one s own way and struggle becomes the order of the day. When the stuff really hits the fan, each partner runs to their arsenal of fighting tools–anger, distancing, domination and submission. Oh yes, those dysfunctional ways of dealing with threat that we learned from our parents! Criticism, blaming, sarcasm, withdrawal, and giving in with silent martyrdom are the defenses of vying for control. We do the grownup stuff that was modeled to us in childhood from those people who raised us.
Sound familiar? In the Power Struggle stage, the partners become stuck in trying to tell the other what to do and gathering data to make the other person wrong, at least in their own eyes. Conflict sends grownups, back into the defenses of their little child. There can be symmetrical wounding as each person knows the trigger points of the other and goes for them pulling forth the defenses they learned as a child. In power struggles, nobody wins. But as the saying goes from The Course in Miracles, ‘Would you rather be right or happy?’
So Imago Therapy tells you to hang in and learn about yourself. You can put your energy into distancing or you can put it into building intimacy. Keep your energy for the really important things in life–deep connection and growth. Close the Exits. Use your energy to transform your relationship! The ‘No Exit’ policy makes you become creative in working things out. According to Brinkman, there are four options that happen in relationships where there are unresolved power struggles:
1. Adios! Start the cycle over. Find someone new with whom to move through chemical soup into power struggles.
2. Have a silent divorce. Stay together for religious or financial reasons or fear of being alone and become roommates with passion for life atrophying.
3. Become the Bickersons and fight over everything, constantly injuring each other emotionally.
4. Start to cooperate with the unconscious agenda and use the volatile situations for growth. Learn techniques to stay connected during conflict and practice reconnection. This is the ‘becoming a grownup stage’ called The Reality Love Stage.
Making Your Relationship Conscious
Everyone wants a Conscious Relationship, but few couples achieve this high level of connection. So what is real in Conscious Relationships? How do we get there? We have to move on to the next stage–The Reality Love Stage of relationship. In this stage, we are presented with many challenging opportunities to use each other to put the childhood pain to rest. Like everything we have a fight–there is another growth opportunity. But of course it is an opportunity only if we choose to make it one. Some couples never reach this stage, switching partners when fighting get too toxic.
A new set of relationship skills and tools are needed to get the Reality Love Stage. Moving past the Power Struggle stage, the couples begins to realize that not only is their job to grow up but their other job is to help their partner grow up. Imago Therapy presents safe ways of relating to each other that help both partners feel heard and understood by the other. It provides a process to travel the path of creating a spiritually conscious union.
Intentional Dialogue–A Way to Keep Connected During Arguments
What creates intimacy? What we really want is to be heard and feel safe with our partner. Hendrix s technique of Intentional Dialogue is a way of relating to your partner when he or she is upset by something that you did. It is a process that keeps the contact going even in times of feeling threat and stress–IT KEEPS THE COUPLE CONNECTED EVEN WHEN THEY DISAGREE! Intentional Dialogue gives the partner the love and attention they need when they most need it.
Intentional Dialogue is a process of communication that you and your partner can learn to create an atmosphere of safety. At times, it can be exasperating. But using this tool of communication with your partner really helps him or her feel safe and listened too. It works if it is done right to recreate that sense of connection that you felt when you first fell in love. Intentional Dialogue gives you a process of obtaining The Five Freedoms that Virginia Satir, pioneer in family therapy talked about:
The FREEDOM to see and hear what is here, instead of what should be, was, or will be.
The FREEDOM to say what you feel and think, instead of what you should.
The FREEDOM to feel what you feel, instead of what you ought.
The FREEDOM to ask for what you want, instead of always waiting for permission.
The FREEDOM to take risks in your own behalf, instead of choosing to be only “secure” and not rock the boat.
Sound good? Well you can get it! You and your partner can find the Happy Ever After, after all.
But . . . it takes learning a process of active listening and hard work. It takes resolution from both partners to do Intentional Dialogue when friction starts to build up. It takes being able to be vulnerable and stomach some uncomfortable feelings. It takes you out of your comfort zone into really being REAL! Ouch! It requires listening and talking from the open heart; now that is scary stuff. The pay off is that you and your partner become a team actively working though the rough spots in your relationship. It makes you conscious in your relationship. You can actually feel closer with your partner after an argument when you stick to the dialogue.
And the technique works in all relationships, not only in romantic relationships. It even works with adolescents! Hendrix and his wife recently wrote a book on parenting, Giving the Love That Heals.
What we all really want is to be understood and accepted for who we are. To really live in Conscious Relationship, in my opinion, Intentional Dialogue is the best tool for keeping love alive. Having someone really listen to you is as close to unconditional love we can get in our lifetime. Empathy is the greatest gift you can give your partner when he or she is hurting. It helps a person be seen and feel totally understood. The childhood wounds no longer are so deep when we are truly heard and understood.
A recipe for having a Conscious Relationship equals commitment, learning powerful, how-to-stay -connected techniques during times of stress and darn hard work. This formula is doable for those determined to be happy in relationship. The Imago Therapy Tools help you keep the love you want and become a responsible, loving adult secure in the knowledge that you are truly seen and heard.
For more information read the books, Getting the Love you Want: A Guide for Couples and Keeping the Love you Get: A Guide for Singles by Harville Hendrix. To find a therapist trained in Imago Therapy, do a web search.

Hand Slapping, Exploration, Confidence: An Important Understanding

S O U R C E

SLAPPING HANDS
How tempting it is to slap those daring little hands! Many parents do it without thinking, but consider the consequences. Maria Montessori, one of the earliest opponents of slapping children’s hands, believed that children’s hands are tools for exploring, an extension of the child’s natural curiosity. Slapping them sends a powerful negative message. Sensitive parents we have interviewed all agree that the hands should be off-limits for physical punishment. Research supports this idea. Psychologists studied a group of sixteen fourteen-month-olds playing with their mothers. When one group of toddlers tried to grab a forbidden object, they received a slap on the hand; the other group of toddlers did not receive physical punishment. In follow-up studies of these children seven months later, the punished babies were found to be less skilled at exploring their environment. Better to separate the child from the object or supervise his exploration and leave little hands unhurt.

I love this.  It’s brief, allows one to contemplate (which I am now), and doesn’t condemn or judge.  Bravo!

I know the urge… She’s grabbing it again (insert object of interest) and it either scares you, annoys you, or is in direct violation of whatever you just told her not to touch.  What is your instinct? You know that if you slap her hand, it will sting and therefore she’ll pull her hand away and theoretically stop touching whatever you want her to stop touching.  Gotta love instant gratification.  But if it were my daughter, she’d just touch it the moment I turned my back anyway, so why bother.

Now, the NGJ method would interject here that if I had smacked her hand hard enough, she’d have learned her lesson and would remember well enough to not touch whatever it was again.  This brings two thoughts to mind:  First, violence begets violence. Second, let’s just say the item I don’t want her to touch is my coffee mug.  Ok, so I slap her hand hard enough and frequently enough that she learns she is better off not touching it (because she doesn’t like pain, nor does she like the hit to her self confidence).  So what happens in a few years when I ask her to do the dishes and the only item that never gets tended to by her is my own damn coffee cup.

Hum… now what.  I mean, it’s not like I can say a word about it to her.  I have destroyed her confidence in handling my coffee cup, made it off limits across the board by physically punishing her for touching it, instead of working with her intellect so that she can learn the dangers, and now I want her to chip in and help wash the thing.    See my dilemma?

Expand that to an entire collection of items that we categorically define as off limits for babies and toddlers.  We instill confusion, a lack of confidence, hypocrisy, and an innate sense of “wrong” for things that are completely benign to any human of an age of comprehension.  This makes no sense.  If the child is too young to be educated on what or why not to touch the item, just remove the object from within their reach and possible interest until they are old enough to comprehend!

That said… In our case, as I stated above, my daughter will receive the instruction to not/stop touching something and then the moment I am not looking, she will graze the item with her fingertips in defiance, while quietly watching to see if I notice.  She’s pushing for control here. She’s testing her ability to control herself and her environment. She’s not trying to control me, but she is being defiant.  And you know what, I have noticed a pattern with this defiance.  IF I have instructed her not to touch something without educating her as to why (this includes the education going no further than it being my desire to have her leave something alone, no other logic involved), then the defiance is typically present  to one degree or another.  IF however, I have educated her as to why she should leave something alone and not touch/pick it up/etc., even if that education is simply that the item does not belong to us (but does specifically belong someone else, including me, excluding her) and therefore must only be explored by her eyes, she typically will not bother it.  And if she does, once reminded of why she shouldn’t, she usually dismisses her interest and self corrects.  Yes, she uses her own judgement and chooses to abstain from the temptation, of her own accord. Crazy, huh.

I think I can probably say that I have slapped her tiny little hands a total of a half dozen times in her entire life.  Each and every time it has been out of personal impatience, annoyance, and personal/internal frustration.  Once again, it’s me needing a physical release of a negative emotion caused by the interaction with my daughter and her independent and immature self. Yippee for me, I solved my concern with instant gratification for myself, no education for my daughter, and an example of violence and selfish response for her to ponder and remember.  Well then. I have also demonstrated my own laziness and impatience. I’m doing good.

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Alternately, I can take the responsibility upon myself while she’s too young to comprehend and simply remove items from her reach or where she is even aware of their existence (I do not believe in negatively tempting children). Then,  after she reaches an age that she is able to comprehend reliably, I can instruct and educate her on why and what to abstain from touching or playing with. I can remind her as necessary, and if defiance is the reason for the reminder(s) being necessary, I can employ other techniques to get my point across (like if she won’t leave something of mine alone, I will simply not leave something of hers alone that she wants me to – and/or not allow her to have it until she makes the connection, which usually takes about 2 minutes).  And in the event she simply chooses to ignore and not make the connection, it’s usually bed time or time to change venue/activity and assert gently that she must acknowledge the importance of what I am imparting to her.  These times almost always correlate with fatigue, or fatigue.  Again, my responsibility to remedy and have the wisdom and sensitivity to manage properly.

There is one caveat: In the event that your child is reaching and millimeters away from an object that will severely injure and/or scar them physically or psychologically, and you have no time to react in any other fashion, then and only then would I personally condone the use of a harsh slapping away motion (this is different than a hand slap).  This quick reflex may cause a bit of a sting if it ends up being enough of a snap, but chances are that if it’s necessary it’s because you only have a split second to respond and save your little one’s hand, mind, or other body part.  This is a protective move, not a punishing one.  This sort of response is not out of annoyance but fear and desire to preserve the well being of the child.  I hope I am clear.