Resorting to Violent Correction in Dangerous Situations

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

S O U R C E

The Danger Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
greenegem

Helping Toddlers Locate Boundaries

choose to see the world through your toddler’s eyes.  Empathetically experience her world as she experiences it, and you will know harmony instead of struggle.

There seem to be a lot of discussions on how to keep toddlers in line lately, and the conversations in general result in my confusion and sadness. I have a two year old. She is a very complex, spirited, little person. She is communicative, emotional, thoughtful, and intelligent. And she has an opinion on just about everything. Keeping up with her is sometimes quite challenging, but it is a challenge I thoroughly enjoy meeting.

Consistency is an extremely valuable commodity and something that the toddler, especially, desperately needs.  Through consistency from her care giver, she can learn to establish herself in her world, discover her own thoughtfulness and desire to think of others, and develop her autonomy.  Security, self confidence, and the ability to thrive come from her knowing she is valued and worthy of being responded to, as well as being able to rely upon her environment and care givers.

Today was a difficult day because I was too impatient.  I still am.  My daughter knew it.  And as if my own mood wasn’t enough to just end all today, she decided she was going to launch an all out protest, by returning it.  Every impatient action or outburst I shot her way, she reflected right back at me.  And can I fault her in any way?  Nope.

At some point during my day, I began to really get to the point of just wanting to scream.  My little one was just being little, but I wasn’t handling it well.  I have a habit of purposefully falling silent and staring off in the distance in effort to gain the attention of my little bug, or regain my own, or both. Trying to gain the full picture, I will often do this while sitting on the floor, which makes my head about level to hers.  

Today when I decided to attempt to gain control over my own impatience and try to regain control of the rapid downward spiral that would lead to my daughter losing it in a fit of emotion that she doesn’t know what to do with, I discovered something.  My little girl was afraid. She was afraid of me, afraid of what she was doing or not doing, afraid to just be in her own little world (where she is usually very comfortable). She was on edge.

I realized in that moment what I was putting my little one through, and what I didn’t want to continue. I decided we needed a breather, so we put on a movie and just sat together on the couch. Before long, I became impatient again (a result of a hormonal imbalance that I am still trying to get a handle on after the pregnancy) and I picked up my laptop. This is a signal to my daughter that she is no longer my focus.  And some days she tolerates this for a while, and others she hurt by my diverted attention.  So, in response, she sulked.  Then I sulked.  Then she rejected my attempts at cuddling.  So I put the computer away.  But by then, she knew I was annoyed and not wanting to really watch the movie with her, remember she’s 28 months old and perceives well.  She in turn became fully annoyed with me and told me as much.

I allowed myself to see through her eyes, and I felt her hurt.  She was disappointed, felt like she wasn’t as valuable as my stupid laptop, and just didn’t understand why her mama was being so unpredictable today.  I did (understand), and there was nothing I could do about it, but keep trying to remain calm.  Eventually, we decided together that it was time for snuggle/sling time that would lead to a nap.  She knew I needed a break, and so did she (from me).

She fell asleep very quickly, snuggled into my chest.  I consciously made the decision to just hold her this time instead of reading something on my phone while waiting for her to fall asleep.  Sometimes I get away with that, but often she lies in my arms, in the sling, and stares right at my face (the same face/eyes that are looking at something other than her own), waiting.  She waits for me very quietly.  When I realize I’m being stared at, I direct my gaze into her eyes and usually see relief and comfort, and a sense of security in her.  Today, I saw apprehension and a guarded little girl.  It broke me apart, again.

Just imagine if, instead of realizing her behavior today was in direct response to my own, I assumed the position of authoritarian power-demanding, righteously angry parent.  How damaging to my little person I could have been. I’m so thankful I didn’t resort to forcing my way or punishing, I would have crushed her spirit severely.

I am convinced that my child generally wishes to be in harmony with her environment. She can be self focused at times, some of which are very useful and necessary, others are just whims. I can become frustrated with her too, but as soon as I stop thinking and seeing through only my own eyes and start seeing through hers as well, I can again appreciate her. When I relate to the world as this little does, I no longer struggle.

I have an amazing little bug, who perceives things at a level way beyond the depth of what we expected at this age.  Early on, even during her first few weeks, others shared that when they looked into her eyes, they felt connected and that she sensed them fully.  

“She has an old soul”, some said, and I have to agree – she often seems to have an awareness that eludes me.  

I felt her strength, and her desire for harmony and peace well before she was born.  And after her birth, her general demeanor gave me such a sense of peace and awe that my respect and admiration of her existence came without force or even conscious thought. I am on this earth for her.  Her papa and I are committed to joining in her explorations, sharing tools as she discovers her world.

She impresses me every moment I am in her presence.  She impresses me even when I’m not in her presence, because these times allow me to reflect on experiences with her, and I invariably gain an understanding and perspective that gives me even more to admire in her.

She knows we won’t hit her, or come after her.  She seeks the boundaries and we help her see them, and we explain why in terms she can comprehend. She is tiny and has little experience to draw upon to formulate her own conclusions; if your thoughts are communicated, connection will result.  She is highly intelligent, but explain yourself as if she is also brand new. Respect her. Remember what it is like to be a two year old? Take a moment to stop what you’re doing, get down on their level, and ask them what it’s like being them, and listen to their response (whether in word, expression, or body language).

See the world through your toddler’s eyes and experiences. Once you have chosen to do that regularly, you will find that you approach your child differently and they will respond in turn.   Grow their trust and deepen your connection.

If all else fails and your toddler is just driving you nuts,
go take a look in the mirror.
Then, take responsibility for your own behaviors,
and realize that your toddler is the world’s greatest mimic.

Eye to eye, cheek to cheek,give them a moment of yours that is just for them.