Natural Consequence, Results of Actions, Absence of Control

In our home, we don’t teach our kids that there are consequences for their behavior – we don’t fabricate a world for their learning of the negative, or for the purpose of giving them lessons.  In our home, results of behavior occur for the child just as they do for the adult.  Of course, if a result would be harmful or damaging, we buffer, but otherwise we do not.  When a result should occur for the purpose of them learning something, and in fact nothing related really happens, we either simply verbalize our relevant thoughts or we let it be, trusting that the child will acquire the necessary understanding at a later time when the child is ready.

Parenting like this requires trust in the mind of the developing child, openness in communication and raw relating from parent to the child, and a complete lack of fear of losing control – because there is no “controlling” in the first place.

Does this lack of control mean my kids run my home? Actually, to some it may seem that they have too much influence because we choose to accept and accommodate their wants, preferences, and needs as equal to our own. Yet, if someone were to be a fly on the wall, they’d see that this respect we bestow upon the children is returned without force.  I don’t need to control my child because I trust her ability to reason, I don’t fear her making a mistake because I trust in her ability to accept herself and learn through experience, and I am willing to be inconvenienced for the duration of her childhood when necessary.

There are exceptions, when I must enforce something out of practicality.  Even then, however, my prevailing mentality is not to direct but to allow her to explore and learn through her own understanding and experiences.  Tonight my kiddo (4) decided to set a square box (cushioned cube) to sit upon, right in front of the tv.  Initially, I talked with her about the decision as she was too near the tv and the tv isn’t securely mounted as of yet (it’s new).  I asked her to make certain that if she was going to leave the cube to sit on so near the tv that she not bump the stand (or make the tv move) at all.

A few minutes passed and before long, she’d stretched herself between the cube and the tv stand like a bridge, and needless to say, the tv was jostled and wiggling in time with her own movements.  I watched for a few moments, to determine whether she’d correct the situation on her own.  She didn’t.  I stepped in.

I knelt near her, paused the program she was engaged in, asked for her eye contact, and said in a flat and gentle tone, with respect and not condescension in my voice, “Bugz, your feet on the stand are causing the tv to move too much.  There’s a good chance the tv might get damage because of how much it’s moving, and how close you are to it.  I mentioned to you just a few moments ago that if you were going to sit on the cube so near the tv you’d have to make sure not to bump the tv or the stand…  (She reflects, then I continue.)  I see the tv is still moving a bit even after you’ve now taken your feet off the stand.  I don’t want our new tv damaged and this concerns me.”

Her response, “Why does the tv move so much?”

My explanation, “Because the stand is meant to allow for some movement safely that won’t damage the tv, but we don’t have the tv in a good place yet and so it’s not secure.  It’s my job to mount the tv and I haven’t done it yet.  I know.. if it were, then we wouldn’t be talking about it..”

She responds, “Yeah, so can you fix it cuz I want to make a bridge but I don’t want to mess up the tv.”

I simply told her at that point that I wasn’t going to mount it at this time (I’m sick today, the room isn’t ready, the wall isn’t ready… I’m procrastinating… etc, etc.) and that the she was welcome to continue using the cube to sit on, but that it would need to be moved back a few feet from the tv.  She responded with some annoyance and disappointment, but she acknowledged me and picked up the cube, moved it to the center of the room (6′ or so from the tv) and resumed watching her show.  Shortly thereafter, she found herself climbing on the back of the couch, mimicking the cat on the tv, and was quite pleased.

I acknowledged her interest in the physical elements of the placement of the cube.  She likes to climb, stretch, jump, and teeter on things that are entirely not stable but she manages.  She also actively interacts with the tv, as we don’t use it except for education and/or entertainment that she physically responds to/with.  It’s unfair of me to restrict her just because I am too lazy to take care of the reason I am compelled to restrict in the first place.  If I took the time to mount the thing as it is meant to be, or at least set it onto a surface that was safer than what I have chosen, the entire conversation would never have happened.  She knows this.  She knows I have chosen to procrastinate, and that as a result I have had to ask her to forgo something she finds enjoyable.  Yet she doesn’t throw a fit, doesn’t intentionally defy me.. She also (this time) didn”t refuse to respect my request even with my own laziness being the cause, and her being well aware of it.  She chose to acknowledge the real concern I had for preserving the electronic equipment, chose to respect my request because it made sense to her and she happened to value the same that I did in tihs case, and she chose to modify what she could do to suit her desire to use her body to enjoy what she was watching on the tv.

Does she always make these decisions that go my way?  No.  But most of the time she does, and most of the time, I make decisions that go hers.  Though, if I demand something I can almost guarantee her respect and consideration of me, my wants, expectations, etc., become the very last thing she is interested in honoring.  Is an adult any different?

So, I don’t demand, and I don’t control.  I guide, educate, share and communicate very openly, demonstrate empathy and equal respect, respond out of compassion, and gently smile as the amazing things really impress me and the not so great just fade a moment later out of importance.  I screw this up a lot too… but the more I mess up, the more aware I become, and the I can choose how I interact, and what being in the position to parent really means.

So Encouraged.

Wow guys!  You all started speaking, and at the same time!  I can’t tell you how big the smile on my face is tonight as I attempt to respond to the comments (most of which have triggered yet another post on the horizon, so please, keep your experiences and understandings coming).  I experienced a rough situation tonight that, for a myriad of reasons, I can’t elaborate on at this moment… but reading through the responses to the “Why We Don’t Punish & What is Discipline” is healing. I want to share a bit about our day, however, in hopes of sharing my smile with you.

My younger brother is getting married tomorrow; my daughter is his flower girl.  My daughter has been 4 since mid October. I still slip once in a while and refer to her as three, and I hear about it from her when I do.  “Mama.”, says my little coherent.  “I am 4. Do you not remember my birthday? It went on for a month Mom.  We are still celebrating! I want to celebrate everything, always. So please remember to stop forgetting that I am not three now. And soon…!!!  I will marry Papa too (wedding theme abounds of late). So, but you have to be 4 at LEEEAST, or maybe 7, to marry somebody.  But I think 22 is really old. It’s big. Are you that old??”  I hear this same line of thought about three times a week and it never ceases to make me smile.

Yesterday we traveled the 5+ hour drive from our home to my brother’s.  Today, she awoke way earlier than I thought she would (have mercy – I should have gone to bed earlier last night) and kept her Grandma (staying with my parents) going for the better part of the morning.  But, by 11am or so, she started whimpering and just being sort of whiny.  At first I assumed she was hungry (we are going through the “hunger satiated after bite two – until 20 minutes from now” development segment), and so when she turned down an offer of food, I didn’t think much of it, until we got in the car to head to the wedding venue.  She was exhausted.  That didn’t make sense.  I asked if she was hungry.  Nope.  Just thirsty.  Ok… but then suddenly I knew I needed to observe her for a moment longer (you know, the parallel sensation somewhere in your core that if you pay any attention to it at all, you realize just how much you can perceive and understand about the world and people around you).  Sure enough.  I took her hand in mine and waited a moment, touched her neck just under her chin, and could feel her body temperature rising. She was succumbing to a pretty significant attempt by the “yucky germs” and when asked how she felt, she replied (that) “The white blood cells in my bloodstream, and the big, tough antibody guys are gettin’em Mama.. But they’re really having to work hard and it’s making me so tired.  But I can heal.  My brain has told my body to get hot on the inside to fry those germs away.  But my head hurts and I don’t like how I feel and so I think I don’t like these germs.”  Followed by, “Where’d they come from anyway!” – My kid has a current thing for anatomy and instead of ending a fever with Tylenol, we hop into a hot bath and help the body do its job to restore health.

Fantastic, I’m thinking.  It’s dress rehearsal for my bro’s wedding, there’s supposed to be a dinner after that, we’re in a hotel in the middle of the mountains in Colorado (though, mind you, it’s warmer here than we’re accustomed to at home), and we have nothing but travel and more travel, oh, and a wedding tomorrow… Eyes watering, flushed, pale and gray.. and I somehow expect this little thing to play grownup tomorrow, at the grownup’s party, and like it to boot.  Yeesh… Ok.  Time to step back and re-prioritize.  Time to ask the kiddo what she thinks about everything.

Upon inquisition, she offered that she was pretty sure her body was strong enough for her to practice for her uncle’s wedding.  Besides, she really wanted to throw flower petals around so she could go collect them and plant new flowers.  🙂    So, I let her participate as much as she decided she wanted to.  She did pretty much exactly what everyone asked and wanted, and then some.  She was brilliant and excellently cooperative, attentive, and even showed a ton of compassion and patience to another little one that was there (1 year old).  Then, the eyes started watering again, the fever began to climb, and my little Bug asked for arms.

She slept through dinner.

Then, instead of going to bed, we took a hot bath.  She reported it being very helpful, and after tolerating me putting her fragile locks into rags for the purpose of hair preparation for the festive event, she and Papa snuggled up and went to sleep.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Eventually I’ll post about the part of today’s experience that I can’t discuss yet.. But to give you some insight into the positive side of it, basically it’s as simple as this, even though my daughter was miserable, sick, exhausted, and generally really miserable, she chose to be involved tonight and she did so not because either her dad or I told her she had to, or kept pushing and prodding her to cooperate, she chose to (and I know this because she communicated her preferences directly to me) be involved because she thought her uncle and future aunt would value her being there.  She asked if they wanted her there, and if so, she’d be there, says the brave little Bug.  And while there, she did her thing, we played, we rehearsed, we ate hot chocolate and marshmallows (and so did half the group, as she went on a mission of marshmallow sharing madness).  Her willingness to learn what the adults wanted her to do, follow instruction, and just generally totally be “there” in spite of how she felt (or what her curiosity suggested she check out), all came from her.  She had no fear or even remote concern of me or her Papa punishing or scolding her for not performing or conducting herself in some way we (or the other adults) expected.  I don’t think she even comprehends this sort of scenario because every time she sees it with another kid/parent, she flips, asks a ton of questions, and demonstrates sorrow at the other child’s discomfort.

I don’t have to threaten.  I choose to explain.
I don’t have to give ultimatums.  I choose to allow her autonomy.
I don’t have to punish. I choose to allow her choices to result as they will, and to stand by her as she experiences those results and learns what to do with them.

I ask for her involvement in our shared life, I explain the details, I educate her as much as possible about the whys/whats/whens, and I have no fear telling her that the only reason something is expected a certain way is because Mama is being intolerant at that moment/about that subject, or some other adult is focusing on themselves and forgetting to see the world through her eyes too.

Does she know when compliance is mandatory?  Yes.  She understood this at about 13  months.
Does she know that if compliance is mandatory and she chooses to refuse, that her mom or dad will step in one way or another?  Yes.  She knows we will do what is necessary to keep her safe and to keep us sane in dangerous or extremely stressful situations.
Does she know that we trust her with the choices and information she currently has?  Yes.
Does she know she has the right to refuse our requests, just as we have the right to refuse hers, and that compromise and flexibility are highly valuable skills and traits to develop? Yes.  But she also knows my love, my grace, my compassion and empathy, my understanding that the world is massive for her right now (like it’s really any smaller for me).

Why does she work with us when we ask?  Because she knows deep within her that we honor her and accept her entirely just because she exists.  AND because we work with her when she asks..it’s a two way street.  She feels good and secure inside when she knows that our family is sharing our lives together in harmony.

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

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

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

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Grace

January 8, 2011 by discipleshipmothering

My Letter to Focus on the Family

Hi,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many Prayers,
(My Real Name)

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

 

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

Instead of “Timeouts”, Try a “Hold Everything”

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Never punitive.  Never diminutive.


Purpose: Re-establish Calm, Cooperation, Harmony

For everyone.

Please go read this and this (you’ll see how they align)

In our house, we do not spank, nor do we incorporate isolation, refusal, ignoring, or “timeouts”.

Our daughter doesn’t just do whatever she wants either; when her preferences are damaging, interfering, or otherwise not in her best interest, we intercept.

If behaviors, attitudes, or actions become a concern, the first thing we use is assessment of why (what is the cause) they became a concern.  Then we employ understanding, followed by patience and compassion.  If necessary, we use a Hold Everything (this means the grownups too), and then we activate our resolution and/or solution superpowers.

 

I want to introduce you to what our house calls PAWS.

  • (Pause – to recreate harmony and re-establish calm and cooperation.  Pause to remember to respect, to honor, to approve, to admire… Pause to stop anger response, frustration, impatience, aggravation. Pause to remember the most important thing in whatever has caused the need to pause in the first place – the life on center stage – child, adult, dog, turtle.)

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Perspective (a spontaneous shift in viewing portal, not only in complexity and understanding, but in physical height and life experience)

Attention (purposed focus)

Wait (observe. reflect. observe)

Solve (resolve and grow)

Think on that for a few.

Natural Consequence, Example One

Unedited – my kiddo woke up before I could… I will later tonight if I can.

___

Sometimes a natural consequence is one that occurs beyond our control, due to physics.

Sometimes, in my opinion, a natural consequence is one that I effect for my child, but that is wholly associated with the cause of the resulting effect.

In a previous post, I discussed a child’s actions that were concerning his father -> Read Here
These two particular incidents, and my suggestion of a parental response, fit into the Parent Derived Natural Consequence category.

Here’s an example of physics at play:  Joseph, if you carelessly put the dishes away, you may discover what will happen.  Joseph continues to haphazardly put the dishes away and he drops a plate.  Lucky for him, the floor is only wood instead of tile, but the unfortunate thing is that on its way to the floor (physics-gravity), it somehow twists just enough that instead of landing in a manner that just ends in a thud, it triggers a release of energy known as a bang, that results in the splitting in two (or four) of the material that once was a single piece, otherwise referred to as a plate.

Sucks to be Joseph… jeez, he probably could have thrown the plate on the grown and it would have landed just fine, but nooooo, it accidentally “mishandled” it just so that instead, there is now a huge mess and no longer useful plate to put away.

ENTER MOM

Scenario one:  Mom is irritated, starts telling Joseph that if he’d listened to her in the first place, which he already knows, that this wouldn’t have happened.  So, now he feels dumb for letting it happen, knows he’s going to be further demeaned by some sort of punishment for not being more careful in the first place, and he’s gained his mother’s disapproval yet again.

Some children will cry because they are grieved at both the loss of the approval, but also the failure they perceive is theirs.

Some children will laugh and defy as a response to the disapproval and impressed failure to “do as told” to “prevent problems”.

Some children will be compelled to make reparations.  This is guilt.  The concern here is how far the parent decides to let the guilt be used – in other words, they see a way to manipulate, er… that’s more politically correctly termed “teach a lesson”.

Scenario two: Mom hears the crash.  Waits.  Child either begins to clean up or starts calling for mom.  This depends on how the same situation has been handled before, and on the child’s personality.

Mom enters the kitchen a moment or two after the crash (a younger child will need you sooner to prevent injury).  But she comes quietly, not in judgement or disapproval, but understanding.  She knows what the law of gravity is. She knows that we, as a human race on planet earth, are stuck with this reality.

If child is already attempting to clean up, mom must ascertain the safety of this.  If it’s not safe, mom must intervene.  If child is capable of cleaning up the mess, mom just allows it and makes a note to come after the child is finished and make sure no shards of glass are left anywhere.  – This, by the way, is either the child who is terrified of the parent’s response, or, hopefully, the child who is wholly valued and respected, and is therefore confident enough to reason that he wasn’t quite attentive enough, which resulted in gravity winning, and well, now there is a mess and so to prevent anyone from getting hurt, it needs to be tended to.  No guilt, though there might be some grief, especially if the broken item was of special meaning to someone and the child is aware of it.  No disapproval imposed… by outside forces.  And hopefully, the child is whole and confident, so while they may tell themselves to be more careful next time, they don’t take a hit to their “value”, nor do they hit it themselves.  No humiliation.  No failure.  Just physics.

Now, if the child is, for whatever reason, not attempting to clean up the mess himself, the mother can initiate the process as follows:

“Hum… Looks like we better get to work cleaning this up before someone gets hurt.  I will pick up the pieces if you will go get the broom.”  The glass might hurt the child, so the parent is preventing injury, but the child is still actively involved in assisting.

Child returns with broom, mom encourages “Joseph” to start sweeping in an area that is safe, as she continues to work on removing potential harm.  Child is contributing, and building his confidence in his ability to resolve the concern he allowed gravity to cause.

Once everything is cleaned up – Mom tells child, “Great! Looks like it’s all clean.”  AND THEN LEAVES the area and says nothing more about the incident. Period. Like as in doesn’t ever mention, unless the child brings it up in the future.  If there are still more dishes to be put away, the mother also doesn’t mention this to the child.  She waits.. gives the child the credit that he is intelligent enough to see that there are more dishes to finish.   – Now let’s say he goes ahead on his own and finishes the task.  Great.  Nothing more is said, except if the mother knows he needs reinforcement.  If so, she still waits and unless he initiates, the most she says is something like, “Thanks for taking care of the dishes.  I appreciate you.”

However, if the child is shaken, or perhaps not entirely driven to be responsible without encouragement (like how I said that??), then the mother is put into the position of refocusing.  Again, she waits.  She observes.  Wait = Observe.

Child abandons task and goes to play.  Mother notices.  An hour later, mother reminds child, “Joseph, I noticed there are still dishes in the dishwasher waiting for your attention.”

Joseph’s reply will range all across the board.  Mother simply affirms his response with, “ok”.

That looks like this –

Joseph:  “I know, but I don’t want to do them anymore.”
Mother: “Ok.” – Now wait, don’t walk away, just stay silent.  Give Joseph a chance to explain himself.  Pretend you are having this conversation with another adult.  If he doesn’t begin explaining, prod, a little, but with respect. “Joseph, you don’t want to do any more?”  Keep the look on your face neutral but inquisitive. Don’t lace your words with a tone and motive.  He knows.

Joseph: “Yeah, I don’t want to.”
Mother: “Can you help me understand why you don’t want to?”
Joseph: “I’m worried I will drop more.”  (This is what a confident child will say.  A child who knows he is respected and treated as a valuable member of the family.  A child who doesn’t know he holds his mother’s respect will be defiant and simply state that he has better stuff to do, or insist it’s just a preference.)

If the child is concerned over a repeat failure, the mother can offer her approval and encouragement by stating that if it happens again, we’ll just clean it up again.  If appropriate and beneficial for the CHILD, the mother might also offer a little advice in the form of a trick… NEVER stating that if the child were just “more careful” (or whatever other version of that concept) that it won’t happen again.  Why never state this?  Because no matter how careful you, as an adult, are, eventually gravity will get the better of even you!  Don’t pretend it won’t, and don’t expect your kid to agree to be bound by that double standard either.

Advice in the form of a trick:  “You know Joseph, when I put the dishes away, I’m worried I might drop them too.  So, I give each one a name as I pick them up.  Then, I keep my eye on it from the moment my finger first touches the plate until it’s safely where it belongs.  Then, when I’m all done, I try to remember the names so that next time I see that same plate, I won’t have to wonder what I named it.”

Result

Child is upheld, child is respected, child is approved of
Dishes get done, even if it takes the rest of the day
Child has a new game, and it keeps him focused on his task, which hopefully decreases the chance of gravity winning

Now, there is only one additional note to make here.  In the event that you have a kiddo that hasn’t had the luxury of the high level of your respect and admiration, and doesn’t thrive in his autonomy and self worth…. OR you have a kiddo that is just not into the task for his own purposes (that being it’s boring, he has other stuff that he enjoys more, etc), you’re going to need to use a bit of parental control to make sure the task is completed and the child respects the value of his contribution.

Here’s my suggestion… and it requires patience, tolerance, foresight, and effort on the part of the parent.
Let’s say the child just outright opposes and does not finish the task of emptying the dishwasher.
Ok, this isn’t a problem.  Yes, it annoys you (mom/dad) because it means you will have to do it and the child won’t gain the good from completing it.  But that’s not all that’s going on…

Mother:  “Joseph, I noticed there are some dishes still waiting for you in the dishwasher.”
Joseph: “I don’t want to do anymore.”  – Go through the reasoning and get to just that – kid doesn’t want to comply.
Mother: “Ok Joseph, I’ll take care of them now then.”  Say nothing more, walk away and go do the dishes right then.  It will take you 2 minutes.  Just do it.  Be quiet.  Wait. Observe.  Don’t pass judgement and don’t resent or become annoyed at your kid.

If Joseph shows up to finish before you complete the task, simply thank him for his willingness to take care of the task (don’t go into helping you out, chipping in, whatever else, just focus on the task, as if it is itself worth valuing), walk away and let him.

If Joseph shows up too late and you’ve already finished, simply tell him as much.  “Joseph, I have completed it.”  Say nothing more.  He gets the point.  Trust me.  He’s not stupid.  You don’t need to add insult. He needs your respect.  He gets the point.  (Keep reading – don’t tell me that well yeah, he gets the point, that being that if he doesn’t want to do something he can just refuse and mom will do it for him.)

If Joseph doesn’t show at all, fine.  Complete the task yourself.  Say nothing to him.  Don’t resent, don’t reject, and don’t allow him to feel your disapproval at any point.

Make plans for that night’s dinner to be something Joseph really, really likes.  Include courses in the meal that go together, but omit one of them.  For instance, make macaroni and cheese with ham and apples on the side.  Omit the cheese (use butter so it’s palatable, but don’t make it as “good” as normal).

DINNER TIME

Everyone sits down, your partner knows what’s going on, but other children do not.  Everyone, including Joseph begins eating.  Someone states that the macaroni tastes different, like it doesn’t have enough cheese.

Mother:  “Well, it doesn’t actually have enough cheese because I didn’t have enough time left after taking care of emptying the dishwasher today to give to cutting up enough cheese for our dinner tonight.”  Older kid, “Oh come on, it only takes three minutes to empty the dishwasher!”  Mother, “Well, yes I know, and Joseph started it and so today it only took me two minutes.  It also only takes two minutes to cut up the appropriate amount of cheese, but I allocated those two minutes to the dishwasher instead.”  (NOT I had to allocate, I ‘did’ – chose to – simple fact.. NO DIGS at the kid that caused all this – don’t point fingers, ever. And don’t omit so that the opportunity for someone else to opens up. No passive retaliation here.)

Say nothing more about it.  If the kids complain about the taste, agree with them.  Don’t apologize, don’t lay blame, just agree.

Takes a lot of work… I know. But by doing that work, you’ll grow a whole, confident, capable, and responsible child into an adult that will hopefully continue the work in is own life.

 

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.

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.

Adoption: Creating a Mini-Me!

My personal life struggles are great enough that I cannot write from the heart much of late. This is probably when I should write the most, at least about the topics I’m struggling with. However, those of you who write will understand when I say that, highly therapeutic or not, I just don’t have the energy.

So instead, I’ll work on debunking yet another article from NGJ.  Though, I must warn you, I may not debunk very effectively.

The quote below is of a comment/letter sent to the NGJ crew, and the response of Mrs. Pearl.  With a little editing by Mike, who we all know is the only reason her response has any value at all.

If you’re nodding your head in agreement right now, please email me privately so we can talk…

S O U R C E

Dear Pearls,
We adopted a child when he was just a baby. We now have several younger birth children. Our whole family enjoys camping and fishing except our oldest. He only likes sports. We have never had a TV or joined in games of this kind, but he will find a way to watch or play any chance he has, even to the point of lying. This causes an extreme breach between us. I have trouble forgiving him. What can we do to get him on the family team? How do we deal with a child who doesn’t want to be a part?

DEBI’S COMMON SENSE (WITH A LITTLE EDITING BY MIKE)
You want him to be a part of your team but you do not want to be part of his. You are assuming that talent and interest can be dictated—a grave mistake. YOU are the one making it an “adoption” problem. When you love someone, you want to see them fulfilled as a person—as the person they are, not the person you want them to be.

I concur. The submitter-parent is unaware of the damage they, themselves, are causing.  Such is the situation with so many parents, and adoptive parents.

The ironic thing here is how well this article and response from the Pearl clan illustrates their hypocrisy.
Here, this is stated, “You cannot, and should not, replace a person’s dreams with your own goals and desires.” And yet, in so many of their other articles, they are insisting on doing just this, but with enough of a twist that instead of ultimate control and power, it looks like love and nurture.

No, one should not attempt to replace or even interfere with the hopes and dreams of another, except where they might serve to encourage or assist that person in achieving them.

You cannot, and should not, replace a person’s dreams with your own goals and desires. If you like hunting or sports or mechanics, that is your heart, and it is fine for you, but if your son likes something different, you are the one who needs to sacrifice to aid him in the fulfillment of his dreams.

If you have read Created To Be His Help Meet, you know about the 3 kinds of men. Like God is three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, man was created in God’s IMAGE. Some men are Command men, some Steady, and some Visionary. Well, boys are little men. If you happen to have a Visionary, then you can be sure he will not be interested in sports or fishing. When you go fishing, he will be interested in building a dam to change the watercourse. If you take him to a sports game, he will be more interested in coming up with a new way to play the game. Boys need to grow up to be the men they were born to be. Help them be the best at WHO THEY ARE.

In this paragraph, in my opinion, the useful information starts and ends with the last three sentences, but mostly just the last two – children (not boys specifically) must be allowed to explore their world and become what they choose. To do anything else to force the person to become what you wish for them. This method does not improve their life.

I detect that you think there is some vanity or evil in your son’s interest. You are too religious even for God. Concentrate on building character in whatever pursuit your son chooses. It is wise to make available many options that are constructive and character building, but don’t think that in the end you can dictate interests. Buy yourself a baseball glove or soccer ball and take him to play. Stand by and cheer like it was the most exciting thing in the world. It is the only way you are going to win.

Ah, here we have what I suspect is Mr. Pearl’s voice…  “It’s the only way you are going to win.”

What is there, exactly, to win.  It’s not about winning, it’s about the positive development of a human, from birth to death.

It is indeed unwise to attempt to push your own agenda and interests on anyone, especially a child in your care.