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.

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.

Training Fleshy Flesh

Source

…not to touch guns by placing an unloaded and broken gun in the living room where the children could reach it.We carefully watched them. If they touched it, we spanked their hand with a little switch. One to three switchings was sufficient to prevent the little crawlers and toddlers from ever touching a gun.

To me, this is along the same lines as taking your child’s hand and placing it on the hot burner, so that the child will learn never to do it again, unless their parent forces them to.

“You shouldn’t tempt your children,” we are told. I can understand how a wrong attitude on the part of the parent could turn this into a hostile entrapment, leaving the child feeling used. But this can only happen if the parent is hostile. If your intention is to train your child, not just seek opportunity to punish him, all will be well. Training sessions are not unordinary. All events in a child’s life are training. How many times a day do you have to tell a two-year-old “No”? That was a training session. The difference in a happenstance occurrence and one that you premeditate is that the planned “temptation” can be tailor-made and controlled so as to reap the greatest benefit in the shortest period of time with the least amount of effort, and the least stress on the child. The training session should be staged so as to be natural. The child will not know it is staged. In many cases, if the parent is sensitive, an unplanned event can be turned into a training session.

“I can understand how a wrong attitude on the part of the parent could turn this into a hostile entrapment, leaving the child feeling used. But this can only happen if the parent is hostile. If your intention is to train your child, not just seek opportunity to punish him, all will be well.”

You know, I think I may have to seek therapy myself for the trauma I experience as an aftershock of reading through these.. and the very real knowledge that this group isn’t kidding, they really have over 100,000 followers.

I firmly believe in the value of the freedom of speech, therefore I will not advocate having this group silenced.  I also believe in the value of intellect and love, and the free distribution of knowledge and education.  That is the reason I have created the blog and ask for your contributions – to share education with parents who do struggle and do experience the challenges of raising a child.  The education we can share with these parents can build an internal strength and confidence in them that translates into respect for their child, knowing how crucial consistency is with children, and an opportunity for them to see all the wonder and incredible love and good children bring to our society.

Children are not burdens to be managed, as the Peals and others of their similar mentality believe.  Our children, though they may cause us to be inconvenienced at times, are not themselves the inconvenience.

The No Greater Joy ministry continues to preach that selfishness is the root of all evil – and that children, even infants are inherently selfish.  They are right, infants are self-focused for survival reasons, and children are self-focused because they are developing themselves.

Children quickly learn to think of others when they are shown the value in doing so, by example.

On the other end of the spectrum, these people seem to have the underlying impression that children must be trained, for a number of reasons, one of which (and I’m going out on a limb here because I haven’t found a quote of theirs to back me yet – give me a couple more hours) is so that the amount of “inconvenience” time related to actually having children around, is greatly minimized.

If you teach a child to be terrified of doing anything that resembles behaving like a child they will eventually stop acting like children. Which, in all honesty, does indeed make parenting them a lot less inconvenient.  That, to me, is the epitome of selfishness: To not permit the child the opportunity to be a child (because of an inconvenience to the care-giver).

And don’t take my words to an extreme here – I’m not advocating letting children run wild, with no direction, guidance, or boundaries.  I suppose I may have to write an article on that subject soon as I can already hear the responses that I believe in lawlessness among the followers of NGJ (and the like) that have already begun targeting me.  I will have to attend to this after my little one is asleep – it will require too much of me during the time it takes to compose, which means nothing of me for her during that time, and to me that is not acceptable.

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AT LAST!!  Something NGR promotes that I can actually agree with!!

Consistency is the key. You cannot allow a child to play with one set of car keys and not pick up other sets he finds lying around. If you want to be assured that he never plays with keys, you must make all keys off limits.

ANNNND THEN.. I don’t agree anymore…  (These two quotes are sequential sentences within the same source paragraph)

This is not done by placing the keys beyond his reach, but by placing keys within his reach and then consistently denying him the pleasure of touching them.

Oh well…

As a parent I am not prepared to spend the time it would take to enforce too broad a scope of continual temptation, but there are a few things like books, keys, guns, vases, dishes, etc. that must be placed off limits by leaving a test case within physical limits. If you trained a child not to touch books, and then placed all books out of reach, in time the discipline to not tear books would be forgotten. It is having an opportunity to tear and frequently exercising the will to not do so that confirms in the child the no-tear discipline.

What of baby and toddler books that are cardboard?
And toy sets of keys… phones… dishes…

As a parent I am not prepared to spend the time it would take to enforce too broad a scope of continual temptation…

Ah, thank God, some reprieve for your poor children.

If you have a story or lesson to share about how you successfully “trained” your child, that doesn’t involve cruelty, mind games, or hitting them, please submit.

ot done by placing the keys beyond his reach, but by placing keys within his reach and then consistently denying him the pleasure of touching them.