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.

A Letter – Mr. Pearl, Don’t Contaminate Kids Needing a Forever Family WITH YOU

Initially, as with so many of his verbal poop sessions, Mr. Pearl says something semi-useful.
“Never adopt children even close to the age of your own”.

There is a good amount of information and experience that discusses the intelligence of not fostering children near the age of your existing minor family members. Why is this? Simple logic. One must intelligently assess what effects there will be on the home’s existing children by including other children. The incoming children each have their life story, and all that comes with it.  If you think the incoming children will not affect the existing family, as well as individual dynamics in the home, you are incorrect.

Notice how I have stopped explaining this thought. The omission is intentional.  I hope it will cause you to think.

If you are only now contemplating evil, danger, negative, possibly harmful concerns… fostering & adoption is not a good option for you.

S O U R C E

“Never adopt children even close to the age of your own. You should be past child bearing age, and your children should be at least 10-15 years older than the adopted kids. I don’t think there is any such thing as an orphanage raised child who has not been a participant in sexual perversion. If you are older and your kids are grown, it is a wonderful, full time ministry to adopt foreign kids. You will experience heartache, possibly failure, but you may just save a soul from sure destruction. But if there is failure, at least your kids will not go down with them.”
“Foster parenting is for people whose children are grown or for families with older children who take in the very young.”   Comments written by Michael Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries.

I am nauseated by these words.  Sick.  I had a prospective adoptive family contact me in fear after they read this article.  I preached my opinion, based upon God’s Word and my personal experience, to this sweet mom.  Then I went to the site that ignited her fears, and I felt sad, sick, and frustrated beyond words.

I left a comment on Mr. Pearl’s sight in response to his advice for families.  Below are my thoughts to Mr. Pearl and the other parents who have left comments on Mr. Pearl’s article, the very parents who may be timid toward adoption due to fears that man has set in their hearts.  I don’t know if Mr. Pearl will post my comments on his site, but I do not want any of you to read his words of caution and be turned away from the very heart of God with His command to care for orphans and widows in their distress.  Here’s a copied/pasted version of the comment I left for Mr. Pearl and his readers:

I am so sad to see such a negative viewpoint toward adoption and fostering with so many parameters being set up by man with regards to orphan care and fostering. It is God’s command to care for orphans and widows in their distress. This, according to Scripture, is pure and undefiled religion. Nowhere in the Bible does it set parameters on WHO should care for orphans (older couples past child-bearing years, etc.), nor does it set parameters on the value of the life of an orphan (regardless of the child’s history or being raised in an orphanage). All children are precious in His sight, regardless of what country they live in or whether they were orphaned or have lived in an orphanage or have suffered abuse. They are valued by God and He asks us to care for them. No child ever asks to be hurt/molested (including our bio kids), and all children (and adults) are valued and redeemable. His blood is our redemption. There is no sin too great for redemption, but if we all turn our backs on the orphans who God calls us to care for, they may never know redemption.

There’s more.  Click the source link at the top and go read.. and cross reference with his article here.

What this comes down to is whether you, as an individual, can function as one.  Whether you, individually, can think for yourself, choose your path and values, and in your own mind make the distinction between what is going to improve life for yourself and others, and what will improve the life of others you interact with.

Oh how I wish Mr. Roddenberry had lived longer.

I will work on my thoughts.

Peace-Centered Parenting, Non-Violent Children

S O U R C E

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Papa Ate the Monsters!

“Well, of course he did!”
– Like there was ever any question, or anything else to do but!

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Those of you who have some idea of what my family and I are going through right now will understand the title.

Furthermore, you will understand what I mean when I tell you that Papa eats the really big ones, Little Bug eats the little baby ones, and Mama sends the rest back to their planet.

The monsters get on their spaceship and go back to their planet.  That’s what we do with the ones we don’t eat.  Cuz people belong on this planet and monsters belong on the monster’s planet.

Then, for special reinforcement needs, we have the magical light bracelet.  It keeps those pesky monsters away. And the few that slip through, well, Papa takes care of those.  (You know how many light bracelets I have had to buy in the last week!! – Yeah you can freeze and reuse, but that only works about twice.)

What I find most fascinating is that after weeks and weeks of me trying to “deal” with the monster crisis, and failing, Papa figured it out in about 2 minutes of actually being made aware that I needed help.  Papa came to the rescue.

I tried nurturing, comforting, empathy, acknowledgement, comforting, gentle logic, rationalizing at 2 year old level, acknowledging, nursing, and did I mention comforting, nurturing, and mommy love.  Guess what? Papa stepped in one afternoon and told his little bug that he was going to take care of her, keep her safe, and EAT THE MONSTERS.  I freaked – ARHGHGHG!! Don’t tell her that the monsters are inside you now!  That hit my logic and sense of being all wrong.  Hell, she was inside me, there surely shouldn’t be any monsters in there!!

I held my tongue however, as we were all together, and I swallowed my stomach.  I watched… I waited… She pondered his solution for about 10 seconds (while I would have been more comfortable sinking to the bottom of the pool – we were swimming at the moment he decided to explain his special appetite for monsters to her).

About 15 seconds later, she asked him if he was sure he’d eaten all of them.

“Yep!  And I put ketchup and mustard on them.”

To which she replied, “And peanut butter, and chocolate, and, and, coffee cream??”

And so went the conversation, with Papa patting his “full” belly and her fear subsiding, second by second.

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Now, daily, Papa eats the monsters.  And if Papa isn’t around and she finds some, Mama either sends them back to their planet, Lils eats’em if they’re baby ones, or we find a light bracelet (her favorite is the blue, when Papa isn’t with us – she has long since assigned blue to Papa as his color).

He also taught her to grab a flashlight and face her concerns of there being monsters “in there – wherever” with it on as bright as she can make it shine.  She clears rooms regularly, with her little LED light and her glow bracelet.  You should see… and when she gets worried, Papa steps up right behind her and helps her find em, eat’em, and send them back to their own planet.

 

Now I can’t decide whether this experience is a twisted, positive one,
or something I regret for allowing the insecurity to develop
and cause the monsters to appear in the first place
(we could have refused the relocation, I suppose).

However, it has given Papa an opportunity to valiantly
protect and impart strength to his little girl.
_

I still wish she thought monsters were funny –
you know, like Grover or Cooking Monster.

Our choices thrust her into a world of uncertainty, unfamiliar surroundings, and a resulting encompassing insecurity.  We expected something like this, but hoped keeping her close to us would be enough (like when she was tiny).  Wrong.  She is all too aware of everything at this point, and it is making a huge impact on her.

Her mind has resolved to manage her fears and insecurity through the manifestation of monsters.  This does not make me happy, but I am leaning toward the feeling that I have to find good in this development somehow. And what better good could there possibly be than for her relationship and reliance on her Papa to have blossomed
as a result of him coming to her rescue
by developing a ravenous appetite for grumpy monsters.

Beautifully Read

Why African Babies Don’t Cry:
An African Perspective
by Claire Niala

S O U R C E

I was born and grew up in Kenya & Cote d’Ivoire. Then from the age of fifteen I lived in the UK. However, I always knew that I wanted to raise my children (whenever I had them) at home in Kenya. And yes, I assumed I was going to have them. I am a modern African woman with two university degrees and I am a fourth generation working woman – but when it comes to children, I am typically African. The assumption remains that you are not complete without them; children are a blessing it would be crazy to avoid. Actually the question does not even arise.

I started my pregnancy in the UK. The urge to deliver at home was so strong that I sold my practice, setup a new business and moved house / country within five months of finding out I was pregnant. I did what most expectant mothers in the UK do – I read voraciously: Our Babies, Ourselves, Unconditional Parenting, anything by the Searses – the list goes on. (My grandmother later commented that babies don’t read books – and really all I needed to do was “read” my baby). Everything I read said that African babies cried less than European babies. I was intrigued as to why.

I (Angie) read very little while pregnant, mostly because I would simply fall asleep.  However, I share this woman’s thought pattern.  All the books, information, science in the world can only help you to understand your little one better, and make better decisions for her growth IF, and ONLY IF, you understand her in the first place.  To do this, you must slow down, get out of the way, and listen.  Observe, pay attention to everything, it will connect itself if you do.  She will tell you exactly what she needs, how  to help, how to nurture, and how to grow her into the strongest, most intelligent and capable woman she can be, if you’ll just listen.  See the world through her eyes, come along side her, be the wind, let her open her sail as she sees fit.

Educating oneself is crucial, but if the subject matter for which all the education is obtained is unknown and not understood, it is all for nothing but to create aggravation and dissatisfaction.

See her world as she sees it.  Listen.  She’ll tell you, and your job is to make sense of it for her until she can do it for herself.

From Your Partner’s Point of View

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

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

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

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

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

S O U R C E

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

The Effect Striking Our Children Has on Their Minds

Spanking Decreases Intelligence?

by Danelle Frisbie ©2009

The topic of spanking is not one I have thought much about – after all, most of my research surrounds birth and babies, and who (heaven forbid!) spanks a baby?! But new research suggests there are parents out there who are in the habit of spanking their 2-year-olds — and it may very well be impacting these little ones in detrimental neurological ways.
It makes sense – we know through ample research that the natural parenting techniques as old as humanity itself – such as babywearingand breastfeeding – dramatically increase neuro development and functioning, resulting in higher IQ, among other beneficial things. So it is not too shocking that the antithesis of peaceful parenting — forthright aggression on babies and children — may have just the opposite impact on their rapidly developing brains.

While completing graduate work in clinical psychology, I regularly administered personality inventories and IQ tests on ‘troubled’ children, and was then required to make recommendations per their treatment. Rarely was I afforded the opportunity to look into their home life — or examine more closely how these children were treated by family members or raised by their parent(s). I was required to ‘treat’ the problem, while never fully getting to the root of the cause.

The latest research from the National Institute of Mental Health and the University of New Hampshire claims a discovery has been made into one (small?) component of mental health and human intelligence. The results are intriguing. Murray Straus, who led the last two studies, says that spanking actually decreases IQ, and to a significant degree. Yes, you read that right: Spanking your child impacts intelligence (at least that which we can measure using intelligence tests and methodological quotients).

Straus led two recent studies – one conducted on a national level in the United States, and one on an international level. Parents of 1,500 young American children participating in an IQ research project were asked how often they spanked their children. Responses were compared with IQ results.

Results showed that children (age 2-4) who were not spanked at all had IQs that were, on average, 5 points higher, (and stayed higher for the next 4 years over the course of the study), than children who were spanked. Children to the age of 10 were included in the study and the same trend was found for older children as well. The impact of spanking on IQ, however, was most pronounced in the younger children. I suspect this may be in part because the brain is most rapidly developing (and most significantly impacted) until the age of about 5 years old when it is 98% complete.

[Side note: This is also likely the reason that natural, child-led weaning occurs around the same time – around the age of 5 – in the majority of the world and throughout human history, when breastfeeding-phobic social pressures do not cut it short. The developing brain is supplied with just the right concoction of building blocks via mother’s milk the entire time it is in rapid formation mode.]

Straus’ results are being published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma. In addition, Straus and colleagues are presenting the findings of their second (international) study on spanking and intelligence at a San Diego based conference on abuse and trauma this week.

In the international study, Straus interviewed university students in an examination of corporal punishment and IQ. After conducting research across 32 countries around the world, results showed a lower national IQ in countries where corporal punishment is common.

In the U.S. study various factors (such as parental education level and economic status) were adjusted for. The negative correlation between spanking and IQ held true (the less spanking, the higher the IQ; the more spanking, the lower the IQ). In the international study, parent’s education level and economic status were more difficult to adjust for.

Straus is a long time supporter of peaceful parenting and using multiple proactive strategies for discipline that do not include aggression or violence against babies and children. He has researched extensively on subjects such as aggression, violence, rape, and abuse within families.

These latest findings echo what we have seen in other studies: Peaceful Parenting (or Attachment Parenting) leads to lower stress hormones (such as cortisol) in babies and children, greater trust (in parents/each other/the world), secure attachment, and more complex neurological development and brain activity, among other things.

In the end, it may just be true that babies and children were born to be loved and tenderly, gently cared for – not physically acted upon in any form.

If you would like a pdf copy of these latest studies, message me and I will be happy to pass them along to you.