Responding to Imminent Danger: Physical & Emotional Threat

In a separate post, I discussed the difference between the terms “listen” & “comply”.  Toward the end of my thoughts, I ventured into the ever present, “But what if there is a reason my kid HAS to do what I’ve said, like, oh say, to keep him from plunging 1000′ to his death!”.

Rather than addressing this very important aspect of compliance in the same vein as the value of respecting a request, communicating expected compliance, and discovering what it really is to “listen” all in one, very long winded dissertation… I figured I’d split them up a bit.

From the previous post… continuing –
…That said, there are instances when the adult cannot fully articulate the entire phrase, including something along the lines of “compliance is expected”.  These sort of instances might be when walking in the city and or parking lot and the child is suddenly in some sort of danger.  In times like this, the adult often cannot sputter out much more than a “STOP” or other imperative in time, and the child’s safety depends on compliance. I’ll discuss this in a separate post.   This is when the sound of the adult’s voice, and the tone that is used (that being of imminent danger – the adult is responding out of fear and the kid can hear it, the urgency and importance, in the adult’s voice) is all that is required for the child to comply.

If the parent has established this foundation (their interactions and expectations being worthy of the child’s trust) and level of respect with the child from the beginning (whether from birth or whenever the child comes under the protection and guidance of said adult), they are in a positive position to provide the consistency and stability necessary that in a situation of threat/safety, the child will interpret accordingly and, if they are developmentally capable, respond appropriately. This is giving the benefit of the doubt to the child and his/her intelligence.. but it’s one that the adult has developed from their end and so is reliable; the adult is comfortable and so is the child.  Given, however, humans do not always behave predictably, so I would encourage the parent to be within reach of physically sparing your child harm, in the event they don’t process your words as you need them to.

AND IF THEY DON’T (process correctly), after the danger has passed, please simply reiterate to them what happened in a flat and respecting tone, reiterate your command and the value of their response having matched, and move on (unless they want to talk about it).  Don’t rub it in, don’t demean or diminish. And don’t think this is your chance (while the body is on heightened alert) to teach a lesson… as it will be one delivered and received with an association of fear.

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When my little one was just learning to walk, I took her to the park one day.  At this point (she was not quite 10 months old), she knew many signs that we used to communicate to her.  She didn’t start signing much back until a few months later, but she understood them.  She also understood an expansive list of verbally communicated words.  (We so often do not give enough credit of comprehension to our littlest ones until something happens to forces us to realize just exactly how much they are absorbing and processing.) 

We were walking, hand in hand, just a few feet from our home over to the park (across the street).  I had stopped to grab the mail and releasing her palm for a moment, reached into the box to retrieve the letters.  In a matter of less than two seconds, she’d decided to explore at full speed and, after somehow traversing the curb (didn’t know she could do that yet), she proceeded into the cul-de-sac, dangerously close to the through street.

Now, mind you, I was within reach of grabbing her back and protecting her, but I decided to use my voice instead.  (I’m not sure I actually made a conscious decision either, but that’s what ended up as my response.) I instructed her to stop walking and stand still.  She turned to my face, stopped and stood still, reached out her hand and said, “Mama, come.” 

From that day on, my trust in her intelligence grew and grew, as has my trust in my own regard for her and the value of it.  So, again, while I wouldn’t recommend relying entirely on a little one to process your verbal instruction sufficiently to prevent harm, there is a really good chance they will if you have set up a foundation for them to draw upon, even unconsciously.

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Why do you think we are sometimes compelled to scold or punish our kids when they do something (or don’t do something) that causes us to fear for their safety? What exactly is going on there in the adult’s mind and response systems?

Also, what connections might be drawn between parents who respond immediately to infant’s cries, and a baby/toddler/young one responding immediately to the parent’s communiations?

For additional reading on this topic, please visit Dangerous Situations

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.

 

Disobedience Doesn’t Exist in Our House

Yes, that is what I said.  Disobedience doesn’t exist in our house.. and yes there is a child in our house. You don’t believe me.  I know. I’ll explain.

By definition, obedience is as follows:

 

1. The act of obeying, or the state of being obedient; compliance with that which is required by authority; subjection to rightful restraint or control. Government must compel the obedience of individuals.

 

2. Words or actions denoting submission to authority; dutifulness.

 

3. A following; a body of adherents; as, the Roman Catholic obedience, or the whole body of persons who submit to the authority of the pope.

Do I hope my child will grant me what I ask of her?
Do I want her to behave in a way consistent with what I have (hopefully) shown her as considerate behavior?
Am I of the opinion that I should attempt to maintain harmony by exhibiting healthy boundaries and giving her the necessary tools, from the moment of birth, to enable her to interact in her environment with ease?

Yes.

Do I expect obedience? No.
Do I expect compliance? When necessary for safety or sanity, only.
Will I routinely explain my reasons behind the expectations, boundaries, guidance, and requests? With every sentence I speak, with every expectation or request I communicate, I do indeed offer the “rest of the story” for her to ponder and become aware of.

Why do I do this? First, because it is what I would hope of another person causing the same constraints to come over me. Second, I believe my choice to provide her full, detailed explanations of her world gives her the opportunity and option to ascertain for herself what she will take in.  Therefore, even in compliance, she exercises her free will. It is in this honoring of her autonomy, she will build her self esteem, increase her intelligence, and improve her emotional confidence and stability. If she does not choose compliance when necessary, she will, by default, still increase her wisdom, improve her ability to interact on an emotional plane, and will, in fact, build her confidence and self image… and if she refuses, she’ll learn she must substantiate that choice with reasons within her own mind that compel her opposition.

She also learns that her actions always have a result. If her choice results in a situation where she must build her patience, she gains.  If her choice engages others, she will observe their responses and the result is she grows. If her choice results in the need for her to tend to an effort, she develops focus and stamina – and in all likelihood, enhances her imagination powers.

We have chosen to walk alongside our child, as a partner and guide when useful, and encouraging her to grow within the parameters of her own determining.  We believe that a human choosing compassion, respect, consideration, and generosity has much value.

Retelling here, a story that illustrates the value of not causing blind obedience to be the driving force in your home.   Let’s take a look at the massacre in My Lai, Vietnam.This horrifying display of blind submission resulted in the slaughter of an entire village in Vietnam; nearly 500 people were killed.

 

The troops sent into the village were expecting a battalion of Vietcong forces but were instead presented with a village of women, elderly men, and children. The company had been previously instructed to kill anyone they encountered and proceeded to do so, with a few lapses in their blind faith.   The leader of the company, an inexperienced captain by the name Calley, was later tried for the murder of 107 unarmed civilians. He blamed his actions on the blind compliance that members of the United States forces are expected to give their superior officers. He described the concept as a ‘shoot first, complain later’ process. His actions, although explicitly illegal by the law of the United States service, seemed completely appropriate to him. He was merely obeying a senior officer, an action repeatedly drilled into the heads of American troops.

 

Our education system is not far off in requiring and thereby creating humans who do not think for themselves.  Children are conditioned not to question the authorities, the routine, the expectations, or the assignments they are given. They are expected to blindly accept that ‘adults know best’. This typical shepherd leading the sheep routine results in a completely disinterested society and a youth that is inactive and dependent.

So, how is it that we have no disobedience in our house? Because there is no opportunity for it to occur: obedience is not an expectation.  My daughter has the space to choose her path, and her parents hold the willingness to allow her the space to experience the results of those choices.  It’s not about who’s boss and who is inferior in our home.  It’s not a hierarchy here.  It’s about mutual respect, love, and exploration of life.  It’s growing in courage, confidence, and stability… It’s trusting the process.

As she grows, we will grow with her.  Through communication and empathic awareness, we will all experience and develop, and the results of choices we each make will shape us. We will continue to impart the value of compliance in certain scenarios, where the cause for compliance, and the result of compliance is positive, rooted in respect, and brings enhancement to one’s life.  We will also communicate the value of knowing oneself, by demonstrating the value we hold independently for ourselves.  Believing and asserting that each of us, and our perspectives, is equally worthy.  And imparting, with great hope, a deep sense of discernment for what is just, what is honorable, and above all, what is compassionate.

The resounding benefit is simple:  Regardless of her choices, she learns, and her wisdom increases. So does ours.

We Have a House Again…

We finally, finally closed on the house yesterday.  Life can now begin to normalize.

I haven’t the energy today to give many details, but will soon.  And please forgive me if this is a bit scattered.  I don’t have much in the way of focus to give my writing right now, but need to try, for my own sake if nothing else.

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One of the topics I hope to begin writing on (the list is growing, I know) is the growth, stress, difficulty, and healing this entire journey has provided for us.  It’s extensive.  But one area most applicable to this blog is how the entire adventure has affected my daughter.  She is now almost three, and yesterday she learned that she is going to have yet another new place to live.  I can’t get into the specifics right now, but want to say a little about why I am so happy we have managed to establish the sort of relationship we have with our kiddo.

When her Papa told her about the house yesterday, he did so in a manner of excitement and happiness.  She didn’t respond like he thought she would.  Her response was one of fear, dread, anxiety, and tears.  We both flew into action to try to comfort and ease her concerns, but it didn’t help.  So, I shifted gears and instead of trying to “make it ok”, through her tears I spoke to her as I would another close friend.  The parent to child dynamics took a back seat for a few moments, while I simply told her the facts.

She quieted her tears enough to hear me… I explained that we now have two houses. I explained that we still had our existing house (she calls it our “TaosHouse”) and that we now also had a new house to play in.  She insisted that we needed to go to our “hotel home” (this is her safe place, nothing there scared her).  I told her we may spend a little more time in a hotel home, but that we would have all our stuff (ran through the list of items she has mentioned, like her purple bed, etc) in our new house in just a couple of days.

I spoke to her in a direct & connected manner, and as an equal.  She is not quite three.  She understands me completely and there is no speaking down or minimizing when we speak with her.  I can level with her, share with her, and interact with her authentically and with mutual respect and equality.  I don’t choose to be the authoritarian, the babysitter, or the “parent” that uses strict regimen, discipline, punishment, and constant harping. Our relationship wasn’t set up this way and such dynamics are unwelcome by both kid and parents.

We co-exist.

She learns, I learn.

She explores, I guide.

She asks, I answer.  I ask, she answers.

We feel, we love, we strive for harmony.  We have challenging days sometimes too; I call her out on her difficult mood, she holds my nose to the ground when I’m grumpy. I know life isn’t always harmonious, really… take a look at the last 16 weeks… BUT we keep harmony and happiness as our goal and we usually sit in the calm and contentedness that this goal provides.

Does she throw a fit sometimes? Yes.
Do I?  Uh-huh.
Is she annoying some times?  Yep.
Does she think I’m just plain frustrating? Yes
Am I impatient sometimes?  That too.

We communicate to each other how our choices affect one another.  The resulting two-way communication is generally sufficient to restore harmony.  I try to find tangible ways of explaining feelings to her, seeking harmony, respect, and happy interaction in the future.

And in the situations where I have unfortunately given in to my own weakness and insisted on my will instead of asking for her cooperation and working with her to achieve harmony, the result is my deep regret.  Behaving this way never makes anything better for any of us. I may get what I want, but I also get a whole bunch of what I don’t want.  I lose her trust in me as her “mama” and turn into just another mom.  In those moments, I lose her respect as a result of my choice to demonstrate a disrespect toward her. We lose our harmonious, peaceful environment, and either petulance or dark melancholy sets in.  BUT, ALAS, I GOT COMPLIANCE.

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My daughter, at 2, understands so much.  She is fully aware, even when I wish she were not.  Especially when I wish she were not… when I desperately wish I could spare her our reality.   Yet, she is not a task, a chore, or something to be conquered. She is what I choose to give my energy to, she is so much.

 

Working with Toddlers: Scene One

This morning my almost three year old found the “pupcake” pan.

Well, it was empty and therefore needing filling, and what better way to complete that task than to find a bunch of little things to sort into the empty cups!

We decided on rocks, as we have a large amount of them currently in what we are calling our backyard (that is all rock).

Bugs and I went out on a hunt for the most interesting, most lovely, most colorable rocks.  A few minutes later, she had a basket (actually it was Kevin’s nest – Kevin is her most favorite bird) full of “interesting treasure” to sort into the 18 or so cups awaiting her attention.

Two hours later, still interested in this activity, she decided to put all the rocks on the floor and declare the pan’s need to be empty, from there on, and for the rest of the day.  “It’s tired of the treasure rocks”, she explained.

Another 30 minutes or so, and about 1/2 dozen “oh!”, “ouch!”, and “yeeeawww’s!” later, I asked Bugs to clean up the rocks and told her that I’d help, and that my feet and knees just couldn’t take it anymore.  She was watching Oswald (the blue octopus) and sorta half way acknowledged me.

I muted the tv and asked her to tell me what she’d heard me communicate.  “Your knees and my treasure don’t have enough room for each other in this spot.”

A moment or two later, I knelt down next to where she was standing and started to pick up a few of the rocks. As I began, I said, “Bugs, are you going to help me pick up these rocks?”

“Yep!”, she chirped, while dropping to the floor to begin gathering.

We made it a game of “Bugs has amazing spy eyes that can see little, teeny rocks MUCH better than Mama;s eyes can”, and she found quite a few I missed, in fact.

Through this experience, she was able to become aware of the value of cleaning up after scattering the rocks everywhere.  She learned she has a great eye for noticing little things.  She also remembered that when she focuses on something, she succeeds at what she intends to accomplish.

She was happy to see the rocks had returned to their homes and felt no disappointment at the dismantling of her collection (is this encouraging a respect for the environment, at a very early and simple level?).

Win, Win, and Win. Can’t beat that.

The pan survived, and that’s a light house rock, by the way.