God’s Amazing Forgiveness!

Note: This was originally written on November 22, 2016. I always have my husband edit my posts.

God is good!  So many Christians believe that He punishes us when we sin. He definitely corrects us which isn’t pleasant, but He doesn’t spank, hurt, or smite us down or I really shouldn’t be here as I have been really sinning in my anger lately. Today is an example of God’s love.

We went grocery shopping today and got stuff for Thanksgiving. With everything we’ve been going through with grief, our cat being in the beginning stages of kidney disease, and other stresses, my husband asked me this morning if he could just make turkey and his mom’s amazing oyster dressing, and mashed potatoes because he just wasn’t into making the whole feast with sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. Of course, I said that was fine because we’re both at our limits. Maybe Christmas we’ll have the whole feast. We’ll see.

So we get everything at the store and come to the van. My husband puts me in the van and I started freaking out. I cussed. My Sara ring, the ring he bought me on the first birthday without my beloved first kitty Sara, was GONE!   I didn’t feel or hear it fall off. I was so upset and sick to my stomach. My husband looked ALL over. It was nowhere to be found.

On the way home, I had a meltdown. I yelled at God.  I said some very hateful things, and called Him names I’m ashamed of.   My angry outburst was not as intense as the other night when I said some even more horrible things to God due to fear and anger about the possibility of losing our cat after having lost my mother-in-law and my grandpa all in the same year, but still, it was very nasty and I felt Him being sad. But I was so angry that I didn’t care at the moment.  I got defiant and said that I would just go buy a new ring. I just really let Him have it.

When we got home, my husband looked again for the ring. Gone. I felt sick. I couldn’t cry. I just felt sick. He called the store to let them know that I had lost my ring. But I had no hope. It’s gone.

After putting stuff away, he takes me to the bathroom. As he was getting me up, I saw the ring in my underwear. I couldn’t verbally get it out that my ring was in my underwear due to having to focus on standing and holding on to my husband. It fell out and I said, “my ring, my ring!” He thought I was talking about another ring.

So he gets me back in my wheelchair where he can understand me easier and I told him that it was my Sara ring. It was in my underwear and fell by my “potty chair.” He went in the bathroom, and sure enough, there was my Sara ring!  We both thanked Jesus!

Then I got on my iPad and checked my messages and my tattoo artist asked if I wanted to get tattooed next week. She broke her ankle right before my appointment in October to get my memorial tattoo for my mother-in-law and couldn’t do it, so I have been waiting and praying for her. I was concerned that she might not be up to it until after Christmas.  I had gotten my first tattoo in honor of my grandpa the day after my birthday, and I wanted both tattoos before the holidays to keep my grandpa and mother-in-law close to me as the holidays will be tough again this year.  See here to read all about my first tattoo.   I was going to ask next week to see what she thought, but I will be getting tattooed on Tuesday!!  Yay!  Thank You, Jesus.

Finally, I received a message from Safe Families, a local Christian organization that helps children and their families during crisis situations, and they said that want to see if they can figure out how to partner with me for parent coaching. Thank You, Jesus!

After being so awful to Him again, He blesses me and let’s us know that He is here!  He forgives. And maybe He disciplines us in a manner that truly humbles us through blessing because I didn’t deserve any blessings at all!

And perhaps, we should be mindful of the way He disciplines and forgives us as we discipline our children.   He definitely loves us no matter what and fathers us gently! 

Just re-reading this brings me to tears. I don’t deserve His love.

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Teaching Children To Be Thankful

Once again Thanksgiving is upon us and many families will be gathering together soon to enjoy a feast. On Thanksgiving, we often take a moment to tell each other what we are thankful for.  Children usually enjoy getting in on the fun.

But being thankful should be a year-round thing. The Bible says:

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, ESV).

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV).

It is very important to be thankful even when life is going wrong. Believe me, I know all too well that this is not always easy. I fall short of being thankful when the world around me seems to be caving in.  But our children need to see us being thankful everyday of the year. Many parents try to force thankfulness onto their children, but thankfulness comes from the heart. Just because we make our children say “thank you,” doesn’t mean that they are truly thankful.

I believe that the best way to teach children to be thankful is for us to be intentional about showing thankfulness.  Here are six ways to teach thankfulness to children:

1. Every day make a list of what you’re thankful for and share it with your children. Ask them to list some of the things that they are thankful for.

2. Say “Thank you!”  This may sound simple, but many times throughout the day we don’t thank the people around us for the little things.  Thank your spouse for doing something you asked. Thank the bagger at the grocery store.  Thank the lady who lets you take her place. Just say “thank you” every chance you get.

3. Write a “thank you” note. My husband and I are old-fashioned when it comes to writing “thank you” notes. In today’s technological age, it’s become common to thank people via text messages, emails, and Facebook posts. Children need to know how to make a good old-fashioned “thank you” card. It brings a smile to the giver’s face.

4. Say “Thank you” to your children when they cooperate. Many people get in the habit of saying, “Good job” to their children, which becomes empty praise. Children, including infants, enjoy hearing that you are grateful for their cooperation. It makes them feel good.  Also, tell them every day why you appreciate them for being them!  This will make them want to do things for you!

5. Don’t force children to say, “thank you,” but rather, say it for them until they see how important thankfulness is. We want children to mean what they say!  Don’t worry, all of the children I know who weren’t forced into saying “thank you,” but had it modeled to them on a daily basis, didn’t take long to begin saying it themselves.

6. Thank the LORD every day!  Your children will quickly do the same!

May everyone have a happy Thanksgiving!  See this post on how to make it enjoyable for your children.

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Co-Sleeping Clarified

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that infants sleep in their parents’ room for at least six months to a year in order to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  I was very happy about this as the research done by advocates of co-sleeping show that it reduces the risk of SIDS.

The reason why co-sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS, when done safely, is because being near the parents helps infants to regulate their body temperatures, heart rates, and breathing.  And they don’t sleep quite as deeply and can even sync their sleep patterns with their parents, which may help them awaken easier to prevent them from dying.

In fact, for countries where co-sleeping is the norm, SIDS is virtually non-existent.  Most mothers in these countries have never even heard of SIDS.  That should say a lot about the benefits of co-sleeping!

Also, cry-it-out raises the infants’ heart rates and causes them to shut down eventually which can lead to a very deep, unhealthy sleep because it’s unnatural.

Yet, despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics is finally acknowledging the research showing the benefits of co-sleeping, when I shared this on my Facebook pages, many assumed that it meant bed sharing only and rejected it.  So I want to clarify what co-sleeping is in the hopes that parents will follow this advice and find the right sleep situation for their family. After all, it could just save infants’ lives!

Therefore, let me clarify that co-sleeping is having the children sleep nearby.  It can include bed sharing, but many parents use co-sleepers that attach to the side of the bed, a crib next to the bed, a playpen near the bed, a bassinet near the bed, or a cradle by the bed. You don’t have to bed share to co-sleep.  I am a big proponent of co-sleeping because, not only does it save lives, but it also makes nighttime parenting easier because the baby is right there.

Co-sleeping also aides in attachment. Being near their parents makes infants feel safe and secure.  They usually don’t have to work themselves up into a full-blown cry when they awaken in the night because Mommy and Daddy are right there to comfort them and meet their needs.

If you’re worried that they will never move out of your bedroom if you allow them to sleep with you, how many teenagers do you know who still sleep with their parents every night?  Yeah, none!  When you and the child are ready, you can transition him/her to his/her own room.

Please co-sleep with your babies in a manner that works for you.  It may save their lives!

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Setting And Enforcing Realistic Limis With Young Children

It is very important to set realistic limits with children, but most parents don’t understand what a realistic limit is for a young child.  I start with three main rules from which all limits should be derived.  The rules are the following:

  1.  Respect for others.
  2. Respect for ourselves.
  3. Respect for property.

These rules are the basis for all relationships to thrive.  The reason why we should only have three basic rules on which to base limits and boundaries is that giving children too many rules to follow, especially at a young age, will only frustrate and overwhelm them. These basic rules are easy to understand and will make sense to children, though young children will require much guidance and reminders to help them cooperate with these basic rules.

It is important that while boundaries and limits are a bit flexible, that they are also consistent and hold firm. Some parents may set boundaries and limits based on the three basic rules, but then they allow their children to break right through them.

We must remember when setting limits and boundaries with our children is to make sure the limits and boundaries are logical and reasonable. If the limit does not make any sense to the child, he or she is more likely to fight the limit. Most children will cooperate with the limit, though they may test us at times even if they understand the reason for the limit. An example of giving a reason for a limit would be, “Please walk in the house so you don’t trip and fall.”

How many of us heard our parents say, “Because I said so,” when we wanted to know why they were either making us do something or not allowing us to do something as children?  Did it make us want to cooperate?  For me, it didn’t make me want to cooperate.  It just made me angry.  I believe that mutual respect dictates that we provide a simple reason for our limits.

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Many times, we as parents, get into the habit of saying, “no,” “don’t,” and “stop,” so much that our children begin to tune us out. I mean, who wants to constantly be told what they can’t do?  This doesn’t help young children learn how to interact appropriately with others. I have found that saying, “Be gentle with your baby brother,” is often more effective than saying, “Don’t hit.” Another example is saying, “Walking feet,” instead of saying, “Don’t run.”

Even if we have no choice but to phrase something negatively, it is very important to follow it with something positive that they can do. For example, say, “You may not draw on the wall, but you may draw on this piece of paper.”

More examples of setting realistic limits are:

“You may have a cookie after supper.”

“Please pick up your toys so nobody trips over them.”

“I need you to finish up so we can get ready to go.”

“Please sit on your bottom so you don’t fall.”

“You may not hit Jack, but you may hit the pillow.”

“I need you to use your words.”

“I need you to poop in the toilet.” (Not in the closet.) 😊

Many parents say, “You need to…” but the child is probably thinking, “No, I don’t need to brush my teeth and go to bed,” so it’s better to say that we need them to do things.  Another thing is that it’s easy to give the limit in the form of a question.  For example, “Do you want to get ready for bed?”  Most young children will say, “No!”  Therefore, if it isn’t a choice, then it’s better to say, “It’s time for bed.”  Or, “I need you to get ready for bed.”

Also, giving children lead times will help make it easier for them to cooperate. Say, for example, “In five minutes it will be time to clean up and get ready for bed.” Be sure to get on the child’s level and say this. In fact, getting on children’s level whenever a limit or boundary is being set will help the child feel respected, making cooperation more likely.

If possible, when setting limits, give children choices such as “Would you like your Hello Kitty pajamas or your Mickey Mouse pajamas?”  Or, “Do you want to walk to the bathroom or would you like me to carry you?”  “Do you want to race to clean up with me?”  Anything that gives children some control over the situation is a good thing.

Now, what if you set a limit and the child won’t cooperate?  Simply say, “I see you’re having a hard time cooperating, so I will help you.”  Giving help or making a choice when the child isn’t able to make up his/her mind isn’t punishment.  Children need to learn that there are times when we must do things that we don’t want to do.  Just be sure to validate their feelings when they get upset about the limit.  Please see here for posts about validating feelings.

There’s never a reason to punish a child for not cooperating as he/she will experience the natural consequences of his/her behavior.  See here for tips on using natural consequences.

I will be writing a post about using time-IN instead of time-out soon.

It’s important for me to point out again as I close, children are NOT “little sinners” that need the “devil beat out of them” as so many Christians continue to believe. They’re beautiful human beings that God created that need our help to navigate this world. Jesus drove demons out verbally. He befriended and corrected sinners. Then, amazingly, our Almighty God chose to suffer and die on the cross for all of humanity’s sins. He was sinless. Grace, mercy, gentleness is for children too. Jesus even held children up as an example for *us.* So may we discipline children in the way that Jesus disciplines us through setting realistic limits.

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Ghosts, Goblins, And Witches: Oh My!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays!  I grew up going trick-or-treating and I still love decorating my house and watching scary movies with my husband.  You can read more about my Halloween fun here.

I wish we had more children around here for trick-or-treating because I love seeing all the little ones dressed up in their costumes. Fall is in the air and Halloween kicks off the holiday season of celebrating family, love, and Jesus!

Unfortunately, some Christians take Halloween a bit too seriously due to its historically evil roots. My husband and I had to leave a church because they took it upon themselves to teach young children in children’s church the “evil of Halloween.”  We were so upset, despite not having children of our own, because we felt that they were shattering the innocence of the children.  Young children do not need to know about evil and scary things that they are not equipped to handle.  For children, Halloween is just a fun day to dress up and get candy.

Also, Jesus warned us about taking children’s innocence away from them.

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42, ESV).

In fact, for most Christians, Halloween is a time to go have fun and even do some outreach in their neighborhoods.  This is the best night to get to know the people in your neighborhood because everyone is out walking around and chatting with each other.   Of course, only truly sick people are doing satanic stuff such as poisoning candy or exhibiting other nasty behaviors; fortunately those incidents are few and isolated.

There is no reason why we can’t go out and enjoy a fun day on Halloween as Christ-followers. To pretend to be a character and watch our children pretend to be chraracters is so much fun-not to mention all the yummy treats and fun people to hang out with and play games.  It is totally innocent and God knows our hearts are for Him!

So this Halloween, have fun with everyone.  But please be aware that some of your trick-or-treaters may have special needs.  If a child isn’t behaving like the rest of the children, don’t assume that they are brats.  Some may have Autism, may be non-verbal, may have a physical disability, may be shy, and/or may be helping another child who is waiting at the bottom of the steps in a wheelchair to get candy.  Please treat these children with respect, because I was once the child in a wheelchair waiting at the bottom of the steps, and some people made some pretty hurtful comments not realizing I was waiting down there.

Here is a great post about trick-or-treaters with special needs!

Have a safe and happy Halloween!  Watch out for all those ghosts, goblins, and witches. WoooOOOooOOOooOO!!

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Aggression NEVER Works!

As an early childhood professional and a parent coach, one of the main issues I help parents with is young children being aggressive.  Young children have zero impulse control and often express themselves through aggressive acts until they finally have enough practice and skills taught to them by us to use their words and be gentle.

Yes, aggression is a form of communication in young children and if parented gently and respectfully, these children learn that aggression NEVER works.  It only HURTS!

But what happens if children are never taught gentleness and kindness?  What happens if they are spanked/hit, harshly spoken to/yelled at, and/or otherwise punished and disrespected?

Just turn on the TV, get on Facebook and other social media, or dare to walk outside and you’ll see the effects of harshly treated children crying out for whatever social justice is the current “hot topic.”  You’ll see people actually being shot and killed.  You’ll see people rioting.  You’ll see people verbally assault anyone who dares to offer a different perspective.

Unfortunately, many pro-spankers believe that this is due to not spanking/hitting children enough, but the majority of children are still spanked.  The Bible says that we reap what we sow.  If violence is “lovingly” sown into children’s hearts to get people to do what they want, then it will be easier for them to use aggression and violence to try to force people to listen to them.

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/synergygentleparenting/?ref=ts&fref=ts

I struggle with this at times too.  It’s hard to keep responding respectfully when you’re angry and/or passionate about something.  I have made my fair share of mistakes and constantly strive to be a more empathetic, compassionate, gentle person as that was not how I was raised.  But the fact that I was raised with harshness and was often disrespected and still get dismissed at times due to my disability is no excuse for my mistakes!

Sadly, some people truly believe that violence and aggression–both physical and verbal– is the only way to be heard and enact change.  When people come at me aggressively, I get defensive and shut down.  It hurts, so it makes me not want to listen to the person. When I hear about violent actions in the name of some cause, it makes me want to run in the other direction!  I feel bad for the victims who are usually innocent bystanders that had the misfortune of being in the crossfire of the angry people.

We claim to want peace but end up trying to get it through violence and aggression.  We want equality for all but end up putting certain groups down to get that equality.  We believe in love but end up using hate to try to force love.  We strive for tolerance but end up being intolerant to groups of people who don’t have our same agenda.

We are all guilty of this!  It’s just that certain people fail to recognize this in themselves and think that they are truly making a difference when all they are doing is making everything worse and turning people off. They are even inciting people like them that are on the opposite side to start behaving aggressively.  They fail to realize that aggression never works.  It only hurts!

I love the Nonviolent Communication  approach that Marshall B. Rosenberg writes about, and with which he trains people, because it teaches us that everyone is capable of being compassionate.  I’m trying to work on using this approach more with people.  Here’s a quote from the website.

“Through the practice of NVC, we can learn to clarify what we are observing, what emotions we are feeling, what values we want to live by, and what we want to ask of ourselves and others. We will no longer need to use the language of blame, judgment or domination. We can experience the deep pleasure of contributing to each others’ well being.

NVC creates a path for healing and reconciliation in its many applications, ranging from intimate relationships, work settings, health care, social services, police, prison staff and inmates, to governments, schools and social change organizations.”

We want our children to be gentle and kind. They are always watching us and imitating us.  Therefore, we need to teach them how to be kind and compassionate to others by being kind and compassionate with everyone.  Love is the only way to enact change, not violence and aggression. A toddler that throws a cup doesn’t get a drink, but instead, is taught better ways of communicating his/her needs. The same applies to adults.  Throwing stuff might feel good but won’t get the change we want to occur.  Love always wins in the end!

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Fear Of Failure, Cerebral Palsy, And A Tattoo!

I just got my first tattoo last week.  I was so nervous because I can’t control my muscles at all due to my severe cerebral palsy and I hate pain. But I am now the proud owner of a tattoo in honor of my grandpa who went Home in May.

I know some people believe it’s against the Bible to get a tattoo but when you study the cultural and historical context of the Bible, pagans were doing it for other gods. Plus, it wasn’t sterile or at all like it is now if you go to a reputable tattoo parlor.  Here is a great article about the cultural and historical context of the Bible when it comes to tattoos.

I felt God with me the whole time and He put the verse, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” in my head that morning and while she did it. Plus, I feel closer to my mom having a matching tattoo with her! The whole thing has been wonderful and all good things come from God!  And my tattoo comforts me every time I miss my grandpa.

I have wanted a tattoo for years but didn’t think I could stay still for it, especially since pain and anxiety make me move more.  So the first thing I did once I decided I was definitely doing this was to Google “people with cerebral palsy getting tattoos.”  I was very encouraged to find many people with cerebral palsy have tattoos.  Even so, I was still anxious about whether or not it would work for me.

After researching this thoroughly, my husband and I went in August to meet with a tattoo artist at our local tattoo parlor which came highly recommended.  I was very nervous when we went because I figured that they would see my involuntary movements and reject me.  I am terrified of rejection because I have been rejected so many times throughout my life.  Rather, I was met with total acceptance!

The guy we met talked to me like everyone else and listened when I talked. That means A LOT to me since some people look at my severe disability and assume that I am mentally disabled.  And my speech is very slurred making it difficult to understand me if you don’t know me well.

I immediately told the tattoo artist that I can’t control my muscles so I was worried if it would even work. He asked where I wanted the tattoo and I had him feel my thigh so he knew how the muscles would contract. Of course we explained that we’d make my feet straps tighter and that my mom would be here to help hold me.  I also took medicine to help control some of my spasms.

I was so excited for the next three weeks. I was also very nervous because even though the artist and the shop owner didn’t think there would be any problem with doing a tattoo on me, I was terrified that I would fail.

Ever since I was very young, I have been terrified of failure. As you can read in this post and this post, many people would look at me and not believe I could do things.  I learned from a very early age that I had to always prove myself to people.  Plus, I was verbally abused by various people growing up and I saw how my dad reacted angrily when my older siblings didn’t live up to his expectations. I still feel like this today. So I felt like I had to prove that I could handle the tattoo.

I can’t stress enough the importance of building our children up.  They need to learn how to believe in themselves.  This does not mean we make them proud as humility is a virtue.  But humility does not mean feeling like you never measure up or always have to be afraid of failing.  Humility means that you put others before you and you don’t think you’re better than everyone else.  But feeling poorly about yourself is not humility.

Nobody should have to struggle with anxiety like I do due to how I was treated as a child and throughout my life by certain people. Thankfully, my husband and mom had complete faith in me as did many of my friends.

Well, the night before my tattoo appointment my artist who was supposed to do my tattoo contacted us because something came up and he couldn’t do it the next day.  Yes, I had a little panic attack but he made sure someone else could do it. The lady we got was wonderful.  She has done tattoos on people with cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. That helped put me at ease.

The day of my tattoo, I was so nervous. Again, I was afraid that I would fail. That the pain would be too much for me and I would move too much.  But Candace immediately put me at ease.  She was quickly able to figure out my spasms and work around them. Every time she initially put the needle down, my startle reflex would make me jump.  But once that happened, she knew to keep going and I was fine.  There were a few “ouch” moments where I made my husband  talk more and I had to distract myself more but it wasn’t bad. I now have a BEAUTIFUL purple Mickey Mouse outline and a BEAUTIFUL red Corvette outline in honor of my dear grandpa! She was gentle and it was over before I knew it! I hugged her as I was so happy with her work.

The significance of my tattoo: Mickey Mouse is because when I was 15, Grandma and Grandpa took me to Disney World over my Christmas break. We saw the Christmas parade, rode on rides, and they arranged a private meeting with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and Goofy and other characters. I believe in signs from people in Heaven and ever since Grandpa went Home, I’ve seen Mickey everywhere despite Hello Kitty being more popular than Mickey nowadays. The Corvette is because my grandpa LOVED Corvettes.  He was never without one since I was born. He was a mechanic and worked for BF Goodrich and loved working on cars. So he would buy Corvettes, fix them up, enjoy them, then sell them. My mom is a Corvette owner after 50 years, so getting the red corvette honors him for both of us AND is fun to have matching tattoos with my mom!

I have a major sense of accomplishment and I’m grateful to God for helping me through it!  I loved watching my mom get her matching Corvette in honor of Grandpa who was her dad.  And whenever I miss my grandpa, I just look at my tattoo!

I don’t know if I will ever be free from my fear of failure.  But I do know that God wants me to use my pain to help others.  Children deserve nothing but respect as do people with disabilities. Just because I am severely disabled does not mean I can’t live a “normal as possible” life.  We just need more assistance. If you are reading this and want a tattoo that is meaningful to you and you’re disabled, I’m living proof that you can do it!

We can do all things through Him who gives us strength!

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My tattoo in honor of my dear grandpa (April 1, 1928-May 2, 2016).
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my mom’s and my matching tattoos.

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Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Words Will Never Hurt Me, Huh?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  We probably have said it as children, but is it true?  For me, it is not true at all.

In fact, this is not true for many people.  Words have power.  The Bible even acknowledges that words have power and we need to choose our words carefully.  Let’s look at some of these verses:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21, ESV).

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18, ESV).

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV).

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent” (Proverbs 11:12, ESV).

As we can see, words have the power to build people up or tear them down.  And sometimes words hurt more than being hit, though that is never an excuse to spank/hit a child.  

I was verbally abused by my dad and my high school personal assistant. Even though I was able to rise above it with the help of the Lord and my husband, I still struggle with not feeling good enough or not believing in myself.  I beat myself up a lot in my head.  I take things very personally.  I hate making mistakes because I best myself so much.

In this technological-advanced age, there is a horrible trend of shaming children online.  So not only are parents saying that their children are “bad,” “brats,” “disrespectful,” and “crybabies” to their faces, they’re posting it for the whole world to see.  I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and embarrassment these children feel or will feel when they see the world looking at their mistakes and applauding their parents for “putting them in their place.”

It’s hard enough being shamed and put down privately. The messages that we put into children’s heads become their inner voices.  They start to believe that they are “bad,” “sinful,” and “ungrateful.”  Putting children down only tears them down.  And it begins in infancy.  Infants hear our tone and read our body language to understand us. And most infants begin to understand words before they ever start talking.

Therefore, telling an infant to “shut up,” calling him/her a “brat,” and saying things like “you’re gross” will make them internalize these messages.  And of course, treating infants like we don’t want to be with them also sends the message that they are “burdens.”

Sometimes shaming is used to threaten the child before physical punishment is administered.  Some parents who may not use physical punishment with their children, but believe that children deserve some type of punishment, use shaming to control their children’s behavior.  Many Christians tend to tell children that they have “sinned” against God.  This does nothing but lead to worldly sorrow.

Shaming and punishment leads to worldly sorrow as the child focuses on stopping his/her own pain. The child may appear to have self control after receiving regular punishment and shaming, but it’s actually self-preservation to avoid pain. Discipline, however, teaches godly sorrow and true self-control because discipline teaches empathy for others. There may be pain as a byproduct of discipline due to the discovery of hurting another and God, but pain is NEVER inflicted on the child by an adult. This allows for true self-control as the child learns from natural consequences and gains empathy. Godly sorrow makes the child truly want to repent and make things right. And it’s important to remember that self-control develops very, very slowly in children.

Now, I am not saying that we shouldn’t correct our children.  We should do so in a way that doesn’t shame them. Pointing out how their behavior affected another person and empathizing with him/her will allow the child to calm down and eventually see that he/she hurt his/her friend which will lead the child to true sorrow.

For example, if 4-year-old Billy hits Sarah, we make sure Sarah is ok and then talk to Billy about his behavior and why he hit.

Adult: “Billy, you hit Sarah.  I know you were angry but it’s never okay to hit people.”

Billy:  “But she wouldn’t let me have a turn with the ball.”

Adult:  “Yes, I can see why you got angry. But you cannot hit.”

Billy:  “But I really wanted to play with the ball.  She wouldn’t let me.”

Adult:  “It’s hard to control our impulses when we’re angry.  Did you try to use your words?”

Billy:  “I asked her over and over for a turn and she said ‘no’ all the time.”

Adult:  “Ok, but when she kept telling you no, you hit her.  What happened when you hit her?

Billy:  “She started crying.”

Adult: “Yes, she cried because hitting hurts.  And now nobody is playing with the ball because you’re both upset.  What can we do to fix this?”

Billy: “I shouldn’t have hit her. I will go say sorry.”

Billy goes to Sarah and apologizes all on his own. They talk and begin playing together.

There was no need for shaming or punishment. Billy just needed help getting his brain to calm down enough to realize that he hurt his friend. The adult remained calm and empathetic to Billy.  The natural consequence for Billy’s behavior was that Sarah was hurt and cried when he hit her.   Of course, some children will take longer to calm down and realize they hurt someone. This is all based on the development of the child and how that child is treated.

The more we tear down children, the harder it is for them to learn empathy. If you’re always in self-preservation mode, you can’t see past your own pain.  And sometimes people that have been so torn down may actually take the opposite approach by becoming bullies. Children and adults who feel badly about themselves can sometimes gain “power” by hurting others.  Not all people beat themselves up.  Rather, they take their pain out on others.

We can discipline children without shaming them and putting them down. Let’s build them up so that they can build others up.  Sticks and stones may break my bones but words DO HURT ME.

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