Connection Leads To Independence

I recently read this article and it made so much sense.  So many times our children act up because they are feeling disconnected from us.  In this technological age, we are usually attached to a screen most of the day.  Sadly, this is disconnecting us from each other more often than not.

A few of my friends have grown children who have moved out.  They truly enjoy being with their children and always made time for them.  I also know of grown children who are not doing as well because they were harshly parented and they knew the parents didn’t always want to deal with them.

Starting at birth, children are extremely sensitive to our vibes.  They know if you don’t want to be with them.  I have observed many times that children who have parents who do their best to remain connected with their children and truly want to be with the children have more independent children.

Why?  Because when children get their fill of our love and attention, they are free to enjoy times when we aren’t able to be one-on-one with them.  They know that if they need us, we’ll be there.

The Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) Approach recommends starting this deep connection at birth.  Infants require so much care that we should be using this time to really connect with them instead of rushing through daily care activities.  This means being fully present with the infant during changing diapers and clothes, feedings, bathing, and nap time and bedtime routines.  When we are fully present, we are making deep connections with the child that fill their social-emotional needs.  Then they can do brief sessions of independent play more easily.

As infants become toddlers and preschoolers, many outbursts and meltdowns have their roots based upon feeling connected with us.  Spending at least 15 minutes twice a day one-on-one with the child can help fill his/her connection bucket.  And in situations where we can’t be fully present with them, doing simple things such as making eye contact, smiling at them, touching them, nodding to acknowledge them can make a huge difference in their behavior.

I know pro-spankers and other people who believe in harsh parenting will ask, “Doesn’t this make them more clingy?”  What these people fail to understand is that forcing children to be independent before they are ready is what makes them “clingy.”  Sure, you can spank/hit them to teach them not to “bug” you when you don’t want them to, but you’re actually breaking connection which usually backfires.  Even if they don’t bother you, they will do things that are wrong just to get attention from someone.

Then when they are adults, they may have trouble with their relationships.  If they’re never taught how to truly connect with others then it will hurt them throughout their lives.

I love parents who are able to be there for their children even when they are socializing with adults.  For example, at a party I witnessed a mother who was fully engaged with her adult friends but the minute she thought she heard a child say, “Mom,” she paused to see if the children were in need.  The children played with each other as well as came in with the adults without being rude.  They didn’t interrupt.  They were very respectful.

 I think part of the “problem” with “today’s children” is that they are not getting the connection they need.  Then they get punished for acting up.  We need to put down the screens and the demands of life and do our best to connect with our children.

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Guest Post: Did Having Children With Autism Ruin My Life? By Daniel Smith

Note: Daniel is a wonderful Christian gentle parent.  This post really touched me as I have severe cerebral palsy and I always really appreciate when parents let people know that having children with disabilities is tough, but also very rewarding!

Going to tackle a tough question that comes up from time to time.

Has having children with autism ruined my life?  Is this the worst thing that could ever happen?

The answer is an emphatic no!

Aizen’s needs in particular have posed some tremendous challenges to us to understand and learn — and honestly there would have been a time I may have answered yes to this question. Age five, before we were getting support and help, was a particularly rough time because he was biting and aggressive and we didn’t know what to do. He also wasn’t talking which made things extra challenging.

But did it ruin my life?  No — I have had to grow significantly and I had a lot to learn. I have gained skills, understanding, empathy, and knowledge I would never have gained otherwise. Aizen has shown me the world in a way I would never have observed it without him. He has changed the way I perceive behaviours in other people and taught me patience and empathy in stressful situations.

Has this ruined my life?  I’d say the opposite — what I have gained would be enhancements. I am also a bereaved parent and I stress that Aizen is alive, gaining skills, observing and experiencing the world — he’s not broken, damaged, a burden or a problem. The worst thing that can happen — and I know from experience — is your child passing away and having plan their funeral.

He’s a good polite kid who has worked extremely hard for every skill he has acquired — he’s someone who should be celebrated.

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Love Should Always Triumph Over Manipulation

 

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I recently heard something similar to this quote, “Love should always triumph over manipulation,” on a television show and it spoke to me. Unfortunately, manipulation triumphs more than love does in the parent-child relationship.

It’s not always a conscious thing, though, sometimes it is. We unknowingly usually start manipulating children at birth by not respecting their bodies and feelings.  We force them to do things that their bodies are not yet ready to do such as “tummy time” or propping them up.  This is so uncomfortable.

We make them stand before they can. We try to quiet their cries by shushing them, distracting them with a toy in front of their faces, and/or leave them to cry-it-out.

As they grow, we try to force our own agendas onto them even more.  When they are acting their ages or doing something that is developmentally appropriate, we punish them.  We spank/hit, give time-outs, and arbitrarily take things away.

This is all manipulation. Young children are often accused of trying to manipulate their parents but they are not able to think that far ahead. They’re always in the present.  People who tell parents that children manipulate are usually extremely manipulative.

This can continue into adulthood.  But love should triumph over manipulation. Love should think of the other person and do what is best for them. This does not mean letting people of any age walk all over us!  It should mean putting others first as God wants us to do.

True love accepts all, puts others first, tries not to hurt people, tries to have empathy, and gently corrects when appropriate.

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I don’t know who’s quote this is but it is spot on!

A Mishmash Of Thoughts

This post may be all over the place but it’s based on things I have experienced this week. It was a rough week as May 2nd was the one year anniversary of my dear grandpa going Home. I have really struggled with his passing. He and I were extremely close and he was a wonderful grandfather who never intentionally hurt me.

Since my family has not had any “official” services for him yet and I won’t be able to go to them due to financial issues and a cat who has chronic diseases and is not yet ready to die, I had my own private funeral service on Tuesday May 2nd that included getting a beautiful tattoo.

I kept thinking “goodbye grandpa” during the tattoo which is on my upper right arm.  The tattoo came out perfectly!   Parts of it hurt like heck as the inside of one’s arm is much more sensitive, but my tattoo artist and my husband encouraged me during the tough parts and I breathed and laughed my way through it.  I cried when it was done.

I’m not letting go but I finally feel so at peace that he is physically gone. I miss him and my mother-in-law so much, but I just couldn’t get comfortable with Grandpa being gone until until I got this memorial tattoo.  Plus, he deserved a detailed tattoo. I LOVE my first tattoo which is for him but I was feeling guilty that everybody else has detailed tattoos and he didn’t. So now that I know I can get detailed tattoos, I’m happy I got one for him and the jacket that was his. She made it look like a watercolor.

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However, I have been experiencing some things that prove how important respect is. I haven’t felt very respected and that has made me lash out. I didn’t repay evil for evil, but I could have done better.

When adults and children don’t feel respected and heard, it makes them angry. That’s why children usually act out.  They need connections and respect.  But it is so hard when you’re doing your best to be respectful and the other person doesn’t respect you. Children don’t mean to be disrespectful as they are still learning how to respect.  But adults should know better.

I also feel like, based on my own experiences as well as observations, people of all ages tend to want to control and manipulate others that they feel are weaker.  These people usually have emotional problems that make them need to feel powerful and in control by manipulating the weaker person.

We see this all the time with the parent-child dyad. The parent finally has someone they can control and manipulate after they were controlled and manipulated as children. They may be doing it unconsciously, but they do it nonetheless.  Others are fully aware of what they are doing.

But another group that is often controlled and manipulated, sometimes even by family, are people with disabilities.  I have severe cerebral palsy and I often feel like people don’t respect me. No matter how old I get, I often get treated as a child.  Of course, anyone who knows my story knows that I was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused by my late dad. I was also emotionally abused by my school aide.

In addition to dealing the my grief of losing my mother-in-law and grandpa as well as dealing with my beloved kitty going downhill and other life stresses, I have felt very disrespected.  Trying to have boundaries and protect myself while remaining Christ-like is not easy.

Of course, this makes me think of children. We need to respect their personal boundaries as we set our own boundaries with them. It is such a helpless feeling knowing that someone you love is trying to control, manipulate, and make you feel guilty for something that you didn’t do. I’m 35 and I’m really struggling with it and I don’t always handle it as well as I should.  It’s no wonder that children have meltdowns and anxiety and feel so out of control when we try to control, manipulate, and shame them. I can relate so much to the feelings children have.

I am at peace with the loss of my grandpa and I am thankful for that. At the same time, it comes to light that we all need to be respected by the people we love no matter what our age is. I don’t believe that elders deserve respect just because they are older.  I believe respect is earned. It must be mutual. It cannot be forced. If it is forced, it leads to strong resentment.

I guess that is my mishmash of thoughts. I hope it helps someone else dealing with similar things. I also hope it helps parents to see how important it is to respect their children. Only through respecting our children will they learn to respect others.

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Should We Take The Bible Literally?

 

Once again I found myself dealing with a Christian pro-spanker that insists that the “rod verses” in the book of Proverbs must be taken literally.  Yet, when I asked the following questions, the pro-spanker couldn’t answer:

*If we must spank/hit our children then shouldn’t we also stone people, cut off body parts, pluck eyes out?

*And what about slavery?  Shouldn’t we continue to keep slaves?

*Shouldn’t we also sacrifice animals for our sins?

People pick and choose what to take literally. It makes no sense to take a few verses literally to justify spanking/hitting children but not other harsh verses.

The Bible was written for us, not to us. As I have said many times, we must seek to understand the historical and cultural context of Scripture.  We must also study the original languages of the Bible to truly understand what it’s saying and how to apply it to us.

Not every Scripture is meant to be directly applied to us!  We are to learn from all Scripture, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, we do not need to directly apply every single Scripture to our lives.  To do so is to downplay what Jesus did for all of humanity on the cross!

“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14, NASB).

After a while, the pro-spanker tried to answer the questions above by saying that we no longer live under the Law, but rather, we live under grace.

Exactly!  And this grace applies to children as well.  Jesus freed us from the Law.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).

When we spank, we are parenting under the Law. We are not accepting the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus. Jesus died for us. He was beaten to a bloody pulp for us. Why do we feel we must beat, spank, and hit our young children who do not understand sin nor physical punishment?

“In regard to evil be infants” (1 Corinthians 14:20b).

If we are to interpret all of the “rod” verses that appear to advocate spanking/hitting children with a large weapon with spikes on it literally, then we must take all of the other harsh verses in the Bible literally.  Who are we to apply only a handful of verses to inflict pain on children but not do everything else in the Bible?

After all, the Bible also says:

“Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts” (Proverbs 20:30, NASB).

I truly do not believe that God wanted us to take the entire Bible literally.  Rather, we are to see how God redeemed His people.  The Bible is meant to be read in a redemption manner.

For more information about how to interpret the “rod verses” in Proverbs, please click here.

Finally, as Christ-followers should easily realize that all the verses telling us to be kind, merciful, graceful, gentle, peaceful, loving, forgiving, and patient with one another apply to children too. Jesus is our example!

In fact, Ephesians 5:1-2 says,

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

So to imitate God is to walk in love, not hurt each other. And the fruit of the Spirit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, *gentleness,* self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

I will end with two final verses.

For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

God favors mercy over judgement.

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance, not fear and pain.  This is what we should take literally!

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Encouraging Self-Expression

Lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about self-expression because if it veers off from the norm, then children are punished for it and adults are harshly judged.

I love my tattoos and my rainbow hair.  Children also have their own ways of expressing themselves.  Of course, if it is harmful to anyone, then appropriate alternatives should be given to the children.  We have to teach them right from wrong.

But when a child has a different way of expressing him/herself, it should be encouraged.  Instead of punishing reactive children, validate them and give them appropriate outlets for self-expression.

If you have a clown at home, encourage ways of being a clown.  Expect the child to do stuff at school that may not always be at the appropriate time because children just don’t always have the ability to control their impulses.  Good teachers will gently but firmly steer the child in the right direction without having to punish.

If you have a shy child, encourage the little attempts of putting him/herself out there.

My friend’s almost 9-year-old daughter recently wanted rainbow hair.  At first she wanted it all over, but my friend had to bleach her brown hair and she said she’d do the bottom layer to show the child how it would affect her hair.  Once her daughter understood that it will take 3 years for her hair to grow out as brown again, she agreed to just color the bottom layer.  My friend helped her daughter see the consequences of permanently changing her body instead of just saying, “No, you can’t have your whole head colored.”  The meme below shows how her daughter’s hair turned out.  Beautiful!

It just feels like the world is so controlling, harsh, and judgmental.  We punish children for the silliest things.  We punish them for being children and acting their age.

I’m not saying that we should let children do whatever they want.  But we should give them plenty of room to be who they are instead of punishing them for not being who we want them to be.

I don’t know if it’s just me but I have never felt the need to put down somebody’s style just because it’s not what I would do.  When I started getting tattoos, I was suprised at how a few people had to tell me that they were not into them.  Ok, but I am. It is a very personal style.  We shouldn’t judge each other over style.

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My rainbow hair and most recent tattoos.

Finally,  if your boy likes dolls, encourage that in him. God may be preparing him to be a teacher or a pediatrician. If your girl enjoys playing with trucks and dinosaurs, encourage her. God may be preparing her to be an archeologist or a missionary that drives trucks full of supplies for poor and needy people.

Let’s respect individuality and personal style as long as it’s not hurting anyone else and respect our children for the people that they are!

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“Do Not Repay Evil For Evil.”

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17, NASB).

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9, ESV).

I have been going through a great deal of things recently.  I was badly hurt by some people.  Believe me, I have been tempted to repay evil for evil, but that is not what God wants us to do.  I am far from perfect, but I am really doing my best to not repay evil.

I have learned a few things as I continue to work through the hurt, anger, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and anxiety from the recent incidents and they also apply to gentle parenting.

1. Scolding harshly just shuts children and adults down.  It’s true. Scolding anyone of any age just makes them feel angry, defensive, small, and helpless.  This is especially true when a child has not even done anything wrong.  And often harsh scolding is abusive and/or shaming, which is very harmful and hurtful.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, NASB).

2.  People of all ages act badly when they feel badly.  This is a common idea throughout gentle parenting.  Realizing why a child is acting out is so important because he/she is usually feeling badly either physically or emotionally or both.  When we stop to see behind the behavior, we see a whole new picture that changes, hopefully, the way we respond to the child.  The same is true with adults.  Being lashed out at by an adult is harder for me to deal with than if it was a child.  Yet, when I am really hurting, I tend to lash out too.  But I have learned that trying to be quiet and not lash out is always the best way to go.  Easier said than done, though.

3.  Mutual respect is key for healthy relationships.  From the moment a child is conceived, he/she should be respected.  Teaching respect means being respectful by not doing anything to the child that you know will intentionally hurt them such as cry-it-out, saying harsh words to them, manipulating them either physically or emotionally or both, and spanking/hitting them.  I often feel like people don’t truly respect me and that’s so hard when I’m trying to be respectful.  Again, I am far from perfect, but without mutual respect, one person will be walked all over by the other person.  The only way I know to encourage mutual respect is to teach it to children.  And just because someone is disabled or different doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same respect as everyone else!

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” (Romans 12:10, NASB).

“and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21, NASB).

4.  PTSD, anxiety, and sensitivity are real and not weaknesses. Due to being abused throughout my childhood by my dad and a school personal aide, I have all of these things.  When people I am close to say “mean” things to me–whether it’s intentional or not-– it triggers my anxiety and PTSD.  I’m left debilitated for a while.  For children, saying mean, hurtful things will only tear them down and may lead to anxiety and PTSD.  Some children, as I was , and still am, are quite sensitive.  Unfortunately, being sensitive is often looked down upon and seen as a weakness.  Then people try to use this to manipulate and control these children and adults.  This is not ok!  If everyone was sensitive and empathetic, the world would be a much better place!

5.  Despite the common Christian doctrine that we’re born selfish, selfishness is a learned behavior.  Children raised with respect, compassion, empathy, and love usually learn to be the same.  These children are more competent in social interactions and have a lower rate of anti-social behaviors.  People raised with selfishness can learn how not to be, but many remain selfish until the day they die. If we want less selfishness in the world, we need to learn how to be selfless!  And we must teach our children how to be selfless by modeling it to them daily.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Philippians 2:3, NASB).

6.  We must forgive while not allowing people to walk all over us.  Boundaries and limits are a must for children and adults in our life.  Children usually cooperate with boundaries and limits when they understand the reason behind them.  Adults, however, can be more complicated because they don’t always respect the limits and boundaries.  Sometimes all we can do is to put more space between us and them to protect ourselves. I’m still figuring out how to do this.

Also when we forgive, we should never throw stuff back in their faces when we are upset with them.  That isn’t fair.  We don’t forget but we move on if we can with the relationship.  Otherwise, it might be better to get out of a toxic relationship.

7.  We can’t control others but we can control ourselves.  The best thing is to focus on controlling our responses to others.  We are the only one that we can control.

I’m still working on all of this.  If everyone would do their best to work on these things, I truly believe that we’d have healthier relationships.

 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV).

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Update On My Book, Gentle Firmness

I am very sad to announce that my publisher was doing a bunch of really nasty <<click here for more info– stuff and they closed.   I’m absolutely heartbroken and embarrassed that I allowed them to take advantage of me.

I will now begin to re-edit my book and put out a second edition of Gentle Firmness.  I will be self-publishing on Amazon.  I hope to try to get the second edition of Gentle Firmness out by the end of this year or early next year.  I’m also getting my children’s book prepared to be published.  This is overwhelming but I will make it even better and it will be more affordable!  The publisher set the price too high.

In the meantime, I do need to distribute the books I still have at a very low price. I’m even willing to donate some.

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I’m currently looking for people who would be willing to buy some books at $10 plus $6.65 for priority mail shipping, or I am willing to donate some to organizations that will distribute them to people who could use them. I really want these books to help parents.  After all, this is why I wrote it in the first place!

If you are interested, please email me.  I only have a limited number of books left.  Thank you so much.

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