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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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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Does 60 Seconds Of Pain Help Prevent 60 Years Of Disappointment?

I recently heard a sermon about children that didn’t sit well with me.  I held my breath through it waiting for the pastor to get to “discipline” a.k.a punishment in most Christian circles.

While he didn’t come right out and talk about spanking/hitting children, his words and phrases implied spanking such as:

”This is gonna hurt me more than you.”

“When a football player gets a penalty, they get it and then move on to the next play.”

“Sixty seconds of pain helps prevent sixty years of disappointment.”

And he cited James Dobson a couple times in his sermon which anyone familiar with Dobson knows that he advocates spankings and other harsh punishment for children.

It’s sad that he even mentioned the children in the sanctuary looking like, “oh no, not discipline” as true discipline should not make children squirm in their seats.  As I have pointed out a great deal throughout my book and this blog, yes, discipline can be painful as children learn how their actions affected another person or when they don’t get something that they really wanted.  But discipline never inflicts pain on a child!

So, does 60 seconds of pain really help prevent 60 years of disappointment?

In my experience, no, it does not. Yeah, I was abused, but even people who were spanked/hit “lovingly” experience disappointment throughout their lives. Why?  Because disappointment is a part of life.

If anything, being spanked and punished makes it harder to deal with disappointment because it doesn’t teach us how to handle it in a healthy manner.  For example, spanking/hitting a toddler for either not accepting a limit or getting very upset about it doesn’t teach them how to handle disappointment. It just makes them more upset and confused. They either lash out more, which will end in more spanking/hitting and/or other punishment or it teaches the toddler that his/her feelings don’t matter.  This can lead them to lash out as adults or repress their feelings as adults when disappointment comes their way. It can lead to real problems in their lives.

The pastor used an example for this “sixty seconds of pain” concept of a child that was permissively parented and ended up in prison. Yes, permissive parenting also sets up children to not be able to handle life’s disappointments in an unhealthy way.  If they always get what they want in childhood, then they will probably get very angry as adults when things don’t go how they want.

The problem is that trying to imply that if you don’t spank/hit children they will become criminals is very erroneous.  The fact is that the majority of prisoners were physically punished as children!  Violent parenting makes children feel powerless.  This can lead some to use aggression as adults to get what they want as that is what their parents did to them.

The rest of the prison population is usually permissively parented.

Pain makes us angry, sad, confused, and anxious.  Why would you set up children to experience pain from you in order to “prevent” sixty years of disappointment?  It makes no sense.

Disappointments happen from birth and its our job to get on their level and say, “I’m so sorry you are sad, frustrated, and disappointed.  This is the way it has to be but I am here to help you.”  Teach them healthy ways of expressing their disappointments by giving them words, encouraging art expression, using music, petting an animal, reading a book–anything productive that truly helps them.

The number one thing we can do to prepare children for disappointment is to show them that we are there for them and will listen to them. Teach them that they can always count on us and God.  Because sixty seconds of pain will never prevent sixty years of disappointment.

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Paddles Are For Boats, NOT For Hitting Children!

This story of a kindergartner being held down and paddled for spitting at another child in a Georgia school  really upset me!  And, of course, the pro-spankers are in full force cheering about this and insulting anyone who dares to disagree with them, thus, showing once again that lack of empathy is a negative effect of being spanked/hit.  No one with an ounce of empathy could be supportive of this.  Plus, you can’t hit a child with a large wooden paddle if you have any empathy!

There are a few points I want to cover in this post.  I know I keep saying this stuff in different ways over and over again, but until the abuse of children ends, I will never stop speaking out for children.  After all, children are human beings!

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So let’s get started!

  1.  The first thing that struck me as I half watched the video of the kindergartener about to be paddled/hit at that school in Georgia was the paddle was almost as big as him!  A small child got hit by a big wooden paddle.  Am I the only one who sees a major problem with this?  I can’t even imagine how painful and scary that was. We had a paddle with holes in it at my house growing up and I was terrified of it even though, thankfully, I was never hit with it.  But I saw it used on my siblings.
  2. Hitting a small child with a big paddle can cause major injury.  And from the testimonies I have heard from people who were paddled at school, the staff don’t hold back much when hitting the children.  This is very disturbing.  And even if they flick their wrist first, most children have lower pain tolerances than adults do.  I can guarantee that kindergartener was in a lot of pain after the spanking/hitting which is not a good thing!
  3. Imagine having to sit the rest of the day in a hard desk after being hit hard by a wooden paddle that was almost as big as you!  Could you focus?  Could you learn? Of course not!  Research shows that pain and fear inhibit learning.  Plus, Kindergarteners should be playing, not sitting in desks!

Corporal punishment should never be used with children!  It is time to ban it in all schools and homes!  It is not your “right to hit your child with a paddle, wooden spoon, paint stick, tree branch, or hand.”  Can you imagine how scary school is for the children in the nineteen states that still allow corporal punishment in schools?  It does not make children better behaved either.

So, how would I handle a child who spit?  I would explain that spitting is gross and would have given him alternative ways of handling conflict after hearing what happened from both children.  I would guide them through conflict resolution.  And I would have told the child that he may spit outside on the ground or in the bathroom toilet.

It’s all about being willing to discipline (teach and guide) instead of punishing them.

After all, paddles are for boats, NOT for hitting children!

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