Using Time-IN Instead Of Time-Out

Many parents use “Time-Out” to punish their children, especially parents that do not want to spank/hit but feel that they must punish or “discipline” their children somehow. While I would rather have parents that are bent on using punishment with their children use time-out over spanking, time-out is still very harmful to young children when it is used as punishment. As with spanking, time-out is most often used with very young children.

The youngest child that I have witnessed with whom a time-out was being used was eighteen months old. Like being slapped, eighteen-month-olds do not understand why they are being forced to sit alone for one minute. And like spanking, it very temporarily stopped the behavior, which means multiple time-outs for toddlers that lack impulse control. This is not good and sends the wrong message to children.

Time-outs require that children sit alone, sometimes facing the wall, quietly for the amount of minutes corresponding with their age. For example, if the child is one, they sit for one minute; for a two-year-old, it’s two minutes; for a three-year-old, it’s three minutes, and so on.

What’s even worse is if the child gets up, talks, or even cries during the time-out, then their time starts completely over until he or she “successfully” completes the time-out. This can mean a five-minute or more time-out for a toddler that cannot fulfill the requirements of a time-out.  And this inability to sit quietly for a time-out often leads to the child getting spanked/hit.

As with physical punishment, I’m afraid that whoever came up with the time-out and its associated rules did not understand child development, nor did they understand our loving God. Christ never banished anyone. So why should we banish our children when we can’t deal with their behaviors?

Young children cannot sit still and quietly with nothing to do for very long. And they are not sitting there pondering why what they did was wrong. Time-outs are totally developmentally inappropriate for young children and sets them up for failure.

In fact, research shows that time-out is just as harmful to children as spanking is because being forcefully isolated activates the same areas of the brain as spanking does. We were created for human connection.  This is especially true when we’re upset about something.

My husband and I have been going through some hard times lately, and I am still grieving for my grandpa and my mother-in-law.  Sometimes I feel very alone because of everything that we’re going through and I have found that feeling isolated only makes my depression, grief, and anxiety worse.  The comfort and support from my husband and family and friends are what helps me feel better.  Isolation is truly the worst feeling ever!

My parents sometimes put me in my room during a meltdown.  It only made me feel really angry and I would scream even louder and say, “I hate you.”  I never sat and thought about my behavior during those times.  I only thought about how angry I was and how unfair they were being.

Trust me, children do not think about their behavior during time-outs.  They’re totally focused on their own feelings and being upset.

Now, I totally understand and agree that there are times when children are just having a hard time and need to be removed from the situation in order to calm down and deal with their big feelings.  This is where time-in is very helpful.

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Time-in, unlike time-out, is not punishment. To use time-in with young children, set up a “comfy corner” in the most lived in room of your house but away from the action.  Put a couple pillows and a blanket in it.  Depending on how your children cope with their big feelings, you can have a few books in there, soft music, or some paper and crayons.  Just don’t fill it up too much as the idea is to limit stimulation and help the child calm down.

There is no quiet rule, no set time for them to remain in time-in, and they can choose to have us come with them or not.  If we don’t come with them to time-in, then we sit nearby and are available to help them if they need it.

Connection and healing are the main goals for time-ins.  Young children have so many big feelings about everything and they just don’t know how to express and deal with them.  Many times when children are acting up it means that they are feeling very disconnected from us.  They need us to bring them back into our connection and help them regain their control over their bodies and feelings.  They need to be heard and validated.

If we use time-in consistently without forcing the toddler to go to his or her “comfy corner,” the toddler may begin to ask to go there when he or she senses his or her big feelings welling up. Toddlers learn that their feelings matter to their parents and to God. This is such an important step for teaching young children self-management skills because their feelings are validated and respected, and they are given appropriate choices for dealing with their feelings.

Of course, it’s perfectly okay for parents to take a few minutes to calm down if their children are having a particularly rough day.  A parent “time-out/in” is very appropriate for these types of situations so that you don’t lose it with your child. This is not punishment for either the parent or the child. All parents need a break from their children.

Just be sure to tell your children that you are feeling really upset and need a moment to calm down.  Children will appreciate knowing that sometimes Mommy and Daddy need their own time-in.

Dealing with meltdowns and upset children is never easy.  But our goal throughout parenting our children should always be maintaining a strong connection and trust with them.  Believe me, you will be grateful when your children are teenagers and feel free to come to you about anything!

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Guest Post: Remaining Connected With Children As God Does With Us By Amanda Hughes

Note: Amanda is a very good friend of mine.  I was saddened that the Facebook group in which she originally posted this kicked her out for promoting gentle, Christ-like parenting. The Church is very broken indeed.

I posted this on a Christian homeschooling page and it got lots of likes in response to a few common parenting challenges. I got a few likes so I figure I would share just my own words here:

I think a lot of it has to do with perspective of children and God.

I have been asked before about what I do with talking back…And I wonder if my kids have ever done it. I just never thought about it or viewed what my children say as talking back. I think it is communication. So maybe they have, but I just don’t view discussion as talking back. I don’t expect first time obedience because at the age of 41.999999 I am not first time obedient to my Lord. So I “talk back” to Him. I go kicking and screaming sometimes to what God tells me to do. Yes, I talk back to him, I communicate and let Him know what my priorities are and what my hoped outcomes are. He never silences me. He is always so patient. He understands that I am just human and I often consider my wishes. But as I mature I talk to God about working His will in my life, but yes I still share my concerns. He is Abba. He loves me. He wants to hear my thoughts.

Yelling is hard because I think it is normal for children. They want to be heard. And it drives me crazy sometimes. So I start whispering to them. They think I am crazy. Maybe they yelled so much I went crazy. But *I* set the tone…*I* lead the home. So I cannot yell and then expect them not to. And I am not a yeller, I just need to be heard as my words are a priority as the mother. I am in charge. So then I start whispering and ask different kids about something that interests them. I give them attention so they know they are heard. And I think it is hard sometimes for our kids to be heard, particularly when we have many large familes like mine. So we need to hear them just when they speak, or whisper and acknowledge what they are saying. They don’t need to yell to be heard.

I have a son I had such a hard time with until I figured him out. I remember we went to Target and I just needed a birthday card. But he wanted to look at toys. He threw a fit!!! We had to get to the birthday party though. So finally I spoke with him face to face. I said I so much loved looking at toys with him, even when it is just to look. I enjoy seeing what he likes and it was always special time with him. I wanted to be clear with him that I heard him, I understood him, I agreed with him, I loved him – but this one time we could not make time for it. I hoped next time we would have more time to just look at the toy section together and we could see really cool things. Just like that, perfectly calm and compliant. He has a need to be heard and understood.

So I could do the “Because I said so..” route. Or I could connect, hear and acknowledge. And yes it took some time, but it went so much better without ruining relationship. Ruining relationship wasn’t the goal of my quick Target trip.

Disobeying is back to the idea that it is not realistic. Obedience cannot be achieved until a person has accepted Chirst and has been gifted the Fruits of the Spirit. If they do not have self control, they cannot obey. The Holy Spirit works within them, maturing them into a more Christlike being where the spirit of Self Control can overcome a child’s egotistical nature. If a child doesn’t feel like their needs are met, their wants are heard – they cannot consider what others are asking of them.

So I compare it to the mission field. We are in the mission field as homeschooling mothers. When missionaries are trained they are not directed to FORCE tribal people to maintain their moral code or else. They are told to go and meet the needs of the people, learn their culture and language. They work on clean water, medical needs, building a school, etc. They help them before they witness to them. And they need to accept Christ before they can be “expected” to maintain the Christian moral code. It isn’t that the missionaries put tribal people in time out or spank them if they do not meet their standards. No, they meet their needs.

Through the process of relationship building. Teaching that each person’s needs matter. And being the authority because you meet all the needs, keep them safe, teach them (discipleship), feed them, etc – they know you are the one in charge and what you say is to be followed.  They trust you!

My kids do not want to disappoint me. They know through my servant leadership, grace, mercy and forgiveness – that is not only how people are treated because that is all they have ever known. They know that I love them, and they do not want to let me down, because I have never let them down. It is all about relationship. And even though I do not focus on obedience, my kids are obedient. Obedience is a heart issue, not a physical – follow what I say or else – God works on their hearts and they are becoming more Christ like. I focus them on God not me. He is high and holy and I am not. The result is obedient kids.

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Peace On Earth

The following commercial from Pampers diapers always makes me cry every year at Christmas time.

These precious, innocent babies are the pinnacle of God’s creation and I always wonder how anyone in their right mind could believe that they are “sinful” or “manipulative.” 

These babies are beautiful human beings; people think it’s perfectly fine, and even “godly,” to treat them harshly in order to “train” them to be peaceful, godly people.  It breaks my heart every time, especially this time of year when we are celebrating God coming down as a baby to save us all!  Check out this post about God being a baby.

Jesus lifted children’s status in the world, and called us to be more like them and treat them with respect and kindness.  And yet, “Christians” still advocate for letting them cry-it-out, for spanking/hitting them, and for using other harsh punishment on them.  But that isn’t how Jesus was when He came to Earth.  He brought real peace.

He treated everyone with love and discipled them.  He corrected people through His Words, not through violence.  Then when it was time, He died a violent death for all of us!

Even with satan, He used His Word to stop him.  In the Temple when He got angry at the people taking advantage of the poor in His Father’s House, He did not hit anyone with the whip.  He simply wanted them out immediately.

We want peace on Earth but we are not willing to follow after Jesus’s example.  Jesus would never leave a baby to cry-it-out, spank/hit a child, or send a child away to “think” about what he/she has done.  

No, Jesus would comfort, disciple, love, guide, protect, teach, correct, forgive, and offer mercy and grace to the little ones.  After all, the Kingdom of God belongs to the little ones.

“But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16, NASB).

And here is what the prophet Isaiah called Jesus:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, KJV).

If we truly want peace on Earth this Christmas, may we strive to parent our beautiful children the way the Prince of Peace, Our AWESOME Lord and Savior would parent them.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:8-14, KJV).

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Another Tattoo, Cerebral Palsy, And The Ongoing NeedTo Prove Myself

A week ago I got another tattoo for my mother-in-law. Again, due to how I have been treated throughout my life because people always underestimate me and have even put me down, I felt the need to prove that I could handle a much more detailed tattoo. See here to read about my first tattoo.

Thankfully, some of my family, including my mom and my husband, have always been supportive of me.  My mom wanted to be here to help with my second tattoo, but she lives in Kansas.  I missed having her there as she is a tattoo person too.

I am beyond happy!  I did even better than last time. My tattoo artist began easy by retouching my Mickey. Then she gave me 3 fonts to choose from for the “big hug” that I added to my grandpa tattoo, and I immediately picked the middle font. We decided to put it at the top of the grandpa tattoo!  That went so well!  We were a bit worried about doing font with me due to my startle reflex that I have no control over.  The significance of adding “big hug” is that from the time of AOL instant messenger, my grandpa and I chatted every week if at all possible since it’s very hard to understand me over the phone as my speech is very slurred because of my severe cerebral palsy. So at the end of EVERY chat, we’d say, “Big hug! I got mine! Here’s one back.” It satisfied us until we got to see each other again and get the real hug!  Oh my, I’m crying again.  Now “big hug” is forever on me and I will NEVER forget that very special thing between us until I see him again and finally get many big hugs for eternity! I love you, Grandpa!  So now my grandpa tattoo is complete!

Then it was onto my tattoo for my beloved mother-in-law. The cardinal is my sign from her in Heaven. She was like my second mom and accepted me into her family! We were very, very close. Her birthday is on Halloween so my husband came up with the jack-o-lantern idea. Then my artist  added the harvest moon and hazy clouds. I was nervous about the details, but it went better than I could have ever imagined!!

Eventually my startle reflex quit.  I took the same medications as last time to slow down my spasms.  My husband strapped me all up in my wheelchair, including my arms since we didn’t have my mom there to help as we did last time. My husband sat on the floor and held my leg.  I can’t believe how well it all went.

To me, the shading hurts less than the outline. And my artist and my husband talked the whole time and I talked some, but I didn’t want to move too much. She said that I really did a great job!  I only took one break to get a drink of orange juice. Everyone loved it at the shop!  I am so proud of myself for doing so well with the pain, but I ended up getting used to it. And the conversation was so cool and interesting that it kept me distracted.

I’m always second guessing myself in everything that I do.  The voices that told me throughout my life that I would never amount to much are always somewhere in my head despite my, thankfully, strong will.  This is why I hate that many Christians believe that they must break their children’s wills. They are really doing a great deal of harm to their children because it often takes a strong will to do what is right in God’s eyes and not what others think is “good.”

I again hugged me tattoo artist afterwards!   My tattoos are the most beautiful things ever!  It was sore like a sunburn but it was worth everything!  It all took 2 hours!   I was tired but so excited!   Another huge accomplishment for me!  Thank You, Jesus!  It felt so good walking out into the cool air when we left the tattoo shop because I was hot from all that!

I sat here at home for a while with my sweatpants down and just looked at it!!  I cried!  There is so much symbolism behind these tattoos.  Symbols of love and acceptance by family members.  Symbols of remembrance and the hope of being reunited with them some day thanks to Jesus’s amazing gift of grace and forgiveness!  Symbols of being able to overcome, with God’s help, the negative messages that were put into my head from the time that I was a small child.

My next tattoo is January 27th to get my first kitty, Sara. I’m doing it on the 10 year anniversary of her going Home!  I’ve wanted tattoos for so long and never thought it would work with me but I proved that wrong!!  I feel like I can now get through this horrible grief because I got through the tattoos with flying colors!!  Thank You, Jesus!

Children need to be taught how to believe in themselves and to trust God. Only through gentle discipline is achieved. I will probably always struggle with believing in myself and totally trusting God no matter how much I continue to overcome. I wish all children could have what I didn’t growing up.

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My grandpa tattoo and my mom-in-law tattoo.

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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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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Guest Post: Gentle Parenting May Have Saved My Children’s Lives By Donia Varnon

I tell the story of both of my kids in regards to running into streets/parking lots to a lot of people because that question comes up so often. I found peaceful parenting when my first was about a year old. We don’t do any punishments or rewards with our kids. I don’t yell at my kids and I don’t use the word “no” very often. It’s not that I let them do what they want (we have some pretty firm limits on certain things), but I had learned that children will begin to tune out the word “no” if they hear it to often so I try to use different ways to tell them when we can’t do something. 

So anyway, when my first was a little over two, we were leaving a building and my hands were full. She was always great about walking with me but this time she took off out the door running towards the car, (which was parked right outside the door) but she was headed to the back of the car because she knew I was putting stuff in the back. It’s a little used parking lot but at that moment someone came tearing into it at a rate of speed not really appropriate for a parking lot and it scared me to death that she would run out from behind our car, the other driver wouldn’t see her, and he would hit her. There was no way I could catch her. I shouted “STOP!!” She immediately stopped, turned back to look at me, and came straight to me.

There was no fear in her eyes, only trust. She knew I wasn’t going to hurt her and she also knew that mom never uses that voice to talk to her so this must be super important. At that moment, I was so thankful that I don’t yell at or spank my kids.

Fast forward a few years and I have another crazy little toddler (also two years old, also being raised without punishments). We had to leave somewhere and she wasn’t happy about it so she was crying and sat down on the curb with her arms crossed because she was angry. I was standing just a few feet from her giving her a little space to calm down. In typical unpredictable fashion, she jumped up from the curb and took off into the street but on the opposite side of a car from where I was. She was angry and there was a car coming down the busy street that I knew had no way to see her in between the parked cars and was going too fast to stop. I was even more frightened because this kid is so hard-headed and persistent but there was no way for me to reach her so I did the same thing. “STOP!!

Exact same reaction as my first daughter. She immediately stopped, turned to look at me and came to me. I don’t know if the result would have been the same had my parenting styles been different. Maybe it would…..but I have my doubts. I think peaceful parenting saved my kids’ lives.  I also think that even if spanking would accomplish the same thing, why use it if a peaceful alternative works just as well or better?

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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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Relationships Matter. God Is A Relational God.

As I have been corresponding with people who are on the fence about gentle discipline, it hit me that God is a relational God.  Everything He does is to get us to become closer to Him.  That’s why it makes me sad that so many Christians believe that He does bad things “for our good.”  That doesn’t make us feel closer to Him unless we have some sadomachistic tendencies going on in us.

When it comes to disciplining our children, I find myself covering the same issues with punitive parents who just don’t understand what discipline really is.  So I am going to cover it again here.

Discipline looks at the whole child instead of focusing on behavior. When you understand the child and where he/she is in his/her development, you can set appropriate limits and figure out the whys behind behavior. Children are so much more than a set of behaviors or “sins.”  They are complicated, competent human beings that need our guidance.  They are new to this world and have immature brains and bodies.  This should not be used against them, but it often is.

Going from using external control such as spankings, time-outs, and taking away privileges in an arbitrary way to using internal motivation by meeting needs, setting limits, allowing natural consequences of choices to happen, validating feelings, allowing appropriate choices, giving alternative appropriate behavior and/or ways of expressing feelings, using time-in to settle down with the children and connect instead of isolating them is tough. It takes a lot of work and patience.

We use the Fruit of the Spirit A LOT when we choose to discipline rather than punish. But this is true discipline.  To grow heathy fruit, we must cultivate it, water it, and give it plenty of sunshine.  We must also do our best to protect it from the enemy, usually bugs and other animals.  We don’t beat the sprouts and fruit as that would ruin it.  So why do it to our children by beating them?

God is a relational God, so using discipline is focusing on keeping our relationships intact with our children. You may think that your relationship with your children is fine despite using punishment, but it isn’t what it could be as all children want to please their parents. They may behave out of fear instead of out of respect.  We want our children to behave because it is the right thing to do!  We want our children to have healthy relationships with others and with God.  Only true respect can teach children respect.  We must model respect to our children by respecting them and other people!  They are learning from our actions more than our words

Also, I am sure I have covered this in other posts, but I know people learn through repetition too so I will cover this again.   Fear and respect mean two totally different things.

The definition of fear is “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”

The definition of respect is “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.”

Notice fear contains the word “evil” in its definition but respect doesn’t. And throughout the Bible God tells us to NOT be afraid. Therefore, to be reverent means to respect, not afraid.

Since God is a relational God, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to treat our children in a manner that produces a healthy relationship with us? We work hard to have good marriages by treating our spouses with love and respect.  Why should it be any different with our children?  God is over us and yet He calls us His friends (John 15:15, James 2:23, Romans 5:10).  May we treat our children how God treats us.

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Guest Post: What’s The Alternative If You Don’t Spank? By Dara Stoltzfus

People who spank seem to believe that if they don’t spank, the only other alternative is to let the kids run wild, rule the roost, and become tyrannical delinquents.

But for those of us who have stopped spanking, we know how hard it is to “do” something without hitting.

Just recently my 10 y/o and my 8 y/o had a conflict. The 10 y/o was mostly at fault. She’d called her little sister a name and pushed her. When things like this happen, it triggers the old spanking circuits in my brain. Everything inside me wanted to scold her, yell at her, and punish her…to make her suffer for having done wrong.

So I called her to come talk to me and gave myself a quick “pep” talk as I waited for her.

I resisted the urge to scold and punish…and chose…to discipline instead.

I asked her questions about what happened and I gave her examples I hoped she could relate to.  She told me her little sister, “was being rude and irritating me so I called her a baby.”

I asked her if calling her a baby helped the situation.  I asked her if when she got mad at her little sister for being rude to her, if calling her a baby was polite.  I asked her if calling her a baby taught her little sister not to do what she’d done to irritate her again.  And I asked her why she did it. Her answer was typically childish. In her mind she did it because her little sis had irritated her. (I know grown-ups who think this way).

So I asked her if she could have done X, Y, and Z (different examples) instead of calling her a baby.  I used some funny examples too that made her smile. But with the examples of other choices she could have made, I helped her then to see that because her sister did something, it did not make her make the choice she had to call her sister a baby. SHE made the choice after her sister irritated her. She could have made 1,000 different choices but she chose to call her sister a baby. She chose to be mean.

At the beginning of the conversation she thought, “I called her a baby BECAUSE she irritated me.” At the end of the conversation she understood, “I called her a baby because I made that choice when I felt irritated by my sister.”

As we talked, tears came to her eyes several times usually when I asked the right question and I could see she came to the right conclusion. But the whole time her eyes and attention remained focused on me.

Then she told me some things that have been bothering her about what her older siblings have done to her, and more tears came. We talked about those things and I encouraged her not to follow their examples.

It took 10-15 minutes to get through this conversation and in the end…she sat down on my lap and hugged me, thanked me for helping her, gave me a kiss, and told me, “I love you.”

A few minutes later…all on her own…I heard her tell her little sister in all sincerity, “I’m sorry I was mean to you.”

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THIS is what happens when you don’t spank your children.

Had I still been a spanking parent…this would have ended in 30 seconds with a few whacks of a paddle, resulting in tears of pain and an obligatory apology. But instead it took 10 minutes and ended in tears of thankfulness and understanding.

NOT spanking is more painful for the (usually busy) parent in that it takes a lot longer to handle things…and takes a lot more mental energy, willpower, maturity, thoughtfulness, and creativeness on the part of the parent…but the results are worth the effort.

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