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 parentswho areable 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
Respect for others.
Respect for ourselves.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.
My husband and I recently took a family trip to Florida. It was an absolutely wonderful trip. I got to meet a couple of my gentle parenting Facebook friends and their children during the trip.
It was interesting though because there were a few conversations about parents not “controlling” (I hate the word “control” when it comes to children. Children are not for controlling!) their children by a few people who don’t completely understand about gentle parenting. It did seem though that what they described, children running around a restaurant with no boundaries, was permissive parenting.
Sadly, many people mistake gentle parenting for permissive parenting. These two styles of parenting are completely different! Let me define them before I talk about why permissive parenting is hurting the gentle parenting movement.
There are actually three parenting styles. These three parenting styles are authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. If parents physically punish their children, they are authoritarian, even if they do some of the things that authoritative parents do such as listening to their children at times or offer some choices to the children. This is because authoritarian parenting stresses obedience without question, first-time obedience, strictness, and the use of punishment, especially corporal punishment, with their children.
Authoritarian parents also have very high (usually beyond what the children are developmentally capable of) expectations for their children. While authoritarian parents, in general, love their children very much and simply want the best for them, these parents tend to focus more on keeping control of their children than on using effective discipline strategies that respect the actual needs of the individual child.
Authoritative parents are firm but gentle with their children. They take the time to learn about child development and know at which stage their children are developmentally in order to gain a better understanding of their children’s behaviors.
Authoritative parents set firm, realistic boundaries and limits for their children based on the developmental stage of their children. While these parents stick to their guns on some things, such as bedtime and not allowing their children to eat cookies before suppertime, they always listen to all of their children’s feelings and validate those feelings.
In situations where negotiation can occur, such as allowing five more minutes of playtime before having their children clean up, these parents do so. These parents also give their children simple choices when appropriate, but they are not afraid to let their children know when something is not a choice and cooperation is absolutely required. When children don’t cooperate, authoritative parents will gently but firmly help their children cooperate. And these parents use natural and logical consequences with their children instead of punishment.
Permissive parenting, on the other hand, is the direct opposite of authoritarian parenting. Permissive parenting is just as harmful and abusive to children as authoritarian parenting, even though these two parenting styles are on the two polar ends when it comes to parenting styles.
Permissive parents do not set limits or boundaries for their children. And when these parents do set limits and boundaries for their children, they often don’t consistently enforce them. Some permissive parents allow their children to “walk all over them,” to have whatever they want, and rarely do these parents give their children appropriate consequences when necessary.
Other permissive parents outright neglect all of their children’s needs. They do not even give their children appropriate and necessary care. All of permissive parenting, as I said above, is abusive because either type does not provide children with what they need to thrive. It also exasperates and frustrates children not to have any discipline just like spanking them does. Permissive and authoritarian parents break God’s charge for parents not to frustrate or exasperate their children in Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21.
So when I hear about parents letting their preschool children run around in a restaurant, I cringe. Everyone there was probably thinking, “Parents today let their kids run wild. I wish they’d spank those brats.” Spanking/hitting those preschoolers would not teach them how to behave in a restaurant. Rather, spanking/hitting them would teach fear which is not a good thing.
Plus, referring to children in a derogatory manner is never good. But permissive parenting brings out the authoritarians with force.
So, how would a gentle (authoritative) parent handle this situation? First, they would have been practicing in a fun, playful way how to eat at a restaurant. They would have been modeling manners from the time the children were infants.
Second, they would know that young children can’t sit quietly for long periods of time and would have brought crayons and paper for the children to color. They also would have engaged the children in the family conversation.
Third, they would have ordered the food as soon as possible so the children didn’t have to wait as long.
And finally, if the children would have gotten antsy and started running around, the gentle parent would have stopped them and perhaps they would have left early.
Yes, gentle parents allow their children to be children, which for authoritarian parents, this may look like permissiveness because the children aren’t being “controlled,” but it isn’t. It’s respecting the children for who they are.
I had the pleasure of going out to eat with a gentle family while in Florida and the children were excellent! They were allowed to play quietly at the table. They were included in the conversation. Not once did they act up.
Respected children are better behaved because they are seen and treated like the little people that they are. Their needs are met. They are taught right from wrong without it being scary. They are aware of limits and consequences.
Permissive parenting does not treat children as little people. Children are not taught right from wrong. And they crave limits and consequences.
Worse yet, people mistake permissive parenting with gentle parenting!
If these people could hang out with children who are gentle parented, they would never confuse it with permissiveness. They also would be against spanking/hitting and other forms of punishment because gentle parented children are amazing!
Yes, all children have their not so nice moments, but hey, so do I. What I see in children who are respected is that they have empathy and can eventually put themselves in other’s shoes as that is how their parents teach them. They also don’t need to act up to get attention because attention is automatically given to them. And they don’t regularly get put in situations where it’s too much for them to handle.
Permissive parenting creates self-entitled and struggle in life just as spanked/hit children do. They don’t learn self-control either which can lead them down a bad road.
Gentle, authoritative, attachment parenting is truly the best way to raise children. Yes, there will be times when gentle parents lean toward authoritarianism or permissiveness depending on the situation, and that is okay. But people should be able to look at a family and tell if they are gentle.
I’m asking all parents to please look at your parenting and make sure you are in the authoritative, gentle, respectful parenting style. Stop making people confuse the three parenting styles. Make authoritarian parents want to come to the middle and become authoritative.
Respectful adults come from children who were respected throughout childhood!
It turns out that I am in awesome company when it comes to being accused of being from satan when it comes to teaching and promoting peace, love, mercy, forgiveness, and healing. Jesus Himself was accused of being from satan after healing a blind and mute man in Matthew 12:22-37.
Let’s look at that passage:
“Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.
If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.
You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:22-37, NASB).
Here Jesus did something awesome by healing a man and what did the people around Him do? They questioned who in the world He was. Then the Pharisees concluded that Jesus must be “satan.”
I love how Jesus answered them by pointing out:
“And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’” (Matthew 12:25-28, NASB).
What Jesus was saying was that satan cannot and would not drive out his own demon. Also, it is interesting that throughout this chapter whenever Jesus did something good and right but contradictory to the Law, the Pharisees and other teachers of the Law of Moses got angry and accused Jesus of doing the devil’s work. I find this interesting because there is no good in satan.
Yes, satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) because, after all, he was once an angel full of God’s light before he got proud and fell, but there is no good or light in satan. Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus, on the other hand, comes to give life abundantly (John 10:10).
So, why would supposedly “God-loving Christians” accuse other Christians who are trying to teach Truth and peace regarding how God wants us to treat our children of doing satan’s work and/or of being heretical? And why do they actually boast and laugh about hurting their children in Jesus’s name?
I believe the passage above has our answer. Let’s look at the end of that passage.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:33-37, NASB).
As I discuss in great detail in my book, most Christian pro-spankers were “lovingly” spanked/hit by their parents, and thus, have the message literally ingrained in their brains that having been spanked/hit in Jesus’s Name was good and right. They have denied and repressed the physical and emotional pain of being hurt by their parents.
Therefore, as this passage points out, a good tree will bear good fruit and a bad tree will bear bad fruit. We can force our children to behave exactly how we want them to behave, but this does not guarantee that they’ll have pure hearts and will bear good fruit. In fact, spanking/hitting children tends to make them angry and resentful. As Greven (1992) states:
“Anger is a child’s best (and often only) defense, for it arises out of a powerful sense of self, a self being violated and abused by painful blows and hurtful words. The child has been hurt on purpose (bolding for emphasis by author) by an adult in order to teach a lesson in discipline, but the child experiences this pain and reproach as an assault upon the self as well as upon the body. Often the result is not only anger but also hatred and a powerful desire for revenge, which often takes the form of imagined mutilation or murder of the person who inflicted the pain. These powerful emotions are permanently stored in unconscious memories, but sometimes people also remember them quite consciously, years after the events that provoked the feelings” (p. 124).
The devil is our accuser. He is the one who puts us down and tries to get God to be mad at us.
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down’” (Revelation 12:10, NASB).
So when angry “Christian” pro-spankers hurl accusations at those who are trying to help them see and understand God’s amazing love for all of us, especially children, God’s love does not shine through them. Only anger and hate comes through. The Bible makes it very clear that we are to love and bless each other and leave revenge up to God.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21, NASB).
Yes, we are to gently correct each other of sin according to Galatians 6:1-2, but the key word is gently, because accusing people and inflicting pain on them only causes fear and defensiveness. Jesus told it like it was with the Teachers of the Law, but He was always gentle. And no, He did not hit anyone with the whip He made to drive everyone out of the Temple. He loved people.
He still loves us and uses His gentle love to bring us to Him so that we may be saved.
“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, NASB).
Christ does not hurt, accuse, insult, or punish us to make us come to Him. He offers love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness to us. He is the Prince of Peace.
However, satan hurts, accuses, insults, steals, kills, and destroys. Do you really think satan wants us to discipline (teach and guide) our children in a graceful manner without inflicting pain? Jesus created children. He knows how vulnerable the young brain is and how harmful spanking/hitting is to that young, vulnerable brain. Why would the Prince of Peace who, despite being absolutely sinless, suffered and died for all of humanity’s sins call us to physically punish our children for their mistakes?
Out of our mouths come the things that are in our hearts.
I leave us with a beautiful passage that describes exactly who Jesus is.
“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes” (Isaiah 40:11, NASB).
Greven, P. (1992). Spare the child. New York, NY: Vintage Books.