Meekness Matters!

Here are some quotes that have been going through my head lately.

“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright, al…
You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don’t you know know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright” ~Revolution by The Beatles.

Also:

Romans 15:1-7:
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

And:

Proverbs 26:20-27:
“Without wood a fire goes out;
without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to the inmost parts.
Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,
but in their hearts they harbor deceit.
Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,
for seven abominations fill their hearts.
Their malice may be concealed by deception,
but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.”

There’s a lot going on in the world today and I’m finding that people are drawn to arguments, hate, aggression, and even violence.  Nobody truly wants to hear each other.  We take our sides and to heck with anyone who dares to disagree.

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I must admit that I am not innocent in this.  I used to regularly go on the attack (without meaning to) with pro-spankers as well as other political topics that people disagree about with me.  Yet, I always tried to draw the line with personal attacks because as a Christ-follower, I am called to love.  I have had to do a lot of apologizing though.  I am far from perfect.  I mess up constantly.

But I do try to be respectful to everyone.

I have learned over the years that trying to force change doesn’t work!  It only makes the other side tune us out and dig their heels in even more.  It certainly does with me.

The Bible talks about this a great deal.  Here are a few more verses:

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

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

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. …” (James 3:5-12, ESV).

And Jesus said,

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).

Clearly, God does not want us to force things with anyone. It’s perfectly okay to be passionate about topics.  Anyone who has been following me for a while and has read my book knows that I am extremely passionate about treating children from conception to adulthood with respect and gentleness!

So when an issue arose on my Facebook page where I was trying to be respectful and still stand by my belief that all circumcision is hurtful to baby boys, and yet still respect the Jewish religion, I was taken aback by the amount of hate and force in the comments.  All of the hateful comments were deleted.

During the writing of this post, I discovered that the original post shared by one of my admins on my professional Facebook page that upset a Jewish person was in no way inflammatory.  Sometimes we can’t win either way, but read on to understand how to reach more people.

You know, human beings are reading your comments and have feelings too.  I believe the majority of anti-circumcision comments were from gentle parents as we don’t like anything that is harmful to children.  Yet, a Jewish friend of mine had reassured me that the way they do it minimizes the pain and trauma of the baby boy. Most of the anti-circumcision comments claimed that this was totally untrue.

However, I’m well aware that every Jewish ceremony is different.  I was not condoning circumcision, I was simply trying to show respect for the Jewish religion. I may have even been given misinformation after reading some of the respectful information that was placed on the thread. 

I have since learned that some mohels do use topical anesthesia to help with pain relief during the circumcision while others do not.  They do not remove as much skin as the medical community does nor do they use the same equipment as the medical community which is supposed to make the procedure less painful than the hospital circumcisions.

This being said, from what I understand, every mohel removes a different amount of skin from the newborn’s penis.

Being a tattoo person now, I’ve discovered that different areas hurt more than others. But being poked with needles, even though they don’t go deep, hurts everywhere on the body. So I just don’t understand how anyone can say that cutting the baby’s penis doesn’t hurt much. Plus, unlike adults, infants cannot prepare for the pain!  We can take deep breaths to deal with something painful.  But out of nowhere the boy’s penis is cut.  He has no way of preparing for the pain.  And after anesthesia wears off, he will have soreness.

I do understand that circumcision is a commandment; if one still lives by the Law, he/she must obey the commandment.  I encourage all Jews to come to know Yashua HaMeshia.

Click here for why circumcision really isn’t necessary.  And click here for resources for Jews as some are choosing another ceremony that does not involve circumcision.  And for Christians, click here and here to see that we live by grace and absolutely do not need to circumcise our sons.

“For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19, ESV).

Galatians 5:2-11, ESV:

“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.  You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.”

I also know many people who regret circumcising their sons. Like with spanking or cry-it-out, some just don’t know any better. Know better, do better.  I also believe that stuff that permanently change children’s bodies should wait until they can give consent.

I don’t think parents who have had their sons circumcised are bad or abusive.

There’s a meme going around that says, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” by Desmond Tutu.  While I agree with this in many, many situations, I actually believe that sometimes we need to be a bit more neutral in order for people to truly hear us.

For example, anyone who is familiar with me knows that I am hard core against spanking/hitting children!  I believe that it is abuse!  That said, sometimes I share less aggressive posts about spanking in case a pro-spanker is on the fence and a less aggressive stance on spanking may change his/her mind and lead him/her to gentle parenting.

Do I agree with these posts?  No.

Do I wish that they were stronger in their stance against corporal punishment?  Yes!

But the fact remains that people are more likely to actually listen to us when we present information in a non-inflammatory manner.

Also, as gentle parents, we know, or should know, that when children are upset, stressed out, having a meltdown, or needing a physical or emotional need met that they cannot learn whatever lesson we may want them to learn. Their brains are literally overwhelmed and we must wait until they are calm and receptive to us before we can really teach them.

The same is true for adults.  I have had this experience myself.  In fact, I’m, unfortunately, again dealing with fresh grief and when anyone comes at me with information, especially if it’s in a hostile manner, I just get so overwhelmed and have to walk away.  That’s exactly what I did when my Facebook post got so out of control with mean, angry, accusing comments.  I tried to reason with people on both sides but when it became clear that most people didn’t want to discuss, but rather shame each other, I walked away.  I’m very grateful for my other admins on my page who took over for me and deleted and banned the haters.

Meeknes A.K.A. gentleness matters. Our children are watching us constantly. If we truly a more peaceful world then we had better start treating everyone in a peaceful manner or walk away from the haters. Hate, violence, cyber bullying, aggression are NOT okay.  Peace and change begins with us!  Let’s stop using our screens to hide behind in order to attack others and start engaging in true conversations with each other.

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Clarifying Respect And Age

A while ago I wrote a post in which I stated that I don’t believe people should be respected solely because they are older and that true respect is mutual.

Beka from “Climb A Tree With Me” created this meme from that blog post.

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Some people had a hard time with this, so let me see if I can explain. I know not everyone will agree with me because we still live in an age where “respect your elders” is shoved down our throats from birth and if children dare assert themselves in a way that is deemed “disrespectful” to their elders, they are punished.

If you spend time reading my blog and book and other social media outlets, you know that I am a huge advocate for respecting everyone from conception to death. I don’t see age as a requirement for automatic respect. Everyone deserves basic respect, kindness, and courtesy.

The problem is that some people abuse their position as an authority figure or as an older adult to demand respect. As I pointed out in my blog post to which I linked at the beginning of this post, this often occurs in the parent-child relationship.  The parent demands respect from the child, but doesn’t treat the child with the same respect.

A child who is not raised with respect will not respect the parent.  He/she fears the parent and then becomes rebellious and/or resentful.  How can we expect children to respect us when we treat them as second-class citizens?

Childism is alive and well in our society. Here’s the definition of childism:

“Childism is defined as ‘a prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs'” (Gold, 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/child-in-mind/201201/understanding-childism-are-we-prejudiced-against-children).

This comes in the form of abortion, cry-it-out, demanding things from children that they are incapable of doing, yelling at them, saying harsh things to them, shaming them, spanking/hitting, grounding them, not listening to them, not taking them seriously, and just acting as if they are far below us.

The worst thing is that children have no voice!  Every other minority group has formed groups to give them a voice and change the way they are perceived and treated, albeit we have a long way to go in how minorities are perceived and treated in this world, but at least they have a voice.

Since children don’t have a voice, it’s up to people who see them as the beautiful human beings that they are to speak up for them. As someone who wasn’t always treated with respect by my elders, I am even more passionate about this. And due to my severe cerebral palsy, I still often get patronized and disrespected by adults of every age.

And, as I pointed out in my original post about this, sometimes disrespect continues in family relationships as the stronger one tries to bully, shame, and manipulate the “weaker” one.  When this happens, the most respectful thing to do is to set boundaries and/or walk away.  I have had to do this many times throughout my adulthood.

Unfortunately, children cannot “just walk away” or set boundaries.  Children are stuck in that relationship until they are adults.  This is not fair.

Children are born social beings who love unconditionally!  They are just learning about everything and we are their teachers. We teach respect by being respectful to them.  This does not mean we don’t set limits and boundaries or don’t discipline them.  It means we discipline them without punishing them and without being harsh.

Yes, everyone deserves respect. The elderly deserve respect. But just because we are a certain age doesn’t give us the right to demand and force respect. Respect is earned by being respectful and apologizing when we mess up.  

This world is becoming less and less respectful. It’s not because we’re not “disciplining aka punishing” children, it’s because we are treating them with less respect.  

Respectful children have been raised with true respect, and thus, offer true respect to their elders.

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A Mishmash Of Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Encouraging Self-Expression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My rainbow hair and most recent tattoos.

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

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

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“Do Not Repay Evil For Evil.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Respecting The Body And Teaching Consent

For Valentine’s Day I surprised my husband with a beautiful tattoo that symbolizes our love and our Christ centered marriage.  I got this tattoo on my lower left arm.  This was my first arm tattoo, so I was a bit nervous about how it would go with my spasms due to my severe cerebral palsy.

If you have been following me for a while, you know that this is my fourth tattoo.  My mom was here again but after she helped us figure out how to strap my arm down tightly, she was able to enjoy watching her daughter get another detailed tattoo.

I feel like I need to write about my tattoo experiences because I know I went searching for other people with severe cerebral palsy who had successfully gotten tattooed when I first made up my mind that I was going to do it.  I needed to know that others like me were able to do this.  So I am putting my experiences out there for anyone else that is like me and wants tattoos.

Plus, there’s always an element of getting a tattoo that relates to parenting and respecting children which is something I am obviously very passionate about.

To read about my first three tattoo experiences and how they relate to parenting, click here, here, and here.

For this tattoo, I took the same medications as always for my spasms and we strapped my arm down to my arm rest of my wheelchair in two different places.  Then my husband held my hand down quite tightly.  My tattoo artist is a miracle worker and did an excellent job!  While there was slightly more movement with my arm than my legs, within twenty minutes my body stopped reacting so much to the needles and I was fine.

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My beautiful tattoo for my husband symbolizing our love and Christ centered marriage. The lettering is our special way of saying “I love you!”

Since I had to be strapped down and held down again for the tattoo, it got me thinking about respecting children’s bodies and teaching children consent from birth.  We’ve all seen it and maybe even have done it.  You see a cute baby and just have to touch him/her.  But what if the baby really doesn’t want to be touched?  This is especially true if you’re a stranger.

Let’s face it. We don’t respect children’s bodies.

Even before they are born, many people think its okay to dismember the baby’s body if the mother doesn’t want the child.

Then after birth, infants are touched, poked, tickled, squeezed, scooped up, gently pinched against their wills.

Then there’s the issue of corporal punishment.  Sadly, many pro-spanking advocates tell parents to even sit on the child to spank/hit him/her.  Even when children submit to spankings, they are being forced to do so out of fear, guilt, not wanting multiple spankings, and needing acceptance from their parents again.  But they really don’t have a choice as they learn that their parents will make them submit.

Even older children are touched by complete, albeit well-meaning, strangers against their wishes.

Here’s a recent story from my dear friend, Meagan Longest, about an experience with her daughter at a store:

“An old man patted Wynnie at the grocery store today. She was holding onto the side of the cart. She looks up at him, almost cries and then runs to me at the back of the cart.
Wynnie: He touch me mom. Whyyyyy?
Me: I know, honey. That’s not okay.
Wynnie: That’s MY body, mommy.
Me: You’re right. It’s your body and no one should touch it without YOUR permission (While giving an evil eye to the old man and his daughter who was starting to get pissed).
I almost lost it.
Moral of the story- start teaching consent at birth. And don’t effing touch a child without their permission.”

Sure, that old man probably didn’t mean any harm, but in today’s world, we just never know.  And how would you feel if a stranger patted you out of nowhere?

I guess I understand this more than some people do because well-meaning people get in my personal space and touch me without my consent.  Due to my very slurred speech, I can’t just say, “Please don’t hug me.”  “Please move out of my face a bit.”  It’s very uncomfortable and I just sit there and deal with it so I don’t hurt people’s feelings.

The reality is that we all have the right not to have our personal spaces invaded by anyone without giving our consent.  We need to respect each other’s bodies!

You may be asking, “What about needing to restrain children for care and/or medical procedures?”  When a child is given shots, I strongly believe that they should be held in their parents’ laps.  There’s never a reason to hold a child down on a table for shots.  If your pediatrician doesn’t encourage you to hold your children on your lap for shots and even other simple procedures, then please find another doctor.

As far as giving care, if you must hold them against their wills, always talk to them about what you’re doing and why.  Validate their feelings.  Say, for example, “Oh I know you don’t like me holding you right now but we have to get your diaper changed.  Can you help me by lifting your bottom?”

It helps to try and make sure the child is ready for the transition into care. It also helps to be playful about it when you know your child may resist.  The key is teaching children that you respect them and always try to wait for their consent before moving forward. Even for newborns, this can be done by telling them before you pick them up and waiting for some clue that they are ready to be picked up. Moving slowly with infants also helps to teach them consent and that we respect them.  Please see this post for more information about respecting infants.

As children grow, it’s so important to teach children that no one should ever touch them without their ok.  Even people they know should always ask before touching them.  It’s just basic respect.  We invite people in and out by our body language most of the time, but children are not skilled at this and many adults ignore them anyway, so allowing children to say, “No!” is very, very important!

Also, teaching children to respect others is equally important.  Teaching them to not touch someone that doesn’t want to be touched helps them to respect others.

The majority of sexual abuse and assault cases happen with people that children know!  This is extremely scary!  If children are taught to obey their elders no matter what, it’s really setting them up for potential sexual abuse and assault.  We can’t allow this!

If people don’t understand why you are allowing your children to give or not give consent, just explain that you want them to have control over their own bodies.  Tell them that you don’t just let people touch you, so why should children have to allow people to touch them when they don’t want anyone to touch them?

Children are human beings and deserve respect.  I consented to being strapped down for tattoos, children should have the power to consent to being touched.  It’s about respecting each other’s bodies and personal space no matter what the age is.

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Ghosts, Goblins, And Witches: Oh My!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Using Detective Work To Meet Your Children’s Needs

Gentle parenting looks at the whole child instead of just the behavior. Children often act out in order to communicate a need to us.  So many times parents focus solely on the unwanted behavior and ignore the fact that the child is trying to communicate.

We need to understand that there is usually an unmet need behind unwanted behaviors. Once we can figure out that need and meet it, the unwanted behavior usually disappears. For example, a child who is getting sick may exhibit more aggression. If a child has a more serious condition such as a sensory processing disorder or Autism, they may exhibit more unwanted behaviors.

Instead of thinking that a child is being defiant or manipulative and punishing the child, we need to understand he or she probably has an unmet need. A little detective work can help a great deal in stopping unwanted behaviors.

That detective work includes something called tarry time. Tarry time is when we give children ages birth to five a few moments to process verbal stimuli. The young brain takes longer to process new experiences. Giving children time to process and respond to us is very helpful.

For example, waiting ten seconds before repeating a request can allow the child to cooperate. It is developmentally inappropriate to expect young children to always respond immediately. In an emergency be prepared to help the child cooperate.

Parents and caregivers may find tarry time is beneficial for them too. When confronted with a stressful situation, taking time to count to ten can help us remain as calm as possible.

Understanding that all children have needs is crucial for treating them with respect.  Ignoring a need and/or punishing the child for having a need will only make the child act out more.  Listen to your children.  Validate their feelings and try to meet their needs as much as possible.  You will find that your children will be more respectful to your own needs.

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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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The Problem With The New Study Claiming Cry-It-Out Isn’t Harmful To Infants

Some researchers in Australia conducted a study in which 43 infants ranging from six months to 16 months were either allowed to cry for longer periods of time, had graduated extinction, or had their bedtimes moved back to help the infants fall asleep quicker claim that the infants who were allowed to cry-it-out had no negative effects.

There are a number of problems with this study from a scholarly standpoint.

1.  The  study was extremely small and did not specify what ages were in the different groups.  Allowing a toddler or older infant to fuss for a few minutes with our support as they fall asleep is much different than a young infant being left to cry for ten or more minutes.  This leads me to my second issue with this study.

2.  We are not told how long the infants in the cry-it-out group were allowed to cry.  Were they totally alone when they were allowed to cry-it-out or was the parent nearby?  Sometimes when weaning or adjusting bedtime routines, infants cry and if you hold them or rub their backs as they cry, their stress levels are much lower than just being put down in a crib alone with no support.

3.  The researchers claim to have “measured the stress hormone cortisol in the babies’ saliva in the afternoon and the morning during the treatment. They also used ankle monitors to track how often the babies in each group were waking throughout the night” (Bowerman, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/05/24/study-infant-baby-sleep-method-cry-it-out-wont-damage-child/84838958/).  The morning and afternoon but not at night when the stress is happening?  This makes no sense.  Especially when many, many other studies measure the infants’ heart rates, blood pressure, and stress hormones have shown that being left alone to cry-it-out does, in fact, stress infants out.  Just swabbing the infants’ mouths twice a day and using a bracelet to count how long the infants stay asleep is not enough to conclude that cry-it-out isn’t harmful.

4.  They allowed the parents to change groups and the control group was the one that just continued with their bedtime routines. So, we are not told what the bedtime routines of the control group were. We are not told what the other groups routines were either.  We don’t know if the infants were teething, sick, co-sleeping, or what happened when the infants woke up in the night.  We are not told about the family life of these infants.  We are not told about their development.  So many things can affect an infant’s sleep pattern.

5.  So the study claims that infants allowed to cry-it-out slept longer.  This is not necessarily a good thing!  Being exhausted from crying does not lead to healthy sleep.  Any adult who has cried themselves to sleep knows that you don’t wake up very rested. Actually, you’re exhausted.  Also, for infants their brain actually shuts down from crying because of all the stress of nobody answering.  This is NOT healthy nor is it good!  In fact, reliable and valid research shows that:

”Sleep techniques that employ prolonged crying to ‘teach’ an infant to sleep simply teach the infant that the mother will not respond as he or she expects. As a consequence, the infant cannot rely on the mother’s care and for survival, and he or she must conserve energy, since the mother as a food source is now unpredictable. The infant therefore ceases to cry when crying fails to produce a response, and presents the appearance of sleep (shuts down activity). This leads parents to think they have successfully sleep trained their baby, while the baby is responding to the possibility it has been abandoned, and attempting to conserve energy to stay alive“ (Ball, 2015, http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby-sleep/cry-it-out/).

6.  There are years and years of research by credible doctors and early childhood professionals that prove that cry-it-out is emotionally and physically harmful to infants. And what about the studies by Rene Spitz, Harry Harlow, Mary Ainsworth, Emmi Pikler, John Bowlby backing up and proving how detrimental it is for infants if they don’t receive sensitive, respectful care 24/7?   Are we supposed discount all thes valid and reliable studies by top researchers in the field for this one very flawed study?  Gosh, children are people too!

Dr. Bruce Perry is another person that shows neglecting babies’ need for touch and sensitive care has detrimental effects on their brain development. The first 5 years are crucial. So many people don’t understand just how vulnerable the young brain is. Yes, most survive harsh parenting practices such as cry-it-out andspanking/hitting but the damage IS there!!

7.  The researchers do not define what secure attachment is.  The children can seem attached on the surface but there are a number of attachment issues that can occur in children who are not sensitively cared for.  Please read this post I wrote for more info about different attachment issues.

In sum, this was a very flawed study.  It is not credible nor reliable.  Infants need sensitive, respectful care 24/7.  There are resources to gently help infants and parents sleep such as Elizabeth Pantley’s book, The No Cry Sleep Solution.

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References:

Ball, H.  (2015).   Cry It Out – 6 Educated Professionals Who Advise Against It.
http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby-sleep/cry-it-out/

Bowerman, M.  (2016). Study: Letting baby ‘cry it out’ won’t cause damage.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/05/24/study-infant-baby-sleep-method-cry-it-out-wont-damage-child/84838958/.

Child Trauma Academy.  (2016). http://childtrauma.org

Cox, S.  (2011).  Attachment Theory- Why NOT to Train a Baby.  http://whynottrainachild.com/articles/attachment-theory/.

Epstein, V. (2015).  Should You Let Baby Cry It Out?  http://www.kars4kids.org/blog/cry-it-out/.

Kim, M.  (2005).  Cry It Out: The Potential Dangers of Leaving Your Baby to Cry.  http://drbenkim.com/articles-attachment-parenting.html.

Narvaez, D.  (2011).  Dangers of “Crying It Out.”  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out.

Sears, W.  (2016).  Let Baby Cry It Out: Yes or No?  http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/letting-baby-cry-it-out-yes-no.

Word of Mom Blogs.  (2016).  BLOG: Letting Your Baby Cry It Out – Really Bad Idea.  http://www.whattoexpect.com/blogs/parenting-three-when-can-i-pee/letting-your-baby-cry-it-out-really-bad-idea.

Recommended Reading:

New Cry-It-Out Study Misses the Mark

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry

Gentle Sleep Resources