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

Permissive Parenting Hurts Gentle Parenting

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.

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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!

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Cooperation Is More Important Than Obedience In The Parent-Child Relationship

For the majority of Christian families there is a real emphasis on making children obey their parents. Everything seems to center on obedience. When children don’t obey, parents feel they must punish the children through spanking/hitting or other types of harsh punishment. These well-meaning Christian parents believe that if they don’t teach their children to obey authority, then they won’t obey God.

Yes, the Bible tells children to obey their parent in Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20. However, this is directed at children, not parents.  Parents seem to ignore Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, which states, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” “Fathers” can also be translated into “Parents.”

Nowhere in the family living instruction Scriptures in Ephesians or Colossians does it tell parents to force their children to “obey them.”  In fact, the Greek word used for “obey” in both of these Scriptures is “hupotasso,” which means to voluntarily submit or listen under.

And if you read the whole passage in Ephesians, it emphasizes more mutual submission within the family where everyone has a role to play instead of a hierarchy where certain members are dominant over each other.  Sadly, many Christian families are trapped in hierarchy where the focus is on control.

This is not what God had in mind.  Yes, the husband is the head of the household, and yet the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church.  Meaning to sacrifice for her which makes her want to submit to him by listening to him and giving him respectful consideration.

This is cooperation and teamwork!

The same applies to children.  When parents give children respectful care and consideration, children are more likely to cooperate with their parents.  They learn to trust their parents.  They also learn that they are an important part of a team.

Teamwork and cooperation are key in the world!  Everywhere, when people work together, things actually get done.

I’ll be honest.  I have a real distaste for the word, “obey,” within the parent-child relationship as I saw first hand how it destroys connection instead of fostering it as cooperation does.

For example, the parent tells the child to get ready to go.  The child is trying to finish something and dawdles and/or complains.  The parent, if they don’t do first-time obedience, (which is even worse) tells the child again to get ready to leave.  If the child continues to dawdle and/or complain, the parent will say, “Obey me or I will have to spank you!”

The parent focused on cooperation will give the child multiple heads-ups that it will be time to go soon. If needed, they will validate the child’s not wanting to go and will later ask the child how to better help him/her get ready to go if the child had a hard time making the transition.

No, cooperation does NOT mean parents let children rule the roost.  Cooperation simply connects the parent and child, thus, allowing the parent to work *with* the child!  True discipleship happens in families that focus on cooperation rather than obedience.

Cooperation also removes the need for punishment.  Obedience tends to foster an attitude of “Obey me or else.”  On the other hand, cooperation allows natural consequences to happen.  It teaches. It disciples.  It even allows respectful back talk.

True obedience to God comes out of cooperation!  Real obedience cannot be taught as it is a heart issue.  I obey God because I love and trust Him.  Forced obedience to parents is fear based, and therefore, fake.  Yes, fake!  Obeying only out of fear in order to avoid being punished isn’t true obedience.

It’s very sad that some parents don’t care why their children obey as long as they obey.

Another reason why I really dislike using obedience within the parent-child relationship is we’re not God and are mere sinners. Only God is worth obeying.  He will never lead us down the wrong paths.  Humans will.

Finally, I can hear pro-spankers asking, “What about the police?  The police won’t negotiate with us.”  Yes, sometimes immediate cooperation with authority figures is a must.  Children raised with respect usually have no problem respecting other authority figures.  And we should teach children that police are there to help us, so we must always cooperate with them.  In fact, research shows that people that grew up in homes with harsh corporal punishment are at a higher risk of being criminals.

Cooperation should be our aim within the parent-child relationship.  May we foster true obedience to God by making cooperation our aim within the family.

 

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Encouragement For Dealing With Difficult People

Philippians 1:27-29 (NASB):
“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, …” 

This was today’s devotional on Biblica.com.  It really encouraged my husband and me as we’ve been dealing with some difficult people lately.

Anyone practicing and advocating gentle parenting usually end up running into those who just don’t understand why we are so passionate about treating children with respect. We tend to get put down and berated for not spanking/hitting or otherwise punishing our children.

It can get quite discouraging.  And lately, especially on Facebook, there seems to be more arguing and dissention over everything!  Standing for Biblical Truths seems to be highly frowned upon nowadays. 

Thankfully, we can take courage in the above Scripture. We don’t have to be alarmed by our opponents (easier said than done. Trust me, I know!). Jesus has been right where we are. He had to even walk away and shake the dust off His feet when people would ignore and insult Him. Then on the Cross He put up with horrific treatment.

I often mess up when dealing with difficult people. It’s hard to be insulted and put down for teaching gentleness and love for children. But Jesus gives me grace when I fail. He’ll do the same for you.

And when we show kindness to difficult people, we show them the Gospel. And we teach our children how to be kind to everyone while exercising boundaries when needed.  Since this is the Christmas season, may we share uplifting things with each other in order to stop some of the hate and dissention in the world.

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