Life With Nine Kids

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kids: Punishment, Shame, and Spanking

I read this: Don't Shame Children In Pursuit Of Discipline
And it's really, really good. And then a couple days later I read this: Why Aren’t We Rude to Grown-ups the Way We Are Rude to Kids? And it's really great.
Not terribly long ago I watched this: Violence - a family tradition: Robbyn Peters Bennett and it changed my life.

If you are a parent or ever deal with kids on any level I strongly recommend reading/ watching the above links. They are not that long. As a mother of eight, my oldest 17, all of those links spoke volumes to me.

The last link, a TEDx talk video, brought about full circle change in me that I had been working towards for years. It literally drained every ounce of leftover anger/frustration/impatience towards children from my body. This one video after 17 years of parenting: something REALLY just clicked. I thought I understood so many things about child development, but this really refined my understanding of what spanking really does to kids. The term I learned in this video is self-regulation. I apply it to everything my kids do now. (Too much television/screen time can harm children’s ability to self-regulate too, so I’m familiar with this concept).

 Self-regulate. Self-regulate. Self-regulate. Self-regulate! It's my favorite word. I "get" that word! I am constantly working on helping my children self-regulate now. It's my parenting mantra.

 I write about toddler and preschool challenges as a parent, particularly I've written about Sebastian because he has been the most anger filled, hard to manage, stubborn kid we've ever had. (Sage being a close second) Sebastian screams when embarrassed or upset, he hides, he thrashes, he's strong and proud, and chock full of some kind of Superman-toddler-preschool testosterone levels. Layla is the other child I've written about in detail: stubborn, moody, gloomy, and a master at debate.
I have not written much about Everett but the child is a nut. I need to write what he's up to for his (and our) amusement later in life. His name means wild boar; and my God is he ever. He's fearless, too.

I cannot change these children's personalities, they belong to them, but I can do my best to not beat them down literally or figuratively over their own personalities. I've noticed as parents we want to curb bad behavior so that we don't have "bad" kids, and that works to a certain extent, manners for example are important. But when the problem goes beyond just behavior and good manners and these kids actually have difficult personalities it's a game changer. You can't change someone's personality, it's imprinted into them. People can change themselves, but we can do very little to literally change another person.

As parents most of us barely remember what it was truly like to be a kid, and over the years of parenting (observing myself and others) I have come to the conclusion that we have to try harder --and that the trying harder thing most likely never ends.

 Every day, every month, every year I try hard in different ways and for different reasons. I try hard to do better and in the process I find better ways to talk to the kids, teach the kids, and discipline the kids without punishing or shaming them. I was not always this way; I've learned there is a better way though.

 The ONE thing I must remind myself so very often not to do is to NOT shame them, talk harshly, or judge them --even in small ways. I try to let the kids be the people they are instead of attempting to make my life easier and rush them into the people they will be one day. Ricky's really good at it. The man is gifted with so much patience it makes me drop my jaw. I have to work on it. My mood changes often, and as a fiery Aries personality my frustration and patient levels fluctuate too. My mouth is also quick to fly open; sometimes even when I'm trying hard to be patient and/or kind with the kids I'm actually being super condescending.

What has helped immensely is that I've come to realize that the stages children go through as they grow are important and purposeful. I realize that while it's interesting and easy to watch and marvel at a six month old going from sitting to crawling to standing --very important developmental milestones mind you, it's so much harder and less cute to watch kids go through some other stages. Like forgetting to brush their teeth, or forgetting putting a liner in the trash after they take it out. It's hard dealing with kids' mood swings. But, kids and teens have mood swings just like adults do! It's not cute when kids and teens juggle responsibility poorly and seem forgetful or unfocused. It's hard when toddlers: break stuff, spill things, have mood swings, have melt downs, and make bad decisions, but it's even harder when a 10, 13, 16 year old does those same things. However, it's all stuff even grown-ups do on some level or another (and learn a lot from too). It's part of human development. I get too caught up in my own life to realize it sometimes though.

The human brain isn't fully mature until 25 years old. Learning this several years ago changed the way I parented, but it continues to change the way I parent. I realized that I had done tons of research on what newborns, babies, toddlers and preschoolers needed, but not adolescents and teens. I hope I'm becoming a better mom every day to my teens. (When they read this 10 or 15 years from now I hope they see that I really am trying to be a good mom to them too, I love them with the intensity that I love the babies.)
Feature links:

A funny thing is happening now that we have teens: we have to be more accountable for our parenting. Mutual respect is always important in any relationship (parents rarely realize this) but now respect is more important than ever. If I want to achieve a healthy relationship with my teens I have to nourish a healthy non-violent relationship with them. (Remember violence can be emotional or verbal in nature not just physical.)  Why do I have to be more aware of what I'm saying or how I'm saying it to my older kids? Well, because they aren't little anymore. They have: higher thought processes, better vocabulary, and more refined personality traits. They have a more refined desire to stand up for themselves, and more hormones too. This makes me wonder how many times they would have stood up for themselves if they could have when they were younger. When they were young they wouldn't resent me long if I yelled or acted poorly or judged them harshly (or spanked them!) -but they are sure as heck more likely to now.

In hindsight it's sad to think about my young children without a voice just because I'm bigger, meaner, and stronger than them. Funny... I chuckle typing that though because our four littlest kids say 'no' to us plenty right now. It's extremely frustrating. I'm trying to listen to what they are saying though, instead of just reacting to them.  It seems like a lot of people don't understand the give and take, patience, sacrifice, and commitment of relationships. I know there was a time when I most definitely did not. It's not modeled to us very much. I view our society as pretty self-centered.

I'm amazed at the things I learn when I listen to my kids, really listen, instead of react. Sometimes kids do things and they don't even know why. The other day Sebastian snapped part of a Styrofoam cooler lid in half. I looked at him and he looked at me... I wanted to ask him why the 'F' he'd do such a thing. But I didn't have to ask. He's five. I looked at him blankly as the realization of what he did spread across his face. The impulse to test the lid was too great to control at that moment, but once it snapped and the impulse was fulfilled the reality set in. Everett does things like that too, except with him (a three year old) he doesn't have the high thought process of 'Mom and Dad needed this." It's more of a 'that was cool I'm totally going to do it 50 more times and defend my actions by yelling at you (or crying) when you take my fun away.'
Layla, age 9, and I have had intense power struggles (we always have) and at my husband’s suggestion I stopped engaging in them. Oh I tried in bits and pieces here and there to stop engaging in them a long time ago, but I completely stopped engaging in them more recently. I retrained my reactions to soften and I told myself to stop taking everything so dang personal. This was serious now, I had to act like an in control grown up, and actually act like the person I wanted her to be. If I couldn’t control my frustrations how could I expect her to learn too control hers? Explaining my hurt feelings and talking without reacting got my point across so much better than reacting in anger or frustration. Sometimes it seemed to fall on deaf ears though. My husband says her and I are SO much alike we crash heads in anger and want to tear each other apart. (She and I are both fire signs!)

 I learned, or rather forced myself, to talk to her and explain my side of things without expecting anything in return. This is an exercise in being very unselfish. So many times in relationships we do things with selfish intentions but so often we don't even realize it. I ask myself when I apologize to my spouse or child for a wrong doing: Am I apologizing because I want to make them feel better? Or, do I want to make myself feel better? So they can utter the word 'it's ok' therefore freeing me from my guilt or bad feelings? I have to think about this and be aware of this, and by being aware of that I have become a vastly more compassionate and unselfish person.
Back to Layla: I started having no expectations when I shared my feelings with her. She needs to hear what I have to say and then do with it what she wishes. And things have gotten better. The amount of time she stays angry has lessened. I also noticed when I don't act condescending to her she is a whole different person towards me. Hum…respect is given when it's earned? Interesting concept, eh? I just happened to have a kid that demanded more of it than usual. I’m humbled.

If you are still with me here and reading this blog post I'm guessing it's because you are looking to be a better caregiver to kids and probably the topics in the title interest you. So go watch and read those links at the top. They are simply fascinating. If you only click one thing watch the video. It changed my whole life and it's just amazing. It's a wake up call. Parenting: we're doing it wrong.


Renea said...

Great blog post! As a foster parent in Kansas, we are required to do continuing education each year to maintain our license. Last year our agency was really pushing a particular program ( trauma systems therapy) that they really wanted all of the foster families to do. It was amazing. It basically presented the difference between discipline and punishment. As parents we use discipline to help children learn how to behave age appropriate in our home and in society, and it works. As parents we use punishment to try to maintain control. Discipline and punishment are very deifferent things. The program also went thru identifying signs or triggers that set off "unprovoked" or unexpected actions in kids. Obviously geared for "troubled" kids with serious trauma in their past, it was very interesting to read. I was able to identify "triggers" for a couple of age appropriate melt down my well behaved pre-teen boys had over the prior few months. Melt downs that had me thinking "where did that come from?" The more we learn about how our brains and bodies work, the better parents and people we can become. You are an amazing mother.

Kimberly Jennery said...

You are SUCH an amazing mom, not least because you keep at it, improving, reevaluating, etc.

Not to take anything away from Ricky and his patience (it's amazing, and he's amazing!) but don't discount the fact that he works out of the house and gets a break from the constancy of the kids and how they try one's patience! That also lends a bit of distance, and some perspective! You don't get nearly as much of that, so please realize that your patience is pretty monumental, too! It's a real blessing that Ricky is able to share that perspective and his observations with you, and that you can hear them. That's part of what makes BOTH of you amazing, and such a great team!

Molly said...

I thought this post was really great. Thanks for including these links. I also really enjoyed your post about childbirth with all the great links. My husband and I hope to have a baby in the next year and I find learning about birth and parenting so fascinating. Thanks again for sharing your story, info, and experiences. It is so nice to hear from folks who are really doing the work to be the best parents they can be.

Lori Petro, TEACH through Love said...

This is great@ Sharing. I especially love this

"The ONE thing I must remind myself so very often not to do is to NOT shame them, talk harshly, or judge them --even in small ways. I try to let the kids be the people they are instead of attempting to make my life easier and rush them into the people they will be one day."

such a simple adjustment can mean the world of difference to our kids!