I’ve never liked it when non-parents, or parents of very young children, talked about parenting and how to raise kids.
The reason being, the Big Bad Teen Years were still looming in the not-so-distant future.
How were those young parents and young non-parents going to prove their methods worked, if they hadn’t successfully brought a child through the teen years?
My dad would explain his methods of child training to other people. Stuff like, if your kid has an attitude, spank them. (As if the parents never have attitudes? And as if being upset about something is bad?) If your kid talks back, spank them. (Because the parents ALWAYS know best and even when the kid is trying to explain the situation, they’re always wrong.) If your kid didn’t respond right away or do what you wanted right away, spank them. (Because of course, a kid is never doing anything important!) If your kid hits his sibling, spank him. (Because we all know two wrongs make a right…) People would always say “Yeah, your kids are great NOW, just wait until they get into their teens!”
One time my dad told me those people were trying to “curse” him by hoping his kids would have wild teen years, just to prove him wrong and them right. The problem is, they underestimated the power of fear. And the “spanking stick”.
I remember my puberty years. I remember how awful my puberty years were. At the time, I didn’t understand that wacky emotions was normal for puberty. All I knew was that any emotions I displayed were 1. wrong and 2. due to “PMS”…even if I wasn’t near my period. I always felt misunderstood. For a while, I was afraid to reread my diaries from those years because I was afraid I would find that I was really the one being unreasonable. I wasn’t. Because of this obscene need for us to be perfectly obedient, “happy”, and well-behaved, my feelings and thoughts were made unimportant.
No, none of us “rebelled” (I’m SO going to write a post on rebellion sometime because it totally doesn’t mean what everyone thinks it means, especially in conservative/fundamentalist circles) during our teen years. At least not that the public could see. We had our battles at home, though very small ones comparatively.
I sort of feel like I’m rambling now, but there is a method to my madness. All of this to say…I don’t look with disdain anymore on young mothers talking about child raising. The reason is…these young women were raised themselves. They don’t have as much experience putting methods into practice, but they lived through whatever method their parents used and likely have some improvements, if not new methods.
I’ve gotta say, I would probably bank more on the methods of an ex-Quivering Daughter than that of any conservative or fundamentalist. I’ve been there too.
I’m still not going to write posts on how to be a good parent. But after my daughter is born (wow, saying that kind of gives me chills xD ), I will post about what I’m learning. Because I believe, more strongly now than ever, that parenting isn’t about “training” kids in the sense that my parents meant (ala Michael Pearl…spanking/beating your child into submission so s/he knows you are in control). I believe it’s a learning experience for both the parent and the child.
Last night, Scottie was reading through some of the Pearl’s material on spanking. I found out something very revealing: They believe there are basically two extremes to parenting. But the two extremes are more alike than they care to admit.
As a lot of you know, they believe in asserting your will over your child’s…spanking your child until s/he is “broken” to your will, and more. But basically, the same thing as my parents: anything and everything gets a spanking.
I call that lazy parenting.
Their “opposite” they talk about is parents who NEVER reprimand their children (or if they do, it’s in a screaming/nagging way), parents who let their kids do whatever they want without restraint, parents who are “helpless” to do anything, parents who have absolutely no semblance of order in their house.
I call that lazy parenting.
It was a big revelation to me when I figured out that all they did was take one version of lazy parenting (neglectfulness) to the opposite end of lazy parenting (a one-size-fits-all spanking).
It was then that I realized that raising a kid wasn’t so much about child training as it is parent training.
And it’s the hardest form of parenting there is.
I already know it’s not going to be easy for me. I’ve written before about how I like order, I like sameness, I like easy. I realize that in more ways than I’d like to admit, I have some of the same predispositions as my dad. But that is the laziness trap.
The hardest method of parenting is actually grace-based attachment parenting. Creating a relationship with your child. Teaching them values, the reasons behind why you say what you say. Creating a bond of trust. Working with your child, not against her. Recognizing the reasons behind his tantrums instead of punishing him automatically. Realizing these are little people, not little monsters or little animals.
But I’m up for the challenge. I don’t want to beat my children. I don’t even want to spank them. I seriously cannot fathom switching a 5-month-old. I’ve been switched before. It can break the skin! I suppose I can’t completely say I know what being a mother feels like, but I have a lot of little siblings. I’ve changed their diapers and had to carefully handle their red, bruised bottoms as they cried from the pain of my gentle hands carefully cleaning them up. I’ve sat at the dinner table while my dad spanked a toddler repeatedly for not knowing the meaning of the word “swallow”. I remember how I felt then. I imagine it is times 10 for a real mother.
I’ve been the daughter who was spanked unjustly because (among other situations) mom didn’t tell the complete truth, or she just wasn’t aware, and when I tried to explain, I was asked if mom was a liar, so I had to say no. I’ve been the daughter who was labeled “strong-willed” and had to be broken. I’ve been the broken daughter, with barely a spark of life left. That’s why this subject is so close to my heart.
I know I’m going to make mistakes as a parent. I anticipate it. But the one mistake I won’t make is making my children feel like crap. I believe to have my child feel loved and valued by me is better than for her to turn out the way I want.
Speaking of that, back to Those Big Bad Teen Years. Something else I realized about that is that my parents believe if their children turn out differently from what they, the parents, want, then they have failed. That’s not true. My thoughts on the subject are that if you don’t make such a big deal about them wanting a lip piercing, or green hair, then it’s not a problem. (Actually, most likely, if you don’t care if your teen has a lip piercing and green hair, they won’t really care to have one. It’s called “reverse psychology”. ‘Course it doesn’t always work, but I say there’s a fairly good chance!)
Besides basic moral failings, whatever a problem there is with your teen is because you make it a problem. That’s how I see it anyway. Wanting green hair isn’t a problem. It’s a way of expressing him or herself. Something like shoplifting would be a problem.
There is no battle. It’s not parent vs child. It’s two people on this journey of life. One simply has more experience than the other. That doesn’t make the child always wrong, or the parent always right. Children are smart. They absorb more than people realize. And if you treat them respectfully, chances are they will be respectful. They aren’t out to get you. They’re just as new to this being a kid thing as you are to the being a parent thing. And that does not deserve to be punished.
Here are a lot of links I’ve collected, mostly having to do with spanking, non-spanking, and Michael Pearl.