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May 02

Discipline – and why I don’t like to talk about it

There was an article – http://www.telegram.com/article/20130430/NEWS/130429640&nocache=1 published the other day in the paper that brought up some interesting points.

I’m not pro-spanking either, but I hated that article. I think that it was condescending and really talked down to parents. Normal parents don’t hate their children and hit them for fun, and they don’t do it because they’re cruel or anti-kid. I don’t spank my kids, but I have restrained them from hitting others, and held them down from throwing things in violent temper tantrums, and there’s an element of “you are going to stop because I’m bigger than you” that sometimes is the only thing that gets thru when it’s a massive melt down. Like most kids, mine are emotional and intense, and there are times, especially when they were younger, when it’s overwhelming for them. In those instances, I’ve had resort to physically holding them. Not spanking them, but grabbing them and holding them tighter than either of us liked just to get them to realize that they need to stop. I don’t think that makes me a bad parent, in fact, I think letting a child rage out of control does the child in question no favors whatsoever.

On a slightly different but related topic, I’m pretty adamantly against crying it out, letting your baby cry herself to sleep. In my head, it’s borderline abusive, and can’t imagine letting one of my babies sob themselves to sleep and refusing to go comfort them. But I know many loving, committed, thoughtful and GOOD parents who practiced it, for reasons that were well considered and intelligent. Spanking is one of those issues like breast or bottle feeding – everyone is adamant and convinced that their way is the right way and only their way is valid. I’m a pretty major breastfeeding advocate – I nursed all of my babies, and two of my children nursed well into toddlerhood. But at the end of the day – I think you should breastfeed only if you want to, and what matters is that your baby get fed. Like spanking and CIO, it’s a divisive issue and really avoids the main topic – which is that kids deserve loving committed parents doing their best.

The response that if I was truly confident in my parenting choices than these criticisms wouldn’t bother me, to me, misses the point. I feel a little iffy about most parenting issues – because the stakes are SO high and there’s so many opportunities to screw it up. So even decisions that I’m 100% sure are the right thing for my family, if I read too many critiques, then I get defensive. Because I know I’m not always right and so much of it is guess work. It’s easy for me to see the pros and cons of different approaches so it’s hard for me to absolute about anything. Even CIO – I absolutely don’t do it, never have, never will – BUT my kids also didn’t sleep thru the night until they were significantly older than their peers. I can’t say for sure that what I’m doing is what’s best for them – it’s entirely possible that a few nights of crying would have no lasting impact other than a good night’s sleep for everyone and might be in their best interest. I don’t spank, and don’t think it’s the right way to discipline kids, I’m more of a time-out girl, or removal of privileges, if necessary. But mostly, I’d rather not PUNISH, I’d rather make sure the kid in question knows why it’s wrong and then move on. But I don’t claim to be a parenting expert, and I know I make mistakes every day. I try my best, and assume that other parents are as well.

I don’t know of any parent, even ones who do spank, who “wants to hit their kids.” I believe that what they want is for their kids to learn consequences for their actions, when there aren’t natural consequences available, or the natural consequence isn’t one that they want their child to feel. For example, running out into the street. You aren’t going to let your child get hit by a car to underscore the lesson to look both ways. It’s just not a black and white issue – parents who choose to spank probably aren’t thinking “wow, I love whacking my kids” in that instance, they’re probably thinking something like “Thank God you’re safe, don’t ever, ever take that chance again!” I don’t spank my kids, when I’ve been in that situation, shouting to get their attention, my obvious fear and relief that they’re safe is enough to get the message across. But my kids aren’t “runners” as a rule, they’re all fairly cautious – and when I yell, they listen. Not all kids are. What works for my kids might not work for all kids. I don’t presume to say that my way is what’s best for all kids across the board.

I’m not different from any other parent, I love my kids, I want what’s best for them, and I don’t always know for sure and for certain that I have all the answers. I also know that what works for me and my family doesn’t work for everyone across the board. What works for one child doesn’t work for the other two children in my family, so it’s very, very hard to be absolute about anything, whether it’s food choices, education choices or discipline choices. I think, in the end, that demonizing those on the other side of any issue, be it parenting or not, makes it harder to understand the other side, harder to realize other options and harder to relate to others in general.

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