There happen to be a few things in my life that I have very strong convictions about. One of them is how I parent.
I have a hard time with women and their cattiness when it comes to certain labels on parenting styles.. if you're not 'all' then you're 'nothing'. If you don't subscribe to every issue, then you may as well not be reading. Whatever. I don't need your stupid labels.
I feel strongly about parenting the way God leads me to parent. (Yep.. a religious post.. enjoy. But don't go running yet! It's more parenting than religion..) I'm a non-punitive parent - that's about as far as I go with labels. I don't believe that punishing and humiliating my children is necessary in helping them grow into good adults. I don't believe that smacking or hitting them is necessary in getting them to behave. Yes, I do believe in discipline, but I do not equate discipline with punishment.
Our church recently spoke on the subject of parenting. I had a very hard time not getting up and walking out. I'm all for a church taking a firm stance on parenting. But, I believe they should take a firm middle of the road stance, at best. Not a firmly pro-spanking 'start 'em young and we'll help tell you how' stance. It makes my heart ache. It made me squirm in my seat.
This is a small church, an intimate church, only about 300 or so members. It's not a church one goes to if they want to just blend in or hide. There are some fabulous people there - we LOVE this church. Accept for that ONE thing. And I know that I was not the only one who was more than a little uncomfortable with this message.
Many people would say "Well, there's lots of churches out there.. why not look for another?" Why? Because God put us in this one. And we don't go to church to meet our needs, we go to church to meet God's needs, to find ways to meet other's needs. I don't know exactly what God has planned for us in this church, but I know He put us there for a reason.
And I've lost track of how many times other parents have come to J and I and asked us "Your children are SO well behaved! How do you do it? What is your secret? I'm always so impressed with them!" We're not shy about it. "Well, I'm sure that it's due to a certain degree of just being blessed with good kids who are just as laid back as we are.. but our discipline methods are probably not what you'd expect. We don't spank."
Why not? What's the reasoning behind all this? It goes a lot deeper than just 'not hitting'. It's a matter of how I view my children. How I view my relationship with them. The other night, my husband and I had to again 'touch base' with each other.. We'd had a long day with the kids and I was less than impressed with how he was speaking to our oldest. He came back with "Well, what? Do you see him as your equal?"
Yes, actually. I do. I shared this exchange with a friend from church (a woman who's children are grown and out of the house) and she interjected "But you're the Boss." No. I'm not. I don't see myself as the Boss of my kids. I consider myself their teacher, their leader, their guide - I'm hear to help them figure things out. Here to help them learn to relate to people in an appropriate and harmonious manner so that they can succeed in the relationships in their life and be all-around effective people. I don't see myself in a God position in their life. I'm not in charge, the ultimate authority, the be all end all..
As Christians, we are called to 'be like Christ'. Why should we not apply that to our relationship with our children?? I see my children as my disciples. They do not follow me for fear of getting in trouble, they do not obey out of fear of getting smacked, they do not respect me because I told them to.. They follow me because they admire me and the way I live my life - they want to be like me. They obey me because they understand why they should, how it will benefit them and benefit others for them to do so. They respect me because they are treated with respect. Children have an insatiable desire to learn and understand the world around them, I do my best to meet that need.
So many people speak down to their children - as if they are some how 'lesser'. Why? Because they are young? Because they don't know? If an adult 'doesn't know' do you talk down to them? No. Many parents talk to their children in a manner that they would never speak to anyone else - family, friends, co-workers.. don't our children deserve the same love, respect, and consideration that these people do? Are they not some of the most important people in our lives? Let's not make them feel small, insignificant, weak, or ashamed. Let's build them up, empower them, let them know just how important they are.
The most common way people view their relationship with their children is in an adversarial mindset - a 'me versus them' approach. Power struggles. Who's gonna come out on top, who's gonna win? Who's gonna be the bigger man?
My children understand that they are loved, that they are people, and that I as their mother am responsible for teaching them, guiding them, and protecting them. They understand that I have their best interests at heart at all times and that even when things seem unfair, I'm trying to do what's best for them.. and they know that if they want to know why, I will gladly explain it to them. And, most importantly, they know I'm 'human' - that I make mistakes. They see me do my best to right my wrongs and are excellent at applying the same principals in their relationships with others.
The most common response to all this is usually 'Wow. That all sounds great, and I agree with a lot of it.. but I still believe there are times when spanking is necessary." WHY? I can't understand this. It is still so contrary to these essential foundations of my parenting. How am I showing love and respect to my children by hitting them? People who spank often say things to their children like 'I'm doing this because it's best for you.' 'This hurts me more than it does you.' and will not say to people that they enjoy spanking their children, but rather the opposite. J and I were both spanked as kids, and started out as 'spanking parents'.. No, it hurts more to be on the receiving end. And, yes, our parents spanked 'the right way'.
So if you really don't like spanking your kids, and you heard that there were ways of parenting without it.. wouldn't you want to know more about it?
Do my kids have consequences for their actions?? Of course! I'm not a 'permissive parent'. But I believe that the natural and or appropriate consequences of their actions can teach the lesson that needs learning much more effectively than a swat on the rear.
I'm not saying that I want to bring my whole church over to my side of the fence. But when they tell me that I'm sinning by not spanking, well, I take offense to that. Hence, the belief that they should be taking a firm middle-of-the-road stance. They do not need to condemn people for keeping spanking as a tool in their parenting tool-box, but they also need not condemn those who've thrown it out and decided to use grace and mercy in it's place. I would just love to see them a tad more open minded, mkay?