Sunday, January 8, 2012

How folks parent

I'm feeling a bit frisky this evening and some of my opinions may rub someone else the wrong way.  If you don't believe in respectful parenting, you will probably fall into the "rubbed the wrong way category". I know we all do what we think is best with the information we have at the time. But part of being a loving parent is striving to learn and grow to be the best we can possibly be. If you use time outs and spankings there are better ways. Peaceful ways that offer much richer rewards.

When I first read some of Sandra Dodd's writings about mindful parenting and parenting peacefully I had doubts about how it could work in practice. It seemed permissive to have those beliefs about children.  I've received some emails from my blogging of late, especially when I posted about the Unconditional Parenting book, of parents who inferred the same thing. I've put it in practice and it's anything but permissive. It's really loving a child, respecting them as a person. It's not forcing them to bend to my will because of the tapes I have playing in my head from how my parents were with me. I hope I get to see Sandra speak someday as I would love to tell her in person how much I appreciate how strongly she advocates for unschooling and parenting with respect.
How could I punish, threaten, control my children and try to label that as love?
How could I expect respect if I treated them in a way that was anything but respectful?  How can any parent expect respect if they don't give it?

What I'm seeing in the way some others parent shows me that my mind has truly evolved in how I want to interact with my kids. I always viewed motherhood as a gift. I've felt lucky and blessed to be able to be home with them, to homeschool them, to enjoy these special moments. I'm not overwhelmed or frazzled. I'm not wishing I could send them off to school so I could have time to myself. I just feel so lucky, so happy to have this role. Despite all that,  I don't think I used to parent in a way that made me feel as at peace as I do now.

Observations and other chatter:
Last night I was watching an episode of Parenthood that I had on the DVR. This one was where the family was going on a road trip. Christina is yelling from the front room for her son Max to turn down the game. She doesn't get up, go to talk to him in person, but keeps yelling through the walls. You can see she's starting to get annoyed. Not just with the noise of her son playing the game (which was loud), but because of the conversation she's having with her husband during this time. She finally gets up, goes in and shuts off his Xbox 360 game. He tells her how long he worked to get to that point in the game, and how she caused him to lose where he was up to that point.
I'll stop right there because I'm betting many parents would say, she was right on. I would have agreed with her before. It's something that many parents would not think twice about doing. But what I saw was one person going in and disrespecting another person. To turn off a game like that, that was important to another person (her child), that he had dedicated so much time on. What reaction could the child have had but anger and outrage? If a child came in and did that same action to a parent who was typing something on the computer, how would a parent feel? Pretty angry, probably start yelling. Of course this is a fictional show. But for some reason that stuck out at me because a similar scene is something that gets played in thousands of homes across the country. And similar scenes are acted out on shows all the time.

Bry had a call the other day about a runaway (he goes on a lot of calls about children). He could not believe the horrible attitude that these parents had toward their child. The disrespectful way they spoke to their child and about him made my husband's skin crawl. His former response would have been, the child needs discipline. Now what he sees is parents who are authoritative and controlling or permissive (as in they don't care at all) are the issue and need fixing. They are the problem. But our society always wants to focus on fixing the kids. Fixing the parents fixes the kids : ).

In homeschool forums over the years I've read a lot of "how do I" queations being asked.
Things like:
How do I get my child to instantly obey? keep their room clean? be honest and truthful with me? stop hitting? go to bed at bedtime? do their chores?

Here are answers I'd give if someone asked me directly those questions:
How do I get my child to instantly obey?  
I would not expect any of my children to instantly (blindly) obey me. Unless I'm yelling something like "HOT HOT HOT" before a little one would touch a hot stove or "DANGER DANGER DANGER" or I've fallen and I'm yelling "Help Help Help". I'd like them to make a choice, a decision and to ask questions. I don't want them to be blind sheep who will follow because I am bigger or can yell louder or could put my hands on them. I'm sure some folks would say, but what about instantly obeying God?
Teaching a child to listen to the voice of God does not come from a parent being the boss of their every move and thought. I teach my children to pray to God, to reflect and ask God for direction. But God is not yelling at them "do this, do that and do it right now". We take our time and listen for God's direction. There is really nothing instant about God's time. We need to take our time to stop, listen and reflect.
God expects me to treat the children he has blessed into my care with love, respect and compassion. Much like Jesus showed to those he walked with while on earth.
Using the bible to control a child, is not showing God's love. No where in the bible does it say that traditional parenting methods are what God intended for us to use with the children he entrusted to us. To train up a child can be done through love, respect and kindness.

How do I get my child to keep their room clean? do their chores?
I have not told my children to clean their rooms in a bit now. They keep them clean though. They like a clean room because they like to find their things.
They see I clean my room and put away laundry and change sheets. They follow suit.
I will tidy up their rooms when I pass by because I don't mind doing it. It takes all of 5 minutes to do so.
My son cleans up his toys in his room so he has more room to play on the floor with other toys. My younger daughter who is 2 has never been asked to do a chore. She loves to clean any one's things, unload the dishwasher, clean the glass, change sheets, fold towels and napkins, etc. Today I was cleaning up some blocks my older girls were using on the floor in the family room. We had left them mid-play a bit earlier to go do some packing in their upstairs playroom. The kids were all sitting at the kitchen table eating pizza. The two little ones got up from eating to come and help me clean up. I didn't ask anyone for help. I didn't expect anyone to help. It was a quick clean up to do on my own without issue. But they were happy to help out and did it with big smiles.
One evening I came down to Skylar and Summer having cleaned the entire kitchen, just because they wanted to do it for me. The other day Summer did the litter box, because she was in the bathroom anyway and figured she'd help out by doing it.
The moral of the story, kids will help, maybe not always, maybe not all of them at once but they will help. And when I ask they help. Asking is different from ordering, demanding or requiring. Some tasks are more fun with help. Sometimes it goes faster with many hands. But again asking and being okay with a "no" is different then a demand. My view of chores has changed. I clean up happily. When you are happy and the kids see it and hear it. They want to be a part of it. Joy is contagious. And misery loves company.
I'd rather my kids catch my joy than share in misery.
My kids no longer have assigned chores. I wanted children. With children come messes. I'd much rather they make a mess and have fun doing it than be bogged down with a laundry list of must do's before they can play. Childhood is for play!
My suggestion would be use Motivated Moms or Flylady. Decide what you must do to be content with your surroundings. Don't make your issues your kid's issues about a clean house. They are a parents issue to own. Keep it to bare bones of what you need to feel your house is clean. Not model home clean. But family lived in. : )
Or hire help if you cannot live with a lived in look. Paying someone else to clean for you to prevent treating a child poorly is a worthwhile expense.
I read a comment by Sandra Dodd about parents having to (which I'm not quoting verbatim). You don't have to, you could give your child up.  You didn't have to have children. That might sound very harsh and unrealistic. But it's true right? You make a choice to be a parent. So why not make a choice what kind of parent you want to be? What kind of parent you'd like to have yourself?

How do I get my child to be honest and truthful with me?
Don't punish them. If you punish them when they tell the truth why would they trust you with truth again when you hurt them for being  honest? Don't punish.... period. You want your kids to come to you with anything right?
Me too. I tell them that often and I show them just as often by being non judgemental with anything they tell me.
When you tell your husband the truth (say like you hit the curb and messed up his tire.) Um, yes maybe I have done that very thing. : ) Would him yelling at you for being honest, help anything in the situation?

How do I get my child to stop hitting? 
I think this one is simple too. Don't hit them. Ever! If you hit you show them to hit. Yes it's true. No matter what you call it, spanking, is hitting. Whipping is hitting too. Using a belt is hitting. If I walked up and spanked you, whipped you or used a belt on you, how would you feel?
If you don't hit, but they hit each other, which happens of course. When they are old enough for you to explain (and my 2 year old gets this so I think young ones get it when you give them the respect of explaining it to them) hitting hurts so and so, and makes so and so feel (bad, sad, pain, etc.). Teach them empathy, for people and animals. Animals get left out. Don't overlook how important empathy for animals is.

How do I get my child to go to bed at bedtime?
This is so dependent upon age. Little ones need more parent help with this of course. Attachment parenting, paying attention to their cues is your best guide.
With my 2 year old, she naps when she gets sleepy during the day. She gets her pillow from our bed and finds a quiet spot on a sofa in the house for a nap under a toasty blanket. None of the other kids nap at this time.
When I go to bed at night my 2 year old goes with me. She sleeps either in our bed or in her own bed which is in our room. She chooses which. When I get in bed for the night I write in my prayer journal and read Jesus Calling and then usually play a game on my IPhone if I can't sleep yet. If she can't sleep she watches me do all this and we will chat quietly. And sometimes she might look at books.
Decklin is 5. He also has a bed in our room. We have a nighttime routine of baths, a story on my bed, family prayers and then bedtime. If I'm not tired yet the older girls will lay in my bed playing a video game on their DS, Kindle Fire or read a book while the little kids fall asleep. In our next house we are going to be putting a TV back in our bedroom so that we can snuggle and watch a show together while everyone drifts off to sleep.
If Ember took a late nap and can't sleep she will come downstairs and hang out with me, maybe have a snack.
The older girls go into their bed between 10:30 and Midnight. Usually they will read, talk and play their DS games or their Kindles. Summer usually falls asleep earlier than Skylar. If Skylar can't sleep she comes down and has a snack and will watch TV with Bry after he comes home from work. They have nice chat times together when she can't sleep. Other times she will fall asleep. If they wake during the night they usually get a blanket and cuddle watching TV in the loft on the sofa. As long as they do not wake the rest of the house it's fine. They have options.

I've received some emails with some of the following comments about children:
"Children are ignorant"
"Children do not deserve privacy"
"Children do not get respect they give it"
"Children must be seen and not heard"
"Children cannot make decisions"

How would you feel if your child said that about you? If your parents said that about you as a child? And if they did say it, how did it make you feel?

If you are not treating a child they way you would like to be treated as an adult....with respect, kindness, unconditional love, then to quote the movie Mr. Mom...
"Jack......You're doing it wrong."

Here is a great audio file of Sandra Dodd speaking on parenting peacefully. For anyone heading that way, it will really be a huge help on the journey.


wdworkman said...

Wonderful post. I was raised in a home where we were respected as kids, so it always surprises me when people find it so unusual. Another benefit that I've noticed since mine are getting older - Last week I was at a baby shower for my daughter's friend. All the Moms & Daughters who grew up this way are now good friends with one another. Some of her other friends, even at 19 & 20 years old, still see parents just as people that they're trying to get away from.

Melissa said...

Thank you Janet.
That is truly wonderful that your parents were that way with you!