Welcome to the Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival
This post was written for inclusion in the Second Annual Spank Out Day Carnival hosted by Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Spank Out Day was created by The Center for Effective Discipline to give attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. All parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children on April 30th each year, and to seek alternative methods of discipline through programs available in community agencies, churches and schools. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I’ve been trying to figure out what more I have to say about this topic since I said quite a bit last year in my post for Spank Out Day. That was all about my life and my philosophies and some good stuff, I think. So for this year, I’m going to talk about gentle discipline and how it’s evolved for us as our daughter is getting older. She’ll be five in just about 2 months and everything is different. She’s lovely and wonderful, of course. Brilliant, creative and compassionate. She is also strong willed, bossy (only with us, not other kids) and showing signs of not having enough boundaries. That’s manifesting for her in a kind of anxiety out in the world coupled with a sort of confusion about who the parents are.
I never in a million years thought I’d be any kind of failure at boundaries. I’ve been boundary girl my whole life… working on them, preaching the importance of them, knowing. Just knowing, you know? I thought it would be so natural with my child, but I hadn’t really planned for this particular child. She is smart and she’s been verbal and almost scarily articulate for a couple of years now. So we’ve been talking to her about things. Way too much and way too many things. Of course it’s great to talk to your kids, but I see that with my daughter it hasn’t served her to have discussed with her so many things. I think we talked to her as our adult minds imagined we would like to have been talked to as children. It’s put her in the position of being a sort of co-parent with us and with her personality she has assumed too much responsibility and too much control. It’s become a burden, I believe.
We even laughed at first because she was kind of hilarious. So little, and yet so determined to coerce us. She didn’t throw tantrums, she would just come up with plans, arguments, deals. I swear she could have ruled a boardroom at 3.
The funny part was that she seemed to have an innate understanding of the dynamics of negotiations, but no grasp on reality. So she’d just make up reality to suit her argument. She would literally argue that day was night and could not be moved even by the sunlight on her face. She is nothing if not committed.
I believed it was respectful to her to talk to her and to compromise about pretty much everything. What happened in our case was that a compromise was as good as giving in to her. So it was as if she was getting her way every single time just by talking and wearing us down. And while that may have been fine for another kid, it has ended up creating a kind of anxiety in her. Fear of going out and lots of fear around being separated from the mommy (me).
There is a kind of a proof in the fact that as I’ve gotten firmer, she’s gotten happier. I needed to let her be upset and frustrated and to be furious with me for making a decision that didn’t go her way.
Being a super smart human only a few years into this incarnation is very difficult. They don’t really get it that they’re just kids. They naturally over-think things and get super frustrated with their lack of ability to already know everything they sense they will one day master. It seems to piss them off and I see that it doesn’t help to re-enforce that part of them so very much. They’ll get there, it’s who they are. What they need help with is being a kid. I guess I should just speak for my daughter and say that what she needs help with is letting go of the burden of being in charge, of being in control.
We made charts. We tried rewards and then we tried responsibilities and privileges. That is my advice to anyone on that track, by the way. Em totally got into it. But we still needed something to deal with her fury. Acting out, right?
As I said in last years post, I believe that children act out to give us information that they are not getting what they need. We saw that Em needed a LOT more physical activity. She’s getting that now with Karate and Gymnastics and it does help. It’s amazing.
I’ve also been chanting with her, meditating and giving her other spiritual tools to deal with her anxieties and her creative, magical energies. All wonderful, all great bonding and incredible tools for the rest of her life.
None of that has made her as happy as something I never thought I’d try… The Time Out. Seriously, what the heck is going on here? Part of my brain thought, how do I discipline a child without doing any of those things I don’t believe in? My idea of “time outs” go along with the “naughty chair” of Supernanny. Uh Uh, no way.
Clearly we needed to try something, so we told Em what was going to happen, that she’d be going to spend 4 minutes in her bedroom if she couldn’t cease the inappropriate behaviour after a warning. She could read books, the door would always be open and that was about it. I asked her if she’d rather we called it Quiet Time and she said she liked Time Out. Really it is just about that quiet time. She has needed this for so long and now I feel guilty for not doing it sooner. She needed a way to shift gears, to let go of the mania that had possessed her. A way to get into her own space and just chill.
She couldn’t wait and insisted on having a time out immediately. She loves going into her room and reading books to herself (she just makes up the stories since she can’t read.) It was so laughable how she never complained about going for a time out that my husband worried it wasn’t working. I had to remind him that we hadn’t changed our parenting philosophy and we weren’t aiming to make her feel “punished.” I knew the day would come when she resisted it, and it has. But she doesn’t resist much and she always ends up happy and usually just continues reading or drawing or coloring.
This is the important part… she is happier. Staying in the “discussion”, the negotiation, the verbal battles with her, only exhausted and frustrated us all. Now she’s learning to go find peace when she can’t control her anger or her energy. To her a Time Out is simply a safe place to calm herself down.
Today she pushed every one of my buttons. It didn’t help that I’m severely PMS-ing and she was over tired.. she was demanding and I was getting that edge in my voice, that snipiness. I said, “I don’t like that way I’m talking to you and I’m just too frustrated right now. I think I have to give myself a time out so that I can talk to you nicely.” And she really got it. I hadn’t expected this but her energy shifted, it really did. She said something really sweet and asked me if I’d like to come and color with her. I had to consciously let go of my grumpiness, but I said “yeah, I would.” Coloring really does help.
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Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: