Spirit Grooves

love is all there is: a spank out day post

By on April 29, 2012

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.

 

Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival hosted by TouchstoneZ

On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the handy #SpankOutCar hashtag. You can also subscribe to the Spank Out Day Carnival Twitter List and Spank Out Day Carnival Participant Feed.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Comments

  1. Kelly
    April 30, 2012

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    “I had to consciously let go of my grumpiness, but I said ‘yeah, I would’.”

    I love this. I have a hard time, sometimes, in letting go of my resentment towards my children when they’ve wronged me – or when I think they have. I notice my children and many children do not have such difficulty. I can learn a lot by how quick they are to forgive and restore connection.

    Thakns for participating and thanks for a great post!

  2. treepeters
    April 30, 2012

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    I totally agree with you. I have learned much from the small humans. thanks for commenting and reading!

  3. Positive Parenting Connection
    April 30, 2012

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    Having a six year old that sounds soooo very much like your daughter with the early verbal abilities and need to deal and control everything, I totally appreciate your post. Not having any boundaries really can confuse a child. We are a non punitive family but we do have limits and boundaries and we use quiet time and it works really well. Really enjoyed your post!

  4. Susan Manning
    April 30, 2012

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    I have such distaste for corporal punishment and I love the idea of the above post calling it a “non-punitive family”. I am also glad you expanded on this open “time out” not as much as a punishment for unacceptable behavior, but for a time out from a span of time and energy that was going a little wonky. It reminds me that this may be some of the message of those silly Snickers commercials, the latest of which shows a boy-kid acting like a Joe Pesci character (played by Joe Pesci) and the Snickers is somewhat like a time out. There are many different versions, examples of what a time out can be and you have come up with one that explains to me what it should be…more of a change of energy…a calming down, not the crying child having to sit in a chair in a corner..nothing much productive there. Although I would think parents of more than one child need to be creative enough to find a time out to serve their situation. I like the creativity and the consideration of the whole family. Kudos to you all!

    • treepeters
      April 30, 2012

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      oh my gosh, I haven’t seen this commercial. Sounds funny actually. I remember Snickers! Frozen… ah, I digress. Your wisdom is showing, my friend. What a wonderful guide and counseler you are.

  5. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama
    April 30, 2012

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    Time to chill out can be completely relaxing/calming/recharging when done in a non-punitive way, and it sounds like you hit the mark with your 5yo!

    • treepeters
      April 30, 2012

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      oh, thank you Dionna! That supportive comment feels really nice.

  6. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ
    April 30, 2012

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    Thank you for participating in The Spank Out Day Carnival again. I find it amusing that you began your post wondering if there was anything more to say after last year when you have so many gems in this post, too.

    My kids are constantly sweeping away my little illusions of unflappability. Every time I feel like I’ve got a hang of this parenting gig, they show me that I really don’t. I wouldn’t have it any other way, except perhaps with a little more time between these wake up calls.

    A big reason that I don’t mind this is because, as you speak to above, there’s a strong relationship built on the love and trust we each deserve. Finding my own boundaries before I feel exhausted or stressed out is difficult for me, especially when they’re my kids are all going different directions at the same time. But, I know the times I’ve gotten angry and/or threatened a punishment, are the times that least work for us. It disconnects us entirely and we have to find our way back to each other.

    I doubt we would have that relationship to come back to if I consistently parented using punishments.

    • treepeters
      April 30, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      all the children going in different directions is such a huge challenge that I don’t have. I can feel so fractured and flustered just by this one whirlwind!
      I think that all of us who are open to the idea of learning from our children as we go along, are way ahead of the game. We have the potential of magic happening every day.
      thanks for visiting!!

  7. Erin
    April 30, 2012

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    yes, yes, yes. My first was highly verbal and I also did too much explaining, we got into too many verbal battles… way too many choices and discussions. Have you read these posts on the subject?: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/31/the-need-to-know/
    and http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/01/take-my-three-day-challenge/
    These were like an “aha!” moment for me with my oldest daughter.

    Thanks for this post, it really resonates with me!

    • treepeters
      April 30, 2012

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      thank you so much for these links!!!!! I think I’ll have to read more there too. I’m almost afraid to read about what I should have done already or have done ‘wrong’… but there’s so much time ahead of us and so much to get right (whatever that really means.) We’re actually at a Waldorf school now and I’ve learned much from her wonderful teachers.
      thanks again for reading, commenting and sharing!

      • Erin
        May 1, 2012

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        sure thing! there is lots of good info on that blog about parenting, and it helped me be okay with talking less to my 2nd and 3rd children. and while i don’t agree with the waldorf philosophy as a whole, i see many of the aspects as being useful and true regarding how we parent.

  8. mel
    April 30, 2012

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    Boundaries are so much more powerful than a spanking!

  9. Melissa
    May 1, 2012

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    Thank you so much for sharing what you’ve learned, Tree. As bloggers, it’s easy to share our successes, but so much can be learned when we share a journey of learning where we could have done better, too. I so admire how in tune you are with Em, and it’s obvious that your connection was incredibly valuable in helping you work out what she was needing. Sometimes we all need “time out” to regroup – it doesn’t have to be a punishment, and it sounds like it’s working well in your case.

    I was so much like Em as a child myself, and I know I would have benefited from the approach you take with her. My mom used to ask me for parenting advice when issues came up with my older sister, even doling out consequences based on my suggestions. It was a huge responsibility, and looking back I can definitely say that I felt out of control myself. It’s easy to forget, when you’re dealing with an articulate child like Em, that you’re still dealing with a child. It sounds like you have really found a balance. I can see Annabelle being similar as she gets older, too, so don’t be surprised if I come to you for advice! :)

  10. Wolfmother
    May 2, 2012

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    My challenge is also setting appropriate boundaries, especially with a remarkable child who seems older than he really is. I’ve introduced simple household rules that help keep the harmony and I worried that it would push my son into acting out more but it had the opposite effect. He seems more calm and at peace with the security of knowing what was expected of him, even if he did not like the change and restrictions at first.

  11. Stephen
    May 7, 2012

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    She’s such a brain-child, it’s beyond anything I could have hoped for. Sometimes we let her go on for a while because honestly we can’t help but marvel at her process. But I know that if I don’t start putting my foot down a little more as a parent and stop being charmed by her precocious logic I’m going to pay for it down the line, when her intellectual skills have reached at least triple my own.

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