Monday, April 22, 2013

Love and Discipline

In the last month or so, and more specifically in the last few days, I've come across or over heard several so-called "disciplinary actions" or "jokes" that just make me realize how much I live in a bubble.

It's nothing all that big or bad, but just totally not things I would say or do or agree with. It's easy to feel like the world is changing when you're so involved with peaceful parenting groups, and easy to feel very alienated when you're out in public.

First of all is the notion that loving your kids=disciplining your kids and that discipline=hitting.
Discipline is far more complex than a slap on the hand or a spanked bottom and the idea that giving your kids a good scare will teach them a lesson.
I hate this.
I hate this so very very much and I personally have a hard time understanding why anyone would think this is ok.
And I'm not saying that I've never felt the urge to because 'I love my kid so much' or whatever... no I've felt the complete rage and the 'end of the rope' sliding closer after a day or four of non-stop screeching. I've yelled, I've held on too tight, I've punched counter tops and walls to keep myself from doing it to someone else.
Because what does hitting accomplish? It's not about lesson-learning, it's about the adult needing to vent.
A 2 year old does not understand consequence. They appear all grown up and walking and talking and smart, but they are just clever parrots and don't go out of their way to make your life miserable. They are curious. They will touch things and do things they've been told not to, because they forget. Their heads are full of so SO much... they are learning a new language and realizing that this world doesn't always revolve around them and that mom is in fact a separate being from them. It's tough. It's stressful.
So when they get yelled at for having 'fun' they will lash out because they are angry and being angry is new to them and they don't know what to do with it.
Being hit in this process might get them to stop or scare them enough that they stop crying... but how is that healthy? How is being silenced teaching them how to control their emotions? How is disciplinary hitting teaching them anything but that hitting is the answer when someone is not doing what you want?
In my opinion it shames, embarrasses and scares a kid who might not really understand why it's happening.
I've read posts on message boards of people trying to 'be strict' with a 9 month old and it's just pointless when they're that small.

I know my opinions are not shared by everyone, but I passionately believe that although there are days/weeks/eternities where all you want to do fight back, you can't set that example.
Sometimes all you can do is offer a hug and walk away while they cry. Sometimes you think they're fine crying but they just want to be held, even if they know you're mad at them. Time-outs don't always work. Sometimes being shut in a room is not what a kid needs. Sometimes they do need time alone to work themselves out.
Every kid is different, but they are all the same in that they deserve to be taught to have a healthy emotional outlet. They deserve to be loved even when you want to tear their heads off. They deserve to know that crying is ok and curiosity has it's limits. But they deserve to learn these things gently.

Furthering on on the mentality that kids need to 'grow up and toughen up', I keep being amazed at some of the conversations I over-hear. Again, I forget that I live in this quiet little bubble and a lot of other people don't do the same things I do.
As I was leaving a grocery store with Toby I saw a family packing up grocery bags and a box. The girl, maybe 7 or 8, looked up at her dad as he picked up two of the bags and the box in his arms, while the mom took the other bag.
"Wow, those must be heavy!"
"They're not heavy at all you're just a weakling. You need to grow some muscles so you can lift stuff like me."
It felt like he said it loud enough for me to hear how hilarious he was as I was pushing past. I heard the humour in his tone. And I saw the girl stare at the floor as they shuffled out of the store.
A few days later we were in a pet store looking at fish and two little crayfish things were fighting on one of the tanks. A kid about Toby's age, maybe younger, was looking at the with his dad.
"Look they're jumping at each other!"
"Yeah look at them fight! Probably trying to kill one another for more food."

Am I missing something? Why would you say things like that to your kids??!!
Why do they need to be desensitized by the time they're 2?
Why can't people just let kids be happy kids before the drama of school and real-life creeps in to their lives?

Respect can be learned, and I think lasts longer, without the force of a hand.
Discipline can be taught by example instead of force.
Fun can be had without making every game about shooting/getting/killing the other guy.
Love can be shown by talking and teaching instead of controlling.

Step in to their shoes for a few moments and try to remember what it was like to be a kid. Maybe they can teach you something you forgot.