Today I am welcoming Kimberly of The Single Crunch to share a bit about her journey into peaceful parenting. Kimberly’ story is one of hope and hopefully inspiring to others. Choosing to parent in a positive way is possible, even if the journey didn’t start out so. Thank you Kimberly for your honesty and for sharing your journey here!
I am astounded at the reception to my post, ‘I Used To Hit My Children.’ It encouraged so much conversation on my blog and on my Facebook page. I heard from many parents who had been there or were currently there, and many of them felt the same way I did. It just doesn’t work and it’s just not right. Since that post I’ve been continuing my quest to parent peacefully – and I am truly starting to understand what leads parents to want to spank, and what led me to do it.
Children don’t always obey. My toddler, Logan seldom obeys. My eldest, Ryleigh is on a whole other planet, and I don’t speak the language. Logan openly defies me: saying ‘no’ to my face so calmly it makes me feel like I’m combusting; picking up something I’ve asked her not to touch and asking, “Don’t touch dis?”; hitting her sister repeatedly; and just doing her own thing, all the time. It drives. me. nuts. It’s made me realize something: the fact that I’ve quit spanking and yelling in NO way means my anger and control issues have disappeared. Not at all. I struggle with those feelings every day, though it has gotten much better now that they’re not compounded by the guilt I felt before. What’s changed is the way I think about my children.
We all want our children to behave. We are their parents and it is our job to see they know right from wrong. For most of my life I thought that the best way to do that was to discipline them. And to me discipline was spanking, punishing, time-out, and the like. Tagline: then, I learned. I can’t remember where but I read an article about time-out, which stated that when we isolate our children we are teaching them that their behavior is more important than the emotions that caused the behavior. That was heavy for me.
When Logan is acting out, I could easily grab her and sit her in a corner, as I did with Ryleigh. But I think back on those times with Ryleigh – after the time-out was over she’d come to me and apologize and I’d hug her and all was well. Now though, I ask myself, “What happened to all those emotions she had running through her little body?” I know what happened to them: they swam around in her head as she sat facing the wall, ashamed to be feeling whatever she was feeling, left alone to navigate her thoughts in a way small children aren’t yet capable of. She never got to express them. I’d told her, without saying it, that I didn’t want to hear it, didn’t care. I was only concerned with how she was sullying my day. That is not a message I’d want to send to an adult, let alone any child I know.
It’s the same with spanking. When Ry did something I’d go so quickly to spank, and after the hitting I’d feel badly, so that’s where my thoughts were. Ry would come and apologize and we’d sit together lovingly, happy to be over that moment of chaos. And still, the emotions were never discussed. Reminds me of my own childhood, and I thought to myself, “But what I experienced was emotional neglect. My mother loved me but I was never given the opportunity to speak my mind, or shown the respect of someone considering me as a person.” Ryleigh could just as easily have made the same statement. I love her but I was neglecting a very important part of her. I wasn’t neglecting her as a person, but I was neglecting her person.
As adults, we are who we are. We’ve already had our opportunity to form our identities. Even if our self-expression was stifled in childhood we have had time since to reclaim ourselves. Children need and deserve that chance.
Parenting is not about breaking another person’s will until they conform to whatever fits our lifestyle. It is about welcoming a new person to the world and making necessary adjustments to our own personality, until who they are and who we are can coexist harmoniously – at the expense of no one’s sense of self. Hitting and isolation do not support this ideal.
I spanked because I didn’t know how to respond to my children. They come from us; they should be just like us, right? So when they go against what we say an alarm should go off! No, it shouldn’t. Our children come from us but they are not us. They are new people. They have their own brains and their own ideas. They are still developing and part of healthy development is the fine art of talking back, speaking up, saying it loud. They make mistakes.
We are walking a path with them as their most-trusted guides. They will fall off the path. We can choose to walk over to them and hit them and order them back on, and they will return, but have we learned what set them astray to begin with? No, we’ve only allowed our journey to continue at a pace that suits us. But their path is longer than ours and we will only guide them for so long. When we are no longer with them, will they be able to find their way themselves? Or will we have rendered their emotional compass useless? Our children need us to pause, see that they are wandering, and ask them how we can help steer them in the right direction. If we want them to follow us we need to connect with them. Violence will not foster such a connection. They may get back on the path, but they may also just be waiting to be on it alone.
We need to talk to our children. Peaceful parenting does require a lot of talking, a lot. But didn’t you talk with your boss before you were hired? Didn’t you talk to your mate before you committed yourself? If we want a healthy relationship with anyone, communication is a must. Our children should count no less. Control does not equal discipline. Control means we have trained someone to behave a particular way in our presence; not that we have enabled them to discipline themself in all situations. My children will have to go out into the world someday and it is my hope that they will thrive, and that they can treat people with respect as I have treated them. They cannot do so if I do not. They cannot behave if I’ve never let them learn why they should, or how to do it. They are growing people and I need to regard them as such. I don’t have all of the answers and what I do doesn’t always work. But as long as we’re talking, I’m secure we’re doing better than before.
Kimberley Price is a single mom to Ryleigh, 8, and Logan, soon to be 3. A former spanker and yeller, she now hopes to share what she’s learned with other parents who seek to strengthen their relationships with their children. She and her children love unschooling, cycling, cooking and eating together, reading, laughing, singing, writing, and learning from their mistakes patiently and peacefully.
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