That's all I really can do, right? Well, I guess I could opt out and run away, either physically or emotionally, and leave my children and husband wondering what in the world happened. That doesn't feel like a real option though, at least not for more than an hour or two...then I need to put on my big girl panties, step up to the plate, think of a few of my favorite things and face the music. In other words, perhaps there's no right or wrong. Perhaps inspiration can be drawn from anywhere.
Granted, beating my children is wrong. Putting duct tape over their mouths may seem like a good idea sometimes, but it isn't, ever. There are definitely some no-no's in parenting. Those things really aren't parenting though. But within the range of acceptable parenting, I think there are many strategies and styles that can be effective and loving.
I'm sure my kids sometimes feel like I withhold love from them unless they behave a certain way. I think all kids probably feel unloved from time to time. In the end, though, as long as the focus of my parenting is loving them, I'm pretty convinced they'll be OK.
In the last parenting post I talked about a book I'd read part of, Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting: Moving From Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. Since then I've gotten it again and re-read it. I think it's a wonderful resource and gave me a lot to think about. And I'm passionate about thinking. Sometimes so much so that I over think things. (I know...you're shocked!) I really do believe, though, that thinking about how I parent is a great thing...for me and our kids. It can only make me a better parent.
However, there were a few things that kept coming to the surface for me while I read the book. First, he was talking about how kids who are disciplined, either with rewards or punishments, may feel conditionally loved and how that can lead to all sorts of problems in childhood and beyond. I can't speak to other people's childhoods, but mine was one that involved both reward and punishment. I can tell you the last time I got a spanking. I'm not sure it was the appropriate discipline, but I'm not willing to say it wasn't either. I got the message, I'll tell you that much! And I didn't feel unloved. In fact there's a country song for this. (Anyone who knows me well is probably smiling. "There's a country song..." is my version of, "One time, at band camp...")
Daddy's Hands (this version is by Dolly Parton and Holly Dunn) is a beautiful song that explains how children might not understand in the moment, but can in the long run, that their parents love them unconditionally. "Daddy's hands weren't always gentle but I've come to understand...there was always love in Daddy's hands." I know my parents love me, then and now.
Then there's Danny Tanner...many a lesson was learned from him and all the trouble his family got into! I remember one episode when DJ had done something. I don't remember what, though. She was anxiously awaiting some horrible punishment. Instead, Danny told her how disappointed in her he was and had her go to her room to think about it. Alfie Kohn states in his book that sending the kids to time out or to their rooms, or walking away from them, is a way of withholding your love. I don't think any of those Tanner kids were unloved! And DJ learned her lesson, I'm sure. Since I don't remember what she did I don't know what lesson she learned...but every episode came with a lesson!
The other thing that jumped at me from the book is that there's no formula to follow. I wanted that! I was looking for the following blanks to be filled in:
- When you're trying to keep child B calm while she gives a vile of blood and child C is repeatedly ringing the bell (ding, ding, ding, ding) and child A is egging him on, you should __________.
- When child A whines every time you ask him to do anything, you should _________.
- When child B slams her door and stomps her feet, you should _________.
You get the idea. I really wanted that. I wanted to have a book that I could go to and flip open to page 462 when looking for advice on wiping a 7-year-old's rear or page 36 when not knowing what to do about 5-year-olds who wake up repeatedly throughout the night. I thought that's what I wanted.
But, that might have been me thinking too much. Because, you know what? I've handled all these situations without a directory of parenting methods to turn to. And I love my kids. Jace may say that I'm one of the strictest parents in Washington state, but he'll also tell you I'm not the strictest in the World. I don't know where he draws the line, but I've learned that he's usually right. So, I'm apparently doing OK, at least on a world scale. And even if I am strict, I love my kids!
So, I'm glad I read the book. It has brought about some changes. I have begun questioning if behaviors are signs of a problem we can solve together or something that just needs to be dealt with. There are some situations that I still don't have answers for. And that's just fine. Parenting isn't science, nor is it abstract art. It probably falls someplace in the middle. So, I'm going to say it's kind of like exercise. There are lots of ways to work it out and changing it up now and then can result is excellent progress. So, lace up your shoes and just do it*!
*I don't know what's kosher or not about using Nike's slogan, so I want to be sure to give credit where credit is do. They thought of it, not me! By the way, did you know it's been around for over 20 years? Wow!