Monday, August 13, 2012

No "switch dance" ; Raising Respectful Kids Non-violently.

Pretty much everyone who knows me knows my stance on striking children: Don't do it. Just don't. I realize there have been times in my life where my viewpoint didn't hold much water with some people. My kids were younger, sometimes wild, and we had yet to see where my parenting style would lead us. The fact that my mother didn't hit me didn't seem to hold much weight with people, either, even though I turned out to be a  contributing member of society instead of the criminal that many spanking advocates would have us believe non-violent parenting produces.
   It seems that every couple of years my tolerance for the pro-spanking  lobby reaches a boiling point, and I just have to blog about it. This time, it's a rash of graphics I've seen floating around Facebook.

 It's probably a positive thing that I revisit this from time to time, as my kids grow more awesome and I see more and more evidence that this WORKS.

I've been giving a lot of thought to why there is this strange nostalgia for a time when it was more socially acceptable to hit children. I think it's because many people have a perception that kids today are less respectful than they were a generation ago, and that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket. You know who else made those same complaints? Hesiod (700 BC) and Socrates. It's too easy for an adult to view youth who are doing the same things they did as being "bad". And spanking is supposed to "fix" this. Parents, to you really think you can REQUIRE your kids to respect you and beat it into them if they don't? It won't work. That's not respect. Respect has to be earned, or it's not true respect.
On the other hand, I won't deny that our world can give us both small and large things to despair about. There's no doubt that at some point, the parenting culture reacted to past abuses of children by swinging too far to the other side of things. In some cases,  the concept of parenting without doing physical or true psychological damage to out kids unraveled into any coercion is a form of violence and  should be avoided at all costs. Some parents went to such an extreme that in an effort to live cooperatively with their children, they subsumed their own needs to their children's wants. I'm in no way advocating for that. What I'm saying is this: It's not one or the other, and the happy medium DOES exist. I raised my kids without spanking and shaming, but with discipline. My goal has been to set guidelines, teach them how to do things for themselves, expect them to contribute to our family, and to require more work from them if they failed to meet my behavioural guidelines. (Sometimes my floors would be REALLY clean before they got the hint, so either way, I win, right?). I'm a big believer that from the time they can walk, kids should be doing chores, and that the older they get, the more we should expect from them.  I also- very importantly- teach them that all people need to be treated with manners and courtesy, and model that by teaching THEM that way ( to the best of my ability).

My kids are now 15, 13 and 10. I think at this point I CAN speak to the success of non violent parenting. My kids aren't perfect ( and neither are you) but they are hard working, talented kids, and I am STILL getting compliments on their manners. This year, my 15 year old went on his first mission- helping renovate the daycare attached to out church, and not only did I hear many wonderful things about his work ethic, but he raised every cent of his expenses himself, and then some. He and the 13 year old volunteered at VBS yet again this summer, and I heard many of the same compliments. One of the best ones was from a kitchen worker who worked along side my daughter, who told me "she doesn't just work hard, she works smart."  The fact is, when my teenagers volunteer for a service project, I hear awesome things about them. The 10 year old? For about the 4th year in a row, he asked for donations to charity for his birthday. (His chosen charity this year wasWe Can Be Heroes ) He has a true servant heart.

I don't claim to have all the answers, but I think a  few of the things I've done have helped my kids on the path to awesome.

- When they are babies, respond to their cries.
- When they are toddlers, start requiring them to contribute to the family. If they can walk, they can put their own dirty clothes in the hamper, plastic dishes in the sink and learn to sweep. Keep adding responsibilities and by the time they're teenagers, they should be able to go to the store for you, cook a meal, wash, dry and fold their own laundry, and mow the lawn. Never do for a child what they can do for themselves.
- Treat them with courtesy, and let them see you treat others with courtesy. You really can't expect your kids to be polite if you tell them to use their manners, but then you're a total dick to your waiter.
- Use chores as a behavioural tool. I find this much more effective than I imagine hitting a kid would be, because it teaches them that getting along with other people is work, and that if we wrong another, we provide recompense.
-If your kids screw up outside the home, don't save them from the consequences of their actions. If your kid doesn't study, let them get a failing grade. It's not their teacher's fault they slacked off. Forgot to wash an item of clothing, take a towel to camp, or tell you until you're already on your way to somewhere that they were supposed to bring cupcakes? Oh well.
-Teach your children to plan.
-Maybe OT, but get your kids in the habit of showering daily and wearing clean clothes everyday from a young age. I am so VERY glad now that I got my kids into the habit of daily bathing as toddlers, because we ( and everyone who has to be around them) reaps the benefits now.

I believe that together, we can lead people to respect each other, and without fear.


At 3:49 PM, Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

There are no guarantees to any form of child-rearing, and I don't think I have a better handle on it than anyone else, but we know from hard science that violence begets violence, especially in boys. So we need to not do that!


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