Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Glass Houses and Stones

For those that may have noticed, I've been offline from the blogging world for a few days now. The fam and I took a weekend trip to my parents in Pittsburgh. We of course had a great time, taking Sabrina to our local apple orchard for the first time and hubby and I going to our third consecutive Steelers home opener. Best of all, we got to spend time with my parents and my brother. Time with family is so important, especially when you don't live near your loved ones. 

I witnessed something while I was at home that really got me thinking. My family and I were in church on Sunday, and a family that attends the same mass as us was sitting a little ways in front of us. They have a daughter and a son, both young, I'd say maybe 6 and 3 or so.  The boy, the younger of the two, was misbehaving a bit, not wanting to sit down when his mother asked him to.  So the mother, in a moment of anger and frustration, grabbed his arm, gave him one good smack to the behind, and forcibly sat him in the pew.  This of course caused the little boy to cry and wail, but he did stay seated.  My first reaction was one of judgement.  Why did she need to spank him?  He wasn't causing a scene, he just wasn't sitting when asked.  I personally am not in favor of any type of spanking.  I don't think it serves any purpose other than making your child embarrassed and potentially fearful of you as their parent, as the person in their life that is their lifeline, who they depend on for everything.  I feel there are more effective ways to deal with discipline.

But then, I examined my own conscience a bit more.  Could I really say with 100% certainty that I would never ever do that?  I would say that most parents spank their kids not in their right mind, not in a moment of zen, but in a moment of utter frustration.  I myself have been known to have a temper.  I worked with 2 year olds in daycare for a number of years, and I found myself frustrated with them often.  It comes with the territory of the age.  They are pushing boundaries, testing limits.  It is part of their development, whether their parents like it or not.  

With spanking, I find it easier to draw a line in the sand and say I will not do that.  And I hope that's the truth.  Growing up, I don't ever remember being spanked.  I do remember, however, my mom giving us a good grab of the arm and speaking to us through gritted teeth.  You KNEW when you were in trouble with her, but spanking was not necessary for that.  But what about yelling at your children?  Is that acceptable?  I don't mean "scolding" or "redirecting", I mean all out yelling.  For me, the line gets a lot grayer here.  Again, in my right mind, I hope to never YELL at my children.  I hope to speak firmly and sternly, but not lose control of myself or my words.  But it is very easy to say that when you are not in the middle of a frustrating situation.  

So what can I do, what can we all do as parents to avoid those situations that we do not want to happen, but that can so easily happen when we lose control of our emotions?  As the consummate planner in life, I would say having a plan for dealing with those situations is key.  This WILL happen to you, so it is essential to recognize that in order to effectively deal with it.  In addition, you and your spouse/co-parent/partner should discuss discipline and your thoughts and feelings on the subject.  If one parent is in favor of time outs, but another parent is in favor of spanking when deemed necessary, that it going to lead to issues down the road.  Everyone is entitled to their feelings, but an agreement should be made on how to handle behavior issues as a team.  Perhaps good cop bad cop works for some, while time outs work for others.  Whatever your solution, make a plan, and try to stick to it.

But, that moment will come when you lose your cool.  Maybe in a big way, maybe in a small way.  So then what?  I would say to try to walk away, remove yourself from the situation, let the other parent do the heavy lifting until you have calmed down.  And then, if you have done something that is tugging at your conscience, if you have hurt your little one's feelings or if you handled the situation poorly, own up to it.  Apologize, talk about what happened, on an age appropriate level.  As parents, we so often try to be perfect in the eyes of our children, but sometimes admitting our imperfections can make a bigger impact than the mirage of perfection.

My husband and I are in for a challenge when our daughter heads towards those terrible twos.  She is already fiercely independent and opinionated.. strong willed...  STUBBORN!  So I imagine I will need to give myself many time outs to deal with discipline issues.  But that's okay.  We are all human, we are imperfect beings.  We love our children, and we want what is best for them.  Admitting our weaknesses and knowing how to deal with them makes us strong, loving parents.

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