My father’s response to my second, more challenging email totally blew me away. I had sort of planned a third installment, but after I read his email, I decided to change what I was going to say. I thought I would write about what our discipline DOES look like, so that my dad could be comforted that there WAS a plan; that I was parenting with intent, with a real purpose.
I wrote a very condensed version of how I stopped spanking. I included Maximus’ strange compliance right afterwards, and how we finally helped him to stop running away. Maximus’ heart had changed, and he felt safe, and I wrote about that as well. My father had expressed concerns that I was just yelling and intimidating my children by voice. I hoped that if I told him just HOW we did things he would be able to relax (and trust me!). SO I told him how I had differentiated between obedience (a gift) and compliance (a necessity), and about how helpful it was to find the intent behind my boys’ actions before reacting. I told him about The Five Steps, and how we usually only needed 3, and how I dealt with non-compliance (what he calls disobedience). I wrote-
I do know, now that words alone are insufficient. J It did take me a while to find the tools I needed for my newly empty parenting toolbox, and for a time- a few months, I enforced very few rules. I decided to do that because I wanted to think very carefully and purposefully about the rules I DO want enforced, and start with the most important ones. Maximus did great, actually. I was continually amazed at the power of a simple suggestion, or a teaching statement. It’s been really cool to see him absorb and internalize the things we are teaching him, and watch him put them into action. 😀
Then I went on to explain the power of natural consequences. You see, my mother made much of ‘consequences’ when I was a child, but her consequences were not really consequences, they were the punishments she had devised as payback for whatever we had failed to do, or done wrong. (I didn’t tell my dad that) It was so important to me for my father to ‘see’ what real consequences were, and how they could be effective. Maximus can’t have the snacks and drinks they often had at church, and I illustrated for my dad what happens when Max wants his juice box on Friday, instead of waiting. I don’t buy more, if he chooses to drink it, it’s gone. It is his juice box, I bought it for him, and so I encourage him to wait. Sometimes he can, and sometimes he can’t but if he cannot, when Sunday rolls around, he drinks water. If he starts drinking them early each week, I will simply not buy anymore. I wanted my dad to understand that allowing my children some personal power does not diminish my power or my parental authority.
I ended with this-
Well, I hope this makes sense. I absolutely protect Maximus from dire consequences if I can. I won’t always be able to. I let the boys experience as many straight consequences of their actions as possible, for they really are the best teachers. It’s interesting to see Minimus at this age, and remember Maximus at his age, and realize that even though Minim has never been spanked, He does just as well as Max ever did being spanked all the time. Also, looking at Max and remembering that he did the EXACT same infuriating things as a two year old, even though I spanked him, that Minim does now.
If you want examples of how I handle other scenarios, just ask. J
I was feeling very hopeful as I sent this off. It was days before I received a response from my dad, and I wondered if he thought I was very foolish for what I had written. Finally, I got a response.
I finally got around to reading your response three-finis. Thank you, and it does put my mind at ease. I am glad you have found a groove for discipline. I knew you were capable to work it out. Very commonsense on the juice issue. Common sence is excelent. I am also glad that you thought out the rules you wanted to enforce. I was punished capriciously and when I got in the way of my parents. Some things were okay unless Aunt R. was there, etc. So consistent rules are the way to go. And a minimum and uncomplicated.
I will keep praying for you all. It would be criminal of me to not pray, right?
Saludas a la familia, les amo.
I cried. It was so much more than I had hoped for, really. I had expected to, in the end, have to agree to disagree with my dad. I expected to walk away from the conversation feeling that he did not understand, and that I had done all I could, but that he would still feel I was very wrong. Instead, I got understanding! I got approval!! I could hardly believe it!
I know my dear old Dad doesn’t completely understand raising children while avoiding punishment. I still don’t completely understand it, truthfully, but that’s why I am blogging. In a lot of ways, writing to my dad helped me clarify some things in my own mind, and put words to some things that had been only vague ideas before. All is not yet openness between my parents and I. Just a weekend ago, DH and I had another horrible weekend, worse than the first. I did not tell them any of it, not one word. I had enough to deal with without involving them, a country away, and so far removed from my reality. I still feel small and scared sometimes, when I think of telling them, and so I will not.
I guess I don’t really know what I’ve accomplished with all of this, but as a friend of mine likes to say, ‘It is what it is’.