Writing Home… part three

 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’.


About greenegem

Wielder of the Pen of Deep Wit.
This entry was posted in Greenegem's Story, Testimony, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Writing Home… part three

  1. Pingback: Writing Home… part two | Dare to Disciple

  2. April G says:

    I had a very similar conversation with my dad when my ds was almost 2 years old, and dad realized I would not be spanking my ds. We had a huge fight one day when my dad tried to punish my overtired, over hungry, tantruming child. After going home that night I wrote an 8 or so page long letter detailing exactly why and how I discipline, and he basically told me after reading it that we would have to agree to disagree, and he hoped my son wouldn’t turn out rebellious, rude and disrespectful like he felt he would. :-/

    My son is 7 years old now and my dad and his wife (not my mother) regularly rave about how wonderfully sweet and kind and gentle my son is. They have grown to respect my “strange” ways of parenting gently, and when I see my dad interacting gently with my son it makes my heart burst with joy.

    May you reap the same joyful results from hashing this out with your dad. ❤


    April G

    PS I would love to post your blog addy on my links page of my blog, and was wondering if you would add me to the blog roll in your sidebar too. 🙂

  3. Carla says:

    Awesome! These kinds of things are so hard to write (at least for me)…

    Carla (RedPetals)

  4. -Angie says:

    I am fascinated. 🙂 Well done.
    I am happy for you.

    I checked out the http://aolff.org/grace-based-discipline/the-5-steps site and have just one comment as I’m still reviewing: The initial “quoted” suggestions of how and what to say to our little ones is, in my opinion, a great approach except for one aspect.

    “You need to stop yourself from playing and clean up. It is time to leave.”
    I would reword this to, “I would like you to stop yourself from playing now and clean up ________ (specifically what/where) because it is time for us to get our things together and leave for _________.”

    “You are having a hard time stopping your play. Can you stop playing and clean up or do you need my help?”
    I would reword this to, “It looks like you haven’t chosen to stop playing yet. It’s important to stop now and clean everything up because it is time for us to leave. Can you stop playing and clean up all by yourself or would you like me to help?”

    “You are not stopping your play. Here, let me help you.”
    I would reword this to, “You have not stopped playing yet and our time has run out. I would like to help you focus. Ok? (Assuming a positive response follows) -While sitting down/standing next to/physically joining in the activity. “Please pick that ______ (toy) up and put it there _____. Thanks, now I’ll get this one. Please pick that toy up (use descriptive language, “the red car”) and put it there (in the blue box for cars). Great! You clean up your toys well. What toy (again be specific – what do the toys consist of) should I pick up next? What toy (car, doll, book) will you pick up now?” Continue until everything is taken care of.

    If a negative response follows instead, then there is room for discussion and understanding. This is when the adult simply asks the child to voice his/her opinion and thoughts related to the request (all three of them, in this case – 1) stop playing, 2) clean up, 3) depart and all that is involved in doing so). There is a REALLY good chance that if the child is still resisting, even after you’ve offered in word and action to assist in the requests, that something isn’t sitting right with them on the inside. Whether they are able to communicate their feelings and thoughts depends on their age and the environment the adult has provided for them (do they feel safe, do they know their thoughts will be acknowledged, are they confident their feelings will be honored and respected).

    Now, here’s why I differ: First and foremost, children (even tiny babies) are quite able to discern our respect for them as opposed to when we diminish and/or humor (even slightly). When an adult imposes a state of quality, as in “you did that well” or “you aren’t doing that well” (as in the case above – “You are not stopping your play. Here, let me help you”) it must be meaningful and logical. Otherwise, it’s demeaning and contradicts what the child feels inside themselves. To say, “Here, let me help you” is the adult stepping on the respect the child needs, as well as their autonomy.

    Let me give you an example in the adult world. One adult says to another, either in a work, church, or social setting, “I need you to ________.” Or, maybe they are more indirect, “Would you like to (do this) for me?” Like you can really say no without an awkward situation following. And finally, if you’ve never had either of these, how about, “Would you do me a favor and _______.”

    Second, stepping in and informing the child of their inadequacies (and they are, in fact, perceived inadequacies, or the adult wouldn’t be taking over) so that your intentions can continue as planned is, well, really awful and unbelievably common. It’s as common as using timeout – which is nothing more than forced isolation and punishment which uses ostracism and causes physically experienced emotional pain.

    So, while I like the steps that are outlined, the approach is diminishing. Just the same, finding out that a mama and papa are choosing to interact with their child(ren) on a level that doesn’t resort to punitive, coercive, manipulative, or demeaning tactics is absolutely wonderful to hear about. Keep up the great adventure gg!

  5. -Angie says:

    Oh, and I love your words – “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.”

    Wonderfully communicated. Your words have given voice to something I have understood for a long time but haven’t been able to communicate adequately. This will stick with me permanently. 🙂

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