Dobson. Tripp. Ezzo. Pearl. When I hear these names, I think of self-proclaimed parenting gurus. They say they have the perfect formula to churn out the perfect child. If you simply follow their plan, you’ll raise perfectly behaved, perfectly Godly, perfectly perfect children. Only you won’t. Each of them takes what they see as a goal and tells you that you can do it too – you can attain this goal. Only you can’t. They seem to think that parenting is One Size Fits All. Only it isn’t.
Grace-Based Discipline (GBD) never takes a One Size Fits All approach. GBD is not a formula or system of rules for parents to follow to raise their children. GBD is so much more than that. GBD is about realizing that your children are people and deserve love and respect, it is about realizing that your children do not need to be dominated, shamed, punished, or their wills smashed in order to raise them. I’ve yet to see any self-proclaimed GBD gurus. There are GBD books, of course. The authors are not giving formulas or guarantees. They are providing parents with tools to add to their parenting toolboxes. These authors understand that children are different and tools that work with some children will not work with others. That is why there are many tools used by GBD parents.
What works for Audrey does not work for Logan. What works for Logan does not work for Carter. What works for Carter doesn’t work for Audrey. They are different ages, are in different stages of development, and have vastly different temperaments. This presents an opportunity for me; an opportunity to constantly learn more and better ways to teach each of my children in a way that will speak to them as individuals and help them learn and grow how God meant them to learn and grow. I won’t lie and say it is easy. It is the opposite of easy. It is challenging, hard work that never seems to end. I am always on the look out for new tools to add to my parenting toolbox. I’m still desperately trying to get rid of tools that I know don’t work and are counter-productive to parenting the way I want to parent.
Here I must make a confession. The tool that I want desperately to get rid of that is still in my toolbox is yelling. I’m a yeller. I yell at my kids and I’m working to get rid of this tool. Periodically, I’ll ask Audrey how I’m doing. I trust her to be honest and to give me feedback that I can use to help myself get rid of this tool. Today she told me I’ve been yelling at Carter too much but I’m doing really great with not yelling at her and Logan. This means that this week, I’m going to be looking for another new tool so that I can replace yelling with something else. I understand that I won’t get rid of this tool until I have enough other tools to completely render it unneccessary.
On the other hand, after talking to her, I can see how much of an improvement I’ve made with Logan. I’ve watched over the past year as our relationship has grown and how finding an effective parenting tool that fits Logan has allowed me to almost totally dump yelling at him. I’ve found that going out of my way to go to him, look him in the eye, and very firmly tell him what I expect him to do or not do reaches him like nothing else. It is when I fail to get off my butt and do the hard work of actually parenting him that I find myself resorting to yelling at him. When I find myself yelling, I can step back and see that I’ve tried to be lazy or that I’m too stressed or busy to actively parent Logan the way he needs to be parented. His actions and behaviors don’t make me yell, my own lack of doing my job correctly is what makes me yell. I’ve tried using this tool on both Audrey and Carter too since it works so great with Logan. It does not work with either of them. It turns Audrey into a weeping, hysterical mess and it turns Carter combative.
Parenting is never One Size Fits All. It needs to be as personal and individual as each child is. Patience is a non-negotiable requirement of parenting. Understanding that instant results are not going to happen with GBD and knowing that one needs to continue to learn in order to continue to teach are also necessary. Parenting, to succeed (no matter what your parenting goals are), needs to be custom fit for each child. One Size Does Not Fit All.