About Spanking

 

signs1I couldn’t write about discipline without bringing up the subject of spanking. Since I believe discipline is something we teach our children, not do to our children, I bet you can guess that I’m against the concept.

At the same time I feel for parents who try to do their best, and sometimes get frustrated. Although I find spanking to be unnecessary, I understand the parent who feels there are no other options.

Raising kids, after all, is a learned behavior. Many of us utilize the same parenting techniques used by our own parents. To do things differently might be seen as a way to dishonor the generation that came before us.  Making changes can be especially tough for someone who is still seeking parental approval. So, we continue where our parents left off. After all, the old  techniques worked for our generation and the ones before that.

Raising children today is different however.  Of course we still want our children to behave but we also want the next generation to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate through life. In addition, we expect and demand more from ourselves as parents. This calls for an expanded parental tool box.

Having cared for children for more than thirty years, I can usually tell which children are spanked on a regular basis. No, children that are spanked are not better behaved. Often these children don’t know how to listen properly. Why not? Because words are not highly valued  and isn’t the ultimate currency used in their homes.

Today, most reputable dog trainers agree that hitting a dog is wrong. Most teachers can keep a classroom filled with five year olds in check without using physical force. Many spouses who slap their mates end up in jail. Employee abuse is no longer tolerated, yet productivity and corporate profits are high. Could it be that society is evolving, and child rearing techniques will follow?

Many parents use spanking because it works. It stops a behavior. That’s where the effectiveness ends. Will it strengthen the parent-child bond and add to a child’s sense of trust? No, and if a parent is looking to model great problem solving skills (so necessary in today’s world) spanking will not do it. Then there is the questions regarding how hard to spank and when to stop spanking. There are no correct ways to spank a child. Some ways are more tolerable than others maybe, but is it possible to do things differently and still get the desired result? Answering no to that question would be to short  change parental power.

Let’s say you would like to change, where do you start? Begin by thinking about what kind of parent you would like to be. Read, ask questions, study others and search for role models from your past and in your present.

As you try out your new approach, be patient with yourself and your child. Don’t become alarmed if your child’s behavior worsens in the beginning. It’s his way to test new boundaries and to see if you mean business. More is now expected in terms of self control and self discipline (from both you and your child). It takes time to master new tasks.

It takes courage to change. It takes courage to seek new ways that better align with the parent you wish to be, and better align with the relationship you seek to have with your child. A child deserves boundaries and perimeters. He deserves to learn right from wrong. He deserves to learn how to behave. All this creates security and self-confidence. He also deserves to be treated with dignity.

To read more about my approach to discipline, click here.

If you need specific help, contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Approach to Discipline

Love-Heart-02If you just became a parent you might not have given much thought to how you will discipline your child, yet it is the aspect of parenting that will have the most impact on your child from day one until adulthood.

My view is that effective discipline is created not as a reaction to an undesirable behavior, but as a way to instill self-discipline in your child. If you think it sounds like I’m one of those parents who let my kids run free and learn on their own, keep reading.

Where Do You Start?

Discipline doesn’t start when your kid messes up. It starts the day your child is born. And it starts with you, not your child.

1. You begin by building trust. Kids are more willing to listen to people they trust.

2. You gain trust by being consistent.

3. Let your expectations be known ahead of time.

4. Decide ahead of time what your magic word or action should be—the one that will stop a behavior. Some parents count to three.Some use a special tone of voice. Others, feel the need to use physical punishment as their way to show a child that they mean business (for more on this, please click here). Yet other parents only has to say no and say it once, and the child will listen.

5. To get to the point where the spoken word is and remains powerful, try this: Use the word no sparingly and only when you mean it and when you’re ready to enforce it. Children base their current behavior on past experiences. If you want the word to stop a behavior, it has to become your red light word that stops the child in her tracks. If you fail to follow through right away, it turns into a yellow light word, meaning your child will continue her behavior. (The only difference is, she will do it faster.) And if you use the word no with zero follow- through what so ever, it turns into a word you use only to cover your own parental butt. (That way you can say “I told you so” if something goes wrong.)

If you find yourself over-using the word no, you might want to add a few phrases to your disciplinary list and save the word for when you’re ready to enforce it. For instance: “maybe some other time”, “let me think about it”, ”ask me when we get home” or  “not now” are all effective for those times when you’re not ready or in the mood to give a definite answer.

6.. When trying to teach a child right from wrong, it can be very difficult to stay calm. You might notice that your child is tuning you out, so you begin to speak faster and louder. Before you know it, desperation sets in and you become an unrecognizable erupting volcano of words and feelings, worries and threats. It’s not pretty–and it’s not effective.I speak from experience.

Next time, you might want to try to do the opposite. That is, the more important your message, the fewer the words and the lower your volume ought to be. Just think about it, anything valuable we tend to use sparingly and carefully. Treat your message like it has value.

What If Your Child Doesn’t Obey?

So what are the consequences for not listening to a parent? It depends on the age of the child. During the first few years, it’s best to divert your child’s attention when you want to discourage a certain behavior.  Remove a child from a situation, replace an inappropriate item with a better suited one, or turn your back away from a child who uses bad behavior to gain attention.

As your child gets older, there will be times when she will decide to disobey or misbehave. That’s when it’s necessary to apply the brakes teaching your child that her actions and decisions have consequences.

The use of natural consequences is an effective approach to teaching self-discipline. A natural consequence is one that mimics the kind your child will encounter as an adult. For instance:

An older child who doesn’t clean her room might need extra training with added cleaning chores for a week.

A six year old who repeatedly behaves poorly in public might have to stay home the next time you go out for some fun activity.

A child who has a hard time getting ready for school might have to go to bed earlier at night to get some extra rest.

A child who doesn’t complete homework will get bad grades, missed playtime, supervised homework time or all of the above.

When to Ground Your Child

In my opinion, grounding is used way too often and becomes ineffective when used regularly and for too long a time. However, if a child repeats the same behavior time and time again, it might be necessary to ground her in order for her to get a chance to reset her own system.

Does this sound complicated? It might take some practice but it’s all common sense.  I promise, it will not be long until your child develops her own inner, self-regulating scale. How long depends a lot on how persistent you are as a parent. When it works, don’t stop. It works because you keep doing it.

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Sibling Harmony? Is It Possible?

huggingThere is no secret to why siblings fight. Babies aren’t born with great conflict resolution skills. They enter this world fairly self centered by necessity in order to survive.

Just as a child begins to develop a sense of emotional security, a sense of self, compassion and all of the more sophisticated feelings that come with age, along comes a sibling.  The world of your first born is rearranged. Like when you thought you were done spring cleaning. You sit there content with everything in perfect order when your spouse shows up with five large boxes from the attic, wondering why you’re not curious and excited to see what’s inside.

How to Prevent Sibling Rivalry Ahead of Time

When it comes to promoting sibling harmony, it all starts with you and it all starts early.

1. Before your second baby is born, start referring to the baby as “your brother” or “your sister” when talking to your child about the baby.

2. Also, refrain from making any large changes a few months before the baby arrives. You don’t want your older child to associate the arrival of a sibling with him being moved to a different room or a different bed for instance.

3. If the mother is the primary care giver, have dad play a larger role in the child’s life, long before the baby is born.

4. Once the baby is here, take lots of pictures of the two siblings alone. Place these pictures around the house as a constant reminder that they belong together. I even had pictures of my two girls on a shelf in their bathroom. They spent a lot of time in there so it made sense to me.

5. Involve the older one in smaller decisions regarding the baby, and praise positive actions.

6. Make sure to spend private time with the older one each and every day to instill the fact that he didn’t lose a parent when he gained a sibling.

How to Promote Sibling Harmony As Kids Get Older

OK, but what do you do if your kids are older, and you missed the opportunity to begin early? As the children become verbal and spend more time together, the real work begins. ( Click here for more on how to deal with fights.)

1. When my kids were growing up, the rule was simple: Don’t tell on each other unless there’s an emergency. I didn’t want siblings gaining ground by stepping on each other.So while they could let me know that they were having a problem, they soon learned to rephrase the first impulsive outburst before they reached me.

2. Positive behavior was sometimes rewarded with small surprises. I sometimes interrupted with a trip to the ice  cream store for instance. While I wouldn’t recommend bribing, rewarding good behavior sporadically is perfectly fine, as long as it isn’t done regularly. You don’t want kids to expect a treat each time they play nicely.

3. It’s never a good idea to compare two siblings . Even such innocent sounding statements as “this is my reader”  or “he is my quiet child” are damaging. You couldn’t ruin a sibling relationship faster if you placed them on different continents.

4. Oh wait; there is one way to ruin a sibling relationship faster — playing favorites. How could I almost forget that one?

5. Now and then, when the family are all together, have each person say what they like best about another family member. Showing and modeling appreciation is like super glue for a sibling relationship.

6. With siblings, there is a potential for a lifelong friendship. This doesn’t mean that there will not be times when their relationship will be tested. As your kids grow up, refrain from taking sides when they’re going through difficulties.  If you even mention the word “maybe” (as in “maybe she didn’t mean to…”) you, as a parent, have gone too far. Instead, listen, and ask if you can help. If the answer is no, back off. Waaaaay off—into the next county.

I always said that I rather have my kids upset with me than with each other. I think I succeeded. I know– be careful what you wish for. No, to tell the truth, I  found it to be quite touching when I saw my kids defend one another, even if that meant they were both upset with me. No matter how wrong I felt they were at the time, I sometimes gave in just because I valued the way they came to each other’s aid in times of struggle. And I just loved to see the look of surprise, victory and appreciation for each other in their eyes when they won the argument. So they got a cookie right before dinner or they got to stay up half an hour later than usual now and then. If the argument made sense, I told them so, and  I gave in. Sometimes when you lose as a parent, your reward becomes larger.

 

 

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What I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Parent

handsBefore your baby is born, forgive yourself ahead of time. You’ll make mistakes. Nobody gets a perfect score in parenting.

Before your baby is born, get used to the idea of forgiving others. Those around you will make mistakes. People will say things that are insensitive and hurtful. Grandparents will do things their own way. Your partner will screw up. If you forgive others, you’ll find it easier to forgive yourself.

Learn to forgive your child the way you hope she will forgive your grandchild.

The need to fulfill your ego as a parent and the needs of your child aren’t necessarily the same thing.

If you follow the rules most of the time you are allowed to break some of them some of the time.

Parent is something you are and something you do. But it shouldn’t be all that you are and all that you do. To have your child be your only project creates too much pressure on both you and your child.

Learn the difference between needs and wants.

Don’t abuse the word no. Say yes when you can and no when you have to. The more times you say yes, the more power the word no will have.

Everything doesn’t have to be a lesson or a moment to remember. Just be.

Raising a child  is like making a strainer leak proof. It takes lots of work to make what you put into it, not go right out the other end.

Creating a solid parent-child relationship is also like plugging up  a strainer. Expensive vacations are nice for making memories, but they are not enough to build trust, genuine affection, and a sense of belonging. To build a solid bond, you need lots of small but consistent, seemingly insignificant moments.

Don’t forget to have fun.

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It’s My Party and I Cry If I Want To

crying newbornYou’re home from the hospital. Maybe a few weeks go by of fairly smooth sailing, and then it happens. The baby starts crying, and nothing you do will soothe the little one. These crying marathons might go on through (what seems like) most of the day or night, or it might happen around the same time each day. You feel frustrated, irritated, sleep deprived and, start questioning your ability to parent.

Where to Start

People, even newborns, are all different. What works for one baby, doesn’t necessarily work for another. So this is one of many times we have to try different tactics to find one that works. The first item to check off the list is whether or not the little one is hungry. Even if you just fed him, it might be that he is going through a growth spurt and needs more food than usual. Also make sure to burp him once more. Trapped air can cause a lot of pain, especially if he didn’t burp halfway through the feeding.

If he isn’t interested in food, he is burped, and the diaper is checked, your baby is most likely suffering from colic. If you are breastfeeding, he might be reacting to something you ate the night before. That’s good to know but doesn’t help at the very moment you are standing there with the town crier in your arms. So let’s look at a few more ways you can help your baby feel comfortable:

Lay your little one on his stomach. Place your open hand underneath his stomach, with your palm facing up. Gently pat your baby’s bottom with your other hand. The pressure, the warmth of your hand, and the rhythmic patting helps sooth many crying babies. Remember never to let your baby fall asleep on his stomach, so make sure to turn the baby over once he calms down.

Still Crying?

If the baby still hasn’t calmed down, place your baby over your shoulder high enough so that the baby’s stomach rests on your shoulder. Move your upper body back and forth in short movements. The pressure on the baby’s stomach and the rocking movement are both helpful in alleviating stomach pains.

If you tried all of the above for a few minutes each, and the crying doesn’t die down, try this carrying technique: Lay the baby on his stomach over your lower inner arm with his head in the fold of your arm and his diaper area resting in the palm of that hand. The baby will be laying with his right arm and leg dangling on one side of your arm and his left arm and leg dangling on the other side (like a panther on a tree limb). The baby’s face will be turned to the side facing out, away from your body (You want him to be able to breathe!) Hold the baby close to your body to keep him secure. Rock your body from side to side. Having the top of the baby’s head touch your bicep (or your flabby upper arm if you exercise like me) makes many babies feel secure. By holding the baby like this, and gently rocking him, the weight of the baby against your arm will create some pressure on his stomach, alleviating pain.

Another way to alleviate colic (and tummy aches in older kids) is to lay your baby on his back, and gently tuck his legs towards his stomach with his knees bent. Hold this tucked position for a while and see if the situation improves.

If all of these methods fail to calm the baby, give the baby a relaxing bath, (click here for more on bathing a newborn) and then try to feed him once again. He may not have been hungry at first, but might be ready to eat after all that crying.

It’s always a good idea to check with your pediatrician if you’re worried about your baby crying, if for no other reason than to feel better yourself. After a few weeks, what began suddenly will usually stop just as abruptly. When this happens, enjoy the quiet– and reward yourself. You managed to get through the first big challenge of parenthood.

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You Have a Baby–Now What?

newborn-baby-care5A new born baby has landed in your arms. Now what? I remember sitting in my hospital bed with my firstborn in my arms wondering how everything outside the window could go on as usual when everything inside my hospital room and in my life had changed.

The trip home from the hospital took a while. My husband, who usually entered the freeway like a teenager with a death wish, now drove below the speed limit in the slow lane. All the way home. At a horse and buggy speed we slowly approached our daughter’s first home. Less than twenty four hours after leaving the home as a couple,we returned,a family of three.

If You Forget Everything Else, Just Remember This

If you have no, or very little experience taking care of a child, don’t worry. There are plenty of books out there that will help you figure out all of the technicalities of caring for a newborn baby. If you’ve read numerous books and still feel nervous, just remember the three main components to caring for a newborn: feeding, changing, and supporting the head.

The first weeks probably seem like one long period of nothing but feedings and diaper changes. Sleep deprivation can be tough. Make sure you sleep and rest whenever you get a chance. If you own a bassinet that is level with your bed —great. (They also have the ones that hook onto your bed frame which is even greater.) I prefer this to the family bed at this early stage. Having the baby in a separate bed next to yours makes it easier for you to get the sleep you need without worrying about the safety of your baby. Yet, you can easily reach over to that tiny little creature when you feel the need to.

How to Create Some Sort of Structure

After a few weeks, you’ll hopefully discover that your days will form some sort of pattern. Your confidence grows as you learn to read your baby’s signals. If you feel as though things are still a big blur with no beginning and no end, here are a few tips to get into some kind of flow:

Since the strongest urge, for small and large humans alike, is to fend off hunger, start by feeding your baby as soon as she wakes up. When she is about halfway done eating, take a break, burp her and change her diaper. Then finish the feeding until your baby is absolutely full, followed by burping your little one once more. That last bit of nourishment is usually what makes a baby feel secure enough to go to sleep.

When your baby is five or six weeks old, you might want to start separating days from nights. This means keeping the noise level low and the room as dark as possible during the night feeding. Even the youngest of babies can get over stimulated, so this is not the time to bring in the disco balls and the high school marching band.

I found that bathing a baby late in the evening also helps her relax and prepare for a longer sleep period. (This also helps a colicky baby.) Don’t bother getting one of those bath tubs with a built in seat. There is nothing relaxing about having half your body above water while you’re being splashed like a beached whale. Instead, get a tub that lets your little one float in the water while resting her head on the inside of your lower arm. Grasp her upper arm with your hand to keep the baby secure, while you gently wash her with your free hand. I have seen too many parents (and overworked nurses) scrub newborns like these tiny things have been mud wrestling. You are not cleaning your skunk sprayed dog. This is supposed to be an enjoyable, relaxing, soothing and quiet experience. When the bath is over, dress her in soft pjs, see if she’ll take a bit more food, burp her and the baby will usually fall asleep. (Still awake and crying? Continue reading here.)

These first weeks, when daylight and darkness might be the only ways you mark time, can be exhausting. Take lots of pictures. A lack of sleep can erase precious as well as not so great moments from your mind. With pictures you have future proof that you were actually present.

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