Thursday, November 2, 2006

Ye Olde Xanga post on positive discipline...

To discipline a child is not the same thing as punishing. Much confusion arises in this area of child rearing, because in Christian culture in the past 30 years, these two ideas have been equated.

Punishing a child focuses on the negative behavior and requires some kind of physical or emotional pain from the child. Examples of punishment would be spanking or some removal of emotional availability.

Parental discipline does not equal punishment. It means teaching the child and gently leading them towards the example of Jesus. No beating required.

Is parental authority God-given? You betcha! But it's not the kind of authority that demands to be recognized. It's the authority Christ modeled for us-gently correcting, appropriately rebuking, leading, illustrating, sheltering, and giving fully of ourselves. And patiently, consistently repeating that as many times as need be. We're given authority not to control our children's behavior, but to gradually teach them how to handle their own sinful nature and internalize godly morals. And that takes time.

The problem with punishment is that it addresses behavior instead of the heart. While spanking your child may produce faster results, those results are out of fear of punishment. Love is not the motivator.

Children aren't born with morals. In order for a child to internalize the positive reason why she should act a certain way (out of kindness, compassion, principle), she must be given the opportunity to fail and try again and again, all the while being gently and firmly prodded and guided towards right action. If physical violence is used to discourage a "misbehavior", then avoiding a punishment will be the child's main motivator for acting right. The imprint that physical pain inflicted by a trusted adult leaves in the child's mind is indelible. The child's moral development is somewhat arrested, because they carry the fear of shame/punishment into adulthood with them as their primary motivator for good behavior.

Related to this is the fear of losing love because of bad behavior. (Also a terrible reason to "act good".) No matter how many times a parent says, "This is for your own good" or "I'm doing this because I love you", what the child carries away with them is, I never want to do that again because I hate being hurt by my parent, and I hate disappointing them so.
The child responds with good behavior out of fear of displeasing his/her parents. They learn that acting "good" means being loved, and acting bad means withdrawal of love. As sons and daughters of God, are we not to extend God's unconditional forgiveness and love to each other? (And who are we, by the way, to play God and demand painful payment for sin when Christ has already taken the blame?)

From an immature child's perspective, what is punishment teaching them? What lesson do they really walk away with?

Teaching a child that a moment of weakness warrants corporal punishment sets them up for abuse and an unhealthy understanding of God and others later on in life. Thinking patterns established early on in life die hard, or not at all.

Here's what I mean. As a child grows to adulthood, in order for him to function in a healthy way within relationships, it is paramount for him to establish healthy boundaries for his own person and to respect the boundaries of others. Spanking completely undermines the idea of respecting his own boundaries from his earliest memory.

Spanking a child when he fails teaches him that his failing deserves a punishment.
It also teaches him that it's OK to punish others when they fail you.
How will that look when it plays out in his marriage? Friendships?

Spanking a child teaches him that when you get caught, you get hurt. Lesson? Don't get caught.

Spanking a child communicates that love and physical safety are conditional. If you mess up in a relationship, it stops being loving and safe. How will this effect his ability to be open and honest?

Spanking teaches a child that if she displeases someone else, her physical boundaries don't have to be respected. How will this look when she's dating an abusive guy? Married to an abuser?

Spanking tells the child that in order to be "cleared" from an offense, it must be punished. How does that effect his understanding of God's grace?

"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you" communicates to the child, "You're making me hurt you. I wish I didn't have to, but you've forced me." I shiver while thinking of how many woman have used the idea that they're responsible for their own abuse as an excuse to stay in a destrictive relationship.

Please, dear ones, understand that I would never accuse any well-meaning parent of purposefully harming their child. Unfortunately, intentionally or not, spanking is damaging. The good news is that Christ is the inventor of new beginnings. The past is the past, and we can only be responsible for the present. God's grace is sufficiant for us, and for our children!

So, is it possible to maintain godly authority within the home without corperal punishment? Yes, it is!

I love this quote from Corrie ten Boom (the christian woman who survived the Ravensbruck prison for hiding Jews in her family's home..her family is an amazing testimont to grace and forgiveness):

"...we were disciplined without spanking. I cannot remember being paddled as a child, but there was no doubt in our family that we were to obey Father...We never spoke of "line of authority in our home-it was simply understood. Father didn't have to stand up and say, "I'm the head of this home!" He just was. We never felt any desire to have it any other way, because love and security of all our relationships were built upon the established fact that God was always with us, and He had appointed Casper ten Boom in charge of the home called Beje."
                                                                                                          -Corrie ten Boom, In my Father's House
More later on punishment vs. natural consequnces/prevention...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Making Amends

One of the things I learned from my dad as a little girl is that when you've blown it as a parent, when you've really blown it, it's good and decent to admit this to your child. I'm really glad I "caught" this idea while I was growing up, because it's served me well.

In our home, we "make amends" when someone has done something to hurt someone else. This reinforces the idea of taking responsibility for our wrong actions, and attempting to restore the relationship with the hurt party.

Why am I blogging about this today?

Today, I was feeling grumpy and overwhelmed by the clutter I was trying to clean, I had finally gotten the baby asleep, and was looking forward to having only one little person to take care of while I caught up on some laundry.

Just as I tossed several pairs of jeans into the washer, I turned around to see Mirth thrusting her doll "Baby Boy" into Lark's peaceful face. ALL I could think of is how hard it was going to be to get my baby back to sleep, and how my two year old had been told over and over not to interrupt her sister's sleep. I rushed over, grabbed the doll from M's hands and slung it to the floor, all the while growling sternly about how Essie was not to touch her sleeping sister.

Big tears welled up in Mirth's eyes, as she started her own upset chatter: "No throw my baby on the floor! No throw Boy! Mirth show Boy to Larkie, mommy no throw my baby down!!" She ran and grabbed Boy protectively, clutched him tightly and ran from the room.

That heavy "I've blown it" feeling settled on my chest. I tried to figure out what had caused that reaction (besides my angry tone. :-( )
Mirth had been showing her doll to her sister. She wanted to share with her, and was offering her most treasured possession. Assuming the best about Essie's intent was a start, and so I found her and dropped down to her eye level.

"Mommy's very sorry. I sounded angry with you, and I yanked your toy away hard. I was worried Lark would wake up too soon. Will you forgive me?" No response. I tried again. Still I was getting a funny vibe. Then I realized the look on her face was, "you're apologizing to the wrong person." My own voice muttering in my head "I can't believe what I'm about to do", and refraining from rolling my eyes or giggling...I picked up Baby Boy.

"Baby Boy, I'm sorry I yanked you away and tossed you on the floor. *Big kiss right on his plastic air brushed head* I like you a lot, and I'm sorry I hurt you." HUGE smile from Mirth. She stopped crying crocodile tears. Amazing.

In her head, Baby Boy is very real, and she's his mommy. She loves to carry him around in a sling and pretend to nurse him while I'm taking care of N'omi. She's emulating her Mommy. As upset as it makes me feel when she experiments with pulling her sister's hair and seeing her cry, it upsets Essie when she sees someone mistreating her "baby".

And that makes me feel good. She's learning compassion and kindness, even as she jumps on, pokes, and chews on Baby Boy. And maybe someday, when she's grown up and has her own toddler, she'll remember that her mom wasn't too proud to admit when she was wrong.

And maybe she'll find the courage to do the same. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 5, 2006

The Waterbirth of Lark

One week past my due date, I was feeling discouraged. I had been experiencing predromal labor every evening for two weeks, and each time I went to bed, the contractions petered out to nothing. So when I started experiencing strong contractions on Friday afternoon, I tried my hardest not to get excited :P My brother was visiting our apartment for the afternoon, and so I laughed and paced while I talked for a while, until he convinced me I ought to time them and call my husband, Barefoot Man. 

Eventually, they were bearable but coming 3min. apart, so I called my midwife, Debi, Barefoot Man, and my doula to warn them this "might be it". Dh came home, and we sent dd Mirth with my parents so we'd have a chance to relax. (But only after she helped daddy blow up the giant fishie pool we planned to labor in.)

I contracted in my living room 3 min apart from 6pm till 2am.  Nothing unbearable at all, but I was feeling so tired. I strongly suspected that dd's head wasn't engaged due to funky position in my pelvis, so I tried every trick in my book: big circles on the birthing ball, relaxation, walking, lunging, squats...nothing changed. Being a doula, I found this incredibly frustrating  I'm used to being able to help things! 

Finally, I felt strongly led in my spirit to go to bed. It was stronger than an intuition; I swear it was like the Spirit was whispering it in my ear. So, I did. And the contractions slowed down. I resigned myself (and disappointed dh) to the fact that this was a false alarm. 

I woke up the next morning, put my feet on the floor, and was greeted by a strong contraction with lots of pressure on my cervix! Her head had moved while I was sleeping!  And I was rested! I called my doula and asked her to come in an hour. My mw could tell by the tone of my voice she'd better hurry, so she headed on her way to my house.

This part of Lark's birth is so special to me...

An hour later, I was really feeling the cntx. In a big way. I was about 5cm. My doula and husband were amazing! I found myself feeling so incredibly peaceful and relaxed. 

(As a side note, because of past life experiences, I have a hard time just letting others love on me. I usually have to be in control of myself, and can't just let go and rely on someone else's comfort...)

But I found the more I relaxed in their arms, the more peaceful I became. My mw commented that I was incredibly tranquil I was. My doula and husband brushed my hair, rubbed my feet, wrapped their arms around me, held me and murmured gentle words to me. I honestly cannot remember labor being frightening or difficult! As each contraction washed over me, I drew so much comfort in my doula and dh's gentle effleurage. They played with my hair. They praised me. I felt God's hand sheltering me through each contraction. I can't even describe how incredibly loved and cared for I felt. I couldn't escape labor; my only choice was to relax in the arms of love and accept the pain and the comfort...and trust that God was guiding the whole experience.  (darn it, I'm even crying now...) Truly, it was such a healing experience for me personally. I labored this way for several hours

Barefoot Man and the mw's assistant filled the birth pool, and I was cleared to get in at 7cm. The warm water was amazing. And I went from 7cm to complete in 10 minutes!
Debi never checked me to see if I was complete, she just encouraged me to trust my body's urge to push. And what an urge!! (Since I'd been medicated for Mirth's birth, I'd never felt it before!)

 I think that was the most earthy, primal feeling I've ever felt in my entire life. The pressure was overwhelming, and the only thing that possesed my thoughts was, "Push this baby out!! NOW!!" All pushing was self-directed, and I felt so incredibly respected through the whole delivery.  It was truly empowering. She came at me so furiously, and descended so fast, and I had no idea she was already crowning after three contractions! All I could think was, "I can't do this much longer!!"

I screamed a primal scream, I think I shocked Barefoot, and was shocked myself to find that the only thing I could think to cry out was the name of Jesus. I kept hearing myself say, "Be here, Jesus! Be here with me!" I don't even recall cognitively thinking it, it was just pouring out of my mouth over and over.  And He was.

Lark was born after three contractions, and Barefoot Man got to deliver her at my mw's direction. He was so thrilled. I was shocked and overjoyed when she was suddenly plopped on my "that's it? She's already here??" She is beautiful. 8lbs 5oz, 21 inches, daddy's-chin and-mommy's-eyes beautiful. I felt limp as a noodle and ready to conquer Everest at the same time! 

She nursed like a pro, and with great enthusiasm. I remember her looking up at me in a worried way, and then pooching out her lips in (what's now her trademark) pout, and then shudder-sighing and snuggling in once I reassured her with my voice that all was as it should be.  Soon after her birth, Barefoot, Mirth, baby Lark, and I were napping together on our bed. So, so different than anything I'd ever experienced before, in such a lovely way.