While surfing through facebook earlier this morning,
I came across a blog post and survey that asked the question, “Should Physically Disciplining Your Kid Be Considered Child Abuse?” http://www.attn.com/stories/298/should-physically-disciplining-your-kids-be-considered-abuse. The meme associated with the blog post and survey was of Lewis C.K. questioning why it is illegal to hit dogs, etc, but no illegal for us to hit kids who are delicate and small. My response was an immediate agreement.
After reflecting for a few minutes, I wrote the following opinion on my facebook wall.
“Agreed. When raising my four children, I did my best to use timers and corners to discipline them, especially when they were toddlers and under the age of 10. As they entered their tweens and adolescence, I allowed natural consequences for bad choices. I spanked my oldest and felt horrible about it, especially when I found out that he was hyperactive at age six. According to everything I learned from family therapy and psychiatrists, no amount of punishment would solve that problem, but behavioral modification therapy and correctly applied meds could help the child to be reasonably productive and socially acceptable.
I learned everything I could about ADHD and then refused to punish all four of my children for behavior beyond their own control or reason. I learned strategies instead for how to help them deal with their behavior. Instead of spanking, I tried to use logic and natural consequences. Through this experience with special needs kids, I also stopped fighting about homework. Instead, I picked my battles and didn’t try to address every single infraction. My biggest challenge was instead to just get them to school and keep them there. Two of my four children suffered from chronic anxiety and stress associated with fitting into the “mold” of public schooling. The school nurse called me almost daily with my children in their office with nausea and vomiting. No fever, just very upset with me that I wouldn’t drop everything I was doing to run to their rescue.
Product of 37 years of experience? What I realized at the end of all of my years of experience in raising children is that there were no correct methods for raising children with special needs. Kids are all different and unique. They will all grow up thinking you did it wrong, regardless of the amount of patience, nurturing, love and sacrifice you made on their behalf…or the endless meetings, $, therapy sessions, and fighting tooth and nail for their accommodations at public schools, in a system ignorant of the true needs of children.
Kids are small and vulnerable and I agree with Louis CK. They should not be hit. Hitting only teaches them to solve their problems with violence. At the same time, being over permissive ruins them too.
Don’t have sex. Don’t have kids. If you do have sex and kids, then be ready for all of the good and the bad and allow your children to be who they are and love them anyway. Don’t be a bully and beat them up to get them to conform to your norms. It is never too early to teach them about making choices and the consequences of poor choices and good choices. Reward positive behavior. Be aware of their feelings and be sensitive to those feelings and adjust your expectations accordingly. A bad day at school is stressful and acting out at home can be the result. Help them to de-stress without beating them up. Everyone needs their decompression time from stressful work and school. Give them a set amount of time for video games, sports, music, whatever they need. Make sure they have healthy drinks and snacks through the day. Their brains and bodies need all.
Reduce Stress: I firmly believe that homework should not happen. Extend the school day and stagger the learning with breaks for creativity and positive reinforcement. Don’t rush them from class to class every 50 minutes and punish them for not being able to negotiate the halls of a school in 5 minutes. Give them half an hour between classes…a chance to go to the bathroom, get a snack, get a drink (so many of our kids walk through school days dehydrated…holding their stool and urine so that they don’t have to deal with the stress of being “late” for a class). Many of them are given lunch detention and are forced to see their teachers during their lunch time and breaks. Lunch should never be a time for punishment.
Stop punishing them all the time.
Try Using Positive Reinforcement: Welcome them to their first period classes. That period should be an important time of getting there and getting organized for their day, perhaps with a faculty mentor who asks them where they are with their classes, life, health, and most of all tells them they are proud of them for getting there on time. This first period sets the tone of the entire day. All of this stress makes our kids sick physically and mentally. End their school days at 5 or 6 instead of 3, when their parents haven’t even gotten off of work yet. This stresses parents and kids out.
Let them have time for meals with their families and to enjoy extra curricular activities like sports, band, bowling, church events, etc. Give them down time to be kids and to enjoy their families. Give them the option to go to an evening program if they do not have family at home. The program should allow all to have a period to work on homework and a time to play. We should fund social programs which encourage healthy behavior in all of our children. Give them positive options and positive reinforcement.
Allow them to be kids: Most of all let them be kids. Allow them to grow and learn. Don’t start forcing them into a square volume of space where everyone will come out looking and behaving the same. Respect their unique qualities as human beings and use positive reinforcement and reward instead of always punishing for not being able to live up to the expectations of others all the time. Family time should not be about fighting to get the homework done or fighting over cleaning their room on a school night or whether to eat their peas.
Pick your battles and weigh the quality of family time against the need to “control.” You have nothing to prove. You ARE in control. Give toddlers choices and help them. If you tell them to clean their room or put away their clothes, get in there with them and do it too. “Let’s work on this together.” This is particularly difficult for kids who are easily distracted or hyper to do on their own.. They get distracted by a toy or there seems to be too much to do and they feel hopeless and give up. Withholding food until a chore is done, in particular, is child abuse in my opinion. If a little one doesn’t want to choose to behave, they may take a bath and go to bed.
My rule of thumb with toddlers and teens and their refusal to eat their peas, “You have to take as many bites as you are old. If you are two, you take 2 bites. If you three, 3 bites and so on. Eat something you hate and then you get the thing you dearly wanted. At least taste it.
Lastly, Ignore the little things and focus on the big things. If they are screaming on the way to doing what you told them to do, then just ignore them. Family time should be a time when a family has a chance to be a family…read books…watch a movie….play in the yard…bake cookies…not fight over who is boss or who is right.
Ok. Rant over. 🙂 Sciencegranny’s opinion.”