I have always thought discussing politics was the surest way to start an argument, but I think I’ve found an even more volatile subject–parenting.
On the blogging community Blogher, there is an article titled “I Don’t Like Spanking My Kids, but I Do It Anyway.” The mom who wrote the article discusses how she believes in spanking her children only when necessary, and that she was spanked as a child.
The resulting conversation is fantastically entertaining.
The vast majority of commentators are against spanking, and a lot of them refer to it as abuse. Furthermore, I kept seeing the phrases “explain to your child” and “discuss their feelings” and teaching their kids to “control their emotions.”
This got me thinking.
Paradoxically, I happen to have a very close relationship to my son, and we do discuss most things, because he is mature enough to do it. It works very well for us. Also, he was never one to have tantrums as a toddler, and I didn’t have a lot of trouble with him getting into things or touching things he shouldn’t.
That doesn’t mean we never had our issues.
The overwhelming tone of the comments is that you should parent with love (which is true) and that you should explain to your kids why certain things are the way they are. I made a comment that I wasn’t really for spanking (I have never found it to really accomplish anything) but that I had smacked a hand that was reaching for a hot stove. Someone responded that I should have just removed the child to a crib or high chair away from the stove. And of course “explain” to a two-year-old that they shouldn’t do that. Then we could discuss their feelings.
One mother believes that you really can reason with a tantrum-having toddler by discussing their “big feelings.” She has had success with this method.
I’m happy for her.
From my perspective, there’s only so much reason you can share with a toddler. They are NOT tiny adults–they are children! Their brains are developing, and so are their emotions. If a two-year-old wants a piece of candy that he can’t have, he only knows that it is good and that he wants it. He doesn’t know anything about cavities or diabetes, and he doesn’t care. You just have to say no, and if they freak, you have to put them somewhere safe until they quit.
When my son was six, he was friends with a little boy who came from a very troubled home. The father verbally and physically abused the mother, they used foul language, and they were into drugs. Needless to say, he was never going to go to the little boy’s home. But the little boy just kept asking. My son wanted to go. I told him no, that I didn’t know the parents. He told me to go meet them so he could go to their house. My son became very angry with me because was my answer was “no.”
Now, I’m sorry, but I didn’t owe my son any explanations. My answer was no, and that was it. He was not old enough for me to explain the reasons he wasn’t allowed to go visit his little friend.
I think that’s the heart of the matter–parents are more interested in being popular than being parents. Even the very best children will go through rebellious and challenging periods. All teenagers think they know everything, and no amount of explaining and reasoning will convince them that you are right and they are wrong. You just have to stand tough, even if they get mad.
The other thing that I found interesting was that everyone is convinced of their own superiority. Not only that, but rather than accept other people parent differently than them, they go on the attack. Their way is the only way.
I am certainly skeptical about a lot of these parenting strategies, but having never tried them, I couldn’t say. Maybe they work great. Or maybe they don’t. I only know that parenting is very hard, and I know your children have to respect you and, yes, they must have a certain amount of fear. It’s not a fear that you will beat them up or something if they mess up, but just that they will have to suffer the consequences. That voice has to speak in their mind when they are faced with a difficult decision–“If I do this, my mom is going to kill me.”
I think if you raise your kids with love and respect and expect them to do their best, things will be okay. If they know they have consequences when they mess up, maybe they won’t mess up as much. Mostly, they model their behavior after their parents, so if you want your kids to be decent people, the best thing to do is be a decent person yourself.
That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?