Saturday, September 24, 2011

"That's All I Have To Say About That"

It's a quote from one of my favorite movies ever: Forrest Gump. It came to me at 5:00 this morning, as my mind was racing while I should have been sleeping. Remember the part of that movie when Forrest starts running across the country? That was what I felt like about eight months ago when I started posting on here. I felt compelled to write, so I wrote. And sort of like Forrest, but on a much smaller scale, I attracted some attention along the way. Some people started following me. My writing even inspired a few people (I've been told).

Remember what happens next in the movie? One day, Forrest decides he has had enough. He's tired. So he just stops running. That's what I feel like right now.

I have enjoyed writing, reading, and connecting. The wonderful responses have been uplifting. Even the negative ones have helped me to grow. I have gained confidence, clarity, and compassion. It has been like a dream, having people read and connect with my words.

I have explained my philosophy. My friends and family know I have a plan. Even if they disagree with some of it, they can at least see what my parenting is all about. This was my goal when I started writing. I have also made a lot of new friends in the process. I'm now surrounded by people who treat their children well, which makes me feel good about the world. It makes me feel like there is hope. I know it will continue to catch on.

I don't know how long this feeling will last, but I am looking forward to a retreat into the peace of my more private life. I'm sure my husband and our children will appreciate it as well.

I'll be doing more of this.

For now, I am going to leave most of my posts up, although I may turn off comments at some point soon. I hope some people will continue to read my writing if it helps them. I hope my most important points will shine through:
  1. You can be gentle, kind, and compassionate to your children, and to all children. You can be friends with them, even.
  2. You can speak softly to your children.
  3. You don't have to choose between being controlling and being neglectful. You don't have to choose whether to be a tiger mom, a helicopter mom, or any other trendy kind of mom. There is another way. You can be human. Just realize your children are human too.
  4. You can try to remember how confusing life could be when you were a child. You can avoid hurting your children in the same ways you were hurt. 
  5. You can talk to your child about your parenting dilemmas. You can carefully consider this question as you make decisions: How is this going to affect my relationship with my child?
  6. You can opt-out of the school system if it doesn't feel right for your family. It's legal to do so all over the United States, and in many other countries as well. It's also fun.
  7. You can question every parenting article, every study about children, every piece of advice or criticism you receive.
Thanks to all of my loyal readers, and to everyone who honored me by sharing my writing with others. I appreciate all of you.

And that's all I have to say about that. For now.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Five Myths About Spanking

MYTH: Spanking is not the same as hitting.
FACT: Spanking is different from hitting in name only. A few quick Google searches for definitions and a few applications of the transitive property confirmed this:
Hit: Bring one's hand or a tool or weapon into contact with (someone or something) quickly and forcefully

Spank: Slap with one's open hand or a flat object, esp. on the buttocks as a punishment
Slap: A blow with the palm of the hand or a flat object
Blow: A powerful stroke with a hand, weapon, or hard object
Stroke: An act of hitting or striking someone or something
In other words: Spanking = Hitting.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Your Child Being Robbed?

If a child is forced to say thank you or sorry, then he is robbed of a chance to express his own heartfelt gratitude or apology.

If a child is forced to eat two more bites of dinner, then she is robbed of a chance to feel just full enough to be satisfied.

If a child is forced to clean up, then he is robbed of a chance to show how helpful he can be, voluntarily.

If a child is forced to wear a jacket, then she is robbed of a chance to feel cold enough to know when she really needs one.

If a child is forced to stop crying, then he is robbed of a chance to express his fears or his dreams.

If a child is told she is not good enough, then she is robbed of a chance to be happy with herself the way she is.

All those times we exert control over our children, we are taking away chances for them to control themselves. How do we expect our children to learn "self-control" if we don't let them practice it?

Read about one woman's struggles with a controlling parent over at Parent-Free By Choice.

Please Note: None of the examples above have anything to do with a child running into the street, or anything else involving imminent danger. Also, I have not said we should never guide our children.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Change Your Default Setting From "No" to "Maybe"

I have had many conversations about parenting in the past eight months since I started this blog. The absolute most frustrating type of conversation goes something like this:
Me: I like to help my kids get what they want.
Other Person: That's impossible! What if they want to go to the moon in a spaceship? I can't get my kids what they want every time they ask! I'd be broke.
Here's why I have a problem with this kind of thinking: It's focused on the impossibilities, the exceptions, the singularities. It's focused on what we can't do. How often do our children want things that are truly impossible to get? More importantly, how often do our children want things that are possible, and we brush them off because we have to teach them they can't always get what they want.

A parent who thinks this way has the default setting of No. She's at the grocery store with her kids, and they ask for a piece of  candy or a small toy at the checkout counter.
She thinks: We can't buy something for you every time we go to the store.
She responds: No, put it down. 
She's satisfied with the lesson: You can't always get what you want .
I guess the idea here is that the parent is afraid that if she "gives in" this time, the child will come to expect it every time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Parent-Free By Choice

How many of you out there have chosen to separate yourselves from one or both of your parents because of the way they treated you?
That was the question I asked on Twitter. I was blown away by the responses. There were about 20 people who spoke up and shared a little of their stories with me, out of about 400 followers. I was surprised at how common this issue seemed to be. Then I asked a similar question on Facebook, this time asking people to email me their stories, not sure what I would do with them yet.

Here are some of the things people have shared:
Thank you for your curiosity and openness to this subject many find taboo.

Part of me thinks is it easier to just tell people your mom died than to say you just don’t speak to her.
A person can only be hurt so much before enough is enough.

[My father] made my life miserable and then threatened my kids.
I'm teaching my parents a lesson.  I do plan on getting back in touch, but not until they've had a long time to realize that they need us more than we need them.
It's heartbreaking and it's not an easy choice to make. So much baggage goes along with it. People understand divorce more than they do cutting ties with parents.
Many people also shared how they have felt so alone going through this process. Some have people making them feel guilty about their decisions. All this made me wonder: If this is taboo, why is that? Why do we give people a hard time about cutting ties with parents? Do we as a society feel that a person owes her parents something, no matter how badly they have treated her? If this is such a common issue, why aren't we talking about it more?

After reading through the stories I received, I have decided to start a second blog, to give people a place to give and get support from others who are dealing with similar issues. I'm calling it "Parent-Free By Choice." The posts will be stories from (mostly anonymous) readers, who want to share their experiences. It will be a supportive, empowering, compassionate place.

No one should feel forced to endure mistreatment or abuse from anyone else, even (especially) a parent. A person who chooses to be parent-free is not "running away" from problems, but rather running toward a better, happier life. I'm hoping it will help people to see just how many others are going through this, or have gone through it and feel at peace with their decisions.

I'm also hoping that the connection between this blog and the new one will be very clear. Let's just say that so far, I have NOT heard anything like the following:
I don't speak to my parents anymore because they were too supportive and respectful of my freedom.
I don't speak to my parents anymore because they didn't meddle with my life enough.
I don't speak to my parents anymore because they treated me too kindly.
You get the idea.

Please go visit the new blog, where the first story is now up. Read, reflect, offer support. Share your story if you think it might help you or someone else. Details on how to do so can be found in the right sidebar on the new blog.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ten Steps To Kinder, Gentler Parenting

It seems many parents know exactly the "Mean Voice" I wrote about in Did You Kiss Your Baby With That Mouth? Now some people want to know: How do you stop yourself from being mean? What do you say instead?

So here are some suggestions for adjustments that might help you move toward kindness.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Does an Education Degree Come With Super Powers?

According to Ron Clark, in this CNN story called What teachers really want parents to know, an education degree does, in fact, come with at least one super power. He writes:
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you.
See? Apparently, teachers are gifted with infallibility. We should believe everything they tell us about our children. He continues:
And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.
What about demeaning the child by not asking for his side of the story? What about the partnership between parent and child? Should we worry about weakening that? Clark says later in the article:
If your child said something happened in the classroom that concerns you, ask to meet with the teacher and approach the situation by saying, "I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me."
I cannot believe the double standard that is so casually displayed here. Let me summarize:
  • If any teacher tells you your child did something wrong, just believe it. The teacher would never lie or exaggerate.
  • If your own child tells you the teacher did something wrong, make sure to get the teacher's side. Children can't be trusted.
But these pesky parents just don't get it, according to Clark:
They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting.
He's right about one thing, it would be a lot more convenient if parents just believed everything teachers said. Convenient for the teachers. Not so much for the students, or for the parent-child relationships, which will last a lot longer than the parent-teacher relationships, if the parents are lucky.

I choose this relationship.

I have some questions for Ron Clark: Should everyone have trusted the teachers who recently cheated on standardized tests? Should parents trust the teachers who sexually assault children? The ones who harass and demean and emotionally abuse children?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Did You Kiss Your Baby With That Mouth?

That mouth on your face... Is that the mouth you used to smile and softly kiss your baby's head the moment you first held him your arms? Is it the same mouth you used to whisper gently into your precious new baby's ear how much you loved him and wanted him and promised to take care of him?

How is that mouth now? Does it still feel gentle and soft and sweet? Or has it become rough and harsh and sour?

Do you have a special tone of voice reserved for talking to your child, now that he's not a baby anymore? One that you would never use with anyone else but your own child? You  probably know the tone I'm talking about. It might be the one your parents used on you.