It’s not okay.

This post is going to be short and to the point.
There was an incident in Florida that made it to the news a few weeks ago. I was discussing it with some other mothers, and we all came to the same conclusions.
First, here is a link to the article. If you don’t feel like clicking, I’ll sum it up for you.
According to her father, a 12 year old girl had apparently gotten into a violent argument with her sister. His reaction was to call the police and have them supervise while he struck his daughter four times with a wooden paddle. He claimed that the police needed to be present so that his daughter couldn’t claim that he was abusing her.
This is disturbing on several levels.

Number one.
She was an adolescent. This is the age when girls start having “boyfriends”, when they get their periods and start discovering more of their sexuality. How mortifying to be hit in a sexual area in front of two grown men, one of which is a total stranger. I don’t believe this was the fathers intention, but to hit a girl in a sexualized area against her consent, that’s borderline sexual abuse. If you don’t think that spanking an older girl can be sexual, google the word spank. I just did it and 80% of the links were porn. I believe that’s proof enough.

Number two.
The father described his daughters confrontation with her sister as violent. I’m assuming he felt that the situation was out of control. Instead of regaining control through peaceful means, he instead used violent means. I wonder where his daughter learned her relationship skills. Teaching a child not to hit, by hitting doesn’t work. It doesn’t even make sense. Children act out what is modeled in front of them. If you want to teach your children not to hit, don’t hit.

Number three.
This point was brought up by another mother. Her exact wording was, “If you feel that you need a witness to do it, should you really be doing it? There is such a gray area within corporal punishment. The general consensus among pro-spankers is that it’s ok as long as it doesn’t leave marks.
So what is a mark? A bruise, redness, something that lasts for a few days? Everyone’s definition is different.
I think deep down we all know that hitting is hitting, and the argument not to leave marks is an attempt to justify hitting children.I think deep down that father knew how quickly what he was doing could escalate and get out of control. I think he knew that hitting a teenage girl with a piece of wood just didn’t seem right.

Number four.
Every nine seconds a woman in the US is assaulted or beaten. Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
The father definitely taught his daughter a few lessons. But the lessons that will stick with her won’t be that she shouldn’t hit others.
The first lesson that she learned is that men can hit women. That women can do things that chalk up to them “deserving” to be hit. What’s more, those men that hit those women do it because they “love them”. The only difference between a man slapping his wife and a father spanking his daughter is a social construct.

Number five.
This is my final point. It was also brought up by another mother, and with her permission, these are her words.
“I recently read an article about institutional betrayal being more damaging than familial abuse. For example, a girl is molested by a youth pastor, a child is abused in a daycare center. The abuse is swept under the rug. Not only is the victim traumatized by the act, but they are re traumatized by the failure of the government body at large to protect them.
Now this girl knows that if someone wants to hit her, the police aren’t going to care anyway.

Let me end on this.
Is it ok to hit a spouse?
Is it ok to hit a friend?
Is ok for a boss to hit an employee?
Is it ok to hit a mentally disabled person?
Is it even ok to hit a dog?
Most people would (rightfully) answer no to all of the above questions. So is it then, ok to hit a child? The answer is also no. It is not ok. It is never ok to resolve a situation through violence. It is never ok to hit a child in any way. Children deserve the same rights as everyone else.

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Real Love Doesn’t Hurt

Over the past few weeks two NFL players have been suspended for domestic violence. Ray Rice, for abusing his then fiancé, and Adrain Peterson for abusing -not disciplining- his four year old son.

When it came out that Rice had beaten his fiancé and been caught on camera a year ago, there was an immediate backlash. Rice apologized, calling his actions inexcusable. Hashtags popped up all over twitter condemning violence against women.

Personally the first thing that came to my mind when I read the Rice story was that he had probably had a violent childhood himself, that he never learned how to solve conflict or deal with strong emotions using words, he learned to deal with these things using his hands. I thought that he and his now wife should see a therapist and seek healing. That’s not to excuse in any way what he did, but abusive situations aren’t black and white. I don’t believe that anyone is born abusive, I believe that abuse is a learned behavior. Every abuser was once a victim. Abuse is a vicious cycle.

I think Adrian Peterson’s story is a perfect example of where this viscous cycle begins. I can’t think of anything that makes me angrier than child abuse. It’s disgusting beyond words the way Adrian Peterson’s case has been handled.

First of all, there has been no apology just a statement thinly veiled as an apology to defend his abuse as “discipline”.

Unfortunately Peterson wasnt the only one defending his actions. Running back Reggie Bush issued this statement “I most definitely discipline my daughter. I have an almost one year old daughter. I definitely will try to not leave bruises but I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on the situation”. Peterson’s mother said, “whipping is not abuse but about love.”

Seeing statements like those should have been shocking. They weren’t. They’re statements I’ve heard over and over again out of the mouths of countless people. That’s how deeply embedded violence against children is in our society, especially in the south.

Reggie Bush’s statement was particularly chilling. Disciplining an almost one year old? That is a baby!! A BABY! I can’t even put into words how ridiculous that is. All I have to say about that first sentence is that Reggie seriously needs to read up on child development. The fact that he said he would try to not leave bruises but would most definitely discipline her harshly?

Try to not leave bruises? Like sometimes bruises are just accidental and they happen, no big deal. He proudly announced that he will discipline his daughter harshly. The dictionary definition of harsh is this, “ungentle or unpleasant in action or effect” with these words next to it “grim, severe, stern, cruel, austere” Those are not the words that should describe a father.

The rationale here is bruises on Ray Rice’s girlfriend are a deplorable example of domestic violence, but bruises on a little girl, inflicted by her own father, the most important man in her life who’s top priority is to protect and care for her, that’s not domestic violence at all!! No, no, no that’s different, that’s discipline. Accidents happen. How else would she learn?

In fact, Adrian Peterson’s mother already explained it perfectly when she said that whipping isn’t abuse, it’s about love.

When a man loves a woman, sometimes he hits her, to teach her a lesson, to teach her how to behave. She deserves it anyway. After all, he really loves her. Now replace man with parent and woman with child and we have the pro spanking rationale.

Except I left out the excuse that every generation of parents has done it and all their kids “turned out alright”. I read an article in time magazine on why spanking is never ok, and the authors response to the cliche “I turned out ok” was that as a child she was molested, yet she turned out ok. You see, children turn out ok despite spanking, not because of it. The mere fact that someone is defending the person who hit them shows that they’re not ok. How did everyone react when Ray Rices wife defended him and said that she had a role in the beating? Exactly. There is no difference between women and children, except that children are the current second class citizens with no rights and no way to defend themselves. No one deserves to be hit.

Before I continue, let me share this article on the effects spanking has on girls. The findings on the release of oxytocin(a love hormone) to combat cortisol (a stress hormone) are especially telling.

Aside from the research citied in this article, (and I have provided only one study compared to the mountains of research done over several decades that all conclude corporal punishment is an unhealthy practice) I have a problem with a grown man laying a hand on a small child and calling that love. How hypocritical is it to teach a little girl that her father hitting her is “love” and that she “deserves” it, yet if her partner “loves” her and she “deserves” it, it isn’t love at all, it’s abuse.

Like I said, abuse is a vicious cycle. I would bet that Ray Rice was “disciplined” in the same manner as Peterson’s son and he repeated what he learned on his fiancé. We know that Peterson was physically punished as a child because he praised it in his statement. The cycle repeated itself on his four year old son. The victim became the abuser.

All physical punishment is abuse, because it is all intended to cause fear and pain. As a Christian mother, I don’t want to teach my children anything through fear and pain because that’s not how Jesus taught. Jesus taught with gentleness, compassion, and grace. Can you imagine Jesus hitting a child? I can’t. The bible says that love is patient, kind, not easily angered, it doesn’t say anything about sometimes love is hitting a child.

My husband will never physically punish our daughters because girls look to their fathers for an example of what their husbands should be like. I will never let my girls believe that any man, in any situation has the right to touch them in any way that they don’t approve of. I will never let them believe that men hit women or children no matter what the situation is, no matter how socially acceptable others allow it to be. We will never call it spanking in our home, because that word is a cover up for hitting. We cannot expect women to embrace bodily autonomy as adults if they are taught as children that someone else has so much power over their bodies that they have the right to hit them when they see fit. We cannot model to our children that it is ever ok to hit for any reason.

There is a ministry whose page I follow. A few days ago they posted an exert of a journal entry from a girl who had been abused. One line stood out to me, she said love is good and doesn’t hurt.

I don’t care what the reasoning is, I don’t care if it was just one hit that didn’t leave a mark, or several slaps that did leave marks. Hitting a child hurts them, and love is good and doesn’t hurt. Even dogs can be taught without hitting, so why couldn’t a child be taught without hitting.

The stories of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are at the heart of the domestic violence problem we have in America where every nine seconds a woman is assaulted. Violence in adulthood comes from violence in childhood.

This isn’t to say that every parent who has used physical punishment is a child abuser. Like I said, it’s something that is deeply embedded in our culture. When my oldest daughter was born, I knew I never wanted to hit her for any reason. I knew I wanted to teach her without punishment, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know if anyone parented that way. I definitely didn’t know much at all about child development or what reasonable expectations looked like. I think there are a lot of parents out there like that.

Parenting can be done peacefully, without violence. If you want to parent differently, but don’t know how, there are links on this blog, there are Facebook pages and support groups (peaceful parenting, respected children for respected futures, gentle discipline support group) to help you get started and learn alternative ways to parent.

Let’s break the cycle and teach our children to solve conflict with their words and not their hands. Let’s teach them through our own behavior by using our words and not our hands when conflicts arise in our own homes.

Casting out fear

In my home, my husband and I do not use punishment with our daughter, nor do we ever intend to use punishment with any of our children, because we do not believe in punishment. Although this statement may sound radical, we are completely confident in the way we have chosen to parent.

To some ears, saying that I won’t use punishment sounds like I will let my children run wild. It sounds like
I’m too lazy and indifferent to discipline or teach them anything. It may even sound like I am incredibly naive and believe that my children will never misstep because they were born perfect angels. Maybe it sounds like a combination of all of those things, but hear me out.

Our home has boundaries. Our home has rules. But our home does not have control, fear, or punishment because these three things are one in the same. In our home we strive for perfect love and Perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

Punishment is an attempt to control a child’s behavior. For example, if my daughter were to get angry and she hit me, and I punished her by hitting her back, that was an attempt to control her action. I would be controlling her through fear. She wouldn’t hit me because she would fear me hitting her back. Even though she may never hit me again, the issue isn’t solved. She just learned that when someone hits you, even if you aren’t threatened, the correct response is retaliation. She also learned not to hit me in order to avoid punishment. I controlled her behavior, but I did not change it. I didn’t even get close to her heart, which is what matters most.

Punishment only works from the outside, it only solves the external problem. The child will only behave when someone is watching. I am not content with solving a problem externally, I want to solve Laila’s problems internally. That is how she will learn self discipline.

I was listening to a podcast on parenting from bethel church the other day. A mother called in and expressed her frustration with feeling like she wasn’t in control of her children in her home. The pastor replied that when we feel like we should be in control, we feel like we can be in control.

Control is toxic in any relationship because control is rooted in fear. Fear is a thief. It steals away the here and now and forces us to live in a perpetual what if. If we as parents allow ourselves to live in fear of our children’s negative behavior, to try and control it, and punish it for existing rather than to view is a problem that we can solve alongside our children, we become locked in a power struggle. We live in fear that our children won’t learn the lessons we want to teach them. When fear really takes it’s hold, we miss out on the lessons they are learning.

Parenting can be scary. It’s a monumental responsibility. Every parent wants to see their child mature into a healthy, happy, and successful person. It’s comforting to think that there is a formula that can make that happen. It’s simple to believe that through punishment we can control and shape a child. But that’s not how it works.

The true goal of parenting is to teach discipline. Discipline is different from punishment. To quote one of my favorite parenting authors, L.R. Knost, “Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solutions, not retribution.”

Discipline also has a biblical meaning. It comes from the word disciple. I want my children to be my disciples, I want them to follow me. How did Jesus gain followers, and how did he teach his followers? Through reaching their hearts, and through giving grace, not through forcing their behavior.

Think of the story of zachaeus, the corrupt tax collector. Did Jesus punish him by taking all of his wealth and publicly shaming him? No! He reached the heart of zachaeus and zachaeus chose to give back all that he had stolen. Jesus did not seek to control zachaeus, he sought to make a relationship with him and teach him through a heart encounter.

Yesterday Laila got very angry with me. She hit me and threw my phone across the room. My response was not to punish her by hitting her back, by separating her from me, or by yelling at her. Instead I held her hands and explained to her that God did not make hands for hitting, he made hands for helping. I told her that I would hold her hands for her until she could control herself, that I knew she was just angry and didn’t really want to hurt mommy because she loves mommy, and mommy loves her. She cried for a minute and I held her. When she was done crying she brought my phone back to me, wrapped her little arms around my neck and showered me in sweet little kisses. No more tantrums for the rest of the day.

Holding Laila’s hands, validating her feelings and explaining the situation was discipline, and discipline reaches the heart. It solves internal problems. Laila apologized to me because she chose to. An apology from the heart is a thousand times more valuable than an apology coerced through punishment.

Every misbehavior has a root issue. Punishment is like cutting the branches off a of a tree. For every branch that is cut, a new one will grow. Discipline is cutting the roots. When we focus on cutting branches and ignore the roots, we miss the opportunity to permanently solve a problem with our child. In my post When parents throw the first stone, I gave the example of the mother who punished her daughter for posting promiscuous photos, but failed to address the girls lack of self respect and self esteem. Through punishing her daughter so severely, she may never post a photo like that again while under her mothers roof, but I can almost garuantee that she will act out promiscuously in other ways. A branch was cut while the roots of her poor self image were left to deepen.

Punishment and control are so ingrained into mainstream parenting, it can be terrifying to let go. Using gentle discipline can be emotionally exhausting. Trying to reach out to the hearts of children is difficult. They don’t always know how to express their feelings, wants, and needs, and sometimes we have to do it for them. In the same podcast the pastor also said, parenting is 90% the parent, and 10% on the part of the child. As a parent who practices gentle discipline, I spend more time analyzing myself and my own behaviors, because what I model to Laila is how she will behave. If I want to teach her not to hit, and see it sink into her heart, I have to control my own temper, and model to her the appropriate reaction when she hits me.

A few weeks ago she was playing with her cousin who is about 22 months. The 22 month old hit Laila several times. I expected Laila to hit back, or run away, instead she wrapped her arms around her cousin and tried to calm her down, just like I did with her the times that she hit me. Punishment would have taught her to hit back, discipline taught her to reach for her cousins heart.

Parenting is not about controlling a child’s behavior. Parenting is about teaching a child self discipline through reaching their hearts. Eliminating punishment allows the parent and the child to focus on solving the internal problems. It frees them to build a stronger, deeper relationship without fear, based on perfect love.

Time in instead of time out

Time out has become a very popular punishment lately. It’s generally considered the humane or even “gentle” approach when compared to the use of corporal punishment. Regardless, I believe that in the long term, time out is very ineffective. Although most parents are using it in an attempt to get their child to step back from a situation, that’s not what time out really does.

In time out a child is sent away for a set amount of time and told to to think about what they’ve done. I sincerely doubt that kids truly think about what they’ve done and feel remorse when they’re sent to time out. I don’t think they quite have the emotional skills for that. In fact most kids sit in time out and cry – because of separation and humiliation- or ask when they can get up. That’s a clear sign they’re just upset at being punished, not learning a genuine lesson.

You know what I immediately think of when I see a child in time out? I think of the dunce cap that schools used years ago. In looking up a picture to show, I ran across a Wikipedia page explaining the dunce cap. Within the first few paragraphs the dunce cap was described as an outdated punishment by means of public humiliation used in schools. The page then went on to explain that this method is no longer in schools because it has been shown to be psychologically damaging to children. Time out is the same thing as the dunce cap method, minus the hat! So why is it being touted as a an effective method, or even a gentler approach?

Time out operates under the principles of rejection and shame, neither of which is healthy.
Why is a child afraid of time out. Because no matter how bad their behavior, they don’t want to be separated from their parent. As a parent you are meant to be a child’s place of refuge. A parent telling a child to leave their presence due to behavior is rejection. While the child’s behavior might seem to improve, it’s only because they are seeking our their parents presence.

If a child is acting out, it’s because they are having a problem that they don’t know how to properly deal with. Who wants to be rejected and then isolated when they’re dealing with a problem? Wouldn’t it be better to be offered a solution and helped? When time out is used in a public place, like a classroom, it is operating not only under rejection and isolation, but under shame because the child is being rejected in front of their peers.

Shame is a toxic emotion. Caretakers who use time out are actually trying to induce guilt, which is very different than shame. Guilt is to realize that your action was wrong and to have a desire to make amends. Shame is to connect your wrong action with who you are. Instead of seeking to make amends, a shamed person believes that they cannot be separated from their actions, and they become defensive and unreceptive to correction. Children cannot feel guilt if they are hurt due to rejection, and defending themselves due to shame.

Let’s say you did something wrong, and you’re publicly berated and humiliated, isn’t it natural to forget what you did wrong and instead focus on defending yourself? The bible says speak the truth in love. I believe that children are much more receptive when spoken to with love and respect, the same as any other person. It isn’t possible to speak the truth in love if you are disconnecting yourself from your child, which is what time out does.

Discipline is managing your child’s behavior, so that they know what well managed behavior feels like, and their brain, as it matures, will begin to implement it on it’s own. Well managed behavior does not feel like shame or pain. – Joy Jordan

In contrast to a time out, a time in is effective in the long term because it operates under the principles of connection and trust. Before I explain why time in is a healthier alternative, let me explain what a time in is for those who don’t know.

In time in, the parent stays with the child. If the child is crying hysterically, the parent comforts the child until they are calm. Once they are calm, the parent explains the situation, what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how to fix it. Children need their parents to tell them how to react in a situation, and why. I recently wrote a post, pressing the reset button, about calming children through connection. Time in is like a mini reset button.

Children are not mature enough to say “Hey, mom, dad, I’m really frustrated in this particular situation, and I’m not sure how I should react” Their communication is often through crying, whining, hitting, all signs of frustration and confusion. Their bad behavior is a cry for help.

Isaiah 65:24 says “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” When we call upon God, he is there as our father. He listens to us, and helps us solve our problems. As Laila’s mother I will be there every time she calls me, even if her call is masked beneath a temper tantrum. I will listen to her as she speaks, even if her speaking comes in the form of crying or screaming.

In our house there will never be a time out, because I want Laila to know that no matter what her behavior is like, she deserves my help and my presence because she is my child. I want to teach her that I am her safe place, that there is nothing she can do to push me away, just like there is nothing we can do to push God, our father, away.

Instead of punishing Laila with the absence of my presence, I would rather solve her problem through my presence.

That’s really what time in is all about, realizing that children can’t solve problems on their own. As parents it’s our responsibility to solve problems with them instead of expecting them to solve them alone.

Pressing the reset button

So with Laila going through the 18 month leap, we’ve had our share of off days. It typically goes like this, Laila wakes up an hour or so earlier than usual after a long and difficult sleepless night. This makes for a cranky mom and a very cranky little toddler, but we both try to ignore it. I make us breakfast, we eat, get dressed and then Laila goes off to play while I begin my chores for the day. 

It’s usually in these mid morning hours that Laila has a meltdown, or otherwise gets extremely fussy. Of course this always happens when I’m in the middle of something. The other day it was in the middle of making a souffle. You don’t know what stress is if you’ve never had a toddler throw a fit in the middle of making a souffle- ugh! Anyway, when I sense myself being frustrated with Laila for being frustrated, I know that it’s time to hit the reset button.

The reset button is actually an idea I stole from another mom and tweaked a little to better fit Laila’s age and needs. Basically what we do is stop our day, and start over. We crawl back into bed, get under the covers and put on a movie. I dig into my emergency junk food stash and make a little treat for Laila and I to munch on while she lays in my arms. (Today was actually a reset day and we had Talenti’s Belgian chocolate gelato- so good. I think gelato will be our go to snack for the rest of this pregnancy) We have a habit of scratching each others backs, and not only is it relaxing, it’s therapeutic for both of us I think. Doing something sweet for Laila, and seeing her return the favor melts my heart every time. It never takes more than five minutes for us both to totally relax and forget about whatever it was that had us flustered. By the end of the movie Laila will cover me in wet little kisses, climb down from the bed, and happily go back to playing. I go back to my chores and the tantrum never happened. It’s also extremely rare that there is another tantrum for the rest of the day. 

A punitive minded parent would read this and immediately say, But you’re rewarding bad behavior!! Then they would probably stress the importance of time outs, taking away toys and other similar punitive measures. 

Well first of all let me say that I will never punish my daughter just for being in a bad mood on a bad day. Why? Because I have plenty of bad moods of my own on bad days. Just ask my husband! How many of us lose our temper? What calms you down faster, someone being angry with you because you’re having an off day, or someone showing you a little kindness and understanding to help you get through the day? Hitting the reset button is about taking a step back from a situation, regrouping, and showing Laila that I am there to help her when she can’t handle her anger. Punishing or ignoring her does not teach her to solve a problem, it just teaches her to take her feelings into the other room so I don’t see them. That’s not something I want to teach Laila. I want to teach her that there isn’t a problem in the world that she can’t bring to me.

Toddlers have very little emotional regulation. Their brains are still developing! Tantrums are normal. When a toddler is potty learning, and they have an accident on the way to the bathroom, no one assumes they did it on purpose and need to be punished. That’s ridiculous! Their bladders are tiny and it takes a practice to learn how to regulate them. Many children have bladder spasms that they outgrow as the age. Tantrums are very similar, they’re like a spasm of the brain. Sometimes kids just can’t hold their emotions in. It’s our job to model to them how to take a step back, calm down, and then re approach the situation. 

Some days hitting the reset button is more necessary for me as a tired mother, than it is for Laila. I need a little break from my busy days here and there. Everyone needs that! If I know as a grown woman, that I need a reset button, of course Laila will be allowed the same luxury. 

Connection is so vital in a parent child relationship. It can prevent, or stop, so many tantrums. Reset buttons days are such an awesome way to reconnect! There are times when Laila isn’t doing anything wrong, but I’m just in a bad mood, so everything gets on my nerves. Taking a few minutes to just let everything go and hold her, and marvel at her sweet little smile can snap me out of a bad mood pretty quickly. In the same way, when Laila is having a bad day, I think having mama hold her and remind her that she loves her, and loves being with her, snaps Laila out of a lot of bad moods. 

There are so many times when a kid is acting out and an adult will dismissively say, Oh they’re just doing that for attention, Like it’s a bad thing. Well if a child is resorting to negative behaviors for attention, then they already needed attention a long time ago! Children need their parents and they need their parents attention. As they grow, they will learn more appropriate ways to ask for it. But when they’re this little, crying and tantrums are often the only language they have. 

Giving your child attention will not “spoil” them, or make them “needy”. Does doting on a spouse make them “needy” and teach them to expect attention? No! It deepens the relationship and reminds them that they are loved, cared for, and that their feelings are valued.

Reset button days are all about reconnection, being able to stop ourselves, and our kids before a blow up. They’re about learning to let go of whatever was bothering us and move on and enjoy the rest of the day! My favorite part of the reset day, is that it gives me an opportunity to remind Laila time after time, that no matter how she reacts to a problem, no matter difficult she is to deal with in the midst of an emotional meltdown, I am here for her. I will always love her, and I will always love to be with her, no matter what she’s like. Isn’t that how God loves us? 

Daily, I see that parenting Laila this way has made a difference. I see that she treats me how I treat her. There have been days when I’ve snapped at her, and her response has been to wrap her little arms around me and kiss me on the cheek. She just let’s it go! I’m already very emotional this pregnancy, but seriously, the times that she’s done that, I’ve just cried my eyes out. That was her way of pressing the reset button with me. 

When parents throw the first stone

I was looking through my Facebook newsfeed the other day when I saw a six minute video that completely broke my heart. I couldn’t even watch one minute of it. There’s been several videos going around like this actually, and each one is just as sad as the next.

This particular video was of a man beating his wife. She had posted a suggestive photo of herself to Facebook. His response was to beat her entire body with a belt repeatedly while screaming at her. She cried out and helplessly tried to defend herself. This went on for six minutes, and then the man proudly posted the proof of his power over her for all of the internet to see. Several people commented that he did the right thing, she had it coming for posting a photo like that, that ought to teach her! I even saw other wives commenting that their husbands had done the same to them so they’d learn to respect them and they were grateful!

What did you think when you read that story? Were you appalled at such a blatant and arrogant show of abuse? Did your heart break for the pain and humiliation that woman endured? Did it break again when you imagined how many scenarios like this had already played out in her home? Were you furious that other people were rallying around this man in support? You probably wanted to go to her and tell her that her husband was not showing her true love, because no real man would beat his wife in an effort to control her.

Now let me tell you the real story. Replace wife with daughter, and husband with mother. Oh. That changes things. It’s not abuse anymore, it’s just like the title of the video said, “how island moms do it”. That battered wife, just became an out of control, promiscuous teenager. The abusive husband who was so eager to beat and shame his wife, well he just became a tough love mom teaching her daughter how to behave. Those people who encouraged the abuse, well they’re just encouraging “discipline” and parental rights.

Why are children deserving of beatings and public shame, but if it was anyone else, it would be abuse and there would be talk of jail time.

When I saw this video I was hurting not just for the daughter, but for the mother too. You see, when I hear a girl is posting inappropriate pictures of herself on Facebook, I don’t think that she’s a slut. I certainly don’t think that she deserves to be publicly shamed and humiliated. I see a hurting woman who wants attention. A woman who believes that only her body could attract a man, instead of what is in her heart. What I see is a woman who needs to learn how to love and respect herself. You cannot beat self love and respect into a woman. The only thing you can beat into anyone is fear and submission.

I hurt for the mother because she doesn’t know what else to do. When we lose our tempers to the point of striking our children, we are out of control. As a parent, being out of control is a very scary thing. Although I think what the mother did in the video is monstrous, I don’t see a monster. I see a woman who is stressed out, afraid for her daughter, and doesn’t know any better. In fact, I’m sure her mother was the same way. Abuse begets abuse.

The hard thing about abuse, is it’s complicated. It will never be black and white. Abuse hurts everyone involved.

When I saw the video I immediately thought of John 8. For those that don’t know, the story is that the Pharisees brought out a woman who had been caught in adultery. Under the law she was to be stoned. The Pharisees asked Jesus what he had to say about this. Instead of answering them, he bent down on the ground and wrote something in the dirt. When he was finished he stood up and said, “he who is without sin throw the first stone.” Everyone put down their stones. Jesus told the woman that he did not condemn her, and to go and sin no more.

Isn’t grace a beautiful thing? As much as we like to bring judgement on others, we are all equally guilty. Yet, we all receive grace.

In mainstream parenting, and ironically I tend to hear this message even more in most Christian parenting, punishment and consistent consequences are always taught as being of the utmost importance. Respect is confused with fear. Children are never to be given a second chance, and unfortunately all of the punishment that is so strongly encouraged, is shame based.

In the beginning of my parenting journey I spent many nights crying over these condemning messages and praying for wisdom in how I was going to raise my daughter. Sometimes I even wondered if I could raise her in the church. I had only recently come to understand Christ, and what grace truly meant. I couldn’t imagine Jesus treating a child that way, and although I had felt the condemnation of many Christians, I had never felt condemnation from Jesus. The more I sought out the gospel, the more I saw that there is another way to raise children.

Punishment is the law, but Christ came to fulfill the law! So why would we continue to live under the law when Jesus sacrificed himself to set us free. Parents, we are free from condemning! Children, you are free from condemnation.

When we as parents are teaching our children about God, we need to know that we are our children’s first example of God. Each day is a new day to pray for grace, for ourselves, and for our children, and to let God lead us in our decisions.

Parenting isn’t easy, it requires us to give, to give again and again until we have no more and we have to ask God for even more grace, strength, and understanding. There will be days that it will be so tempting, it will even feel right and justified to punish and humiliate our children, but Christ never taught a lesson through punishment, he taught his lessons through love and relationships. This is what we have to remember.

Gently teaching children to eat healthy- Part II

So in my last post I briefly discussed why we shouldn’t force our children to eat. I’d like to elaborate on that a little today, as well as mention some things that have worked really well in my own home – and the homes of some other gentle mamas I spoke to- to get my daughter to eat well on her own.

Several months ago I was speaking with a children’s nutritionist and she told me one of the first things she tells parents is to never force their children to eat. Why? Because forcing children to eat teaches them to ignore their hunger cues. The whole “clean your plate” philosophy teaches kids from a very young age that a full plate, not the amount of food the body actually requires to no longer feel hungry, is how much a person should consume at each mealtime. Teaching children to ignore hunger cues can lead to boredom eating later in life causing a lot of unnecessary, and unhealthy, weight gain.

I once read an article about the difference in obesity in the U.S. versus in Europe. The first paragraph of the article stated that in America we serve giant portion sizes and tend to eat the entire portion, no matter how full we feel, while Europeans eat until they are no longer hungry- not full. The goal of feeding my daughter is not to pack her full of food, but to give her body the essential amount of nutrients that it needs. I cannot feel how full or hungry Laila is, only she can do that. Only Laila knows the appropriate portion sizes when she’s hungry. Though still developing, toddlers do have instincts. They know exactly how hungry they are and they aren’t going to let themselves starve to death.

Many times Laila doesn’t eat anything at dinner time, but will ask for food an hour later. This isn’t a cause to say, “Well, you didn’t eat at dinner so go to bed hungry.” That’s completely insensitive. Instead I put her plate in the fridge and she can have it heated up later, no problem. If she doesn’t like what I cooked, she can have one of several healthy, simple alternatives, like a whole wheat peanut butter banana sandwich or scrambled eggs.  If she doesn’t want to sit at the table with us, then she can go play. I want Laila to spend time with her father and I because she chooses to. There is no healthy, thriving marriage where one spouse is forced to be with the other. It’s the same with kids.

Children’s appetites are also a great communicator to parents. If Laila is suddenly asking for more food than usual, then I know she’s probably having a growth spurt and needs the extra nutrition. In a growth spurt, I know to feed her a little differently and provide extra protein. If Laila is rejecting food then it could be that she isn’t feeling well. Then I know to feed her lighter foods, like chicken broth. If I were to put Laila on a very strict schedule for snacks and mealtimes, and make her eat the full portion each time, I would miss those signs. There are so many better ways to teach a child healthy eating habits that still respect their need for bodily autonomy.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding are great times to introduce a wide variety of flavors to your child. During pregnancy a baby can taste what it’s mother is eating through the amniotic fluid, then later in the breastmilk. Several studies have shown that babies prefer foods that were eaten frequently by their mothers during pregnancy. So start eating healthy then!

As children get older, setting them up for success with their eating choices is very important. I always Keep our house stocked with snacks so Laila can eat whenever she asks. I keep junk food and juices to a minimum and instead stock up on cheerios, raisins, fruit (fresh and dried), yogurts, nuts, chopped up veggies, cheese etc. Laila can eat as often as she wants and I don’t worry about her filling up on sugar and missing out on a healthy meal.

While I do allow Laila to eat junk food (I let her have junk food whenever I do because I don’t believe parents should have special privileges over children.) I never use it as a reward or a punishment. When we use foods as rewards or punishment we’re communicating to our children that junk food is preferable to other types of food. Not only that, but if we withhold something from a child, they typically will want it that much more. In our home, food is just food. I can easily give Laila dessert before or after dinner and she will equally enjoy both.

Through allowing Laila to follow her own hunger cues, and choose her own foods, she is learning to create healthy eating habits for herself. I will not always be by her side, able to dictate what is  healthy, what she should eat, or when she should eat. Using force teaches children to make choices for others, and not themselves. I am much more proud of my daughter knowing that she is a healthy eater now, because she chooses to be.