I was raised in a very strict family. We had rules, regulations, curfews, punishments. We ate soap if we swore, went to bed without supper if we misbehaved and when I overspent on my credit card at 18, I was grounded for a month.
Some may think it wise parenting, others too much. But, it was a generational way to control a family with six children and ensure respectful, well-mannered children were brought into the world.
As a parent, I chose a different path. I have always loved the idea of Attachment Parenting. I loved the idea of nurturing a child so much in the beginning of their life, that as a growing person they felt fully supported and capable to go off on their own.
Some disagree with this parenting method. Many think Attachment Parenting raises, insecure, overly-attached, Momma’s boys or wussy girls. Overtime, I have settled somewhere between raising “Attached” children and instilling some discipline – when necessary.
“When necessary” is arbitrary, though. I discovered that the few times over the past 17+ years I have given my children a punishment, withdrawn a toy or given a Time Out I have looked into the eyes of a pained child. A child that lost a little trust in me or vice versa. I think withdrawing love and understanding by giving a punishment – banishing the child to their bedroom, the Time Out chair, or the like, just settles that child in for feeling bad about themselves – not changing the behavior.
I know, some of you will say I’m too soft. Some will say that a child needs to feel badly, so that they can change the behavior. I used to be torn. I never wanted to be the cause of pain or insecurity in my child. So, I have seen the light.
The proof is in the pudding, as I have learned that without punishment, but through talking about the consequences of their actions I can see the guilt and the understanding of the wrongdoing come across their faces.
My children own their mistakes. My children know precisely the moment they ‘messed up’ and by talking it through I can see their acceptance and their willingness to put it right. This is in essence the ‘point’ of a punishment and precisely the reason I don’t believe its usually necessary to go any further than a real, honest conversation.
My children are not perfect. They do sometimes misbehave or make bad choices. They are human, after all. But, I also know that they are really good kids who often immediately realize the err of their ways. They have an excellent moral compass. They feel guilt and compassion and the desire to be good people in the world. They treat others and their siblings with respect. I believe that is not only because of me or my husband – but, because they learned to believe in themselves and their ability to feel confident, not persecuted or constantly told they need a Time Out from love and affection.
I believe that if we hold them to a standard of constant perfection, punishing every mistake or sending them to the Time Out chair for every misbehavior, we create little sparks of self-doubt in them. Little pieces of yukkiness that they are disappointing their parent’s expectations. They grow up thinking they can never be good enough. It takes its toll and as parents we have to be conscious of it. We too, aren’t perfect. I work on remembering this everyday.
I have been in homes where the child has spent much of his day in Time Out. I have seen him return to the group only to continue the behavior. I have seen the child banished to his room, to ‘contemplate what he’s done’ only to contemplate exactly how angry he now is with his parents. I have seen siblings that fight to the end over jealousy or attention from another parent.