Friday, August 19, 2011


Being a parent is the hardest job in the world. There were plenty of times the "urge to kill" reared its ugly head when my kids were acting obnoxious and Mom could do no right.

The one time I hit my daughter was when she was about 18 months. She was never allowed in the front yard, but one day, suddenly ran toward the street after I told her not to. I gave her two hard whacks with my hand on top of a fluffy diaper. I also raised my voice, which she wasn't used to, either. She was so shocked, she screamed like I'd really hurt her. But she never ran into or even toward the street again.

I consider this kind of "shock" discipline necessary when a child's well-being is the issue. Yet you often see or hear about mothers whacking their kids for being "fresh", "not listening", "hitting someone", etc. This is quick and easier than teaching a child about patience, self-control, and consequences.

Many people don't see how a simple technique like Time Out, early bedtime, loss of favorite toy or TV can work. Some think the only way to gain respect is to teach the child "who's boss" in a physical way. I used Time Out a lot with my kids. I usually gave them 5 or 10 minutes "time" and they had to sit on the stairs outside of my view and well separated from each other if both were in trouble for minor infractions. They couldn't talk, play, yell about how mean or unfair I was, or tease each other. If they did, I added more time on the buzzer and reminded them getting extra time was their choice.

They HATED it! When they grew up, they both said it was the worst punishment I gave them. Yet I didn't have to prove I was stronger (the "boss"), didn't have to inflict physical pain on them, and could continue whatever I was doing without noise and aggravation. My husband had the same philosophy, which helped a lot.

And my kids learned important life lessons:
*Parents don't have to hit you if you mess up. They can walk away and make you think about what you did by having you sit quietly and do nothing.
*Parents don't have to scream at you to get your attention or rid themselves of anger.
*Punishments can be short, but effective, especially when they're monumentally boring and provide no attention while you "do your time."
*Tantrums don't accomplish anything positive. Nor does cruelty.

I was far from the perfect parent. I was controlling, demanding, and expected far too much.
But I wasn't violent and my kids aren't violent.

At the shelter, mothers who grew up with violence often over-react or threaten a child. This doesn't last long because the shelter is a non-violent zone. I have seen mothers help each other with this problem. They may take over child care until a stressed-out mom calms down. They may ask staff to talk with her or teach her more appropriate discipline. Often, once this mom feels calmer and has stronger emotional reserves from living in a safe place, she stops using, or wishing she could use violence to control her kids.

Kids learn almost everything from their parents. What are we teaching them?

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