Friday, April 26, 2019

Child-raising, Gentle Discipline

When I was younger, one of the things I was interested in studying when I grew up was psychology.

(Just a side-note about that: I remember my father laughing one time and saying that only people with psychological issues study psychology. Or maybe it was someone else who said that and he just chuckled along. I felt so angry with the irony of my father being the cause of much of my psychological turmoil. His unawareness, hypocrisy and unfairness bothers me deeply until today, and I relentlessly seek justice in everything at least partially as a result of the injustice I felt.)

I didn't go on to study psychology in university, but after putting down a library book on "Gentle Discipline" on the coffee table one evening two weeks ago, after having read more pages at once than I normally do in any one book, I realized that I did in fact go on to immerse myself in psychology and psychoanalysis and specifically that regarding child education, by reading books, articles, my own memories and parents who communicate with their children in affirmative and educational ways. Of course working with kids on a more-or-less regular basis for the past ten years has also given me insight, and allowed/allows me to implement in practice the positive, affirmative ideas I collect.

It is so important to me, not just on an intellectual-cognitive level, but on a deep emotional forefront of necessity and moral obligation, that people turn to positive, respectful, pro-child, pro-development, nonviolent measures in raising or caring for children. It's deep in my stomach to care about this.

Generations upon generations of people have grown up through the helpless circumstances of punishment and shaming. (Only God knows how D.T. - the human who was elected president - was raised, and what kind of punishments he got that made him be how he is.) We can see around us how toxic discipline (and may I say Patriarchal ideas) have had a negative effect on our society as a whole. I'm so glad our generation is being mindful about learning from all these mistakes. (When we are not cognizant of the toxic conventions in which we ourselves were raised, we may play out the same detrimental story for our kids. We should be mindful parents/caregivers by first of all noticing our own difficulties and predispositions, in order to end the cycle of violence and care better for the children who depend on us.)

Things like listening to children, not ignoring them when they need you, staying calm, not being violent (and setting a good example in general), not dis-valuing their emotions, and explaining things to them (in an age-appropriate way) are just some of the crucial behaviors adults should maintain when communicating with children.

Not punishing is one of those things. Punishing a child (like sending them off to be in confinement) only deepens their sense of inadequacy and their lack of self-esteem, and causes fear and helplessness, with no positive (long-term) outcome. (I feel sometimes it is the parent who should go to their room or have a time-out, not the child.) Likewise, there is no reason to grab or scream at a child if there is no immediate danger. A child should be given space (mental and physical) to explore, play, learn and make some of their own decisions.

I have seen some very inspiring parenting skills by parents whose kids I cared for or by parents in public places (and I've seen so many un-inspiring ones out there too). Two of the most positive skills I've seen (which I've adopted, and is always evolving) are the ability to respond to a child in a mindful way instead of pulling a response out of a pocket, and explaining things to kids with the assumption that they are smart - and not talking in a baby voice.

All children are small and vulnerable and confined to the family they were given, so it is my innermost wish that each and every one of these small beings in the world will be granted parents who care for them and support their growth and development in affirmative and nonviolent ways, to allow them independence and joy. If every child will be listened to, and will learn to take deep breaths and to express themselves calmly, our world will be a whole lot better. Amen.

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