Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dealing With Disappointment

You may recall that I decided to read and blog about one parenting book a month in 2010. The book I read in February was Dealing With Disappointment by Elizabeth Crary.

As parents, it is important to teach our children about emotions and to help them learn strategies for dealing with their own emotions. Children need a good "feelings vocabulary," and the book includes a fantastic list of words to describe emotions. There are standards like happy, sad, angry, excited, and disappointed-- but there are also words like elated, pleased, relaxed, generous, irate, worried, jealous, flabbergasted, and so many more. I don't think I did a lot of emotion-labeling with Elijah until he was around three or four years old, but since then it's become so second-nature to me that I've been describing emotions for Isaac since he was a small baby. This makes so much sense to me now. Most parents see the value in giving their children words for everything else in their environment-- animals, household objects, colors, shapes, even textures like smooth, bumpy, and rough-- so it makes sense to teach children to recognize and describe emotions too.

But don't stop there! Children also need to understand the nature of emotions-- how they can change, and that different people may feel different emotions about the same thing. And children need to be taught self-calming tools that they can use when they are upset. (So do some adults!) The book recommends that children have one self-calming strategy for each year of age up until twelve. These range from physical, auditory/verbal, visual, creative, self-comforting, and humor. Some strategies can be used in the moment, while others are preventive measures.

Of course, waiting to introduce a self-calming tool until the moment when a child is upset probably won't help much. How easily do you learn new skills when you are in the midst of feelings like anger or disappointment? It is more helpful to introduce a new self-calming tool when the child is already calm, link it to calm feelings, and practice using it with the child. Then when he's upset, you can remind him of his self-calming tools, and over time he will learn to use them without prompting. I decided to try this with my 15 month old; I started showing him how to take deep breaths in and out and described how calm it made me feel. Toddlers love to imitate, so he began trying to take deep breaths himself. After a few days of practicing this during calm moments, I decided to see if it would help him when he was upset. So one day when he was feeling angry that he couldn't have something he wanted, I said, "Isaac, you're feeling angry because you can't touch that. Let's take some deep calming breaths, ready? Breathe in... and out... in... and out." And you know what? He tried to, and he calmed down. I have to admit, I was pretty impressed!

Obviously the parent's role in all this changes as their children mature. When children are small, parents are their comforters, but over time we progress to teaching children how to deal with their own feelings, then reminding them to use the self-calming tools they have, and finally, as they become teens, back off and let them handle their emotions while offering support if needed.

The book also offers helpful advice to parents on staying calm themselves when kids are upset. (If you're a parent, you know how difficult this can be sometimes!) At the end of the book, there are sections devoted to activities for understanding feelings and tools for coping with feelings. It's a pretty short read-- only 132 pages-- but an excellent resource for parents or teachers who are looking for ways to teach children about emotions and how to handle them.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beautiful Moments

Sometimes my toddler becomes very moody and clingy, doesn't want to play, and is nearly impossible to cheer up. At times like this, I've discovered something that helps remedy the situation. After I do this, he's like a completely different child. Agreeable, cheerful, ready to play, laughing and chattering. Plenty of parents don't do this with their toddlers, but I can't imagine not doing it with mine.

No, I'm not talking about any kind of punishment. I'm talking about nursing. I've realized that most of the time when Isaac becomes fussy, clingy, and irritable, it's because he needs something in that moment. Perhaps he's hungry or tired, or maybe he just needs to be in the comfort of his mama's arms. Nursing is a perfect solution; it puts him close to me, in a nurturing place that he has known and taken comfort in his entire life, and provides him with needed nourishment at the same time. After just a few minutes, he feels "right" again.

And I feel right again too. In the busyness of keeping up with a very active and curious little explorer, it's easy to get tired and frustrated. Nursing provides me with a few minutes to relax and quietly cuddle with my little boy, who's growing up so much but is still a baby in so many ways. Obviously we don't nurse as frequently as we once did; he's very interested in eating what the rest of us eat, and he only nurses a couple times a day now. Sometimes he even pushes me away and shakes his head no with a grin when I ask him if he wants to nurse.

But in those moments when we do nurse, it is still such a beautiful time of bonding and nurturing. Most people will agree that nursing is mutually beneficial for moms and babies, but it is also mutually beneficial for moms and toddlers. I feel so blessed to have these times with Isaac.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Roots of My Addiction

As an introspective person, it's not enough for me to identify that something isn't right in my life and then work to change it; I also feel the need to examine the reasons behind it. I feel like I cannot find the best solution for a problem if I don't look at what caused the problem to develop in the first place.

So I've been trying to identify the roots of my computer addiction. I feel comfortable calling it that, because it definitely has become an addiction for me. Obviously I need to spend less time online and keep the computer turned off most of the day, but I also need to find healthier ways to address the issues that have driven me to sit around online too much. Here are the reasons I have identified so far.

I crave connection with other people. As an introvert, though, it can seem so much easier at times to simply connect with people online rather than face-to-face. I need to work on building real, personal relationships with other people instead of relying so much on things like Facebook, message boards, and blogs.

I like to keep my mind busy. I often read things online that get me thinking, and I actually fear that spending less time online will cause me to miss out on important thoughts and realizations. Obviously I also like to write, and I fear that I will miss out on opportunities to share thoughts that may be helpful or encouraging to others. I need to remember that there will still be time to read and write-- just while the kids are napping or in bed for the night. And I need to remember that I can still exercise my mind, think and learn about new things, and encourage other people without spending lots of time online.

I get bored. As a stay-at-home mom, obviously part of what I do is spend time playing with my kids. But I don't want to spend all day long playing, nor do I think that it's my job as a mom to orchestrate and be involved in every single thing they do. They need to play independently, but when they are, I get bored sometimes. And so I turn on the computer instead of finding other things to do. I could read a book, work on a project around the house, finally learn to use my sewing machine, or several other things I have been meaning to do but never seem to get around to doing. And of course, I will need to watch carefully to make sure I don't let something else step in to fill the void of computer addiction. This isn't just about turning off the computer; it's about spending more time in the moment with my children and developing closer relationships with them.

Getting online is a great way to procrastinate. Sure, I need to clean the bathroom and do laundry, but logging onto Facebook is much more fun. I've already noticed that when the computer is turned off, I get a lot more done.

So those are the things that I think are at the root of my overuse of the computer. I'm happy to say that since last Friday, I have only been spending time online during Isaac's naptime and after the boys are in bed. :) I've been getting a lot more done around the house, I feel much more peaceful, and of course I have been spending more time simply playing and having fun with the boys. For someone who has never struggled with this, it probably all sounds silly, but the internet just sucks me in even when I intend to only get on "for a minute." It feels good to make these changes!

Monday, February 22, 2010

In Jesus' Name

Last week, I wrote about the death of Lydia Schatz. Her death has been connected to Michael and Debi Pearl's teachings about child training.

Since then, I've read a few other posts about this horrible situation that have been good food for thought, and I thought I'd share some of the thoughts with you, along with links to the full posts. They are all worth reading, in my opinion.

First, I read a post entitled Spanking in Anger Isn't the Problem. I thought this was a good one because as soon as something like this happens, people are quick to say that it never would have happened if the parents hadn't spanked in anger. However, the author points out that anger is an emotion that quickly burns out, whereas the "whippings" given in this situation continued over the course of a few hours. That would indicate that this wasn't a situation that involved anger. The author goes on to say that many parents believe that their child's salvation is the most important parenting goal. Some parents approach this by teaching their children about Jesus and modeling Christlike behavior, in hopes that their children will decide for themselves to follow Jesus. But others believe that by parenting "correctly," they will pretty much guarantee that their children will become Christians, so they seek out people who will give them methods to see that this happens-- and the Pearls (among others) offer methods that they claim will do this very thing.

Another post I read was Hold 'Em Down, Defeat Totally. The author does a fantastic job of explaining why the Pearls' methods can lead to situations like the death of Lydia Schatz. The Pearls instruct parents to defeat their children totally in discipline situations, and to continue the spanking until the child has surrendered. When you consider that, it's not hard to understand how Lydia's death may have occurred; it appears as though her parents "disciplined" her according to the Pearls' instructions, with the intention of continuing until she surrendered. This news article states that Lydia and her sister "had deep bruising and several whip-like marks on the back, buttocks, and legs. Ramsey said authorities believe this led to a break down of tissue, endangering vital organs."

I also want to share a post written by a woman who knew the Schatz family and was shocked and devastated when she heard what had happened. This post reminded me of the vital importance of love even in the face of such a horrifying situation. It is easy to be angry, and I think it is appropriate to be angry. But even so, let us pray for the parents, the other children in the family, and Michael and Debi Pearl themselves.

I apologize for posting about this again; I know it's a terrible, heartbreaking situation and it hurts to think about it. But I think it's so important to talk about this. Many, many Christians have no idea of the kinds of things that some other Christians instruct parents to do to their children, not only in the name of discipline but in the name of Jesus. And I think people SHOULD know. It would be easy to say, "Well, this is just something that happens on the fringes of society," but the fact that it happens at all means we need to sit up and pay attention. And honestly, I can't help wondering just how close to home this is. Like me, the Pearls are from Tennessee. Additionally, the Pearls are especially popular among Christian homeschoolers (not all of them, of course, but they are definitely well-known-- for good or for bad-- in homeschooling circles). I can't help wondering how many people in my town and the surrounding areas not only know who the Pearls are, but follow them. Families in your hometown could be following the Pearls' methods with their children. Yes, as Christians, we need to be aware of these things. And that is why I've chosen to write about them here in such depth. If you can handle one last link, this post says very well why it is so important to speak out. Here is an excerpt:

Please see how we in our Christian, homeschool circles can be vulnerable to false teachings. Please see how warped theology can warp our actions. This is not to excuse or justify what Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz have done. This is to point out just how much loving parents can be vulnerable, and how imperative it is that the Christian church warn parents about false beliefs and abusive practices such as those taught by Michael and Debi Pearl....

Christian parents are vulnerable, we are vulnerable. These teachings do not reflect the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but ensnare parents and eliminate mercy. This is why the Church must speak out in warning — individuals, pastors, lay leaders, denominations. This is hurting our families and children. We cannot pretend it isn’t happening in our midst anymore.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Just Like Me

This morning, I read a post that broke my heart. A mom rewrote the Harry Chapin song "Cat's in the Cradle," and titled it "Mom's on the Computer." You can read it here. The point is basically a reminder that your kids are going to see and imitate what you do. The mom spends a lot of time at the computer, focused on things like Facebook, blogging, and Twitter, and lets other important things slide-- like time with her child. In the end, it comes full circle, and the mom wants to spend time with her grown-up son and he's too busy, but he offers to Skype instead.

Now, the original song makes me cry every time I hear it. But this post absolutely broke my heart. Because the truth is, I spend too much time on the computer. I know I do. Who knows how many times I've chosen to sit at the computer writing a blog post or playing around on Facebook, while I put my kids off and tell them, "Wait just a minute, I'll be done soon." And I am already seeing the fruits of this; my 7 year old would be happy to spend every waking hour in front of the television or a video game if I'd let him, and recently my 15 month old has even started pointing at the television and trying to say "TV." Something has to change.

I think people, perhaps women especially, are wired to crave connection with other people. Modern culture doesn't lend itself to that easily, so instead of spending time with other people, many of us tend to get online to connect. When I was a child, my mom spent a lot of time talking to her friends on the phone. She was trying to fulfill that need to connect with other people, and now I am staying home with my kids and using the internet to do the same thing.

Now, I know someone is reading this and thinking that I'm about to say the internet and social media are evil, and that women should focus solely on their children. Well, that's not what I'm saying. While parents should obviously spend time with their children and give them plenty of attention, it would be unhealthy for a parent to spend 100 percent of her time and energy focused on her children. The need to connect with other people is real, and while the internet and social media can definitely be used as tools to meet this need, they can also easily be overused. Balance is needed.

The post I read this morning reminded me how much more important it is to spend time with my children than to write a blog post or check Facebook. I need balance in my life. If the kids are at home and awake, I have no business sitting around on the computer. I need to be spending time with them, building a better connection and a closer relationship. (Yes, I see the irony in writing a blog post about this-- but for the record, my 7 year old is at school, and my 15 month old is taking a nap.)

I need balance. Our whole family needs balance. Computers and television and video games can be useful and fun, but they've been given too high a priority in our lives. And I'm done. If the kids are here and awake, the computer's off. I can't do it anymore, and I won't do it anymore. It's time to break the cycle. I don't want my children to feel like anything is more important than they are, especially not the computer, and I don't want them to grow up and be just like me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Kitchen Talent, Or Why This is Not a Food Blog

When it comes to cooking, I have a spectacular talent: I am amazing at picking out the world's worst recipes. I choose new recipes to try based on a few things. I want something that isn't going to cost a lot of money, that is fairly easy to prepare, and that has ingredients I've heard of. Plenty of recipes fit this description, yet I always seem to pick ones that just don't turn out well. My husband, on the other hand, has a knack for picking great ones. I don't know how he does it.

I'm trying to go vegetarian again, and tonight's recipe was chickpea curry. I'll admit that I was hoping it would turn out great; I wanted to blog about it. Unfortunately, this blog is probably not destined to be a vegetarian-foodie blog. Sigh. At least I never claimed to be something I'm not. ;)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This Is the Reason Why

Yesterday, through a series of unfortunate events, I ended up on the website of the No Greater Joy ministry. It all started when I read a news article about a homeschooled child whose adoptive parents beat her to death because she mispronounced a word. Horrifying. But it gets worse; then the news came out that when she died, her parents were using "Biblical chastisement" methods recommended and taught by Christians Michael and Debi Pearl and their ministry, No Greater Joy. The article stated that the ministry's website "details how hard and on which part of the body a child should be hit. It also describes a 1/4 inch plumber's supply line as an ideal spanking instrument." And so I decided to go looking around on their website to see this for myself.

This was not my first encounter with the Pearls' teachings. No, my first encounter was a few years ago when I attempted to read their book To Train Up A Child. In chapter one alone, they compare the training of children to the conditioning of mice, rats, dogs, and mules, and go on to recommend a number of questionable "child training" methods, including:
-"training" babies (young enough to crawl) by putting an interesting object in front of them, telling them not to touch it, then "switching" their hand when they inevitably reach for it
- "thumping" a baby's hand for touching your glasses
- pulling a baby's hair for biting
- training a ten to twelve month old child to come immediately when called by getting them interested in a toy, calling for them, and spanking them if they do not come immediately

But the final straw, for me, was the following story. After reading this, I refused to read another word of To Train Up A Child:

One of our girls who developed mobility early had a fascination with crawling up the stairs. At four months she was too unknowing to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good, we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of "No" with little spats on the bare legs. The switch was a twelve-inch long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow tree.

Such was her fascination with climbing that four or five sessions had not made her stop. The thought of further spankings was disconcerting, so I conceived an alternative. After one more spanking, I laid the switch on the bottom step. We later observed her crawl to the stairs and start the ascent, only to halt at the first step and stare at the switch. She backed off and never again attempted to climb the stairs, even after the switch was removed.

Yeah. So basically, in order to train your children correctly (and in a Godly way, of course, according to the Pearls), it's a good idea to set them up for failure, ignore the fact that they are immature and have zero impulse control, punish their curiosity, spank and/or threaten them with switches... and according to them, that's not even discipline yet; that's just training! Discipline comes later: "Parents should not wait until the child's behavior becomes unacceptable before they commence training--that would be discipline. Discipline is a part of training but is insufficient in itself to effect proper behavior. Training is the conditioning of the child's mind before the crisis arises; it is preparation for future, instant, unquestioning obedience. "

Their recommendations regarding discipline, or "Biblical Chastisement," as they put it, is what I had the distinct displeasure of reading about on their ministry's website. This stuff speaks for itself, so I'll just let you read it. These sections are taken verbatim from an article about Biblical chastisement on the No Greater Joy ministry's website.

The soul of your child needs to be punished. He feels the need to suffer for his misdeeds. What I am telling you is well understood by the most reprobate of modern psychiatrists and psychologists. They call it a “guilt complex.” Children and adults in this state of mind often do harm to themselves. Their anger is turned inward because they hate the bad person they know themselves to be. Their soul is crying out for justice to be done to the self. They don’t know what is happening, and they will not voluntarily seek punishment, but their soul needs judgment. When your child is in the first throes of this debilitating condition, be kind enough to punish him. Care enough and love enough to pay the emotional sacrifice to give him ten to fifteen licks that will satisfy his need to experience payback.

If you do not see the wisdom in what I have said, and you reject these concepts, you are not fit to be a parent. I pity your children. They will never experience the freedom of soul and conscience that mine do.

A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around you neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps the kids in line.

Don’t be so indiscreet as to spank your children in public—including the church restroom. I get letters regularly telling of trouble with in-laws who threaten to report them to the authorities. Parents have called the Gestapo on their married children. Church friends who have noses longer than the pews on which they perch can cause a world of trouble. If you cannot get them trained before going out in public, stay home and read our four books again.

It is much more effective to administer chastisement or punishment in a slow thoughtful fashion. Our goal is to cause the child to voluntarily surrender his will. We want to impress upon him the severity of his disobedience. It takes time and thoughtfulness for the child to come to repentance. I have told a child I was going to give him 10 licks. I count out loud as I go. After about three licks, leaving him in his position, I would stop and remind him what this is all about. I would continue slowly, still counting, stop again and tell him that I know it hurts and I wish I didn’t have to do it but that it is for his own good. Then I would continue slowly. Pretending to forget the count, I would again stop at about eight and ask him the number. Have him subtract eight from ten, (a little homeschooling) and continue with the final two licks. Then I would have him stand in front of me and ask him why he got the spanking. If his answer showed that he was rebellious and defiant, he would get several more licks. Again he would be questioned as to his offense. If he showed total submission, we put it all behind us, but if he were still rebellious, we would continue until he gave over his will.

The Bible says, “the rod is for the back.” That would include anything that is not the front—the back from the shoulders down to the feet. When training, and not chastening or punishing, any convenient place on the body is effective. When you have told a child not to touch, and he reaches out, you can thump or swat his hand. If he is trying to climb down from his chair after being told not to, you can swat his legs. But when you are engaging the child in serious chastisement, the small of the back down to the thighs is the most effective. You can spank half as hard on the back with a light, stingy switch and be more effective than spanking harder on the bottom or thighs.

Children fight back because they think they have a chance of forestalling the spanking. First make sure the child never gains anything by fleeing. Second, cause the child to understand that he is further hurting himself by resisting. Slow down, stay calm. If you are in a frenzy, the child will respond in kind. If a child flees, don’t chase him. Wait and allow time for the tension to go out of the air. Slowly pursue him, explaining that he cannot win. If it takes a long time, that’s fine. Go to his hiding place and laugh at his frail attempts. Explain that if it takes fourteen days to bring him to justice, he will be brought to justice.

Know that in the end you will win. It is the quality of the win that counts. You want him to voluntarily surrender.

While quietly explaining what you are doing, drag him out of the closet or out from under the bed and restrain him until he calms down. Explain your position and then put him in a confining position. And then proceed to spank slowly. When you get to the former number of licks that he would have received, stop and say, “OK that is the ten licks you had coming; I am tired of spanking, but I must give you the other lick that I promised if you did not come to me.” Whap! “There, now that is eleven, but you still did not come, so I told you you would get 12, so here is the twelfth…” And so continue talking him through it so that he knows that he is getting exactly what you promised.

Remember, you are representing all authority to the child, including the authority of God.

Biblical training, chastisement, and punishment are of God’s design. They are consistent with the laws of human nature. The final proof of the superiority of our methods is the children raised in this manner. Those who oppose the Biblical method often find it necessary to drug their children as well as themselves. The most empirical proof of God’s way is the joy. You cannot argue with joy. We parents of joy obey God and our joy increases along with our joyful children.

That's certainly not all of the objectionable material on their site, but that's a good start. Using various implements to spank/chastise/switch or whatever you want to call it... drawing it out just to make a point... spanking on bare skin... training (in other words, spanking) babies... portraying parenting as a battle between parent and child, which the parents must win at all costs, or else they are doomed forever... saying that children's souls need to suffer for their misdeeds and a spanking is the way to cleanse the soul... and if you don't agree with them, you are disagreeing with God himself and are a rotten excuse for a so-called Christian parent. I'm sure some people wonder why I am so insistent upon sharing my views about discipline and spanking in particular. Stuff like this is the reason why. You may not be talking about these kinds of things when you refer to spanking. You may not have even realized that Christian ministries were recommending things like this. But the reality is, there are several different Christian ministries that endorse variations of what I have posted here, and insist that it is THE Godly, Biblical way for Christian parents to discipline. This is why I speak up. And as long as people are endorsing and carrying out things like this in the name of Jesus, I will never stop speaking out against it.

*If you are wondering why I didn't link to the Pearls' materials, it's because I am not interested in linking people directly to the junk they have out there. If you're interested, you can easily use Google to do your own research into the Pearls, To Train Up a Child, Biblical chastisement, and No Greater Joy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Love One Another

It saddens me that so often women tear each other down-- either directly or indirectly through rudeness, criticism, discouragement, negativity, judgment, or gossip-- over our differences in choices or opinions. I've seen women tear each other down over things like how many kids they have (or if they have kids at all), whether they work or stay home, how they choose to labor and birth, whether they breastfeed or use formula, how they choose to discipline, whether they have their kids in public school, private school, or homeschool, and on and on and ON! I'm sure we've all been guilty of this, but the fact that it's commonplace doesn't make it okay.

Like most women, I've been guilty of being judgmental of people who do things differently than me, but that's not an attitude I'm okay with in myself, and I have worked hard to change it. I believe that most people are doing what they feel is best for them and their families at the time, based on the information they have, their own hearts, and how they feel God is leading them. We may all come to different decisions about different things, and we may disagree on some things. That's normal! It's okay if we don't agree on some things, but it's not okay for us to tear each other down because of our differences. Disagreement does not have to equal judgment. In the end, we are all responsible for our own decisions; just as I believe God will guide me if he wants me to change something in my life, I believe God will guide others if he wants them to change something. Therefore, my place is not to judge other women; it is to be a friend and to be encouraging. I believe in the fruit of the Spirit being present in all aspects of my life, and this includes my relationships with other women.

I worry a lot that people will assume I'm judging them if I simply have a different opinion and share it. Because I am passionate about things like birth and families, I feel that it's important to share information and be honest about my thoughts and experiences. But I also feel that it's important to be approachable, friendly, and non-judgmental in doing so. God used people who were encouraging, non-judgmental, and firm in their beliefs to help guide me to where I am now, and I am so glad.

Here is the trap that I've found I fall into if I'm not careful, and I wonder if other women have similar struggles. I'm confident in my beliefs and decisions, and I'm not going to hide them or apologize for having them; that is healthy. But confidence combined with a passion for a particular issue can lead to being critical and judgmental if left unchecked. I think the answer to being gentle and encouraging lies in determining what I love and value most: people or the issue at hand. If I am putting the issue above people, I am much more likely to tear other people down. But the fruit of the Spirit is there when I love and value people first and foremost; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

So how can women move toward loving and valuing each other more? I think this is the key to being more encouraging and supportive of each other. And honestly, I think one of the most obvious ways to do this is to intentionally cultivate relationships with each other.

This is something I want to facilitate. After reading about the idea of Friendship Fridays, I've decided to do something similar. So starting on March 5, I will be opening my home on the first Friday afternoon of every month for women to just spend time together and get to know each other. I'm definitely open to doing this more often or at a different time, but I think this is a good place to start. Children are welcome, of course; children are a part of many women's lives, and it seems counter-intuitive to exclude them from a women's group! There will be coffee, tea, juice, a little snack, and toys for the kids to play with. I think it'll be great fun, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Lots of children get attached to a "lovey," like a special blanket or a stuffed animal. Elijah's was a blanket with teddy bears on it; up until a couple years ago, he always fell asleep with it.

Isaac's lovey is different, though. His is our ears. Yes, our ears. Whenever Isaac is sleepy, he reaches up and holds the ears of the parent who is holding him. My theory is that he likes our ears for two reasons: they are a good fit for his little hands, and he wants to keep us as close to him as possible during those cuddly moments before sleep. Think about it; if you're holding a child, and your child is holding your ears, the two of you are very close to each other. What a comforting place for a little one!

There is nothing wrong with kids getting attached to blankets or stuffed animals, of course, but it warms my heart to know that Clark and I are Isaac's "loveys." He is attached to us and he wants us to be close to him as he falls asleep. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I cherish this time with my sweet Isaac.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Does the Bible Really Command Parents to Spank?

All my life, I've heard people say that the Bible commands parents to spank their children. But after looking into it for myself, it appears to me that the Bible does not command this.

The five verses that people generally say command spanking are in Proverbs, which is a book of wisdom sayings and observations about life, but not of direct commandments. Here are the verses:

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. -Proverbs 13:24

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. -Proverbs 22:15

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol. -Proverbs 23:13-14

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. -Proverbs 29:15

Now, if you look only at the English translation and are looking through the lens of our culture and man-made tradition, I can see how you'd think that the Bible at least recommends spanking. However, looking into the original language of any scripture is helpful for gaining a deeper understanding. A look into the original Hebrew reveals that the word that is translated to "rod" is shebet. A shebet is a rod of authority, and is used to describe a shepherd's stick, a walking stick, and a king's scepter. For reference, here is a picture of a shebet:

Additionally, it is possible that the word translated to "child," na'ar, actually refers to male teenagers and not young children.

Naturally, the question arises, "Well, are the 'rod verses' in Proverbs literal or symbolic?" Let's look at that for a moment. If they are literal, then the verses are saying it is wise to hit a child (or teenage male) with a literal shebet like the one pictured above-- NOT a hand, wooden spoon, belt, paint stirrer, glue stick, or anything else!

If the verses are symbolic, that means the rod spoken of here is not a literal rod but a symbol of parental authority. In this case, the verses are saying it is wise to use your parental authority to discipline, correct, and instruct your children. Well, yeah, of course that's wise!

Personally, I'm inclined to believe the verses are symbolic rather than literal. I'm quite sure that it is not wise to hit my child with a shebet like the one pictured above, and I don't think God wants me to do that either. I do, however, firmly believe that it is wise to use my parental authority to discipline, correct, and instruct my children, and I absolutely believe that's something God wants me to do.

This leads to a new question, then: As a Christian parent, is spanking a wise, appropriate, and Christlike method of disciplining, correcting, and instructing children?

This is a question you'll have to answer for yourself. For me, after prayerful consideration and a lot of research and studying, my answer is no. When I consider child development, research on spanking, the personal experiences of myself and others, the purpose of discipline, and other discipline methods, I conclude that spanking is not the wisest or most appropriate method of disciplining, correcting, and instructing. When I consider the fruit of the Spirit, the description of love, verses on how to treat children, how the Bible tells us to treat others (in both the Old and New Testaments), how Jesus treated people and children, and how God disciplines me, I conclude that spanking is not a very Christlike way for me to discipline either. I would love to talk more about each of these things individually, but that will have to wait for another post (or posts).

I realize that another person may consider these questions and come to a different conclusion. And I may disagree, but in the end I am not responsible for their decision. If God wants someone to make a different choice, he will have to let them know. I realize there are people who will wholeheartedly disagree that the "rod verses" are symbolic rather than literal. I also realize that I did not go very in-depth here with the word meanings; this is because there are excellent studies already written out elsewhere. I encourage you to look at the following sites for more information. They are all fantastic reads and very well worth your time.

Christian Child Discipline: Is Spanking Biblical?

The Rod or Shebet: An In-Depth Examination

Should I Spank My Child?

Spare the Rod...

History of Spanking

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Progression of Spanking

In my last post, I wrote about the dad who was sentenced to 45 days in jail for spanking his son bare-bottomed and hard enough to leave bruises.

This got me thinking about the potential progression of corporal punishment. Many people see no issue with a light swat on a diaper-padded bottom. My question is, what do you do when the light swat doesn't "work" anymore? (In other words, when it fails to yield the behavioral results you were hoping for?) Do you find a more effective way to teach your child? Some people do. But others spank harder, use an object like a wooden spoon or belt, or even start removing layers of clothes so the child will feel it more.

Here's the thing. Even if you start out only using mild physical punishment, the boundary has been crossed; you have told yourself that it is acceptable to strike a child. So where do you draw the line? How far will you let physical punishment go before it's too much? And what will you do when you realize it isn't working the way you'd hoped? I wonder if the dad in this news story has always spanked his kids in the manner described in the article, or if things progressed to that point over time?

I've heard plenty of people say that you should never spank in anger, and while I agree with that, I simply cannot wrap my mind around how a parent could hit a child if they were not angry. When I am calm, I can think of several better ways to handle a situation. It is only when I'm angry that I feel the impulse to spank. (I don't do it, though.) And maybe it's just me, but I find something downright creepy about the thought of a totally calm, rational parent spanking a child. That just doesn't make sense to me.

So this is what I wonder. If there is an element of anger involved in spanking, and if there is the potential for the severity of the punishment to increase over time, why even start down that path? I can't speak for anyone else, but that is one of the reasons why I quit spanking. It was impossible for me to spank without anger, and I could see how the situation could easily escalate, especially with anger involved. And so I sought out methods of discipline that were more effective and respectful-- and not only do they work, they work much better than spanking ever did. I deeply regret the time of Elijah's life when I spanked, and I will never do it again.

I understand that not everyone struggles with anger, and not everyone will increase the severity of the spankings they give their children. But I also think the potential is there, and that is scary. Why not just choose better discipline methods? I am not trying to be rude here... I just truly, honestly do not understand why a person would choose to spank a child if there are better options.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Man Jailed for "Spanking" Son

Earlier this week, this news story came out of Canada. A man was sentenced to 45 days in jail for spanking his six year old son. The article says:

The man pleaded guilty last year to one count of assault causing bodily harm after he spanked his son so hard there were bruises on the boy's buttocks.... According to the man, the children misbehaved during supper, and he struck them, three times each, on their bare buttocks.
Setting aside how I feel about spanking in general, this is far beyond spanking. If you're hitting your kid hard enough to leave bruises, and hitting him on his bare bottom, those are some SERIOUS issues. I won't hesitate for one second to call this abusive. It disgusts me that people treat children this way. Look, instead of taking your child's clothes off and hitting him hard enough to leave bruises, why don't you just be a PARENT and correct the actual behavior? Is it really that hard?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Trip to the Used Bookstore

Books are a big part of becoming a doula and childbirth educator. There is plenty of reading to do, plus I want to build up my book collection so I can have a decent lending library for friends and eventual clients. (And it's possible that I may have an addiction to books. Maybe.)

Earlier this week, Clark and I spent a day in Chattanooga, drinking coffee and shopping and eating lunch. Our final stop was McKay Used Books; we had a few items to trade in, and we wanted to look around a bit.

Naturally, I immediately sought out the pregnancy/birth section, hoping to find a copy of Penny Simkin's The Birth Partner. What I found was even better. Not only did they have The Birth Partner, they had The Natural Pregnancy Book, Gentle Birth Choices, and A Good Birth, A Safe Birth. Of course, I got them all, plus The Mission of Motherhood (a book I've been wanting to read for a while now; I'll probably be reviewing it on here later this year) and The Red Tent (this month's selection for the book club I'm part of).

Even better? Thanks to our trade-in credit, we paid less than $5 for all these books. Yay! I seriously do not know what a book junkie like me would do without used bookstores.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Will You Help?

For the past couple of months, I have been giving some serious thought to what I want to do. I am interested in so many things, but I cannot do it all. I have known for a while now that I want to make a difference, but that is a very broad goal, and I need to get more specific.

I have heard people say that if you see that something needs to be changed, you should be the one to change it. And in some cases, that may be true, but for me, the fact that I notice something doesn't necessarily mean I am called to change it. I notice lots of things, maybe too many things. Sometimes it feels as though I am standing in the midst of a whirlwind; all these issues that I care about and that desperately need to see changes made are flying around me and I am overwhelmed. Lately I have been trying to shut out the noise and pay attention to my feelings; what am I most passionate about? What do I get excited about? What do I get worked up about? What issues are the nearest and dearest to my heart?

The time has come to pursue some things that I have been interested in for quite some time. I'm ready to work toward certification as both a childbirth instructor and a doula. For years now, I have also dreamed of starting a non-profit organization or ministry to work with families and parents, from pregnancy on up. Unfortunately, you do not have to look very far to find Christian organizations, authors, and churches that endorse parenting practices that are punitive, detached, and based on behaviorism. It is harder to find Christian organizations that advocate for parenting that is gentle, attached, and is focused on true discipline (teaching). While I am not at the point where I am prepared to start an actual organization, it is time to get started on the beginning stages. Soon I hope to be purchasing a domain that I will use to share information and write about things like pregnancy, natural birth, homebirth, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, gentle discipline, family life, and faith.

Right now I'm stuck on something that may initially seem insignificant, but I think it's actually quite important- naming the website. If I can find the right name, it is possible that I will use it for my childbirth education and doula work, and also for the future organization/ministry that I want to build.

And so I am asking for your help. Do you have any ideas for a name?