30 June 2007

it was bound to happen sooner or later...

but i didn't expect it from a family member. but maybe i should have and shouldn't be surprised.

apparently, because i refuse to resort to corporal punishment tactics for bebe, someone who has been on this planet a mere total of 820 some odd days, he is going to grow up with a "slit." (?!)


i'm getting ahead of myself, let me back up.

the scene: a restaurant gathering to celebrate my daddy's birthday, complete with stairs going down to the front door.
characters: 12 including us, and random extended family members.

being a two year old, bebe likes to explore. it is also ridiculous to think that he'll sit at a table quietly for an hour and a half. i know, i know - we should have just stayed home - keep the evil child locked away until he's 6.

bebe was on his third break away to go down the stairs. will and i both jumped up and went after him. will got to him first, i returned to the table to overhear the ending of a heated exchange between my mom and brother in law. i said, "what's going on?"

B.I.L.: "i SAID, if you'd spank him, he wouldn't be DOING this shit."
"spanking is not an option for us."
"oh, HERE we go. the VILLAGE needs to raise the child." (i'm an idiot lefty, you see)
"i said, spanking is not an option for us."
"hrmph. grumble grumble grumble."

a little later, it came up again, in a roundabout sort of way. i'm sure i said something snarky about beating a child.

B.I.L: "all i'm saying is that he's going to grow up with a slit if you don't spank him."

my aunt, very softly, "what?"

me: "oh, a slit. he's concerned that bebe will grow a vagina and be a "pussy."

aunt: "ohhhhhhhh."

why can't i keep my mouth shut?

the implications of the whole exchange edged me like none other. first - the spanking. how much more information needs to be put out there before people realize that it is counter-productive to hit a child? especially a boy? there are ass loads of studies about this. ASS LOADS. here's one.

i'am here to guide bebe, not strike the fear of god in him by hitting him. or make him feel as if he is so horrible i must beat him.

if i were to hit another adult, i would go to jail - but it is perfectly legal to hit someone 1/4 of my size?

i'd also go as far to say that people that spank are the ones that need behavior modification. if you're resorting to hitting your kid, you are more than likely acting out of anger yourself, and spanking is a release for you. makes no difference to me - a swat or a slap or a full on beating - they all come from the same place, for the most part. most situations that would "require a spanking" can be easily avoided if you pay attention to your child, and read the signs of an upcoming situation, or phase.

i read a post the other day about a three year old girl that was throwing a full on fit in a mall. the author thought the girl should've been spanked, as her behavior was disrupting the shoppers - and herself. maybe the girl she was tired? hungry? over stimulated? in any of those instances, hitting her would have done no good. hell, as an adult i can last about 10 minutes in a mall before i get completely weirded out and in need of a nap and a hug! a better alternative would have been for the mother of the girl to realize that something wasn't working and remove the tyke from the situation - or do something differently. maybe the mom needed a spanking? kidding. ok, no i'm not. no, really, i'am.

i do understand the frustration, i really do. i ain't perfect. i catch myself yelling things like "stop it!" and "no!" more often than i'm happy with, when i know other distractions and choices will be much more effective. i also need to be more consistent. time-outs work fairly well. but all of this isn't something that will happen overnight - he's so small! - it takes patience and time. he has so much to learn... i'm working on it... and learning , too.

there are a hundred other options for discipline, ones that don't involve acts of aggression and violence. they do work. here are a few:

Top 10 Ways to Handle Discipline Dilemmas

1. Be firm and be kind.

A child is more likely to hear what you're saying if you use a neutral tone.

2. Pause.
There's nothing wrong with saying, "I'm too angry to deal with this now. We'll talk about it later."

3. Teach your kids.
Instead of punishing a child for misbehaving, think in terms of teaching him to behave. "I don't like it when you leave your skateboard in the front hall. Next time, please put it in the mudroom. How can I help you remember?"

4. Be positive.
Instead of saying, "How many times do I need to ask you to brush your teeth?" Say, "Go brush your teeth and let me know when you've finished so I can tuck you in."

5. Give explanations, not threats.
By giving your child a brief explanation of why she needs to do as she's told, you give her a reason to behave.

6. Refuse to get angry.
Instead of focusing on your child's misbehavior and working yourself into a lather, think of each conflict as an opportunity to guide and direct your child.

7. Give incentives.
Inspire your child to cooperate with phrases like, "It's time to go. Why don't you go down the slide one more time and then let's hustle. I want to get home in time to make cookies."

8. Be flexible.
If your little one asks, "Can I just finish watching this show before we go?" be reasonable. If you have the time to spare, make room for your child's requests. This is a great way for kids to learn about the art of negotiation.

9. Drop out of power struggles.
Nothing is as frustrating or less productive as having a showdown with your little one. Invite your child to cooperate by saying something like, "I've got a problem. I want you to wear a clean shirt and you insist on wearing the same old one every day. How can we solve this problem?" Your child is more likely to cooperate if he comes up with the solution.

10. Be smart.
Parents will often deal with problems in a set manner, even if their approach isn't helping. If what you're doing isn't working, find a more effective way to handle the problem. Tip: It's much easier to change your approach than it is to change your child. Ask yourself, "What can I do differently that will inspire a better reaction from my child?"

TIP: Remember these three important rules about punishment:

  • Don't assign a punishment when you're angry
  • Don't use punishment as revenge.
  • A more severe punishment is not necessarily a better one

Cathryn Tobin, MD, is a pediatrician, midwife and a member of the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. Her new book The Parent's Problem Solver: Smart Solutions for Everyday Discipline and Behavior Problems was published by Random House. Dr. Tobin has been speaking on parenting issues for more than 20 years. She lives with her husband and four children in Ontario.

aggression is aggression - i want to teach bebe about non-violence - and the last thing i want is for his first act of violence to be at my or daddy's hands. dr. sears also lists ten other fantastic reasons to not spank, things i'd never really thought about pre-bebe...

i just can't fathom hitting my little guy. and given that boys are spanked more often than girls, i have to wonder if this somehow plays into the general consensus that teaches us that violence is ok, and allows it to continue on? yes, children need to learn that there are consequences for their actions - but there is always another way.

and as for that "slit" comment - i can only assume what he meant, given previous comments throughout the years.

1. women are weak - there is something less about being a woman.
2. i'll "turn him gay" by not beating him.

as if you can turn a child gay. most importantly, as if being gay is awful. as if being a woman is something to be ashamed of. as if!

how would hitting bebe make him a "man?" what IS that? and do i want him to be that kind of man???

and this would be why i don't look forward to family gatherings. every time, no matter what, i'm picked into a fight. there is enough war in the world, i don't want it that close to me. it tires me. it gets me all worked up. it makes me sad. most importantly, it keeps me from relationships with others in the family that this doesn't happen with... i could just continue on and keep my mouth shut - nod and smile. but i know that ain't gonna happen. and i imagine, so do they.

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