Reply Turned Post: On Parenting Philosophies and Dangerous Things
A reader left a comment on my recent post about labeling kids as “kind.” My response got so long that I decided to turn it into a post, because hey – I can always use more post fodder. Below is the comment and my response.*
I walk away from a couple of your recent blogs with this feeling that Kieran runs your household. I’m sorry but I don’t see what is gained in letting him keep the car he took from his friend. In a roundabout way, isn’t this rewarding his behavior? Sure, he made his friend cry, but he still got his way, with no repercussions. What about when he’s older, and all the kids see him as some kind of bully, because he gets what he wants, when he wants it, regardless if the hurt that he inflicts on his “friends”?
And regarding your story in your other post about the dandelion popper. What parents in their right minds allow their toddler to play with a sharp object? Good thing Tom was wearing glasses, or he could have lost an eye. I’d love to hear what “gentle” discussion, or fun little game, you have with Kieran when you’re waiting for an ambulance to arrive because he gouged someone’s eye out… or maybe his own.
No, Kieran does not run our household. The fact that we are respectful of our son’s feelings does not make him any more or less important than any other family member. We treat Kieran with gentleness and respect, exactly the way we want to be treated. It is incredibly hard to describe an entire parenting philosophy in one comment or post. Instead of attempting to do that, I will encourage anyone who is interested in peaceful parenting to pick up one or more of these books:
Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, by Naomi Aldort
Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids, by Suri Hart
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, by Alfie Kohn
I have tried to explain some of the peaceful parenting philosophy in my posts about gentle discipline. There are also some excellent articles about gentle discipline linked in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline’s wrap-up post and any of the posts during the week of the carnival (click on this link and scroll down to find a complete list). Some of these posts might help explain why I don’t agree with – for example – yanking the car back out of Kieran’s hands, sending him to time-out, spanking him, etc.
To put it very simply, I do not believe that I am “rewarding behavior” by understanding that his behavior is motivated by needs.
Here is a wonderful quote from Aldort’s “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves”:
Parents are often puzzled by the idea of expressing love toward the child who acts aggressively; yet, when you do, you will discover that your child’s aggression is her cry for your love or for your attention to some unmet need. Your love is therefore the best answer to her distress. . . .
The aggressive child does not perceive herself as being rewarded by your love. Instead she feels relieved because she is understood and cared for, which will help her resolve her anguish. By stopping her act and offering your love and care, you give your child tools for kind and peaceful relating. . . . The old belief about tough love is just another thought that justifies hurting a child.
(emphasis mine) (By the way, the phrase “the aggressive child” in the above quote makes my skin crawl. I certainly don’t think of Kieran as “aggressive”; the rest of the text was just appropriate for the situation in question. Kieran is no more “aggressive” than any other developmentally normal toddler.)
Someone might see it as “Kieran got his way.” I see it as Kieran made the choice to give the car back without being forced to. He saw that his action hurt his friend’s feelings. He knew from my words to him and my apology to his friend that grabbing the car wasn’t socially acceptable. He learned without being punished.
And what are parents teaching children by imposing their own will on them? By forcing them to behave in a certain way? I do not agree with the statement that peaceful parenting principles breed bullies. What then does bullying children with punishments and coercion breed . . . pacifists?
Food for thought: the majority of toddlers will go through a grabby “mine!” phase. It’s developmentally appropriate. They will grow out of it. Do they need to be shamed and punished along the way – just for good measure? I do not believe so. And, for that matter, if time-outs, spanking, or other common disciplinary measures “worked,” then why do parents have to rely on those things repeatedly?
If a parent assigns bad intentions to a toddler’s actions, that parent might be inclined to punish the toddler for every infraction. We choose not to. Lauren at Hobo Mama has two excellent posts about that idea. The first is about toddlers and temper tantrums, the second is about choosing not to see misbehavior in any toddler behavior that inconveniences parents.
With respect to the dandelion popper. First – he was being supervised. I think we’d be hard pressed to find a parent who has never supervised her child doing something that ended up in an accident. We will not restrict Kieran’s activities to only soft, “safe” items because he *might* get hurt. And how is anyone to decide when our child is “ready” to handle something sharp? We are Kieran’s parents. We are the best ones to judge his capabilities.
Second – and I’ll end on a light-hearted note – I tend to agree with this guy. No, I’m not saying Kieran is ready to own a pocketknife or play with fire, but he does have access to certain gardening tools while we’re out working the dirt together. He has helped me cut things during dinner prep. He has held a skewer of marshmallow over a fire. We don’t give him free access to dangerous items without supervision, but we do know his abilities and trust him with certain tools in our presence.
*Ok, I’ll admit: my first reaction to this comment was to get defensive. I wish that it was easier to have conversations with people about different parenting philosophies without anyone getting sarcastic, defensive, or feeling attacked. In the spirit of peace, I’ve made an effort to reply respectfully in the hopes of starting a productive conversation.
21 Responses to:
"Reply Turned Post: On Parenting Philosophies and Dangerous Things"
My Book Is Now Available!
For My Children: A Mother's Journal of Memories, Wishes and Wisdom
Click the cover to order now!
- Parenting From the Inside Out
- Five Ideas to Keep Babies and Toddlers Safe from Choking
- Vote Now for Your Favorite Photos in NPN’s Flickr Contest: What Does Natural Parenting Really Look Like?
- May 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting Call for Submissions: Emergency Preparedness
- Mother’s Day Gift Set Giveaway from moksa organics and Zoe Organics
Forced Weaning Due to Pregnancy
101 Things To Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking
The Effects of Circumcision on Newborn Boys
Kardashian’s Call to Cover Up
- Mother’s Day Gift Set Giveaway from moksa organics and Zoe Organics
- Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide
- Giveaway: 12×16 Custom Portrait from Destany Fenton Fine Art – $220 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: Story Starters Game from Mama May I – $25 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $35 Gift Certificate to Earthslings – $35 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $30 Gift Certificate from Dominna – $30 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $20 Gift Certificate to Two Pink Hearts – $20 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: 3 Pairs of Earrings from Job Description Mommy – $45 ARV CLOSED
- Revisionary Parenting
- Giveaway: Qwirkle Game from SeriousShops.com – $25 ARV CLOSED