Well it had to happen: Tonight we got "the talk" about what was appropriate in the area of disciplining children. The lesson looked at two basic areas: physical punishment and opportunity punishment.
We started the class with a discussion on what discipline was. Now, while most of us would think of spanking, that's not discipline. That's punishment. So what's discipline?
Well, according to the French, discipline is "to give a gift" and if you think about it, that really IS what it is. When we discipline our children, we give them the tools to help them achieve health, happiness and success. We set boundaries that, when crossed, have consequences. They know those boundaries. They know those consequences. And when they test them both they (hopefully) find that their parents are true to their word, are persons they can trust (very important) and can actually find safety, comfort and self-worth. I know that may sound like a non-sequitur but I guess you had to be there for the rest of the lesson.
What about punishment?
I like to tell people I was "brought up by hand," a reference to Pip in Great Expectations. Although Pip said it to mean he was beaten by his sister, I mean it to say that my brother and I were spanked when we got out-of-line. We were also "switched" and, at times, were sent to cut our own instrument of correction. One time I brought back a rotten tree branch. My dad laughed so hard I got out of the spanking.
What I learned tonight is that while physical punishment makes the parents feel better about their frustration, it rarely has the same effect on the kids unless handled VERY carefully.
I remember clearly that my dad never spanked us right when we earned it. And, more importantly, he never spanked us more than three strikes. And before he started, he had a conversation with us wherein we talked about why the pending events were about to occur.
That's the kind if spanking I agree with.
However, when you adopt kids, they have not had the opportunity to be raised in a home where everything was so clearly delineated. Most kids adopted through DHR out of foster care have been abused or, at the very least, neglected. They have issues that kids raised in a stable, loving, caring environment never develop.
Having said that, it became clear to me that spanking may not be the way to go.
We went over 15 different non-physical methods (opportunity punishments) that can help direct a child to a desired behavior. Sounds kinda technical and clinical, huh? At the end of the class I really felt like there were good alternatives to spanking that I had never been exposed to. And, yes, "timeout" is one of them.
This is a big deal for me. For us. Discipline and Punishment are major issues in raising kids. Issues that divide families and friends. Issues that are rooted in faith ("Spare the Rod...") and culture (Dr. Spock). I wish all parents could take this class. It really has been an eye-opener.
Please continue to pray for us and our journey.
(This is Kerri now) One of the other participants in the class mentioned that spanking makes the parents feel better and helps them get out anger. I popped my hand up and said that wasn't necessarily the case. I said that my parents never spanked us in anger - they always waited to spank us so that they would be calm. They explained to us (me and my sister) why they were spanking us - and it was never more than 3 times, I think. It was infrequent - and it was done in a corrective and loving way. The leaders were really impressed and said that I grew up in a home with a lot of love. So Mom and Dad, thanks.