Tag Archives: discipline

Spank Me

Before now, I haven’t wanted to touch this subject with anything short of a yard stick. I feel it is time though, and so I will say thank you in advance for your openminded consumption of this work. 

Seth has just been caught writing on the walls for the second time today after being told the first time that it is never ok to do so. His mom, a loving parent, takes him over to “The Chair” and calmly tells him that he disobeyed her rules and has to be spanked. Seth protests, fearful of what’s to come. His mom persists though, perhaps because of religious beliefs or following her own childhood experience of parenting. A swat on bare cheeks and some tears later, what reasoning do you think Seth is left with?

“I’ve done something wrong, and bigger, stronger, Mom has hit me for it. Fault equals physical punishment or pain. Might is right. Hitting is a solution towards others disobeying my wants.

Which of these possible understandings do you think is productive for little Seth? I am personally familiar with the argument that physical punishment is a solution in the legal system, though in the form of retainment and or death. I’ve also heard someone justify it by explaining the pain could be more severe if they didn’t follow my instructions.

I will go ahead and say that I know plenty of fine people who were raised by the hand. I don’t believe it is a ruining factor, but certainly an unnecessary one brought on by cultural pressures of time and social obligations. If there was another way, one that risked nothing but time for showing love, would you try it? For my wife and I, the answer is simple. The reward of secure, love promoting individuals, sharing a life with us is just one priceless benefit.

We’ve found that kids understand much more than we tend to give them credit for. They yearn to fit into the family group, and very much feel when they don’t. With this in mind we try very hard to approach our two year old with respect, showing displeasure not for her, but for the undesirable action. Through words, not pain, we relate to her the best we can why we disliked what was done. The better part of the world works this way, not by swatting one another.

Why then would I want to show my children anything different, when what I want most for them is to find understanding for how cooperation peacefully works in the world? I want them to experience first hand how respect breeds benefits for all, not just some. How else can we lead but through example?

As parents we know all too well if we do something, our kids will repeat it.  It merely makes sense to me, not to teach that course of action.

You guys know I love an open conversation, so let me know how you feel and thanks for hanging out.



Residual Parenting

She’s at it again, terrorizing the innocent Mr. Bingley, our 8 month old boston terrier.  “My little two year old just doesn’t seem to get it, or worse yet doesn’t care,” I think to myself.  Telling her no and prying her away to express my disapproval doesn’t teach her anything and my attempts at directing her from my comfy perch of preoccupation seem to go unheard.  Whatever am I to do?

The question plagued Marin and I on more than one occasion in different scenarios.  The simple answer took a quick minute to materialize for us… WE are the parents!  So what does it mean to “parent” a child?  Many words and concepts come to mind at the introduction of this question, but none seem more appropriate than “guide”.   We are our children’s guides through this often hap hazard experience called life.  Not their slave drivers nor their chariot drivers, but a third party participant with an vested interest in their health and happiness.  We show them, in short, how to catch the biggest fish, where suitable shelter can be arranged and why staying downwind of Booboo and Yogi might be a good idea.  We don’t however tell them they must, nor catch the fish for them, as that would be thwarting their experience and growth; key attributes to any journey.

So what do you do when Sally wants to pet the porcupine?  You join her!  Now bear with me cause this is where things get prickly.  Sally wants to learn, so eager in fact that she has stepped into dangerous territory.  Prime opportunity to show her how things can be done.  Dive into her experience, guide her through it, allowing choices to be made autonomously when possible and being there to subtly correct or intervene IF necessary.  For Marin and I this looks like sitting with our little girl when she wants to see our little pup.  We can show her attention the little pup likes,  be there to discourage the full on body-slamming hug that she wants to give him, and are present to explain why performing  an eye or nose exam on any dog might be the type of prickly situation to avoid until they grow up to be the vet that they currently have their heart set on becoming.

Given this approach, children gain experience AND perspective, something far beyond rules.  Yes.  It takes time, but not as much time as telling them “no-this”, “yes-that” for years on end.

“Give a man fish, feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

Thanks and much love, Brett


Our “Spoiled” Child

Kids don’t act out for no reason.  Though often times parents feel that they do, and I’m certainly not innocent of that myself.  If a child is misbehaving, the first thing to cross our minds is typically a judgement about why they shouldn’t be. ” She has more then I ever had as a child, how can she be so ungrateful“, we think to ourselves.

For Marin and I, realizing the truth behind this skewed perception has done wonders for not only our peace of mind but also our ability to address and guide our little girl through the ups and downs that are inevitable in life.  It goes something like this:

You are at the store trying to get some shopping done for dinner and some money-hungry, consumerist-promoting  peddler has decided to place a plethora of brightly colored, bigger than your head, balls in an easily accessible bungee barred carton dead center of a high traffic area at the end of an isle.  Without doubt they catch the eye of your innocent youngster who has, at this point, tired of the idea that despite their turning the steering wheel of their race car inspired shopping cart to the right, it keeps going left.  Throwing themselves from their moving, unresponsive cart they proceed to tear at the multi colored balls which pop out of their weak elastic bindings with ease.  You say to your child after failing to park your cart where it won’t be in anyone’s way,” Sweetheart you have a green one just like that at home.” After some back and forth on the matter with both parties holding firmly to their stance, your little one makes a last plea in the form of a tantrum.

Spoiled child“, you can almost hear the passersby saying, though that bit is all in your head.  You believe the thought though, because that is how you were raised, how those around you were perceived, and the general view of the society you are a part of.  Your egoic inner voice implores you to lay down the law with a solid and final,”NO!”  This is one option. Albeit the same old one with it’s predictable outcome of escalated protestations from your child. On the other hand you might cave out of embarrassment only teaching your child that crying in public is successful and that you are ashamed of their behavior.  For us there is a third option that involves understanding your child’s point of view and validating their feelings.

The situation might unfold like this:
You meet them on their level, which probably means swallowing your pride at this moment and crouching down in the isle to speak softly, face to face with your child.  This can be disarming in itself as you are no longer the all powerful “voice of OZ” bellowing down on them from your great position of power.  You ask a simple question geared at understanding their feelings and or wants. “You really like these balls don’t you?”  Might still be a tearful response at this point, but you continue… ” there are more colors here that you don’t have and you think they’d be fun to have also?”  What Marin and I have found is that the more the child feels genuine care and understanding for their perspective, the more they soften and come to accept their own emotions.

Lets face it, kids at this stage don’t really grasp the idea of money, space, time, or needs vs wants.  So why would expect them to understand these concepts without some conflict or better put, confusion?  Very understandable, given their perspective and limited experience.  BUT given the support and understanding that they want something they can’t have and that is frustrating for them, the child learns that emotions are ok to feel and express, though they won’t necessarily change anything.  Learning this allows them to feel, understand and even manage their feelings, something that either of the other two options would have negated.  This concept most definitely takes practice, but with genuine energy from you without personal motives getting in the way, you can give your little one a the opportunity for a healthy emotional development in a world where they will make good use of it.

Carry patience and love with you. You can do it.



The Mental Thermostat

A mentor of mine once described to me an idea that I found extremely valuable. He called it The Mental Thermostat. The thermostat has a high and a low, a maximum and minimum, and our thermostat dictates every aspect of our lives. Here’s an example: My mental perception of being “on time” is no later that 5-20 minutes early. Typically, I won’t be showing up much earlier than 20 minutes (maximum), but I’ll never be any later than 5 minutes early (minimum). That is where my thermostat is “set” when I’m making sure I’m “on time” for an appointment.

Take a moment to see where you can apply the thermostat in your life. A few more examples might be:

  • I like to shower everyday, but I typically don’t skip more than two.
  • I try to watch my favorite tv show once a week, but not more than twice. 
  • I don’t usually have dairy in my diet, but on “special occasions” like birthdays and weddings, I allow myself a treat. 
  • I like to have a few thousand dollars in my savings account, but I don’t mind putting one high priced  item, on credit, at a time.

The idea is to adjust the range of our thermostats in areas that would benefits us. There are typically two ways this can happen:

  1. Creating new habits. If being “on time” means walking in the door five minutes late, a person can reset their thermostat by leaving ten minutes early, changing their clocks, waking up early, etc… Whatever it takes to create a new habit. Over time the thermostat will increase or change in their favor.
  2. An extreme emotional experience. A good example of this would be: a smoker who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day has tried to quit on and off for 5 years. One day he is hospitalized for a heart attack and the doctor informed him if he did not quit smoking, he would risk losing his life should he have another heart attack. The smoker never smoked a single cigarette from that day forward.

While I’m not saying go out there and do something extremely traumatizing, the common trend between these two approaches is just perception. Ultimately, you can just make a choice and change, or even let go of the mental thermostat altogether.

What areas of your life can you improve by choosing a new perception and adjusting your thermostat? Your health, your finances, your patience..? I hope you may find value and success in these thoughts, as I have.