Friday, November 2, 2007

How we spank

I had intended to make this post a response to a few of the remarks posted to my last entry, but I've decided to stay on course with my original thought process. I don't really want to degenerate into an argument over the pros and cons of the Pearls' Methods. I instead want to present to my gentle readers the "philosophy" that Jeremiah and I have "developed" in the last five years. The quotes are there to show that we both realize that we are less than expert in this area, having only raised one child thus far. Granted, our "philosophy" grew out of many of the Pearls' ideas, but I think I would rather state it as my own, since M. Pearl evokes such an emotional response from so many.

Okay, so... how we spank....

First of all, I think spanking is for children from about 7 or 9 mths old to about 5 years old. Sofi is just starting to get to old for spanking now. (But it probably depends on the child.) And when I say "Spanking" I'm talking about a few quick, light swats with a spoon (or something like that) on the hand (for babies) or bottom (for older children). The goal is to shock them and get their attention, not cause grievous bodily harm. Perhaps I should have addressed the significance of those ages first, but I do intend to get to that in the next post.

Secondly, it is VITAL that my emotions are not AT ALL involved in the spanking. I am not angry/disappointed/sad/etc. I try to be as matter of fact as I possibly can--this is simply cause and effect. You disobey, you get a swat-- it's that simple and unemotional. I still love you and this doesn't affect our relationship in the slightest. And of course, at nine mths old I can't actually verbalize this to the child--it must be apparent in my manner throughout.

Thirdly, the spanking is an immediate and direct result of disobedience. When I first described this idea in my original email to the friend this conversation started with, I used an example that (I think now) confused the issue. I used the example of teaching Sofi to obey when we said "Come to Mama". I admit in looking back at that paragraph that it sounds a bit... calloused, perhaps? So let me try to find a new way to describe the kind of spanking I'm talking about. I'll use Judah this time, because we had our first training session just last night.

Judah was getting his first taste of rice cereal and not enjoying it at all. He was much more interested in grabbing the bowl I had sitting in front of him on the table, than in actually eating the stuff. Now, I really don't want him grabbing the bowl. It's messy and difficult to wrestle his hands off of it while trying to slop a bite into his mouth. BUT. That was NOT my motivation in beginning a training session with him. If I merely wanted to avoid the hassle and mess of his hands in the bowl, I could have just moved the bowl out of his reach. Some would argue that at his age I ought not to expect him to understand that grabbing the bowl is a bad thing and I ought to simply remove the opportunity for inconvenient behavior. But that's not the point either. Let me explain my motivation: I see this situation as an opportunity to introduce the concept of the word "No". There is a clearly defined object/action that he has not encountered before, so no previous learning experiences are confusing him here. It's not like he's been grabbing the bowl for mths now and all of a sudden I'm saying "No"and taking away his favorite game. Let me emphasize again that my purpose is to teach him the word "No", not to teach him not to inconvenience Mommy by grabbing the bowl.

So, he grabs the bowl, I say "No, no, Judah" and flick his hand with my finger. He looks at me, "Hmm, new game here". He reaches out again. "No, no, Judah." *flick* We do this maybe five more times. Then he reaches out and grabs my hand. I pat his hand and face and say "I love you sweetie!" and kiss him a little. I'm reinforcing that all this is perfectly normal and not a cause for alarm on his part. He reaches out again and "No, no, Judah", he grabs it anyway, *flick*, he jerks his hand back. Hmm, interesting game. He reaches out again, hesitates, pulls his hand back, "Good boy, Judah, don't touch!" He grabs it again *flick*. We go through all this in various permutations for about another five minutes, by which time he's pulling his hand away without touching about every other time he reaches for it, and then I remove the bowl and the training session is over for now.

Now, I have no intention of turning every feeding time into a long, drawn-out battle over touching the bowl. Each time I feed him (which may not be very often, since he showed NO interest in non-boob food :)) I will spend a few minutes with the bowl right if front of him, teaching him what "No" means. And I will find other opportunities where there are clearly defined actions/objects to use as well, since I don't want him to think that "No" is limited to food bowls. The goal is that in a few weeks, or months, he will begin to respond to the word no matter what the situation/object is. I will be able to walk into a room where I see him reaching for a vase on a table and say "No, no, Judah, don't touch", in a not-panicking, not-angry, merely conversational tone of voice, and he will stop and look at me and take his hand away from the vase. Disaster averted.

But teaching our children "No" is not the main goal of our child-training! This is just an example of one way to teach one concept of obedience. There are (obviously) tons of other ways they need to learn to obey, but "no" is one of the first and easiest. I'm just trying to illustrate how the thing works.

Let me offer a caveat here, these are our goals and theories of childraising--I am faaaar from perfect in implementing them!! I don't hold myself out as any kind of model of great parenting, for sure. Our children are far from perfect as well, despite all our "philosophies". And I don't mean to imply that if you disagree with me you are a rotten parent. I am simply explaining why we do what we do and it's desired results.

And as a slight defense to our theories, let me state that we have seen a measure of success in Sofi. We, obviously, wouldn't still be advocating this if it had failed us in our first attempt. Sofi is, in general, an obedient child. Like I said, she's certainly not perfect, but she has the habit of obedience. And that is the goal of this kind of early child-training. To establish very early the habit of obeying the parents' words.


Anonymous said...

Lisi, I know that spanking has become an issue with you & your peers. And I have kept up with the thoughts that have been given. I do appreciate that all of you Moms are very concerned with how to best discipline your children. It truly is wonderful to see this. I am thankful that all of you have been reared in homes that taught you to fear the Lord. Just one comment about your training to teach "no". I can't ever imagine the Lord doing this to us. Keeping us in front of temptation and saying look but don't touch. A child is not able to think clearly like an adult & so our working with the child, especially a small baby should take this into consideration. I do believe that children give us enough areas to discipline in that we don't have to create any extra ones. Mrs James

Herb of Grace said...

Wow, now I'm intimidated :) "Real" moms are reading... That is, experienced ones. Thanks for your comments, Mrs James, I appreciate you taking the time to write. You are totally right that we have to take into account our children's individual abilities to reason and understand-- which will be different for each child. And different even from child to child within the same family.

I do have to respectfully disagree with you on one point, however. I think the Lord definitely requires us to resist temptation that is constantly in front of us-- rather than removing the temptation from us. The scriptures are full of examples of the Lord "testing" his people. Job, for example. God allowed Satan to create for Job a situation of incredible temptation to sin and "curse God". His purpose was for Job's refusal to cave in to bring God glory.

And I think it goes beyond a passive "allowing" us to be confronted by temptation. I think God specifically puts us in situations where we will be tempted to sin in order to teach us to turn to Him for strength to resist. Shoot, just being a mom puts me in situations daily where my sin nature begs to be indulged!

Now perhaps I'm not quite understanding what you mean in your paragraph--sometimes it hard to fully articulate a thought in a short post paragraph. So feel free to respond if I'm missing your point here.

Polly said...

I haven't been on here in awhile, but I'm going to try and respond to Rachel's comment about my comment . . . I should have clarified when I said "instant and hard retribution" that it should NOT be an emotionally charged punishment from an angry parent. It should be instant so that the child associates the negative behaviour with the negative feeling (a quick swat, not a full-fledged spanking); hard enough so that they remember it for next time; but NOT angry or personal in any way. Oh, and I definitely agree with letting the punishment fit the crime--you don't give a hard spanking for inoccently touching, say, the forbidden object, but you sure do give a swat (with a matter-of-fact attitude) so that he knows that touching feels bad! A child of three hardly understands WHY he shouldn't touch a hot stove (or why he should come when Mama calls him). He will one day, but at this point, you're introducing him to unquestioning obedience without the full knowledge of why. The law is a tudor to bring us to Christ, the Bible says, not that the law is now useless. You introduce your kids to Law as something immutable and permanent (without letting it seperate from the parents' unconditional love) because the Law IS! They need to see that so they can understand Grace later in life. When they get out in the world, there is law, and if they disobey, there will be consequences; and in a court of law, no grace.
Also, in a more proactive sense, you are training, that is showing how, to SELF-discipline. It's not all about punishment of wrong--in fact, the more you train, the less you'll have to punish! It's a wonderful and beautiful thing to see the internal strength in a two-year-old whom the parent can trust to say, go into an antique store and toddle around with no fear of damage because he knows what it means to NOT TOUCH. That's a good thing, and you're building that child's character without his even knowing it. It's just another game, as Lisi was describing with Judah, because there are no emotions involved, except commendation when the object is accomplished. That's a good, happy thing, not a vindictive, punishing thing.
To use my first analogy, who would say it's cruel or harsh to see goats trained to an electric fence? It's natural, and everyone recognizes that the animals are smarter for the training. Now I ceratinly don't mean to call children animals (!!!), but you start with black and white, with easy-to-see boundaries, and as they grow older, they start to see why and how, and grow to love their parents more for the instruction and training they gave them. Who doesn't love a good teacher?
Ok, sorry that was really long. I know I have no experience in the field of parenting (yet!) so I hope you don't think me presumptuous. :( I have only observed, thought and read a lot about it. I hope that cleared up the question!

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! "ceratinly". :)

Denise said...

I have to also agree with Lisi about the issue of temptation and God.

Besides Job, there is Abraham (God testing/tempting him with commanding him to sacrifice Isaac). There is Joseph (Potiphar's wife, God let her beg him again and again to commit immorality). The Bible is replete with temptations specifically directed at us in order for us to let God's power be manifest through us.

We're promised in Corinthians, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Not that the temptation will not be taken away, but we'll be tempted according to our ability.

I think Lisi's putting the cereal in front of Judah is a good example of this. Perhaps putting a bowl of chocolate ice cream would be more than he can bear! *grins* Chocolate would be that for me!

Just wanted to say that. I love that Christian women young and old, experiened and not can discuss these things in Love. That we desire unity and peace in our dealings. Such a good environment to do this in.