Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Price of Spanking

Violence Perpetuates Violence

A minister approached me after a presentation in Atlanta to a conference of Christian families and said, “I gather you don’t believe in spanking.” I could tell from his tone that he had more than an academic interest. “That’s right,” I said. “I believe violence begets violence.”

“Spare the rod and spoil the child!” he responded.

“Actually,” I said, “The sheep were never hit with the rod by shepherds. The rod was used to direct the lead sheep.” He disagreed and assured me that he makes sure he is not angry whenever he strikes his children. We were clearly poles apart in our philosophies and I felt uncomfortable with our exchange. This charming and charismatic 40-year-old, with an engaging smile, headed a growing church that was one of the most successful in its region.

Later that day in the conference hotel, I was sitting in the hot tub with a half dozen other mothers when a boy around six and a girl around four approached the water.

“Get in!” the boy told the girl. She dipped her toes in and pulled them out quickly. “It’s too hot,” she said.

“Get in!” he yelled.

“No!” she answered loudly.

“I said, get in!” he screamed, hitting her on the back of her head.

The girl began wailing as the boy screamed even louder, and began to spank her. “Get (whack), in (whack), right (whack), now!” The other mothers and I sat in stunned silence at the sudden violence. Just as one of us stood up to intervene, the children’s mother appeared, followed by her husband—the minister.

At age six, this boy had adopted the philosophy that spanking implies: If you can’t get what you want when you want it, use physical force, especially if your target is smaller or weaker. Violence perpetuates violence.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Connection before logistics—or friends.

I once attended a birthday party for a six-year-old and noticed that, as each mom arrived to pick up her child, she greeted the mother of the birthday girl before greeting her own child. In several cases, the child would try to get her attention and the mom would tell the child not to interrupt. What kind of message does that give the child? That she’s not important. In his book, First Things First, Stephen Covey reminds us that life is more likely to turn out the way we want if we focus on those activities that are “important and not urgent.”  Use any urgency as a reminder to stop and decide what’s most important at this moment. One practical way I apply this to my life, which greatly eases the stress of daily mechanics, is to practice connecting before logistics.
In his book,

With this fresh on my mind, several days later as I went to daycare to pick up my six-year-old, I made a special effort to connect with her first thing. Within seconds, Pam arrived. She and I had been playing phone tag for days, planning a school picnic. “Vickie!” she shouted hurrying toward us. It took every bit of self-control to stay focused on my child, but I did. Connection before logistics—or friends.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

the call to connect

Is this child’s misbehavior really a cry for attention?

Disconnection is what happens when we don’t recognize the call to connect. Recently my friend Lori asked me for advice about bedtime power struggles with her three-year-old. She said that when she put her daughter Katelyn to bed each night, she would come out of her room again and again and again. “Mom, I need a drink of water . . . I’m scared in my room . . . I want to sleep with my brother.” In addition, Katelyn was waking up in the middle of the night and going into her parent’s bedroom. One night, Lori felt so frustrated (after the tenth trip out of the room) that she spanked her daughter and sent her to bed crying. Lori felt horrible. Needless to say, so did Katelyn.

Instead of offering her tips for redirecting power struggles, I asked, “Do you think Katelyn is in a power struggle, or is she just wanting to connect with you?” Tears welled up in Lori’s eyes as she recognized and reinterpreted her daughter’s “power struggles” as simply cries for attention and connection.

That night, Lori offered Katelyn some choices about a new bedtime routine. Katelyn chose to fall asleep in Mom and Dad’s bed. Lori explained that after she fell asleep, they would carry her back to her bed. Instantly, the bedtime “power struggles” were replaced with a happy, peaceful, connected bedtime.

Get in the habit of asking yourself, Is this child’s misbehavior really a cry for attention? If it is, offer connection. After all, your child will not likely say, “Hey Mom, I really need some quality time with you. Do you think you could check your Daytimer and schedule some one-on-one time with me?” 

It’s up to you to take the lead.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It’s Not What You Do, It’s the Way that You Do It

One evening a woman came up to me just before my class began and said, “You know that hand thingy? I used it and it didn’t work.” She was referring to Step Five: Lovingly touch your child. It doesn’t work when we use it like a technique. She didn’t have the thought, how can I connect with my child? It was more like, If I use this, I can get my child to do what I want. Your intention is crucial. You don’t need parenting tools and techniques when you truly connect with your child.

A coaching client called me one day to ask more about connecting.

“What activities would you suggest I do with my children to connect more with them?”

“It’s not about the activity,” I told her. “It’s never about the activity. It’s about the quality of the connection, whether you are engaged in an activity or not.”

“What do you mean?” she asked. I then described how to move toward your child with love.

“Then, how do you connect with your children?” she asked. “For example, what did you do last week? Give me some ideas!” My mind went blank; I could not think of any specific things I had done to connect with my children during the past week. I did agree to write down all the connecting moments I could in the upcoming week and report back to her in seven days. Here’s my list:
  1. When my seven-year-old was quietly playing solitaire on the computer, I sat down in the chair with her, became interested in the game, and played with her. (Moved toward my child with love while she was content) 
  2. I invited the girls to help me cut up vegetables to feed the hamster. (Set my intention to connect) 
  3. When my ten-year-old said, “Come with me to do my homework,” I let go of a cleaning project, went into her room, and sat on her bed for about half an hour while she did her homework. We had intermittent conversations about her new erasers, an upcoming birthday party, and how much she liked her teacher. (Moved toward my child while she was content) 
  4. When they arrived home from school, I sat down, made eye contact, and listened to the details of their day, consciously choosing to talk very little. It was amazing how much they had to say when I made the “space.” (Used few words) 
  5. When the girls got home from school, I got off the phone and asked if they wanted to go next door to our rental apartment to see the new carpet that had been installed that day. I then watched them dance around and run through the apartment. When I was ready to leave and they were not, I gave them a few more minutes since I was not rushed. (Set my intention to connect, smiled, gave all of my focused attention, offered friendly eye contact) 
  6. We went to get ice cream; I made friendly eye contact, and really enjoyed the ice cream and company of my family. (Offered friendly eye contact and used few words) 
  7. On the way home from the grocery store, the girls asked to stop in a second hand store. Again, since I was not on a time schedule (and yes, often I am!) I patiently watched them try on and model high-heeled shoes. (Gave all of my focused attention) 

Not too glamorous is it? Can you see that it’s about being, rather than doing? You do not have to add any special activities, just be fully present using the eight steps to move toward your child with love.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Instead of Yelling or Threatening

"...this stuff might work on girls, but not on boys"

One night after a parenting class, a father of two boys ages three and five approached me and said, “Vickie, this stuff might work on girls, but not on boys. You don’t have boys, so you don’t understand. I have to get in their face to get their attention.”

“What is your tone of voice when you get in their face?” I asked.

The dad laughed. “I've had it, usually, and I’m mad.”

I empathized with him. I've been there at the end of the proverbial rope, resorting to the quickest technique I know—yelling. “Continue to get in their face,” I insisted. “Just do it with love. Instead of getting ‘loud and nasty,’ try ‘close and kind.’ Both get the results you want, and the latter doesn't hurt the child.”

It’s true that we get better results when we get in their face. This father had been practicing a truncated version of the eight steps. He made eye contact, used not-so-loving touch and gave the boys 100 percent of his focused attention. He just needed to add a few more steps to increase his likelihood for cooperation while, at the same time, preserving his relationship with his sons. At the next class, the father shared that, though he had not mastered all the steps, even adding a few made his interactions with his sons go more smoothly.