yelling and screaming, lots of spankings that all just went too far. Although I've never felt like these things affected my adult life, the truth is, they have. I'm pretty passionate, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is when paired with anger issues. I'm grateful that my husband came with some built in grace. My kids, too, for that matter.
When my husband and I started our parenting journey, I knew I wanted things to be different. I didn't have any tools to make things different and so the cycle continued. I can't remember the first time I spanked Esther, but it happened. I, shamefully, admit that I have spanked both of my older children and yelled at both of them, as well. Things the Holy Spirit has since convicted me of. He continues to work in me - to change me into the gentle parent he has called me to be. I am a work in progress. I often wonder if I will always struggle with being a yeller and a spanker. There are days when it's seriously a struggle. I'm ever pushing to make these changes stick. I'm grateful for how far I've come! This is my journey:
It all started when I, naively, started volunteering at the Natural Parents Network. At the time, I considered myself a natural parent. I cloth diapered, I recycled. Isn't that all there is to it? One night, while chatting with some of the volunteers, I admitted, "We spank from time to time for the 'biggies.'" (or something along those lines). Little did I know, a loving mama would rock my world with a simple little phrase: "You can stop anytime." She even added an emoticon smiley! I was so irritated. I have no idea if I did respond; I hope I didn't. A few weeks went by and I couldn't get this out of my head. It was a broken record: stopanytimestopanytimestopanytime.... driving me insane!! Every time I raised my voice. Every time I raised my hand. Unfortunately, I put it on the back burner (or, more accurately, crammed it into the broiler. I didn't want to see it.) No parent wants to think they are doing something wrong. No parent wants to thing that they've been hurting their children. The fact of the matter was: I was hurting my children. I was hurting my family. I was hurting myself.
Through a series of fortunate events, things started slowly changing. A friend at my (new at the time) church shared some information on the psychological effects of spanking, telling me that they don't spank at all. THIS JUST GOT REAL. A person I know, in real life, raises children that aren't terrible - AND SHE DOESN'T SPANK THEM!?! I remember telling this, in utter disbelief to the husband. Again, the Holy Spirit was working on me, bringing me examples of good, Godly families choosing grace based parenting. I could feel the changes happening. The husband and I talked. We were scared, unsure of what we would do with our kids. Even with spanking, our 4 year old seemed out of control. What would it look like to not spank? How would we discipline her at all? I thought of a friend who I respected; she has great kids! Surely she'll have answers! Her response: I feel spanking is a valuable tool in our parenting tool box. Sort of heart broken, I went back to the husband with this information. (said friend has since changed her ways and is now no longer spanking, too!!) We didn't know what to do. I prayed for wisdom.
We talked to our girls, mostly Esther who is now five years old, about spanking and yelling and how that made her feel. She used words like, "hurt," and "sadness." We let her know we were feeling those ways, too, and we were going to work to change those things. And we haven't looked back. The proof is in the pudding: our children are happier, they obey the things we ask them to do, they willingly talk to us about how they are feeling. They are not scared about being punished. I wish I could say we have it down. I wish I could say we don't have bad days. But we talk about those bad days. I am able to teach my girls grace through asking them for forgiveness and them doing the same. We forgive each other and move on. My new favorite thing to say to the husband and myself is something from Dulce's blog: "Breathe in grace and peace, breathe out anger, fear and frustration."
Here are some wonderful resources I have found helpful in regards to gentle parenting. First and foremost, we should be looking to the Bible for answers and to the Holy Spirit for help in deciphering those passages. There are many believers who use the verses in Proverbs about discipline to justify them spanking their children. Discipline comes in many forms. Research the root words, get back to the Hebrew. Meditate on His word. He will reveal His path for you.
Dulce de Leche, specifically her Gentle Discipline Tool Box and Christian Resources for Gentle Discipline
Hippie Housewife, specifically her article Rod Verses: Taking The Rod Verses Literally
Why Not Train a Child?
Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin - This is a free book in PDF form
How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
To say I'm new to this is the understatement of the century. I'm' still learning and growing. I have a few in-real-life gentle parent 'crushes' - I love to watch these mamas in action!! Totally fuels my fire!!
If you have any resources to share, please do!! I'm sure this won't be my last post on gentle parenting.
I'll leave you with these verses I've been meditating on for the past few days:
Ephesians 4:1-2 "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love..."