Monday, August 8, 2011

Our Parenting Philosophy in Regards to Training and Discipline (part 1 of 3)

Since we first got engaged, 4 years ago, Ben and I have spent countless hours talking about child training and discipline- probably weeks worth of hours. Our kids have always been extremely important to us, and it’s always been high priority to think through why we do what we do, especially when it affects them. As we’ve hashed and re-hashed new and old ideas, we’ve gradually formed guidelines for how we think God wants our family to operate. Guidelines that are drastically different than what we thought they’d be 4 years ago. Slowly, gently, God’s pulled and tweaked our ideas, molding them carefully.

We have more questions than answers. And we can’t guarantee that the road we’re on will lead to perfect success. Yes, we’ve seen positive results so far….but Vivi’s just 15 months, and our only little one. There’ll be new phases and stages, new challenges and blessings, new personalities….and lots of new questions along the way. We can’t point to a host of families around us who parented this way and say, “See? Their kids all turned out well….” Because the path we’re choosing would seem at least a little radical to most of those we fellowship with. On the other hand, we’ve seen lots of methods that don’t work. We know, for example, that legalism won’t get you anywhere, and that controlling your teen’s life only works till they’re old enough to hit the highway. And, on the other extreme, we know that total leniency also produces negative results. We know that failing to be perfectly consistent in whatever one chooses produces negative results.

It’s very much been a journey of faith for me. I’ve assumed for a long time that spanking was biblical and what godly parents do, for the good of their kids. I thought through how I wanted to parent, and why, all based on the assumptions that certain philosophies were biblical- and not just biblical, but the only biblical option. And then, gradually, God started giving us new ideas. Ideas I wasn’t sure about at first. I wanted a set action plan, and it had to be “biblical”. As the ideas have formed together, they have become a loose plan of sorts….they’ve given me a guideline for how to handle various day-to-day training issues. Gradually, we’ve become convicted of the way God wants us to parent. A few months ago, while I felt it was clearly the direction we were supposed to go, I would’ve preferred if it was something we didn’t have to discuss with anyone else. But God had more work to do….and slowly, our decisions have become a passion. A conviction strong enough that it doesn’t matter how much opposition there is, or if everyone disagrees with us. Like babywearing and cosleeping. We know, absolutely, that this is where God has us.

So, then….where are we headed? We feel very passionately about relationship-centered parenting. We always have. More than anything else, we want solid relationships with our kids. We want to have friendships when they reach adulthood that will carry on through whatever life has. We don’t want them to be afraid to come to us- whether it’s with an idea, a troubled conscience, a life issue, or something else. We’re passionate about attachment parenting and its many branches- breastfeeding on demand, babywearing, involving our babies in all of everyday life, cosleeping, etc. We’re also very passionate about treating babies and children like real people….acknowledging that they have emotional and physical needs, just like us. That they count just as much as adults- that, in fact, our children are the most important people, outside of each other (Ben and I) to spend time with, because they’re the ones we’ve been entrusted with. We believe in guiding and leading our children in righteousness. And we’re far more interested in making sure their hearts yearn after God than that they make us look good by obeying perfectly on the outside. We want our kids to obey, not because they’re afraid of getting spanked otherwise, but because it’s right. We want to show them a picture of who God really is- a loving Father. Because they’re people, like us, we believe we need to have grace for them. I’m not perfect; why should I expect my kids to be? We believe in explaining to our children why we ask/tell them to do what we do.

And we’ve come to the conclusion that spanking won’t help us reach those goals- and would, in fact, hinder many of them. Every parent has different goals, and different means of reaching them. These are ours, and following is more on how we currently feel we’ll best be able to meet them. Although I feel very uncertain right now on how biblical spanking actually is, I’m not at a place of saying it’s wrong for everyone, across the board. Spanking might suit your family and meet the goals you have in raising your children. And that’s okay. It, and many of its components, just isn’t going to work for us.

I was realizing this week that we believe in parenting teens as a friend and counselor, rather than a dictator. And we’re firm believers in all or most things attachment parenting. So, it really just doesn’t make sense to totally shift gears and mindsets for the approximately 2-12 crowd. Not sure why I didn’t see that light before!

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As we seek to form solid relationships with our children, we desire to spend lots of time with them. Family is our top priority. We love our children, and we love hanging out with them. We want them to feel valued and cherished, which means we spend a lot of time interacting with them. It means we plan activities just because we know Vivi would love them, or that we choose not to partake in activities that don’t work for Vivi. It means that we talk to her a lot, and involve her in our conversations. We get excited over the things that excite her. Mostly, we just love being a family together, interacting with each other.

Our marriage, and time for just us, is important too. The two don’t have to conflict….we typically enjoy lots of good marital time in the evenings after Vivi goes to sleep for the night, focused on just the two of us.

8 comments:

  1. Love the whole idea of relational parenting. Amanda and I always return to this point when we discuss parenting. To me it does look different than many traditional parenting methods, but the points/differences that we emphasize are different than the points you are emphasizing.

    Not spanking sounds great in theory. I will be interested to see how it works for you guys. When you have a strong-willed and rebelious 1-2 year old who wants his own way and often refuses to listen to reason and common sense Amanda and I are currently at the place where we think spanking is good for his own safety. And believe me, I hate to do it. The main concern seems to be that spanking will negatively affect the relationship, but thankfully that does not seem to have been the case. For us, I believe it is more about teaching Caleb to respect authority. I'll look forward to hearing how God directs and guides you in the next few years.

    God bless your family!

    ~Josh

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  2. Interesting thoughts, I know a family who took this route in general(not spanking) and it worked out well, but there kids are all so mellow and easy going. Like the poster above, there are those children that for them, nothing else seems to work and I do think it is important to do it properly in love and also gauge how it is affecting the relationship.

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  3. Hi Josh!

    Thank you for the input! We appreciate all thoughts and suggestions.

    There are some "scary" things about this path, since we don't want our children to become uncontrollable and rebellious brats. But we are firmly convinced that this is where God has us at this point in time (though we don't feel like this path is the only correct path for parenting - we rejoice in the successes you have achieved in your journey as parents).

    As we have evaluated how training might look for us, a big question for me is how training and discipline will look if we do not spank. Some thoughts I've had are (1) consistency is more important than the type of discipline applied and (2) if discipline only affects the outward behavior, it has failed. Thus, while we don't plan to spank, we do plan to train - consistently, and thoughtfully. We will carefully consider and implement natural consequences which require our children to consider their behavior and learn to do what is right.

    We'll see where God leads us. But right now we are excited to be walking by faith and trying to be the parents God wants us to be.

    We'll also look forward to seeing where God leads you guys - it has been neat to see how Caleb has been responding to your training as you seek to be the parents God wants you to be.

    Love,
    Ben

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  4. Hey Ben,

    Following the Father's leading in your life is always the right place to be. It will be neat learning from each other as we follow His leading in our lives.

    Question: How and why do you see consistency as being so important in relational parenting? Almost everyone emphasizes consistency, and I actually tend to downplay it as I feel it leads to legalism. If you do X, Z will always result. We are willing to give up this "consistency" in order to respond to what we see in our children's hearts. If they are rebelious, the punishment may be more severe. If it was an accident, they may even get off the hook. Not consistent, just relational. Describe how you see consistency being important. You probably mean something completely different.

    Reading this post led to some neat discussion with Amanda. I think natural consequences are a great idea, but it seems like there are 3 situations where they can break down. 1) When the consequences are very serious. Example: Run in front of a car and pay with your life. 2) When the consequences are too long in developing. One example: Poor eating, poor behavior toward siblings. There is not necessarily an immediate consequence for young children to understand. 3) When the consequences affect many people, not just the child (siblings, parents, etc). Example: Breaking something that everyone enjoys. What our your thoughts on how to guide and nuture our children through these challenges? How do you anticipate handling outright rebelion and disobedience?

    Looking forward to new insights as we discuss.

    ~Josh

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  5. Josh,

    Yeah, I didn't mean a legalistic consistency, but more an understanding that we actually mean what we say. If I tell my kids that I say "no", I want them to know that it really means "no". Not just "keep doing what you are doing until I start making threats". I've seen too much of the threat-making, which breaks down training. At the same time, I am a big proponent of treating kids like real people. I'm more than willing to talk through things, but they need to understand that manipulation isn't going to work.

    So to clarify, consistency doesn't mean that the same consequences will always apply, but rather that "no" really means "no". I feel that it is more respectful to kids to expect them to listen instead of throwing threats until I get angry and finally decide to do something. I will expect my children to treat me with respect but at the same time treat them with respect, willing to listen to what is on their heart and answer any questions they may have. This is what I see as relational parenting.

    I agree with the fact that some natural consequences can't be played out to their natural conclusion. Obviously, our kids won't be running in the street until they get hit by a car. But there are sub-levels of consequences that can be played out. If a kid is running out on the street, he can be required to stay inside until he learns to play safely. If he is not playing appropriately, he can stay with one of us until he is ready to treat others with respect and honor. If a child won't eat any veggies, he won't be given any other food until he eats his veggies.

    In the case of outright rebellion, the child will have to face the consequences of his or her behavior continuously until he is willing to behave appropriately. Again, the child needs to learn that "no" really means "no". I will be willing to discuss things with him, but he'll have to learn that there are consequences to bad behaviors, which he will need to respect.

    Thanks for the conversation!

    Blessings,

    Ben

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  6. Of course, Vivi is still very young, so we are still working on all the details... :-)

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  7. I really enjoyed reading this series. You sound like amazingly thoughtful, Christ-centered parents. Right now our kids are 7, 5, 3 and 1, and all are pretty strong-willed (in a good way). They have never been spanked, but we believe very strongly in discipling them (teaching, not punishing). None of us are perfect, by any means, but I see the fruit in their lives on a daily basis as they grow in love, wisdom and respect and I am so grateful that God led us to grace-based parenting. :) Blessings on your family!

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  8. DelightinginHim- It'll be interesting to see how it goes and what all side-paths God leads us down on the journey- seeing as we're just beginning! It is interesting to take into consideration the fact that every child is different. Interestingly, in my family (with a range of personalities, but no mellows! ;-)) the most difficult children were ones for whom spanking worked the least/did the most harm. Not to say it couldn't work for more difficult children, since many factors play in (for instance, perfect consistency could've been lacking which might've eventually "broken wills" or whatever and in the end made spanking work)...but that was always an interesting one to wrestle with for my parents. It just didn't get through....and brought out lots of anger issues. But....it will be interesting to see what works for different children, since we aren't all cookie cutters.

    dulce de leche- Enjoyed your comment! It's fun to "see" (in your blog, particularly) families a bit further along in the journey who still find a grace-based/relational parenting method to be working well for all their children. We've appreciated your blog and some of your parenting posts as we've pursued and considered our journey!

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