We feel like it would be far more effective to gently guide our little ones as we train them than to use a rod/other instrument. It means that we have to be constantly involved with Vivi, so we’re there to help out with issues- it doesn’t work to just tell a one year old from across the room that she can’t touch that. See, not spanking doesn’t mean we think kids should get away with whatever they want. If we can help it, we’d rather not raise spoiled brats who tantrum to get their way and do whatever they want. We firmly believe it’s our job to train our young children to listen and obey. We really want to avoid the empty threats that happen in so many homes- or “having” to threat, period, because it seems harmful to everyone involved. The “Don’t touch…” “If you touch that (again), I’m going to have to come over there.” “Do you want a spanking?” And so forth. Not a fun route to go…and one that parents easily slip into, because on the surface, it’s easier. It delays your having to get involved. The end result, though, is a child that never listens the first time (and quickly figures out the line between threats and a consequence) and parents that are constantly frustrated by the need to threat and reiterate over and over, and eventually to get involved.
Our experience is pretty limited, obviously, since Vivi’s still quite young, but so far, here are some scenarios of how this might actually play out (and has played out for us). I’m pretty well convinced that, no matter what parenting style you use, consistency is a major key. In other words, constant parental involvement…it’s a way of life.
Vivi loves to play in the sink….but initially, she was really drawn to the window crank right behind the sink….and also to tasting everything in the sink and drinking the water. So, I would stand next to her, washing dishes or doing something where she was occupying most of my attention. Anytime she started to reach, or succeeded in grabbing the crank or drinking water, I’d remove her hand/the item and say something like, “No, Vivi, you can’t drink that, it’s yucky. The sink’s to play in.” I might also offer her sippy cup and see if she wants a drink of “good” water, telling her that’s what she can drink. That might’ve happened 10-20 times in a sitting initially- which is to say I didn’t get a whole lot done until she was done playing and went on my back or played with something at my feet where there was less to get into. Occasionally, I’d eventually remove her, but typically not- she wasn’t old enough to need a consequence, she was just in training process….learning her boundaries. Pretty soon, though, it was happening less and less, and now while I wouldn’t say she’s 100% perfect, it’s very rare (maybe once every few times she plays in the sink) that I have to tell her not to drink the water….and she never gives the window crank a glance.
Or, she’ll become infatuated with a pile of my or Ben’s books sitting next to the couch. When she starts to go for one (assuming it’s one she can’t have- some of our books we allow her to look at for as long as she’s handling them gently, or with our help), we say, “No, Vivi, that’s mommy’s book. Here, you can look at your books.” And we give her one of her books. Again, initially she would be back at the pile quite a few times…now, usually distracting her once is enough.
Another recent incident was learning to be nice to her 7 month old cousins, whom we spent a week with on vacation. She was too rough with them, and would try to hit the top of their heads. Not enough to hurt them, since they’re used to older siblings, but hard enough to not be gentle, and therefore, be a problem. I made sure I was with her when she was playing with them and if she hit/started to hit, I’d remove her hand and say, “No, Vivi, we can’t hit. You have to be gentle with ____.” Then I’d demonstrate, both on her and the cousin, how to be gentle. Because it was a situation where someone was getting hurt, I only gave her one additional opportunity, usually, to be gentle. If she tried to hit again, I would generally remove her to a different part of the room or house and play with something else with her. Usually, a tantrum was involved because she didn’t want to leave. Within a couple days, though, she seemed to have a pretty good grasp on playing nicely, and while I’m sure I’ll have to help her along in the future again, we didn’t have any issues in the latter ½ of the week.
Thinking about dealing with this situation as spanking parents just doesn’t make sense. Vivi is learning a lot by mimicking be- in fact, she developed her own sign for gentle because of the way I’d always stroke her gently on the face when telling her to be gentle. It just doesn’t make sense to tell her not to hit while I’m slapping her hands or bum. I think using your hand to spank your child is wrong and absolutely not an option, but even using an instrument (rod, switch, etc.) doesn’t seem like it sets spanking apart from hitting. Likely, Vivi would wind up confused and frustrated, trying to figure out how it is she’s supposed to interact with the world. I’d rather just display gentleness and guide her in interacting gently with people, instead of hitting her every time she hits.
Distraction strikes me as important at as young an age as hers. I don’t expect to just say no and have her figure out something else to do. So we tell her no, and find something fun that she can play with/do, and/or show her how to correctly use/play with what she has. When she’s older, sure, she’ll be able to figure out a different source of entertainment for herself…but for now, it’s all part of the helping and guiding process, and I want her to see what she can have.
Each “session” is also always followed with lots of praise and/or conversation. For example, I might talk to her about how nice it is to drink her yummy water, and how yucky the sink water is. Or I’ll tell her she’s doing a great job being nice if she’s playing gently. It takes a decent memory, sometimes….just recently, as we were rehashing through what we’ve done with Vivi, I was realizing that we’ve already encountered a lot more hurdles than I thought. It’s easy to forget about them once Vivi gets past them- but it’s good to remember that it used to be a struggle, and to continue to praise her for positive behavior. I don’t want to just interact with Vivi when it’s necessary to intervene and be the “bad wolf”…I want lots of positive interactions, too.