Archive for Discipline – Page 2

Helping Kids Cope Better with Stress through Strength-Based Parenting

Here’s a good one.

Intentional Catholic parents may be interested in a recent study (published in Psychology) about the benefits of “strength-based parenting”:

strong child“Children are more likely to use their strengths to effectively cope with minor stress in their life if they have parents who adopt a strength-based approach to parenting.  Strength-based parenting is an approach where parents deliberately identify and cultivate positive states, processes and qualities in their children. . . This style of parenting adds a ‘positive filter’ to the way a child reacts to stress. It also limits the likelihood of children using avoidance or aggressive coping responses.” 

What is meant by a positive filter? I believe it’s a parent’s loving verbal intervention when a child is in the early stages of distress or confronted with a demand on their time, abilities, or emotions — a demand that stretches them in some way.  If the child is upset or worried, we can coach our child in responding in a healthy way to their concern, in a manner that draws on their strengths.

This approach contrasts with a parent’s inclination to “fix” their child as if he’s broken or defective, and sending that message to our child even if we don’t intend to do so.

If you’re interested in identifying your child’s strengths more clearly, perhaps you’d enjoy this book by Jenifer Fox: Your Child’s Strengths.  I don’t usually recommend books that I have not read myself, but this seems to be a useful and engaging book about how to think about our children’s strengths.

Image courtesy of photostock at freedigitalphotos.net

When Words Hurt: Why Parents Should Avoid Labeling Their Kids

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  So NOT true, right?  I’m sure we can all recall the mean names applied to us when we were kids and they hurt a lot.  Most parents know they should not call their child names and they avoid it, but many of us label our children without realizing it.  What’s labeling and how does it harm children?  I talked about this topic yesterday with Greg and Lisa Popcak on their radio show More2Life.

Harsh Labeling Affects Our Child’s Self-Esteem

stupid labelA child’s self-perception is shaped by her early interactions in close relationships.  If parents use harsh or negative labels to describe their child (“lazy,” “mean,” “airhead”), the child’s vision of herself may be affected.  Over time, she may come to believe that those labels define who she is. Kids have to deal with enough name calling from their peers, so parents shouldn’t add to their woes.

Even the most loving parent can find herself using a negative label in the heat of the moment.  If this happens, apologies and amends are absolutely necessary:  we may know we didn’t really mean anything by our words, but our child’s doesn’t know. Our child’s self-esteem is impacted by what she believes we think about her, not by what we actually believe.  We should remind our child of the many times she has acted exactly opposite the label we used to describe her.  “Obviously you are not lazy.  Yesterday you put away all those crayons for your little sister without being asked.  You showed great maturity and industry!”

I think it’s important to remember that using labels to describe our child to other adults — family members, teachers, other parents — can influence that adult’s expectations about our child.  If we tell a teacher that our child is lazy or sloppy at home, the teacher will expect to see it in the classroom. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Labeling Leads to Division and Distance

When parents use labels  with older children, the child will naturally tend to shut down, put up a wall, or even call the parent a name back.  At this point, healthy communication is over.  One critical mistake parents make when dealing with their child’s poor choices is to focus on their child’s personhood rather than the problem behavior. “Mr. Sourpuss is in the house.” “You are lazy.”  I find myself doing this with my kids when I’m frustrated and I’m dealing with them as a group.  “Why are you guys such slobs?”  At this point, our children are only thinking about the negative way we described them or when we’ll stop talking so they can get away from us!

It’s far more effective to focus on the problem behavior, our expectations about the behavior, and how our child can meet those expectations.  I try to understand why my children did what they did, too, even if it makes no sense to me.   So, if my children have made a mess, instead of calling them slobs, I can explain that they’ve taken out all the puzzles before putting away the Lego and the costumes.  I can explain that in general I expect one activity to be cleared away before a new activity is started.  I can help them meet that expectation by helping them focus on one part of the clean up at a time. “Put all the Lego in these two boxes first, then we’ll put away the costumes.”  This trains them in handling an overwhelming job by breaking it down into stages.  I can also try to see things from my child’s perspective: “If you want to do the puzzles in your costume that’s fine. That sounds like fun!”

Labeling Limits Our Children

Lisa pointed out during our segment that there’s a staircase of name calling with verbal abuse on the top steps and more innocuous labeling on the bottom steps.  I think I am often on the lower stairs of name calling without realizing it.  With one of my children in particular, I’ve noticed recently that I label her in ways that may limit her self-perception.  Her room is very messy – cluttered and full of things she can’t seem to part with — so I call her a clutter bug or a pack rat. But, when I think about it, this really isn’t true.  The truth is, I’ve seen this child organize her craft supplies and our shoe closet like a pro.  So really she can be organized. She just lacks motivation in keeping her room organized or perhaps she needs help in how to tackle the problem. As described above, instead of labeling her, I know it would be more helpful to talk about the problem and how we can solve it together.

I’m concerned that even the positive labels I use with this same child may be limiting.  She is very creative and artistic, and I see that her gifts in this area are a clue to God’s plan for her and I want to encourage her artistic talent.  But sometimes my vision of her is limited to the arts, and at these times I can find myself on the lower steps of the labeling staircase.  I’m constantly describing her as “my artist” or “the creative one.”  While it’s important to give our children positive feedback on their talents, I think the problem is with my perceptions — they seem too narrow and, well, not very creative!  If I only see my daughter as artistic and creative, I may not provide opportunities for her to explore other talents she has or to use her artistic gifts in other areas.  If my vision of her is so limited, then her vision of herself may become limited.  She may avoid the sciences or math because she doesn’t envision herself as a scientist or mathematician.  But, of course, the greatest scientists and mathematicians are very creative.

Lately I’ve been looking for opportunities to point out my daughter’s abilities in non-artistic areas.  I’ve even created these opportunities for her without letting her know about it. For example, I asked my husband to invite her to help him on a household repair. I want her to see herself as talented and capable in many areas.

If you’d like to listen to my segment on More2Life, here’s the audio.  I come in about 20 minutes into the show.  But the entire show is great. Dr. Popcak lets listeners in on signs that they are being verbally abused or perhaps abusing somebody else without realizing it.

 

TENDER TIDINGS Summer 2015 NOW AVAILABLE!

The summer issue of our beautiful, free parenting magazine is now available! Click on flipbook to explore!

In this issue:

  • Natural Family Planning:  In Real Life
  • Navigating family road trips
  • Gentle discipline: the real root of misbehavior
  • Create a sacramental memory book
  • picnic recipes
  • AND MORE!

Effective Mothers

Last year, one of my daughters, who was finishing up an Honours Degree in Religion and applying to Teacher’s College, asked me what I thought were the attributes of an effective teacher for her application. When I considered effective teachers, I immediately thought about effective mothers.

One of the best ways to learn how to mother and teach is to remember both the good and poor examples from our own days as children. I remember cringing in fear in the presence of one angry, yelling mum who always seemed at her wits end with the antics of neighbourhood “brats.” However, the mum who actually liked her children’s playmates and listened to them was the mum who did not have problems with the neighbourhood kids. Mothers must remember what it is like to be small.  A mother is most effective when she lives as a child of God herself, because kids learn not by angry, condescending lectures, but by watching mums live and work, love, forgive and ask for forgiveness. Do you want teachable kids? You yourself must be humble and teachable.

GettyImages_450746627The most important trait for an effective mother is patience, because children can be exasperating, annoying and irritating.  Countless experiences with my children reinforced this basic fact: the best way to handle poor behaviour is by modeling good, patient behaviour myself because actions and emotions do speak even louder than the correct words. When I remained calm and patient, the kids settled right down.

Equally crucial is the quality of compassion. Kids intuitively know if an adult likes them, understands them and empathizes with them. Once again, if an adult is cold and cannot relate to a child emotionally, a child will act up in their presence. In my experience,  mothers who were the most compassionate, who could truly empathize, were the most respected. Kids want to please adults who they like and respect. It is the compassionate parent who can maintain good behaviour because they treat their children with mutual respect and compassion.

A good mother must be innovative and adaptable because kids need variety. Children do not learn well when they are bored and one style of mothering does not fit every child.

Most importantly, an effective mother is passionate about teaching and loving her kids. It is passion, an inner drive, that is not dependant on seeing results right away. It is passion from the Holy Spirit that prevents discouragement or burnout because it is an inner fire that motivates and energizes mums. We must learn to connect spirit to spirit, heart to heart with little people in and through God if we want to teach and form them into children of God.

Image credit: Getty Images

Kids and Chores

Wednesday Links over at our sister site Intentional Catholic Parenting:  this week ALL ABOUT KIDS & CHORES!!

3 Techniques for Raising Children Who Love to Pray

GUEST POST by ALEXANDRA KUBEBATU

Prayer is the essential tool to help our children build a life-long relationship with God. Many parents believe children do not need to be actively learning to pray until they begin CCD, but that is not the case.  According to scientific studies, a child’s character and world-view is mostly established by the age of five.  For this reason, teaching our children under five how to pray is essential.

1.  Set-up a prayer altar in your home or child’s room

child praying2Growing up, my mother always set up a prayer altar and encouraged us to put one together in our bedrooms. As a little girl, I didn’t have much space sharing a room with my sister, nor did I have a small table to set it up on, so creativity was a must! I found a cardboard box, flipped it on its side, and covered it with my favorite pillowcase. Then I placed on it a photo of our Blessed Mother, a small crucifix, a small dish with Holy Water, and a Bible. I was so excited to have a small altar in my bedroom where I could pray on my own.

Children have a short attention span so the excitement of having their own prayer altar in their room will quickly wear off. The prayer altar should not be treated as a toy they can play with once in a while. We need to teach our children how to use it. One technique is to incorporate their prayer altar as part of the waking and bedtime routines. When they wake up in the morning, show them how to give themselves the Sign of the Cross and say a short prayer. Make sure to place a pillow or something for your child to kneel on comfortably. At bedtime, you can make it part of the routine by having them say their prayers at their altar after bathing.

Since small children are still learning to put thoughts into words, they will learn to pray at first by repeating after you. For example, you may ask them to repeat after you as you pray the “Glory Be,” then follow up with something simple like, “thank you God for another beautiful day. Please protect me and my family. Help me be a good girl/boy and listen to my mom and dad.”

Having your children’s participation putting an altar together and teaching them how to use it will help them begin to take responsibility for their own spiritual development and relationship with God.

2.  Pray in front of your children

There are few things that would make children more curious than watching you pray silently. Of course, the moment they see you at peace, you will get interrupted. However, in this case, an interruption is a good thing.

As you pray in front of your altar, do your best to stay focused and try not to let anything “move” you. When a child comes to interrupt, be calm, explain to them that you are praying to Jesus and to “please be a little patient.” Use a kind, gentle, and loving tone when you say this or you’ll send the wrong message. Continue praying and have them wait one minute for every year of age of the child. If they are two years old, have them wait two minutes, three years old three minutes, etc.

Depending on your child’s age, you may invite them to pray along with you, but make sure to continue on. I had my daughter posturing to pray on her knees with palms together starting at eighteen months. Of course, she couldn’t hold the posture for more than five seconds, but that’s okay. It’s a small beginning of something beautiful and life-long.

The goal is to impress upon children that nothing and no one is more important than praying and connecting with God – not even themselves. I developed this technique after reading Saint Teresa of Avila’s work, The Way of Perfection, which focuses on prayer and detachment. Practicing this technique repeatedly will help them cultivate the virtue of patience and lead them to think of the world outside themselves and up towards God. If we, as parents, model for them that our relationship with God is most important, hopefully they will also learn to put God first in their lives – above all relationships on this world.

There is no need to scold and/or punish your child for interrupting. Doing so will give them a negative association with regard to praying and make them feel neglected. They do not understand the significance of what you are modeling for them. As long as their physical and emotional needs have already been met at that moment and there are no emergencies, simply be calm, ask them to wait, and continue praying. Using this technique daily is key. However, do not beat yourself up for forgetting once in a while – “mom” and “busy” are synonymous.

3.  Develop a family prayer routine

Having a family prayer routine will help your children make praying habitual in their lives. Making prayer a habit means they have internalized the action of praying and connecting with God, our Blessed Mother, and the Saints. Just as someone can form a habit of checking their email first thing in the morning, we can teach our children to form a habit to pray.

It’s not about setting-up a “schedule” to pray. It’s more about recognizing opportunities to raise our hearts and minds to God (which is all the time by the way). Family prayer routines can vary in a million different ways depending on your family’s needs. You may forget a time or two, but once you are consistent, your children will be sure to remind you. Here’s an example of what your family prayer routine might look like:

  • Morning prayer
  • Prayer before meal – breakfast
  • Prayer before homeschooling studies
  • Prayer before meal – lunch
  • Prayer before meal – dinner
  • Bedtime prayer
  • Prayer in the car before the commute
  • Rosary Saturday

It’s never too late to start planting the seeds of faith and virtue through prayer in our children. The hope is that when they are grown, whether life is good or tries to tear them apart, they remember the love and peace with the presence of God as they prayed with you as children. We must always be leading them back to the Lord.

Pray daily, love gently, and nurture your Catholic faith.

ABOUT ALEXANDRA

alexandraAlexandra Kubebatu lives in Texas with her husband and two children. Having earned a B.S. in Instructional Design and Technology, she creates online courses addressing faith and family issues using adult learning theories and studies in early childhood development.

Alexandra has combined both her experience as a certified CCD teacher and academic education to homeschool her children. She enjoys and feels honored to share her unique perspective, experiences, and faith-based parenting techniques with CAPC readers. Alexandra is also an account manager for Lighthouse Catholic Media.

 Image credit:  Dreamstime.com

Raising Children Who Love (or Don’t Hate) Confession

My guest essay on Dr. Greg Popcak’s blog Faith on the Couch:

I’ve heard that some people love going to Confession.  I personally don’t know any of them.  Maybe it’s an urban legend.  I think avoiding the confessional is our human default,

Madonna and Child by Filippo Lippi

Madonna and Child by Filippo Lippi

because we are uncomfortable exposing our weakness to others.  The Church wants us to know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift.  It’s more an opportunity than a duty.

Confession brings our human failings to the Light where we can find healing, courage, and support.  The devil hates that!  He thrives in the dark, like a fungus.  He wants us to keep our sins and moral struggles to ourselves, because full freedom from them requires community – it requires family, friends, and counselors, especially our priest when he acts as Christ in the confessional.  In particular, as embodied creatures we need the physical experience of the confessional:  when we feel and hear ourselves speaking aloud the truth of our failings, when the priest with his body and his voice acts as Christ extending his mercy to us, we can understand better the power of repentance and the reality of God’s forgiveness.

How can we raise children who understand this deeper truth about Confession, who welcome it as an opportunity?  Here are a few lifestyle tips that may help.  These aren’t lessons our children learn from a book, but rather from the way we relate to them:

Read the rest on Dr. Greg’s website!  Leave a comment, too!

In April: Join THE NO-SPANK CHALLENGE

no spank challenge big

Our friends at Stopspanking.org alerted me to this amazing spank-out challenge coming up in April:

Getting the Support You Need

If you’re ready to stop spanking, yelling or using other punitive techniques with your child, if you’re struggling to discipline your children peacefully, or simply want to take your parenting journey deeper, welcome! Over 25 peaceful, gentle parenting advocates and experts are collaborating to offer a FREE month-long event aimed to support, encourage and empower you with real-life tools and knowledge so you can learn how to guide your children and set boundaries.

Throughout April you’ll receive daily emails with podcastsvideos, blog posts and other tools to guide you as you learn such things as…

  • Identifying your triggers and releasing anger
  • Self-regulation
  • Alternatives to yelling and spanking
  • Setting limits
  • Healing the parent-child relationship

Do you think you could go a week? A month? A year without spanking?  Could you give up spanking altogether? Many parents spank out of frustration.  You are not alone in the struggle to keep your cool and find alternatives. 

Register here to join this FREE NoSpankChallenge.

US Alliance to Stop the Hitting of Children recommends CAPC in its open letter to Pope Francis about spanking

 

Open Letter to Pope FrancisThe US Alliance to Stop the Hitting of Children recommends Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner in an Open Letter to Pope Francis.  In the letter, the Alliance urges him to reconsider his position on spanking.  We are grateful for the mention and for the great work they are doing to protect the dignity of children and to support parents in finding positive ways to guide their children.

Here is the press release: Alliance open-letter-to-the-pope-final

and here is the letter in full:

An Open Letter to the Pope

The US Alliance to End the Hitting of Children shares with Pope Francis the vision of a world in which all children are treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. We support these values because in such a world, every child can grow into adulthood with a generous capacity for love, trust and empathy. However, we were distressed to read of the Pope’s remarks regarding the father who “smacked” his children (AP, Feb. 5, 2015). Contrary to the Pope’s comment, it is not possible to strike a child while maintaining the child’s dignity.

So why is Pope Francis condoning spanking? Pope Francis and too many parents continue to accept the deeply embedded disciplinary behavior of spanking children, without recognizing the long-term physical and mental risks associated with it. Furthermore, spanking is a violation of all children’s right to be free from violence.

Over the past 15 years, research into healthy parent-child relationships, brain development, and the effects of early adverse childhood experiences makes it clear that it is never OK to hit a child. On occasion, well-meaning parents, using corporal punishment for discipline, inadvertently injure children. Any form of violence against children, especially within the context of the parent-child relationship, risks children’s well-being.

In response to the science, the consideration of human rights, and other reasons, a number of leading child development organizations and at least two national religious organizations (United Methodist Church & Presbyterian Church-USA) in the US have made formal statements against spanking.

We respectfully request that Pope Francis reconsider the topic based on the research, children’s rights, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Those considerations will lead the Pope to a very different conclusion about the acceptability of spanking. Catholic parents who want to learn more about how to educate and support the development of our children through healthy attachment and relationship, can go to Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner at: http://catholicap.com.

To learn more about the problems with spanking and the alternative of positive parenting, please visit us at endhittingusa.org.

Pope Francis and Spanking

spankingPope Francis made headlines this week when he made the following remark during his Wednesday General Audience:   “Once I heard a father at a meeting on marriage say: ‘Sometimes I have to strike the children lightly… but never in the face so as not to humiliate them’. How beautiful! He has a sense of dignity. He must punish, but he does it in a just way, and moves on.”  The media seized upon this statement and proclaimed to the world that Pope Francis advises parents to spank their kids.

First for the good news.  The remark was almost an aside in an otherwise extraordinary explication upon the importance of fathers in the lives of their children.  His vision of fathers is of a strong leader who is engaged, gentle, and playful.  Here is the real crux of his message:

The first need, then, is precisely this: that a father be present in the family. That he be close to his wife, to share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. And that he be close to his children as they grow: when they play and when they strive, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they take a wrong step and when they find their path again; a father who is always present. To say “present” is not to say “controlling”! Fathers who are too controlling cancel out their children, they don’t let them develop.  General Audience, 4 February 2015

His remark about spanking is preceded immediately by this advice:  “Fathers must be patient. Often there is nothing else to do but wait; pray and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity and mercy. A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart.”

I so appreciate the Holy Father’s vision of fatherhood; His emphasis is on a father’s patience and gentleness.  But there is the bad news: he did, in fact, say that you can spank your child with dignity; he did call it beautiful when a father told him he doesn’t hit his child in the face.  This is Pope Francis’s opinion about spanking and I disagree with him.  Of course, the Pope was not speaking ex cathedra and his remark was not infallible.  As Pope Benedict liked to remind us, popes aren’t oracles and rarely speak infallibly.  When they don’t speak infallibly, they can make mistakes whether they’re talking about fashion, sports, or spanking.  At these times, we love them still, we recognize their wisdom and gifts, but accept their limitations.

I don’t think a parent should for any reason strike a child.  It’s not possible to strike a child without violating their dignity in my opinion, and my opinion is shared by many who are smarter and wiser than myself.   St. John Chrysostum advised parents to be gentle and at the most stern, but never to hit a child because it will ruin every other effort you make to guide him:

If thou shouldst see him (your son) transgressing this law, punish him, now with a stern look, now with incisive, now with reproachful, words; at other times win him with gentleness and promises.   Have not recourse to blows and accustom him not to be trained by the rod; for if he feel it…, he will learn to despise it. And when he has learnt to despise it, he has reduced thy system to nought.

Pope Francis’s advice may be culturally acceptable, but science bears out St. John Chrystostum’s advice.  Spanking can be effective in the short term in getting your child to submit to your will, but it’s at a cost.  Spanking doesn’t work to change behavior in the long run because fear doesn’t change the heart.  Empirical evidence shows that children who are subjected to physical punishment have more behavioral issues not fewer, and they exhibit greater aggression toward their parents and peers.  The Center for Effective Discipline, Spanking Myths.  Most chilling, few children of parents who use corporal punishment regularly have a well-developed conscience.  Strauss, Spare the Child, 154.  The professional journal Pediatrics reported that “a child who is spanked, slapped, grabbed or shoved as a form of punishment runs a higher risk of becoming an adult who suffers from a wide range of mental and personality disorders, even when that harsh physical punishment was occasional and when the child experienced no more extreme form of violence or abuse at the hands of a parent or caregiver”.  See L.A. Times story “Spanking Linked to Increased Risk of Mental Health Issues”.

Of course there is a continuum of violence here.  A light tap on the behind is clearly less troubling then a slap across the face.  My concern is that when we use spanking as one of our parenting tools, we can find ourselves in a slippery slope (a light tap becomes . . . less light when we are frustrated) and we lose the opportunity to develop our parenting skills.  The fact is, there are always more effective ways to deal with problem behavior than hitting a child.  Always, without exception.

I wrote about my own journey to non-spanking here.

For great discipline advice that will protect your child’s heart, check out our Discipline page and these books:

Parenting with Grace by Dr. Gregory and Lisa Popcak

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber

Image credit:  Getty Images (thinkstock.com)

Tweens and Decision-Making

I recently read an interesting article by Jennifer Powell-Lunder over at Psychology Today about tweens (kids aged about ten to twelve) and motivation.  Her big point is that sometimes we have more influence over the views and decision-making of tweens than we may realize.

Tweens are at the funny age of push and pull. They often shirk at your simple suggestions yet seek out your input and advice when you leave them to make their own decisions. One minute they don’t need or want your help, the next they are hunting you down to show them the way.

She goes on to say that tweens can seem irritable or angry when a parent tries to offer guidance to a problem.  She encourages parents by pointing out that these kids are still internalizing a lot of our advice and viewpoints.  Sometimes they will make the choice we recommended without realizing they are acting on our advice, because they aren’t conscious of this internalization:

It is not uncommon to hear a tween own an answer that clearly came previously from their parent. Quite often the response is information that the tween seemed to reject or ignore when their parent initially offered the proposal.

If confronted a tween will often deny that their thought or action came from a previous conversation with a parent. It is not because they are lying, trying to take credit for something that came from their parent. More often instead, they really don’t recognize that they have internalized their parent’s recommendation. This is in fact quite common.

I do wonder, though, why a child would be upset or angry at the mere thought of finding meaning in a parent’s tween and momwords of wisdom and then following that advice.  I guess it is good news that they internalize our voice even when they feel hostile toward us but why would they feel hostile?

Powell-Lunder seems to suggest that this rejection of parental input is somewhat natural as they turn “to their peers for direction and approval.”  I disagree with this position wholeheartedly.  No child — no matter their age — should be turning to their peers for direction and approval to such a degree that they would reject or resent a parent’s input.  I think this may be the NORM in our culture, but it is not healthy or optimal.  Until quite recently in history, children primarily found meaning, direction, and inspiration from their parents and older family members  While they had friends, the friends were peripheral to the child’s life and sense of purpose. This is the thesis of Gordon Neufeld’s book “Hold on to Your Kids”.  From the press release for the book:

Children today [look] to their peers for direction—their values, identity, and codes of behavior. This “peer orientation” undermines family cohesion, interferes with healthy development, and fosters a hostile and sexualized youth culture. Children end up becoming overly conformist, desensitized, and alienated, and being “cool” matters more to them than anything else.

I highly recommend Neufeld’s book; it’s powerful and persuasive.

I am not naïve.  I have an 11 year-old daughter (Claire) who teaches me every day to be humble, to examine again everything I thought I knew about older kids and teens. I see that kids this age can be grumpy as they navigate through the strange and turbulent waters of early adolescence.  Claire sometimes huffs off to her room and slams the door; she becomes angry with her younger siblings when they make mistakes that are normal for their development.  I have to dig down deep to understand my own feelings about her in these moments.  More likely than not, before I can figure out a solution to Claire’s problem, the cloud over her passes as quickly as it formed and I find her singing through the house or painting with her little sister by her side.

Despite this, Claire is very different from the kind of tween described in the article.  Claire has friends and she enjoys them, but she continues to come to us for advice and direction. I think she still finds her sense of safety and well-being in her relationship with Philip and me.  She does not seem to possess the deep resentment toward her parents that some people think is normal and I hope I can maintain my rapport with her so that never happens. I am working with her on managing her frustration and communicating her feelings respectfully, but she cares about my opinions and seems to seek my guidance quite naturally.

Is it possible that Claire will become nasty, rude, rejecting?  Of course.  She has her own will and we live in a fallen world.  I am glad I don’t have to have all the answers.  I don’t have to understand Claire completely.  I know God not only loves Claire, but he is actively working in her life and her heart, working through the people in her life, through her gifts and talents.

However, I do choose to reject the cultural view that teens will by nature look to their peers for answers about the world and about their own value; I expect more from my relationship with my children. While I cannot predict Claire’s choices and attitudes with precision, I can cooperate with God in his action in her life by respecting Claire and by taking the time to nourish a warm and open mom-daughter relationship with her.   Ultimately I want Claire’s motivations and decision making to be rooted in her right relationship to God.  Ultimately I want her to internalize the Christian virtues and God’s love for her, because I know this is the true path to joy.

For great advice and guidance about raising tweens and teens, I recommend:

Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers by Gordon Neufeld

Positive Discipline for Teenagers by Jane Nelson

Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel Siegel

Mothering and Daughtering: Keeping Your Bond Strong through the Teen Years by Eliza and Sil Reynolds

Spanking the Brains Out of Our Kids

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I’m so glad that this article over at CNN about how “harsh corporal punishment” actually changes a child’s brain has received lots of attention this week.  We’re not just talking about “you are scaring me” kind of brain changes, but spanking actually affects the amount of gray matter a child has in her brain!

The article highlights:

  • Reviews research which shows that spanking or other forms of corporal punishment can alter children’s brains
  • Kids who were regularly spanked had less gray matter in prefrontal cortexes, studies say
  • These areas of the brain have been linked to depression, addiction

The author, Elizabeth Gershoff, points out that “[b]ehind all this science-speak is the sobering fact that corporal punishment is damaging to children. That gray matter we’ve been spanking out of them? It’s the key to the brain’s ability to learn self-control.  ‘The more gray matter you have in the decision-making, thought-processing part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex), the better your ability to evaluate rewards and consequences,’ write the authors of a 2011 study that appeared in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.  The sad irony is that the more you physically punish your kids for their lack of self-control, the less they have. They learn how to be controlled by external forces (parents, teachers, bosses), but when the boss isn’t looking, then what?”

Disciplining children through spanking just doesn’t work, at least not if our goal is raise happy, well-adjusted children, not if we value a child’s right to live with bodily integrity and personal dignity.

If you’re looking for more research on this topic, I recommend these resources:

Beating the Devil Out of Them by Murray Strauss

For Your Own Good by Alice Miller

Project No Spank: copious research links

If you’re looking for positive, respectful discipline tips, I recommend these resources:

Parenting with Grace by Gregory and Lisa Popcak

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber

Positive Discipline: great website, tons of tips and resources

Photo credit: Castillo Dominici (istock.com)