Friday, July 29, 2011

*Sensitive* Another Anonymous Post on Spanking and Siblings

The following is a post from someone who has asked to remain anonymous.  As with previous posts of this nature, any comments will be strictly moderated. *NOTE:  I added the *Sensitive* warning to the title after hearing from several readers that it triggered strong memories for them.  Just as I was stunned and heartbroken by the responses from so many to the letter to the pastor dealing with the sexual side effects of spanking, I have been deeply saddened to read from so many who still experiences nightmares of their siblings being spanked.  :(


I have started and deleted this several times already, and am choosing to share this anonymously through a blogger who has spoken out against spanking.  I feel compelled to share this, but I am scared.  Secrecy was ingrained for too many years.  And I am scared that some people will read this limited, partial account and not see the full picture (can anyone ever really see the full picture?) and see my dad as a monster.  He is not, and he was not.  In many ways, he was a wonderful father.  And it has been many years since these events, and he and my brother have both changed dramatically and so has their relationship.  But I still have nightmares sometimes.

Growing up, there were a lot of misconceptions about my family.  In many ways, we were the perfect Christian fairy-tale.  My parents divorced when I was small.  Like most little kids, I was heartbroken and desperate for our family to be restored.  I heard the Bible verses about asking something in Jesus name, and that if two or more would agree on it, that it would be done.  I took that literally and never doubted that if I could find two or three people to agree with me in Jesus name, my parents would get back together.  I would even go up to random people in the grocery store while my mom was busy shopping and ask them to agree with me.  Two and a half years after the divorce was finalized, they remarried.

My parents returned to pastoring, and began closely following the teachings of Bill Gothard, which had been instrumental in my dad's change of heart.  One of the tenets of Gothardism is not limiting the number of children you will have.  After many, many miscarriages, my mother carried a miracle baby to term, and my little brother was born.

I only received a handful of spanking growing up.  A few from my mom for fighting with my sister or talking back, mostly when she was at the end of her rope.  They hurt, but they were never the kind that would be considered abusive by most people.  5 or 6 swats, usually with a belt or the cardboard rod from a clothes hanger.  Any red marks were gone within minutes.  I don't believe they ever resulted in any good, but not in terrible harm, either.  I probably got even fewer from my dad, partly because the time when they were divorced was when I would have been most likely to be spanked, and partly because I was a girl, and partly because he was in a healthier state of mind then.  The few I got were with a belt, and he always somehow managed to make it hit in the exact same spot each time, even with my limited attempts at wiggling.  I felt a lot more resentment about these, mainly because I felt that they were not fully deserved.  But if it had ended there, it might not have been that big a deal.

When my brother was born, a perfect storm hit.  He was a boy with very high needs (and almost certainly special needs, although my dad was adamant against ever having him tested).  He was the poster child for a strong will.  And my dad was in a very, very dark place.  He was abused.  He was spanked with a belt for wriggling during diaper changes by the time he could crawl.  Church services, evenings, any time my dad was around were punctuated by marathon spanking sessions, where my dad would insist on compliance that my brother refused to give and became an outlet for my father's depression.  Sometimes he would be hit well over 50 times in one session.  There were welts that would last a day or two.

But no one spoke up.  No one said that this was abuse.  After all, it was just spanking a strong willed little boy.  There were never any broken bones.  He was never hit with anything other than a belt or hand.  He didn't get cut with the buckle.  He was only beaten on the bottom and legs.  Once, and only once, did my dad hit him in the face.  It took us all by surprised because we were in a restaurant, and the only offense was that he didn't want to go to the restroom with my dad.  My brother immediately bit him back enough to draw blood. 

My brother was never one to give up, and he developed a hatred for my dad.  The older he got, the more he began to fight back.  Eventually, my dad was spanking less and less and my brother was attacking him more and more.   When my brother was so little, we watched their confrontations in mostly silent disapproval, but couldn't help but feel that at least sometimes my brother was able to even the score a little bit.  My mom believed that she had to submit to my dad's authority, even when she thought he was being too harsh.  She was too beaten down emotionally and verbally to do much else, although I don't think my dad ever hurt her physically.  I was confused.  Initially, I squashed any doubts by reading all that the religious spanking gurus said, which pretty much said that my brother deserved it.  One of my lifelong regrets is that I participated in it.  The stance then was that anyone taking care of him had the authority to hit him, and I spanked him several times myself, thinking that it would change his behavior if we were consistent.

I felt increasingly guilty, and stopped.  I was more and more scared by how much my dad was hitting him.  Later, I tried to intervene more by heading off tense situations and even speaking up from time to time.  The day that my dad hit him in the face, I said the most calculatingly hurtful thing that I could, and told him that I was sorry that he was our dad.  I could tell that it hit home, because we had always been so close.  He responded with a choked voice that God heard me say that.  I shot back, "And God saw what you did."

There were times, especially if the welts lasted more than a few hours, where I wanted to call the authorities.  But it was ingrained into us to not dishonor God and our father by cracking the facade.  I believed they would split up our family, and that my siblings and I would be separated.  Would that really be better than what we had now?  It couldn't really be abuse--my dad was just following what Gothard and all the other Christians taught about spanking.  The doubts would chase each other until I was exhausted.

Gothard talks a lot about taking up offenses.  He insists that only the individual who is directly wronged received grace to handle the situation.  I don't know.  Over the years, things gradually began to improve between my dad and brother.  As my dad came out of his depression, he was less angry and began to try to repair the relationship.  If anything, he wound up going to the opposite extreme in an effort to deflect the rage that had built up inside of my brother.  My brother is an adult now, and while the relationship between him and my dad has its scars, things are actually pretty good between them. 

But even years after the last time there was any physical violence towards him, I still have nightmares of my dad hitting my brother.  In some of them, I am the one hitting him.  I wake up in a cold sweat, stomach churning and acid rising up.  I choke back the sick feeling and remind myself that it was a long time ago and that things are better now.

All along, I heard lies and misconceptions.  So many people thought we were the perfect family.  I never heard any Christian speak out against what was happening to my brother when he was tiny.  All I head was the constant repetition of pro-spanking dogma.  Don't hit in anger (which my dad claimed he was following.  His underlying anger was obvious to me and others, but I don't think my dad really saw it in himself then.  Most of the time, he was cool, in control and sometimes even lightly joking about it.)   He was only hitting in approved places, with approved instruments, and he wasn't doing things that are obvious abuse like broken bones. He followed the right formulas.  But it hurt our family far beyond the physical pain that my brother endured.

I decided to share this because I desperately wish that someone had spoken up for my little brother years ago.  Instead, all we heard was encouragement to spank more until his will was broken.  Would it have made a difference to my dad if someone had spoken up?  Probably not.  But it would have made a difference to me.  It might have made a difference to my mom or my brother.  Please, speak up if you know of someone who is spanking too much, too hard, or too often.  And even if you agree with spanking, please, please don't encourage others to do it.  No matter how well you think you know the family, you don't really know what is going on. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

7 Steps for Getting Back on Track

In my post on taking a wrong turn with discipline, I promised to share some of the ways we course correct.  I also had some beautiful, wise comments from some of you on the original post and my Facebook page that helped so much.  Here are a few of the things that I am learning.
Image credit greengardenvienna on Flickr

1.  Think longterm.  Invariably, when I slip into this it is because I want short term results regardless of the cost.  Like eating junk food when pressed for time, I internally justify it because of extenuating circumstances.  The truth is, though, that there will always be extenuating circumstances.  If this is truly a priority for me--and it is--then I have to push past excuses.

2.   Take a break.  When it has already become a pattern that is spiraling out of control, taking a day or two to drastically break the cycle helps tremendously.  If I have been yelling, being quiet until I am filtering more easily helps.  If I have been rushed or stressed by outside things, taking a day to just focus on togetherness and connection and fun is crucial.

3.  Confess.  I need to tell my children that what I have been doing is wrong and apologize.  I also need to tell my husband to help both of us be more aware of it.  Very young children don't always realize that we can make mistakes.  They internalize that however they are treated by us is what they deserve.  I need to explicitly tell them that it isn't OK for anyone to treat them that way. 

4.  Make amends.  Restoring connection is a process.  It won't be a one-time action or apology.  I have found that one of the best things is to individually tailor it according to my children's love languages.  Ariana needs quality time, like a Starbucks date.  Joel needs lots of physical interaction.  Elena needs a gift (which does not have to be purchased). 

5.  Enlist their help.  Ask them to please tell me if I start to slip up.  Authentic Parenting had a great post on the power of having our children tell us when we are doing wrong.  This is such a valuable tool, not just for parenting, but for our children to practice regularly.  I didn't grow up with healthy boundaries modeled.  It is still easier for me to "be nice" until I reach the breaking point and then explode.  This is a great way to actively help my children to learn healthy patterns of interaction so that they will be comfortable with it as adults.  Encouraging my husband to speak up if he sees me acting hurtfully is important, too.  We are not a united front *against*our kids.

6.  Revisit my own GD toolbox. Sometimes, even when we have the tools we need, it seems easier in the moment to just rely on what is handy instead of what is actually best for the job.  I need to surround myself with a graceful community to help keep my mind where it needs to be, and go back through my toolboxes (for myself and for my kids) on a regular basis.  The more consciously I use all my tools, the happier I am with the results. 

7.  Remember that grace is for mamas, too.  If I start to shame myself (something I still fall into pretty easily) it sabotages my energy and my efforts to change.  I have to let go of the shame for past mistakes, and accept love and forgiveness.  This one is hard, but essential. 

We all make wrong turns sometimes.  It is part of being human, and part of growing.  The important thing is learning to recognize when we get off track and getting on the right road once more.  I am so grateful to all of you for your help as I navigate this journey!  <3  A special thanks to Toddler in Tow, The New Mommy Files: Memories, Milestones and Missteps, The Black Sheep PrincessMomma in Progress, Hybrid Rasta Mama, and all of you who commented and shared some of your tips!  <3

Friday, July 22, 2011

Growing Smarter Children--Guest Post from Shelley Joy

Strong Beginnings - Pre-K Graduation - Friday, June 11, 2010 - Vicenza, Italy  - CYSS - FMWRC - US Army
Image credit familymwr on Flickr

I have learned many things throughout the years working with children and families. I have never met a parent who did not want his child to be smart and to do well in school. This unanimous goal holds true regardless of the socio-economical, cultural, educational, professional, or geographical differences within families. Each of us wants to raise bright children who do well. And who wouldn't want their child to do be successful, smart, and self-reliant?

An almost universal conviction is our children are a reflection of ourselves. We must keep our children clean. A dirty and unkempt child is a sign that, somehow, we have failed as parents. This is not necessarily so!

When I worked as an early childhood educator and administrator, parents would often complain of how dirty their child was at the end of the day. They were splattered with paint and glue and often times their feet were encrusted with mud between their toes. Even the most stalwart parent would cringe at the sight of their messy child!

There is a secret formula to "make kids smart." Let them get dirty! To the parents who expressed their desire for smart children, I would say, "I can make your child smart, but you have to let me let them get dirty! I can make them just a little smart and let them get a little dirty, or I can make them really smart and let them get a lot dirty. It is your child and definitely your choice."

Children learn best through play. It is their work! And play is often dirty, messy work. Play enables children to progress naturally through the developmental stages necessary to acquire reading and writing skills in school, as well as the important socio-emotional skills required to become successful and self-reliant students. Child initiated play, supported and facilitated by loving adults, is the single most important factor in early childhood learning.
woad-painted savage
Image credit nowviskie on Flickr
Children learn by doing
Children need years of play with real objects and events before they are able to understand the meaning of symbols such as letters and numbers. Learning takes place as young children touch, manipulate, and experiment with things and interact with people. Throughout early childhood, concepts and language gradually develop to enable children to understand more abstract or symbolic information. Children learn by manipulating their environment and materials, and the messier the better!

Activities should be open-ended, meaning there is no right or wrong way to use materials. Children are their own best teachers through the process of "doing," with the focus on process rather than product. Any activity that stimulates one dimension of development and learning affects other dimensions as well.

Mud, sand, and water along with cornstarch and water, are excellent open-ended materials. Combine these materials with regular household items such as spatulas, whisks, plastic measuring cups and bowls, and nature's finest learning materials turn into imaginative creations of expression and creativity.

Crayons, markers, paper, and glue are other open-ended materials that, combined with buttons, glitter, colored salt, and old magazines, make astonishing collages that are process-oriented.

Make a bowl of pudding and finger paint. The texture of pudding makes smooth and practical finger paint for young children. Add food coloring or a scented flavoring extract, like vanilla, almond, or citrus for a heightened sensory experience.

Preschool-age children enjoy the smooth, soft, and fluffy feeling of shaving cream as finger paint. Allow your preschool child to paint directly on the kitchen table if you desire. Shaving cream is easy to clean and leaves the room smelling fresh.

Using real household items, rather than child size plastic replicas, gives value and integrity to children's projects. Children enjoy, and also learn, by doing "real" work. Mortar and pestles for grinding, scrapers for scraping, wooden spoons for stirring, and wire whisks for whisking, make excellent "toys" for children.

Holly plays chef
Image credit david.james55 on Flickr
Fresh herbs, cinnamon sticks, cornmeal, and dried flowers are wonderful for grinding, scraping, and stirring. Children learn by using their senses: Imagine the smell of freshly ground herbs, cinnamon, and flowers! Simply add water, and you have a new "recipe" for success.

Garage sale pots and pans are excellent for "cooking" and recipes for learning. Just as easily, pots and pans also magically turn into the basics of a rhythm band.

Dollar store gardening tools that are not sharp, such as hand trowels and scoops, make excellent and long lasting sand toys and are great for digging worms.

Save old food boxes, cartons, and packages for children to use as props for their "house." When they begin to become worn and torn, as they will, throw them away and provide new ones.

Take a walk with your child in the rain, jump in a mud puddle, take off your shoes, and feel the mud between your toes!

Ordinary dish soap in a wash pan with water makes an excellent base for bubbles. Bubbles are joy-filled and magical. Use wire whisks, straws, strainers, and even your own hands to create different sized bubbles and a delightful "science" project. Dish soap in a small wading pool with water and a hula-hoop will add magic to any hot summer day and you'll have the entire neighborhood begging for more.

Real and authentic experiences are remembered. They are integrated into the very heart of the child simply because they are real. Authentic experiences are child-powered, not battery powered. They are experiences that integrate concrete, real-life experiences that are the key to motivated, meaningful learning in kindergarten and the primary grades. You say you want smart children? Let them play and get dirty!

Shelley is the author of Little Bird You are Perfect and numerous articles on parenting and enjoying life.  You can also find her on Facebook, where she is offers up encouragement and inspiration.  <3  I am so grateful for her voice of peace, love and joy in my life! <3

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wrong Turn

No Left Turn
Image credit Mykl Roventine on Flickr

I can pretty much pinpoint when it happened.  At the beginning of the summer, our kids still needed life vests or floaties to swim.  We started taking them swimming once a week, and by the second time our older two were swimming without anything else.  They were so excited!  A couple of weeks later, they were jumping off the diving board, finally working their way to the high dive.  They couldn't imagine anything more thrilling.  It was so much fun that my five year old had an extremely difficult time leaving.

After carrying him out of the pool, we told him that we weren't coming back the next week.  His grief was immense.  In all honesty, there are many times when the difference between punishment and boundaries looks like a matter of semantics.  I do believe that there is a significant difference in the intent of the parent, as well as the approach, but I also know that the line can blur very easily.

One of the things I have adopted from Crystal Lutton is that "leaving successfully is part of coming back the next time."  It wasn't the first time my son had had a meltdown on leaving, and it was apparent that he didn't yet have the control needed to leave without a fuss.  Asking him to do it over again without changing things was setting him up for failure.  And going through an unpleasant scene at the end of swimming each week was not something we felt was worth it.  Our intent was not to punish him--make him feel bad so that his behavior would change.  It was just to give us all a break until we could come back and try again more successfully.

A lot of other things were going on, too.  I teach nine credit hours in 6 weeks during the summer, so I am suddenly gone a lot during the day.   By the time I was home on evenings and weekends, there were a thousand things screaming at me to get done, I was desperate for some down time, and our connection was starting to fray.   I developed tunnel-vision.  Instead of seeing the big picture and the long-term goals I have, I started focusing on the easiest way to get compliance.  My intent shifted and it transformed into a threat.  "Do what I say right now or no swimming."

It worked.  Their love of swimming is so great that they will pretty much do anything if they think we can go back.  And since we did skip one week before trying again, they know we can follow through on the threat.  At first, it was easy to brush aside each twinge of guilt.  After all, it isn't like threatening them with a beating or using harsh words to tear them down.  Missing a swimming session is not abuse, by any means.

It became a quick fix.  It wasn't until hearing my husband tell them several times in a row that doing x would mean no swimming (when they were happily complying to begin with!) that I realized how ridiculously it was being used.  Instead of connection and discipline (teaching), we were just relying on the threat to get instant results.  And yes, those of you who have read my diatribes against spanking are fully aware of the hypocrisy there, since most of my arguments against spanking apply just as well to this.

We took a wrong turn.  It seems like a convenient tool. The initial payoff is great.  But the more I used it, the more I realize that the long term price is too high for me.  It was eroding our connection.  Our kids were starting to ask, "What will happen if we don't?" from a self-centered standpoint.  I read this post from my friend PIO and nearly cried because I knew I wasn't living up to my own beliefs.

I mess up a lot.  In spite of all my posts on discipline and parenting, I fall short often from what I know.  I get tempted by quick results and easy responses.  I am working on a post about getting back on track, but wanted to go ahead and post this as my declaration that I don't want to go any further down this path of punishments.

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Five Favorite Foods in San Juan

Puerto Rico fully merits the name "Isla del encanto."  I love the rainforest, the beach, and all the rest of the lovely island, but what really gets me excited about visiting is the food.  It is seriously some of the best on the planet.  If you go to San Juan, here are a few things you must try:

1. Mallorcas and coffee from La Bombonera.  The coffee is fabulous, and incredibly inexpensive.  The mallorcas are a sweet roll (like a cinnamon roll without the cinnamon), drenched in butter, pan toasted and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Melt in our mouth yumminess like you wouldn't believe.  My five year old remembered these from a whole year ago and couldn't wait to go back.

Mom, please don't interrupt my blissful munching for a pic.

2.  Quesitos con guayaba.  A flaky croissant, filled with a combination of sweet cream cheese and tangy guava.  I would include a pic, but they seem to get gobbled up before I have time to pull out my phone.  Yeah, they are that good!  My favorites are from the Repostería España in Isla Verde.

3.  Mofongo.  This is the ultimate comfort food.  Take buttery, garlic-smashed plantains, add your favorite meat (mine is churrasco--flank steak--but the chicken and fish are delicious, too).  Soak it all with an amazing salsa criolla of tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and sweet peppers.  This is like steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, island-style.  Heaven.  You can find mofongo everywhere, but the perfect ratio of sauce to meat to plantains, IMO, is at Barrachina in Old San Juan.  The meat and plantains are both tender, and the flavor is rich and satisfying.

4.  If you are at Barrachina, you must have a piña colada.  This is the restaurant where they were invented!   You won't be disappointed.  It is the perfect balance of sweet, creamy coconut and refreshing pineapple.  A bonus--little ones with you get their own sample size virgin versions.  :)

Can you see that creamy goodness at the bottom of the plate?
5.  Pastel de tres leches.  If you are a cookie-dunker or you like ice cream on your cake, this one is for you.  Take a delicious, rich cake, then soak it in three milks, and you wind up with an incredibly moist (like dripping!) cake.  It tastes like cake that has been sitting in melted vanilla ice cream.  Yum!  If you are looking for the very best, check out Metropol, a Cuban restaurant in Isla Verde.  The mofongo is very good there, the beans and rice are out of this world, and their pastel de tres leches blows the rest of them away.

I haven't even mentioned that across the street from our hotel is Piu Bello, a gelato shop that we visit at least once a day.  My favorite is their coquito gelato, a fabulously decadent combination of coconut and rum.  However, I haven't had a flavor that I didn't like.  The blood orange is excellent, the limón is the best I have tried, they have nutella gelato with chocolate cookies crushed into it...  If I can gather enough evidence, I just might give it its own post... ;)

As you can guess, the reason I haven't been online too much the last week or so is because I have been stuffing my face researching some of the best foods that San Juan has to offer.  I will continue each day to seek out more yumminess for me you.  Wish you were here to share a cup of extraordinarily good Puerto Rican coffee and some yummy snacks with me!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Contemplations on the Calendar, by Ariana, Age 7

Image credit: tanakawho on Flickr

I found these on the notes section after she had been playing with my phone one day, and they made me smile.  I love seeing her play around with sounds and words, and plays on meaning.  Some are a little more obscure to me than others, but I can definitely see a creative mind at work here.  :)

Days of the Week

Sunday--The day you get light from the sun.
Monday--Give people money you are not going to use.
Tuesday--Celebrate the number two.
Wednesday--Name your kids wind.
Thursday--Drink juice to satisfy your thirst.
Friday--Fry an egg.
Saturday--Sit on someone, then remember it.

Months of the Year

January is the month you celebrate your chef.
February is the month you fib to talk.  (She later asked me what "fib" means).
March is the month you march the whole day.
April is month you name your April.
May is the month you say may instead of can.
June is the month you get light from the moon.
July is the month with no lying. (To make up for February, perhaps? ;) )
August is the month you pick a special leaf and make it your buddy.
September you can make your own scepter.
October is the month you try to capture an octopus.
November is the month you have to say no to everything you can hear.
December is the month it will snow.

Seasons of the Year

Summer is the season of kids.
Spring is the season of love.
Winter is the season of adults.
Fall is the season of God.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spiritual Roots of Discipline

Trilha de Camburi
Image credit Gabriela_Allegro on Flickr
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control." ~ II Tim. 1:7

I only recently realized what an important verse this is in terms of gentle discipline.  So often, punitive parenting is rooted in fear--not only does it cause fear in the child, but it is based on the parent's fears.  Think about the last time you felt a need to punish your child.  Most likely, there was an element of fear involved.  Maybe fear of not being able to control your child.  Fear of what others would think.  Fear of what your child would turn into if you didn't punish.  I know that when I am tempted to punish, those are the driving motivations.

What is absent in that?  Power, love and self-control.

Real power doesn't need to prove itself.  Someone insecure in authority creates battles as an excuse to prove dominance.  When I was 15, I spent the summer babysitting 50+ hours per week for three boys.  I wanted their respect and first time obedience.  I would get irritated watching their interactions with their grandmother.  It seemed like a cop out when she didn't perceive things as defiance the way I did and instantly try to squash it.  I felt like she wasn't going to the heart of the issue by tackling what I saw as disrespect or disobedience head-on.  Eventually, I realized that it was the opposite.  I was the one focusing on superficial issues.  She was so secure in her power and authority that she could afford to show mercy and grace, and to look beneath the surface to see the less obvious needs for connection.

Our power to control others is limited.  Have you ever tried to force a reluctant child to sleep?  You may be able to coerce them into staying in bed, but not into actually sleeping. (Can you even make yourself fall asleep as soon as you wish?  I can't.)  We cannot obtain power over another person's heart through coercion.  Regardless of the gilded promises of Christian parenting gurus, you cannot punish your child into loving God.  Or into being a good person.  As parents, we have a tremendous amount of power, but not always in the way that we think.  If we try to grasp power that we don't have, children will respond to our violation of healthy boundaries with fear and rebellion.  It erodes the connection and trust in our relationship.

The power that we do have is the power to care for our families.  We have the authority to protect our children.  To teach and guide.  Their dependence on us gives us enormous power in shaping their lives.  From a Biblical perspective, that means serving.  Washing their feet, both literally and metaphorically.  Meeting their needs to the best of our abilities.  Recognizing the need for connection, even when (especially when) it manifests in unpleasant behavior

I Cor. 13:4-7  NIV "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

When I have wanted to punish, it was not because of love, despite any lofty motives I might claim.  It was because I was impatient.  (They should know better!  They should do what I want right now!)  Unkind.  (Shaming).  Prideful.  My pride wounded because they didn't demonstrate the respect for me that I wanted.  Embarrassed by what others might think.  Dishonoring them by dismissing their feelings and thoughts.  Self-seeking.  Trying to bulldoze through with my agenda, without regard for their feelings or developmental levels.  Delighting in evil?  Perhaps not, but presuming evil intent on their part comes awfully close.  If we are expecting to find the worst in them, that little part of us that wants to be right may well be rejoicing in the satisfaction of having our suspicions validated. 

All of the spanking experts stress the importance of self-control.  Parents should never spank in anger.  That can be tricky if you need a moment to cool off, since they also stress the importance of punishing promptly (otherwise, the behaviorism isn't going to be as effective, since the child may not associate the pain with the infraction).  And how many parents get caught up in cycles of punishment, where their own lack of control in yelling and punishing causes the atmosphere of the home to deteriorate?

I spoke earlier about the limits of power.  We aren't really meant to control others, and if we try to usurp that power, we will always face conflict.  We are, however, given power to control ourselves.  Are we modeling for our children the attitudes that we want them to reflect?  When we are maintaining healthy boundaries and controlling ourselves the way we should, the desire for punishment diminishes remarkably. We are then able to correct in ways that help turn the hearts of our children to their parents, and turn our own hearts toward them.

Image credit Karlina - Carla Sedini on Flickr
The decision to leave behind punitive parenting means letting go of fear and learning to parent with power, love and self-control. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment." I John 4:18  I do not want my relationship with my children to be grounded in a spirit of fear.  Instead, I want to sink deep roots into love, to be grounded in self-control and secure in the power to do what is right. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Gift of Surrogate Grandparents--Guest Post by Darla Haas

I am so honored to share this post from a lovely lady who has been special to my family for many years!  I am also unspeakably grateful for the incredible richness I have received in grandparents and surrogate grandparents.  They have added so many beautiful memories, and a wealth of spiritual blessing and wisdom.  I am so thankful that my children are also able to spend time with their grandparents.

Darla with her newest grandbaby, Katie
My paternal grandmother died while my dad was still a young man serving in the Air Force and before he had met and married my mother so I never knew the woman from whom I inherited my blue eyes and dimpled cheeks.  My grandfather later married a woman who either lacked the desire or the willingness to deal with small children; subsequently memories of being with that set of grandparents is virtually nonexistent.
On the other hand, the distinct personalities of my maternal grandparents are etched firmly in my mind but because we lived across the country from them most of my childhood those cherished visits were not nearly as frequent as we would have liked.
This distance, physical with one set of grandparents and emotional with the other, left a carved out void which a wonderful elderly couple would later fill.  I had no idea at the time what an invaluable gift I was being given and what an important contribution these two were making to the foundation of my beautiful childhood. 
My younger sister and I spent countless hours on this couple’s small farm helping with chores, playing with the animals, making mud pies outdoors and child-sized biscuits indoors, chasing butterflies and fireflies in the summer and gathering firewood in the winter.  We slept in goose down feather beds, drank warm milk flavored with coffee from real china cups and saucers, explored antiques in the attic and retrieved canned goods from the cellar.  We rode Nellie, the old farm horse bareback, rode the tractor on occasion and rode into town on Saturdays to visit the feed mill.  Sound like an idyllic experience for a child?  You bet it was!
After I had three children of my own and witnessed the exquisite delight both sets of grandparents found in them and the special place these adults had in the minds and hearts of my offspring I knew how important my set of “adopted” grandparents had been in supplying that same experience for me.
Although some of you reading this are lucky enough to have the support and involvement of grandparents in your children’s lives, others are not.  Much of this modern day estrangement has more to do with job related displacement than complicated emotional issues.  But whatever the reason for its absence I have deep regret for those not able to relish and realize the joy of grandparents.
My reason for writing this article, however, is to encourage you and open your mind to the possibility of finding a surrogate grandparent for your child.  This is a blessing that can definitely benefit both ways.  Several years ago my family made a job related move to Anchorage, Alaska.   My mother, who was widowed and extremely attached to our children, was devastated.   While I knew this move was the best thing for our family, I also worried about Mom being lonely in our absence.
One day as my mother sat down with her Bible, she absentmindedly opened it and her eyes fell upon Psalms 68:8 “He places the solitary in families”.  She began to weep as she told the Lord how alone she felt with us 2,000 miles away and how she missed the frequent interaction with family.   A few weeks later she met a wonderful family with whom there was an instant connection.  They had two children who were desperately needing a grandmother figure in their lives and my mom had a ton of grandmother love to give!  Theirs became a beautiful relationship which has lasted to his day.  Those “grandchildren” are now parents themselves and though Mom has since moved to another state they maintain contact through letters, cards, pictures, phone calls and even an occasional visit.
God places people in families for a reason.  It’s a place where we feel celebrated, accepted, wanted and loved.  It’s the soil that nurtures us as we grow into everything God Our Creator intended for us to be.   Grandparents are like special nutrients in that soil.  They can boost a child’s self-esteem, add an enhanced sense of security, delight in each small accomplishment and because they often live life at a more relaxed pace than a child’s parents, can sometimes offer relief in our much hurried world.
 Perhaps life has gifted you with this wonderful asset for raising your children.  If not, may I strongly suggest that you go to the Lord on behalf of your children and make a request?    Scripture says that God loves to give good gifts to His children.  And from my experience a surrogate grandparent is a good gift indeed!
I graduated with a teaching degree from Murray State University with a major in English and a minor in Spanish.  I've taught in 3 states:  Texas, Kentucky and Indianna, but mainly have been a stay-at-home mom. 
I've always been very involved in women's ministry and in various community activities wherever we've lived.  Here in Little Rock I've served on the Board of Directors of Women and Children First, a shelter for battered and abused women and their children and have directed various efforts and programs there.  I also was on the board of Second Genesis, a program for women exiting the prison system and trying to re-enter society.  I taught parenting classes for that group and mentored several of the women one-on-one.  My passion is to encourage women in their roles as wives, mothers and friends and to help enhance their sense of worth and to appreciate their own individuality. I'm married to Dr. David Haas who has a private practice in psychiatry and in addition works with a number of youth ranches that house children who have been removed from unstable or unfit homes.  We have 3 married children, 2 grandbabies and a third one on the way.
My hobbies are travel, cooking, reading and sometimes doing guest blogs for really special people!


Friday, July 1, 2011

Escuchar la voz interior

Las dos hermanas.  Elena tenía dos años, y Amaya 3 meses
Esta semana celebramos los cumpleaños de nuestras hijas menores.  Estoy muy agradecida por ellas.  El gozo que han traído a nuestras vidas es increíble.  Y no solamente el gozo.  También celebro el nacimiento de mi confianza en la voz interior.  Antes de estar embarazada, realmente no sabía mucho sobre el parto.  Mi mamá tuvo unas experiencias horribles con sus partos, y por eso, yo quería tener un epidural tan pronto como fuera posible.  Pero, con el embarazo de mi hija Elena, algo cambió.

Siempre me siento más sensible espiritualmente cuando estoy embarazada.  No sé exactamente por qué, pero parece que estoy más atenta, no solamente a mi cuerpo, sino también al Espíritu Santo y a la voz interior.  Casi inmediatemente, empecé a oír esa voz dentro de mí diciendo que esta vez, era importante dar a luz sin medicamentos.

Pensé que estaba loca.  No me considero muy valiente en cuanto al dolor, y tenía miedo.  Sin embargo, cuanto más intentaba ignorar esa voz, más fuerte se ponía.  Le dije a mi esposo que quería un parto natural, y él estaba incrédulo.  A pesar de sus dudas--y las mías--empecé a leer y estudiar sobre los partos naturales.  Hablé con una amiga que es partera.  Tomé la decisión de seguir a esa voz interior.

Resultó que las contracciones no eran tan dolorosas como esperaba.  Sí, dolían, pero con la ayuda de mi amiga y mi esposo, pude soportarlas fácilmente.  Fuimos al hospital, y estaba riendo con mi partera y Carlos sobre la película en mi cuarto (una de las peores secuelas de El planeta de los simios, que yo detesto).  El obstetra llegó y me indicó que empujara.  De repente, se puso palidísimo como la nieve--el cordón estaba prolapsado sobre la cabeza.  Gracias a Dios, después de empujar tres o cuatro veces, mi hijita salió y estaba perfectamente bien.

Luego, mi obstetra me explicó la gravidad de la situación.  Me dijo que si yo hubiera tenido un epidural y pitocina, que habría tenido una cesárea, y que lo más probable era que mi hija no hubiera sobrevivido, o por lo menos, habría sufrido mucho daño del cerebro.  Si yo no hubiera prestado atención a esa voz interior, no tendría mi preciosa hija.  Todavía me da escalofríos pensar en eso.

Elena, 3 meses
Con el próximo embarazo, decidimos tener el parto en casa.  Mi esposo no estaba muy entusiasmado con la idea, pero él tenía mucho respeto para mis instintos ahora.  Mi amiga partera que nos ayudó con el parto de Elena ofreció a ayudarme con éste, también.

Todo salía muy bien, a pesar del dolor intenso en mi espalda por la posición de la bebé.  Estaba casi completa.  Pero gradualmente, empezó a haber más tiempo entre las contracciones.  Pasaron varias horas, y no nació.  Finalmente, decidimos ir al hospital.

La verdad es que estaba muy asustada.  Después de tantas hora de parto, me sentía agotada, y temía que hubiera algún problema grave.  Dudaba mucho esa voz que me había impulsado a dar a luz en casa.  Obviamente, estaba equivocada, ¿verdad?

Al llegar al hospital, me dieron un poquito de pitocina para acelerar el parto, y los dolores aumentaron mucho.  Las contracciones volvieron tan intensas que les pedí que bajaran la pitocina, y lo hicieron de inmediato.  Ruptaron la bolsa de aguas, y en un instante sentí que descendía la bebé.  Toqué su cabeza con mi mano--el primer toque que ella recibió--y en ese momento, sentí algo tan precioso que todavía no tengo palabras para describirlo.  Fue un momento trascendente que nunca olvidaré.  Ella salió rápidamente.  Resultó que tenía la mano al lado de la cabeza.  Además, pesaba nueve libras y seis onzas.  ¡Con razón tardó un poco para nacer!

Estaba perfecta.  A pesar de ser una bebé tan grande y tener la mano así, no me lastimó para nada.  De hecho, dentro de dos semanas, yo estaba cargando a su hermana mayor en mis brazos mientras caminábamos por las calles de San Juan.  Me recuperé de ese parto más rápidamente que con cualquier de los otros.  Pero, si hubiera planeado un parto en el hospital con obstetra, es casi seguro que habría tenido una cesárea innecesaria.
Amaya, dos semanas de edad
La familia entera el día en qué Amaya nació
Ahora, cuando escucho esa voz interior, presto atención.  Creo que cada mamá tiene esa voz, pero a veces no le hacemos caso.  No tenemos suficiente confianza en nosotras mismas.  Pero, gracias a Dios, estoy aprendiendo a escuchar más y más a esa voz interior.  Tengo mucho para celebrar esta semana.  <3  ¿Y tú?  ¿Cómo aprendiste a seguir tus instintos y escuchar a esa voz tuya?

Participo en Spanish Friday con Tracy de  Ella siempre tiene algo bueno para leer.  :)