Tuesday, April 30, 2013

National Spank Out Day 2013--Christian Resources

When I first became a parent, I believed that the Bible instructed parents to spank their children.  All of the studies and research out there would not have changed my mind as long as I was convinced that God's Word taught us to spank.  The good news is that the Bible most definitely does NOT teach spanking.  Although there are some verses in Proverbs that have been twisted to imply that, once we really dig into the meanings of the words there, it becomes clear that they do not refer to spanking at all.  Sadly, some translations are not as clear as others, and many have read those passages through a cultural filter that makes it sound as if it could refer to spanking.  There is a reason that God instructs us to "study to show ourselves approved, as workers who do not need to be ashamed, but correctly handle the word of truth". The following links are some of my favorite Christian resources for those who would like to examine this topic more fully. Although there are some excellent resources by secular authors, for this page I have tried to only include those whom I believe to be sincere followers of Christ.

Samuel Martin Samuel Martin's blog and Facebook page

Sam is a Bible scholar and brother in Christ who lives in Jerusalem with his family.  His book, Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy is a reverent examination of the Scriptures that are often used to promote spanking, as well as an in-depth study of the Jewish perspective on corporal punishment.  I have written reviews of it here.  Sam has such a deep conviction that God wants us to know the truth on this that he is offering his book for free if you email him at info@biblechild.com.

Crystal Lutton  Crystal Lutton and Arms of Love Family Fellowship Facebook

Crystal literally wrote the book on Grace Based Discipline.  Eight years ago, when I was agonizing over the thought of having to spank my baby in order to obey the Bible, I was directed to her site and found both Truth and Grace.  Her teachings changed our lives in ways I would never have imagined.  Her book, Biblical Parenting, gave me a brand new paradigm for discipline.  Then I read Grace Based Living, and began to see how God's grace applied to marriage and other relationships.  Crystal is also a rabbi/pastor, and her ability to share Hebraic perspective has enriched my understanding of the Scriptures.  Along with all of this, she regularly serves as a Titus 2 woman to many, giving practical and loving help to other moms.

Gentle Christian Mothers
Gentle Christian Mothers site, Message Boards, Facebook page

GCM is, without a doubt, one of the most vital resources available for gentle parents.  Most of us are still learning exactly what grace based discipline looks like in real life, and this is my favorite place to connect with experienced gentle mamas whose lives are based on honoring and pleasing God and sharing His love with their children.  If you have any questions about how to implement grace-filled discipline or need to connect with other gentle Christian moms, this is the place to go!  GCM belongs to the amazing and lovely Flowermama, and her blog is also a wonderful resource.

Little Hearts Books

L.R. Knost is an inspiring gentle mama of six whose children have been parented gently.  In an interview for Gentle Christian Mothers, she describes the results of gentle parenting in her family: "My oldest two are,respectively, a happily married Pastor with two adorable children of his own and a happily married Family Therapist with a high-stress social services job working doggedly to protect children from the fallout of unfortunate parenting choices. My next oldest is graduating this year with a pre-med degree in BioMedical Sciences before heading into med school, but even with an incredibly tough university schedule he takes the time each week to go to a local teen hang-out spot and work in an outreach ministry he created and has been building for the last year. All of them, along with my younger children, have tender hearts that feel others’ pain and discouragement deeply, and all of them seek every opportunity to reach out with a helping hand, a kind heart, and a friendly smile."  Her book, Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting through the Ages and Stages is one of my favorites, and her article, Jesus the Gentle Parent is absolutely beautiful.   

 Why Not Train a Child blog and Facebook page

This is the best site out there for resources on the Pearls and their horrific teachings.  More than that, though, this is one of my favorite sites anywhere for new gentle discipline resources and posts from a variety of Christian bloggers.  As a bonus, you can preview a comprehensive new book on Christians and spanking by Stephanie Cox that delves deeply into the history of corporal punishment in the church, the effects of spanking on children and much more.

The Hippie Housewife

The Hippie Housewife is a devoted follower of Jesus and a beautiful writer.  Her series on the Proverbs passages is a must read for anyone who cares about what the Bible teaches, and her post on The Hows of Discipline (and the practical and insightful comments!) is wonderful at describing how to put gentle discipline into practice.  Need encouragement for gentle parenting as a Christian?  Check out her post on Attachment Parenting: A Christian Perspective.   Everything she writes is worth reading.

Parenting Freedom: Is Spanking Biblical?  I don't have a pic or Facebook page for this one, but please don't skip it.  Whenever I have to choose a single article for parents who believe that the Bible teaches us to spank, this is the one I link.  It is such a lovely and thorough post.  The Parenting Freedom site also has many other links on Christian attachment parenting that are enlightening and always cause me to breathe in grace and peace.  

Real Child Development
Real Child Development blog and Facebook page

Leslie Freeman, her husband Scott and their children are missionaries with YWAM in Costa Rica, working with at risk children there.  They are amazing reflections of the love of Jesus Christ.  Leslie is also an amazing mom and blogger.  Her posts are informative, grace-filled and always challenge me and make my spirit sing for joy.   For more on the work they are doing with El Refugio, please check out their personal blogI almost never encourage anyone to donate money through the internet, but I would ask you to please consider supporting their work.  They are truly making a difference and saving lives.

Sally Clarkson

Sally and Clay Clarkson are well known and respected in Christian homeschooling circles.  Their children are also showing the fruit of graceful parenting.  Clay Clarkson's book, Heartfelt Discipline, includes an examination of the Proverbs passages and other Bible verses and comes to the conclusion that God does not call us to spank our children.  Sally has several books on parenting that warm my heart like a soothing cup of tea with a friend.  

Guggie Daly

Guggie Daly is a lovely sister in Christ who has dared to break out of the mainstream mold in every area in her desire to be obedient to God's call on her family.  She is a passionate advocate for peaceful families on the topics of birth, breastfeeding, circumcision, vaccination, schooling and more.  Her posts on gentle discipline are a bracing breath of fresh air. 

Parenting Wild Things
Parenting Wild Things blog and Facebook page

Parenting Wild Things is a wonderful book by one of my favorite authors, Jessica Bowman, of Bohemian Bowmans.  Jessica's writing is authentic, practical and encouraging, and so much fun to read.  She also hosts Faithful Parenting, a fantastic series on gentle discipline from Christians, that I was honored to be a part of.  

Momma on a Mission
Momma on a Mission blog and Facebook page 

Momma on a Mission is a friend and a lovely voice for Christ-centered gentle parenting.  Her posts on her walk with God are coffee and chocolate for my soul.  I was so thankful to be able to share her powerful journey to gentle discipline on my blog and her response to the Holy Spirit still gives me goosebumps. 

Pearl in Oyster

Pío is a friend and a beautiful example of gentle parenting.  She doesn't gloss over the challenges of gentle parenting, but her posts are encouraging and full of practical tips.  Her 52 Tool Cards series give a positive discipline example and tip for each week of the year. 

Kathleen-Becoming Peculiar blog and Facebook page  

It is always a special gift from God when you connect with a kindred spirit.  It has been so much fun to read Kathleen's writing.  Even though we are far apart geographically now, I plan on being next door neighbors in heaven.

Sarah Bessey 
Sarah Bessey blog and Facebook page

Sarah Bessey is my hero.  Her blog was one of the first that I subscribed to by email so that I would never miss a post.  Jesus Feminist is already on my preorder list, and her parenting posts always touch the deep places in my heart.  Her series on the Practices of Mothering makes me cry every time I read it and fills my spirit with the fragrance of grace.  Seriously, go read those posts over and over.

Relationship Homeschooling blog and Facebook page 

Karen is a lovely and experience mom and grandmother who is well know in the Christian homeschooling community.  She boldly speaks out against the harm resulting from patriarchal wolves in sheeps' clothing, but her gracefilled posts make me think I could cry on her shoulder after a rough day and receive encouragement, cookies and practical help.  

The Path Less Taken blog and Facebook page  

Jennifer is a blogger whom I admire deeply because of her commitment to living out her convictions.  Her clear-sighted posts make me excited for the possibilities of life in God.  Her posts on unschooling are excellent, and her parenting beliefs resonate strongly with mine.  She is on my Coolest Ever list. 

Jill and Luke
Living in the Tension blog and Facebook page

One of the best things about being part of A Deeper Story's family branch is connecting with some amazing writers.  Luke's posts always make me think and seek God more, which is not something I say lightly.  His wife, Jill, is a fabulous writer and her post on the 23rd Psalm is one that I will revisit often because of the beauty, grace and comfort that flow from her.  She doesn't have a FB page, but read her blog, Line Up the Dolls.  Jill and Luke are also the authors for one of my favorite posts from the Faithful Parenting series over at Parenting Wild Things.  :)

Dare to Disciple

 Although this blog is not as active as it once was, the posts that are there are excellent.  Several dear friends of mine collaborated on this page and addressed topics including the Proverbs passages, often-ignored passages on grace filled parenting, things like the danger argument and more.  If you haven't read through them, make sure to check them out!

More than 100 Reasons
 20 Reasons Not to Spank blog

This blog is written by my lovely friend Dara, and grew out of her other parenting blog, I Was Just Thinking20 Reasons is now at well over 100 reasons, referenced with Scripture, for Christians not to spank their children.  All of Dara's story is a beautiful picture of God's grace and healing, and her work for peaceful families is incredibly valuable.  Don't miss this one.

SortaCrunchy blog and Facebook page 

Megan Tietz is pure awesome.  Along with her fantastic blog and several other projects, she is a co-author of Spirit Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year.  I love the way she pours out grace on mamas as well as babies.

Pedestrian Parenting
Left Cheek: the Blog and Facebook page

Jason Dye is one of my favorite political bloggers, but his posts and book on parenting are also powerful and entertaining.  He truly puts into practice the teachings of Jesus on how we treat the least of these.

Tulip Girl
 Tulip Girl blog

If you are looking for resources on the Ezzo's teachings, including Babywise and Growing Kids God's Way, please check out the archives here.  There are tons of incredible posts addressing the dangers of these teachings and offering hope and healing to families who have experienced some of the fallout from their practices.  


  When I first began to learn about gentle discipline, I felt lonely and scared, because every Christian I knew parented punitively.  Thankfully, God brought me so many new friends, both online and off, that embrace grace.  I hope that these links encourage you and help you know that you are not alone in seeking God's grace for everyone, not just adults. 

 And please, if you know of other gentle Christian parenting resources that I have missed, send me a link so that I can add them! 


Friday, April 26, 2013

Cooking Lessons and an Enchilada Recipe

Making her sauce
Stirring the enchilada sauce
I stood over the stove, not quite four years old, my face screwed up in concentration as I carefully broke the egg over the pan.  The fact that the yolk didn’t break (although a few bits of shell may have crumbled into there) filled me with satisfaction.   My aunt had been skeptical about allowing me to break the egg, fearing I would make a mess and it would be wasted.  But my mom let me try it anyway.  Her confidence nourished my soul far more than the slightly shell-shocked egg fed my tummy.

Some of my happiest childhood memories were at the house of our adopted English grandma, spending weekends doing whatever I wanted.   That usually consisted of eating all kinds of yummy foods, reading or watching old Disney movies till dawn, and listening to her stories of being one of the first female bobbies, of coming to the US as a war bride, and the time she and her best friend went on vacation by themselves when they were eight years old.  She taught me the delights of warm bread with real butter (none of that fake stuff for her!), English tea, comforting stews, and her favorite goulash, and they somehow became inextricably linked with the fearlessness, humor and resourcefulness that featured in her tales.

Cooking was always my therapy.  Not so much the eating of the food, but the creative challenges of making my own recipes that fit the ingredients we had available, the imaginative flights to far away places with the scent of a new spice or the fresh tang of an exotic new fruit.  The joy of hearing other people praise a new creation that had come from my own head and hands.  Of course, there were a few spectacular failures, such as the time my ten year old self blithely omitted the baking powder in the cookies, but nothing that dampened my enthusiasm for long.  I still bake when I am stressed out.
My kidlets caught the cooking bug early, too, and have all cooked along with me since they could stand on a chair.  At two, they were staging their own epic Iron Chef battles.  By the time they were five, they knew how to turn on the stove and make their own quesadillas.  Last night, my nine year old made over 120 enchiladas for a party tonight.   She made the red salsa, since it is her recipe, and my seven year old son volunteered to make the green salsa (but only if we left out the onions).  Filling the warm, lightly fried tortillas that are still drippy from the salsa and rolling them up was a group project led by the four year old, and the two year old, who firmly declares herself in charge of all things cheese related, insisted upon sprinkling cheese over the enchiladas (while snitching several handlfuls for herself).

Cooking with kids takes longer.  It is messier.  I always wind up biting my tongue repeatedly when I have the urge to make “suggestions”.  And that is what makes it worth it.

Each time that I surrender my compulsion for control, refrain from criticizing or offering advice, and openly demonstrate confidence in my kids, their eyes shine just a bit brighter, their shoulders straighten just a tad.  Each time someone exclaims at how delicious their food turned out to be, their grins stretch from ear to ear.

What if God does that with us?

Read the rest (and get Ariana's recipe) over at A Deeper Family.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Right Way to Spank a Child?

There are 3 excuses for spanking that always get brought up:  the Bible teaches spanking (it doesn't), "I was spanked and I turned out fine" (if you think it is a good thing to hit small children, then I question your definition of "fine") and it is only harmful if you spank in anger
None of those are valid.  There is no right way to hit a child.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Being Strong Willed is a Good Thing

For all my strong willed friends who now have strong willed children. Certainly, it is important to develop a sense of timing, respect and courtesy to others, and to know how to best direct their energies. But how will they get the practice of persistence if not with us? Where will they learn how to channel determination if not in our home?
If our children are never allowed to practice persistence with us, how will they learn appropriate ways to stand firm?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Is Spanking Abuse?

Often, when I discuss spanking with other people, they want to point out worse examples.  A parent beating their child until the bones are broken?  THAT is abuse.  If a husband broke his wife's ribs, that would be abuse, too.  But that doesn't mean that hitting her is OK, simply because the long term damage to her body is less.  However, I think that the focus in that kind of argument is looking the wrong way.  I want to look at the best I can do, not the worst I can do without it crossing the line (which is always changing according to different times and cultures).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Opening Up the GD Toolbox: Connection

I miss the obvious things so often.  I know, know how very important connection is.  I have recited the "connect before you correct" mantra hundreds of times to myself.  But in the moment?  I am more likely to get swamped by my own desire to just get my way.  

The thing is, the connection IS the goal.

I had a great reminder of this yesterday.  My seven year old has been having a lot of conflict with his younger sister. We've tried talking about it, telling him what to do, and have at times been less than graceful and yelled.  But yesterday, I did something different.  

I described every time I could remember being frustrated with my own little sister when I was his age, and how terribly unfair it seemed to me that she would provoke me until I retaliated and then got in trouble. I gave every detail I could remember of our squabbles.  He listened and became more and more engaged. I could see him biting his lips to hold in a chuckle as I recounted my exasperation and some of the vengeance I had taken.

My first inclination was to moralize and say what I should have done.  It took every ounce of self control that I have not to turn it into a sermon.  And I am so glad that I didn't.  He began to thoughtfully offer suggestions to avoid conflict.  I countered with things that she might have done to continue annoying me. He dug right into the challenge and brainstormed creative ways to handle it peacefully. Then he hugged me tight and told me he loved me. 


I could see the tension leave him as he began to believe that I really, truly understood his side of it.  That I didn't think he was bad.  And once all that was out of the way, it gave him the freedom to stop defending himself (even if I didn't think he had been attacked, he had been attacking himself with condemnation and frustration, so much that even a mild reproof just reinforced his need to defend himself). 


Has this magically solved all sibling issues? Well, it is early, but I suspect it will be a process. Even so, we connected and he thought about it far more constructively than our previous attempts without that connection.

I am also learning that at different stages, some of my kidlets spring a leak in their love cups.  While any good parent will try to make sure that their children feel loved, some times (and some kids) need extra deposits.  Find out what their love languages are and make sure that their connection tank isn't running low.

Nonviolent Communication has some in depth, practical tips on exactly how to connect with someone, and the book is definitely worth reading!   But the basics are simple.  Stop.  Breathe in grace, breathe out anger, fear and frustration.  Connect with your child's eyes (if you look, really look, long enough at someone's eyes in love, beautiful things happen).  Listen.  To their words and the feelings behind them.  If you need to clarify what they are feeling, do it without accusing.  Show them that you understand what they are feeling.  (And when that "But" of what they should have done instead pops up, keep quiet on it for a bit.  There is certainly a place for correction, but this is not it.  Wait.  Show love.  Give them a moment for healing.  It may just surprise you what will happen next.


[4/365] Handy Man
Image credit goaliej54 on Flickr
Moving away from punitive parenting requires a brand new set of tools.  Let's open it up together! For the rest of the series, click here.  And if gentle discipline is revealing areas where you need to work on yourself, see if any of these personal tools resonate with you.

Looking for more practical tips?  Check out my favorite post from the Hippie Housewife on The Hows of Discipline (and read through all the comments!),  Pearl in Oyster's 52 Tool Cards series and Aha! Parenting's blog.  Do you need inspiration and a reminder of why and how to do this?  Read Emerging Mummy's Practices of Mothering and Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond.  If you have other great resources or ideas, please add them in the comments.

When your child is pressing your buttons...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Space and Place

I believe that young people need to have space and place made for them...

They need to be shown their strengths and abilities by an adult who gives them opportunities to utilize those strengths and abilities.
They need to have space to make mistakes and fail without condemnation but gentle guidance which never shames.
They need to have the space to say they want a hug or don't want a hug (or snuggles, cuddles, what have you), but realize the offer is always on the table.
They need to have a place where they know they can expect the affirmation and love and affection they need to keep going, especially when they are questioning themselves.
They need to have the space to be over the top excited and completely inside themselves.
They need a place where they can be as strong or as weak as they need to be in that moment, a place where they can just be.
They need space where their boundaries are respected, not because of their sexuality or based on it, but because they are human.
They need a place where they see boundaries being stated, enforced and lived.
They need space to have their big feelings.
They need a place where their changing bodies, emotions, and hormones won't freak someone out, where they won't be treated differently.

Because our society is so out of balance:
Boys should be treated with extra tenderness and affection (extra being "more than society might prescribe"). We want them to have a deep well to draw from when they interact with others as they grow and as adults.
Girls and boys should be corrected gently so they understand that corrections aren't an assessment or condemnation of their character, but an understanding that as imperfect humans we are bound to be corrected and it is a help to us.
Girls need to be given an extra voice (extra being "more than our society might prescribe") with clear examples in boundaries and expectations. We want them to have the skills they need to be strong people where they are often assumed weak.

Another thing, I believe that affectionate (including, but not limited to hugs, kisses, pats, tickles, back rubs, sitting close with bodies touching....) behaviour should be a way of life. Always, they should have the freedom to step back or express their discomfort, but I think always they should expect that they "will receive" warmth and closeness when it comes to physical affection.

Wise words from a lovely friend of mine. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Discipline of the Lord ~ Hebrews 12

Gentle discipline is more than just not spanking.  It is a whole mindset, a lifestyle.  But when we have grown up with punitive parenting, it tends to influence the way we see everything, including the Bible.  Most Christians in the US take it for granted that the Bible commands us to spank our kids, even though the only verses that would seem to back that up are Proverbs, which are proverbs--wise sayings--not part of the law.  A closer examination of the original language makes it clear that those verses have nothing in common with "spanking the right way", but if your mind has become accustomed to seeing punishment and wrath in God's actions towards His people, that becomes the lens through which the entire Bible is read.
opened Sefer Torah
Image credit: Alexander Smolianitski on Flickr

Hebrews 12 is often quoted as a New Testament passage that condones punishment (beating even, according to some).  As nearly as I can tell, it all goes back to the KJV.  Apparently, the translators after the King James Version actually added in the word "scourges" to the Septuagint.  It doesn't appear in earlier manuscripts, and in Aramaic it reads simply that God disciplines us.  I agree wholeheartedly that God does discipline His children. 

Let's take a closer look at the whole passage:
"Consequently, we also, since we're surrounded by such a big cloud of witnesses, must get rid of every arrow tip and the sin which easily stands around us.  We  must run the race that surrounds us by using endurance.  We must fix our eyes on Jesus, the originator and completer of our faith.  Instead of the happiness set in front of him, he chose to undergo the cross, thinking nothing of the shame.  He has taken his seat at the right side of God's throne.  So think about Jesus who underwent such opposition from sinners so that you won't become worn down and fall apart in your lives.  You haven't come to the point of bloodshed yet in opposing sin, fighting against it.  And have you completely forgotten the encouragement which addresses you as his children:  "My child, don't make light of the Lord's education.  Don't fall apart when you are put under scrutiny by him.  Because the Lord educates the one he loves and he uses the rod on everyone he welcomes as a child."
Because you undergo education, God treats you like his children--what child is there that a parent doesn't educate?  But if you go without education--which everyone is a business partner with!--then you're illegitimate and you're not children!  Then again we have human parents who educate us and we listen to them.  Surely we should follow the Father of our spirits and live!  For on the one hand our parents educated us for a short time in the best way they could, but on the other hand he educates us for our benefit, so that we can share in his holiness.  Now on the one hand education doesn't seem like much fun at the time, as it's painful!  However, later on it produces a harvest of peace and righteousness by those who have been trained in it!" ~ Hebrews 12:1-11 The Source New Testament

This passage isn't about punishment!  It is meant to encourage believers, not scold them.  I love that discipline is translated correctly here as education--teaching.  Not punishment.  The notes for verse 2 make clear that the word elegkho "to put under scrutiny" is very different in meaning from peirazo, which would mean to "put to the test (by an enemy/with hostile intent)".  Read the whole context there.  This passage is not a warning that God will hurt you if you mess up.  It is encouragement that even the difficult things in our lives can be used by God to teach us and train us.  That is true discipline. This also fits with the Hebrews 5:8.  The discipline that Jesus received was not about punishment, but about listening to His Father and encouragement in suffering. (And the reference to the rod in verse 6 would have been understood by the Hebrews as referring to guidance and discipline, and the constant presence of God in our lives--truly something where we can joyfully say, "Your rod and staff comfort me!").   

God certainly disciplines His children.  That does not mean that He hurts us so that we will modify our behavior.  It means that He teaches us.  And He redeems everything.  Even the ugly, even the painful, even the parts that bring suffering (whether caused by our own choices or simply because we live in a fallen world).  We are living Nazca lines, and He is encouraging us that no matter how evil something appears to be, that if we submit to Him and listen to His song over us, it can be transformed for our good and for His glory. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Faithful Parenting


Of all the good and perfect gifts from our Father, one of my favorites is when He brings us into a group of kindred spirits.  I first found Jessica Bowman's blog when I was looking into unschooling.  I was so excited to find a whole community through her of Christian unschoolers who live peacefully with their kids.  If you aren't yet a follower of Bohemian Bowmans, you should be.  Her book, Parenting Wild Things is absolutely awesome.  (Almost off topic--when I was first invited to write for A Deeper Family, I was so grateful that Jess and Megan from SortaCrunchy were there.  In the months since I have been getting to know all those writers, my heart has been at home, even though I am still in awe of them all.)  To my delight, Jessica has been hosting a series on Faithful Parenting from a number of gentle, Christian parents.  I am finding that our circle is much wider than I knew. Today I am honored to be sharing a post there.