From Merriam Webster
2 : offering or expressing a choice <several alternative plans>
3: different from the usual or conventional: as
a: existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system
<an alternative newspaper> <alternative lifestyles>
Peaceful parenting, unconditional parenting, attachment parenting, consensual living, connection parenting are all descriptors or labels for similar ways of being with our children. I posted a link on my Facebook page this week about why "Time Outs" may not be the best way to deal with undesirable behaviors. Here are more of my thoughts on parenting without ANY punishments (time outs, loss of privileges, sent to room, groundings etc.)
I labeled this post "alternative parenting" because parenting without punishments is definitely not the norm in our culture right now. But I was also struck by the idea that the first meaning of "alternative" really has to do with having a choice. I believe that this is a huge stumbling block for many parents who may want to parent differently but aren't sure *how*. In essence, it isn't clear *what* the choice is - *how* do we parent without punishment, *what* do we *do* instead?
There are whole books on this topic (see Alfie Kohn in my inspiration tab) and many ideas out there easily found in the "blogosphere" for anyone willing to take the time to look. But I am going to take a stab at putting some of my thoughts and experiences into words.
First of all if you are looking for a "quick fix" then you are not going to have an easy time with this. I've only been a parent for 5 years but in that short time I've learned from my daughter that time is the ultimate "fixer". Many of the issues we have (or think we have) with our children will really resolve themselves as our children grow and change. When you are in the midst of a challenging time it can be difficult to remember, but often the quirk, habit, or difficult phase will resolve or disappear without you even noticing!
But what about behaviors that are truly unacceptable? The answer will depend on lots of variables, including the age of the child, where you are, if anyone's safety is involved etc. Besides just waiting for your child to mature, modeling and talking with your child about what is acceptable, appropriate, kind, unkind, unacceptable etc. are important ways to guide your child. For younger children less words are usually more effective and appropriate. I myself am a "talker" and have found how powerful short statements or not saying ANYTHING can be.
But really modeling and BEING the people that we want to be is the most powerful way to show our kids what we value. Ironically, the more I value peaceful ways the more I feel the violence inside of myself. I find my temper flaring and really, I understand wanting to... PUNISH, to... YELL, to... just VENT! But I realized that if I cannot be peaceful and loving when I find my child challenging, then I really am not valuing peace at all. What good is it to say, "I am peaceful, kind, loving... when you are 'good' or when you behave the way *I* want you to?" That is the same as being a fair-weather friend, the ultimate hypocrisy. When we are not seeing eye-to-eye with someone (whether our child or not), that is the most important time to find compassion within ourselves. So I am finding ways and tools to be the person *I* want to be... with my kids.
I think that maybe I am on a tangent here. It's not crystal clear, but it's a start. I can tell you that we are parenting without punishing. Rewards? Well, we do sometimes sweeten the deal if we want our kids to do something with us, but really Marisol has never been one to be easily bribed - she's been above that since she was a baby. Yes, she wanted the sweet, the treat, whatever it was, but on her own terms, not ours. She has been my "teacher" from the start.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts or questions. I welcome more opportunities to clarify in my own mind this "alternative" approach to parenting. I believe it's important that we feel like we are *choosing* the best path for our families not just doing things because everyone else is or because there is no other way.
Here are some links to articles/blogs that may be a jumping off point for people looking for ideas on how to parent more peacefully. Most of these I posted on my facebook page(s) in the last 6 months. This is just a sampling of the great writing out there - all of these blogs have many more links that you can follow once you are at their site. I love reading writings of people who express their ideas so clearly. I'm not quite there as far expressing myself as eloquently as these amazing people, but I feel a deep conviction inside of the ideas expressed. Enjoy!
Today it is gray and wet outside. Today Marisol woke up with a slight fever, headache, runny nose, and zero appetite. Gerry is still coughing. We are all recovering from our wet adventure of yesterday (read here about that and see some pictures here). And so today was a no-brainer. It is a home on the couch in jammies, watching TV, playing computer games, resting, eating soup, applesauce, and crackers kind of day.
But if I were working or Marisol went to school, I know that it would NOT be a "no-brainer" for me. I would agonize and debate about whether we should stay home. I would justify either decision. I would second-guess myself. I would feel guilty. How do I know? Because when I was a student in school and then a teacher that is what I did when I was sick.
Now this is why I called it a "BIGsmall" reason that I love being home. Because this may not seem like a big deal to some people. Or for others this may not be an issue - they may be clearer on when their bodies and spirits really need a day (or more) at home to rest and recover, or even heal. (I'm guessing in our fast-paced, competitive culture that there are plenty of people who push through when they should be resting though.) Of course I appreciate that staying home is not for everyone (read or re-read my disclaimer). But for me today embodies a bigger idea that being home represents to me - FREEDOM. Freedom to listen to our needs. Freedom to follow our own natural rhythms. Freedom to choose what we make of each day. And that to me is priceless.
I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have this luxury. So on days like today, even though we are not 100% healthy, I am thankful. Thankful for the life we are living, thankful for my husband, and thankful for the two small people we learn with and from every day.
I have an image in my mind of the ideas that swirl through my mind. I pick one up and it looks interesting (like maybe possible fodder, for say oh I don't know, a blog entry??) But as I examine that idea another idea is hanging off of that one and soon I'm on a tangent and I've lost the direction I had going. It's like that game barrel of monkeys - I try to pick one monkey up but a whole chain follows!
So in the interest of time and clarity I am going to try and start my entries out small. I could possibly use a writing class at some point in the future (and by future I mean when my kids are no longer kids) - come to think of it the cooking class will probably have to come first. I mean it's more practical at this point and the whole family would really benefit. And I have really always wanted to learn to play piano too... Oh jeez, did I just go on a tangent?!
But those monkeys in my head won't be quiet! Some possibly entries include, "Maybe Dads have the right idea", "Don't be the Bad Guy", "Do you like being told NO?", - but really those are all permutations of the same idea. So is that one entry or multiple entries? And along with those how about, "Lessons I *thought* I learned when I was a Teacher". On a lighter note, "The secret... keep the toys around".
And when I think of all these little monkeys swinging around in my mind, from tree to tree (dendrite to dendrite? - sorry the Brain and Cognitive Science major has to come in handy somehow!), carrying each other, I am reminded that this is how we learn and change and grow. It is all connected. It can be confusing and messy. But it is a lot of fun too! So hopefully with practice I will be able to present one cute, clean, little monkey at a time. Or maybe a couple grooming each other.
But the true skill that I've been working on lately is being present. Being. Which means soaking up the moment and putting those monkeys to sleep. Which is what *I* should be doing right now. It was a fun, full, sun-soaked autumn day at the playground then a reunion with our dear friends - pizza and popsicles. And now some X-factor for me. These singers are amazing. Inspiration is everywhere, even in our dreams. Good night for now, perhaps tomorrow I will try and tackle a monkey and hold her in one place long enough to decipher some of her chattering.
I have a lot of ideas for blog-posts but of course practically speaking, limited time. Being a full-time mom with a part time teaching gig on the weekends means that I should not be spending too much time on the computer. (note the "should not" ha!) But I'm hoping that this is a place where I can write semi-regularly (whatever that means!) If only I could be like Doogie Howser and just write a few deep thoughts down every night. I mean how hard can that be?
I've also often wished for a magical pen, a la Harry Potter - remember the "journalist" Rita Skeeter and her awesome pen that wrote everything for her? Unfortunately, there is no such thing. So I will have to be content to get thoughts down when time and inspiration happen to coincide.
And with that said, I will readily admit that I have spent way too much time on this today. But inspiration had struck and the iron was hot! Lucky for me, my kids and I have our prime time together in the late afternoon and evenings, so I still have lots of day to spend with them. Till soon....
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.