So I want to be clear, (and I'm still not sure how to get this across in writing without it sounding condescending or smug, but I'm going to give it a try) just because I say "I reject punishment" does NOT mean that I reject people that use punishment as one of their parenting tools. (It sounds a bit like separating the child and the behavior, ie "love the child, hate the behavior", which I'm not a fan of at all. But we human beings are complex. We can love PEOPLE even while feeling very strongly about ACTIONS these same people take.) For one, I would be rejecting most of the population I live with; that's not very kind or compassionate is it? And, I would be rejecting most of my family and very close friends - which is definitely not my intention either.
Here's the bottom line - I don't believe that I have The Answers to life's most challenging questions (and I don't believe that anyone can "give them" to anyone else either). But I do have a few things figured out, and it basically boils down to this: Just. Be. Kind.
in a kind way? How do I point out unkindness in a kind way? How can I wrap my passion up in so much love that people can hear the message instead of being turned off?
We've come a long way in the past century - Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony would probably be proud and happy to see a lot of the changes that have occurred. But I think that they would also see that we still have a long way to go. I suppose in many ways people who believe that children deserve better aren't in such a different position than those who were on the frontlines getting loud about minorities' or women's rights. Presently, gay men and women and people who support them are working hard and enduring many hardships to gain rights that they shouldn't even have to fight for.
But children? When a person who feels passionately about children's rights it quickly becomes convoluted into "parental rights". That all children are "different" and therefore "different" things will work for them. That we cannot impose our "opinions" on other parents of different "opinions".
And the truth is that most of the changes I dream of won't happen at the level of state or government. (This is true for all human rights. Laws will not wipe out hate ever.) It will never be illegal to give a child a "time-out" - and I don't think it should be. It is going to take much more than the passing of laws to change our current culture. It is going to take people waking up to the truth that things really and truly can be different - and by different I mean BETTER.
I'm not here to rub anything in your face or piss you off. I'm not here to brag about how amazing my life is or how wonderful my kids are. That's not it at all. When I started out parenting I wanted to do things "right". So I halfheartedly put my infant in a crib and dabbled in timeouts. But then I started finding out that there were actually people out there who said it was "right" to sleep with my baby and to not use punishment! Whoa, that was liberating!
I know it seems like I'm contradicting myself - didn't I just jump from one camp to another - each claiming to have the right way? That's not it at all. The only people who can give you direct feedback on your relationships are the people in your life - your partner, your son, your daughter. *This is the basis for attachment, connection, and a peaceful fulfilling life.* You can have a child who says, "I love my life!" repeatedly, and enthusiastically declares their love for you every day. Stop believing the lies that our culture propagates - for example, it's normal for children to say mean, hateful, or sad things to you or about you. It's not normal; they're actually communicating with you - Listen. (I'm not saying it will never happen - I'm saying if it does then it's a sign that something needs to happen - starting with a loving conversation.)
I gave myself an hour to get some of this rambly-ness out of my head and we're at an hour and 5 minutes. My sincere hope is that this strikes someone, someday in a way that is helpful to them.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to go to my childhood church and actually hear the sermon (my kids were awesome! that's a whole 'nother post though ;-) The minister talked about how Jesus wasn't just about fuzzy sheep and feel-good rainbows - he was an activist, pissing people off! And he was angry. That made me think a lot - I don't often think of Jesus as angry. I think of the loving and forgiving Jesus. But maybe the anger is necessary too - we need to get angry enough to stand up for what's right. And maybe people will react with anger - because that is part of their journey too. And then we can come back to love and forgiveness, of ourselves and others - for being imperfectly human and for screwing up and for not knowing the "right" answer, even when in hindsight it seems painfully obvious.
Peace to you all - Have a great weekend and love on all those important people in your life.