“I am a mean mom. I make my kids follow the rules. When they don’t I punish them…”
This was the opening sentence to a blog I recently read that was titled I am The Mean Mom. You can read the article here.
While I understand her sentiment, as I read that sentence, my stomach turned over, queasy. She had many good points to share about her parenting style and I would venture to agree with much of what she shared, but I couldn’t shake her opening line and the wording that she chose…
Punish… that word gets under my skin in a way that not many others do. Maybe it causes a physical reaction in me because that was the way I was parented. Maybe, and even more importantly, it’s because that’s the way I used to parent my own precious ones.
This will not be a post judging or criticizing how this sweet mama chooses to parent. I have no interest in judging the way another mom does things. Motherhood is hard and holy work and we have all been gifted with the children we are given. Just as there are billions of people on this planet, there are also billions of different ways to parent.
I would, however, like to share some of my own experiences as a mom. I have learned much in the eight years of motherhood from my first to my third child. I was so overwhelmed with the transition of motherhood with my first that we had much to learn together. Back then, I believed that it was my responsibility to teach her to obey me above all else. Obedience is important right? I no longer believe that it is the most important thing to teach our children. How we teach them to obey is the most important.
Children naturally desire to please their parents. They also have little minds and personalities that are all their own. We are not raising mini clones of ourselves. We are raising them to become the very humans that God designed them to be.
We live in a culture that is overly obsessed with rewards and punishment. If you do good you will be rewarded. If you do bad you will be punished. It’s a belief that is as old as time. Aren’t we all learning as we go? I would like to propose a different way by DEFINING three different ways in which we learn. Punishment, discipline, and natural consequences.
PUNISH: to deal with roughly or harshly; to inflict injury on; to hurt
DISCIPLINE: Control gained by enforcing obedience or order; training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.
CONSEQUENCES: A conclusion derived through logic; something produced by a cause
Do you see now, why the word punish affects me so greatly in such a negative way. Punishment and even some discipline too often seek to control the behavior or actions of another. We are not called to control our children. We are called to gently teach them and instruct them. Punishment teaches a child that love, and acceptance are based on their behavior and performance, rather than who they are.
Natural consequences, however, teach a child how to reason logically through a cause and effect relationship. Rather than controlling our children’s choices and behaviors with outside forces and coercion, they begin to learn that their choices have consequences. I am not talking about taking T.V. or video games away from a child if they refuse to study for school, however that may be implemented if the natural discomfort of failing does not do the trick. They don’t want to study for their test, have a conversation about the embarrassment they will feel when they take the test unprepared. It’s not going to feel good. When I say talk to them, I don’t mean nag them either. Kids can’t yet foresee the consequences of all their actions, but they learn much quicker this way.
When we know better we do better and there is enough grace for all of our parenting blunders. Motherhood is something that we grow into right along with our kiddos and there is no right or wrong way to mother. We can learn from each other, however, and raise emotionally intelligent humans that grow up to change the world through compassion, kindness, and empathy because that is what has been modelled for them.
Do you have any tips or tricks for helping your children to learn. I would love to hear about them.