… But here were educated, loving parents who were making a decided choice to hit their children as part of an overall parenting strategy that wasn’t neglectful or abusive
[3. Note, hitting kids, no matter how "mild," is abuse in my opinion (and in several countries around the world). In this instance I'll use "abuse" in the societally accepted way of crossing some vague line that moves with every decade.]. I was floored. And worse yet, I didn’t handle it very well. I was too shocked by my own blindness to the problem and much too emotional. I don’t think I inspired anyone. I didn’t inspire myself.
But I was inspired.
Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Ah, inspiration. It is so hard to toot our own horns sometimes. I had a mentor at work who gave me an assignment to send her one good thing about myself each day. You’d think she had asked me to solve string theory – it was that difficult for me. This month, the Carnival of Natural Parenting is asking us to talk about someone we have inspired or who has inspired us. And really the two are irrevocably linked aren’t they? Having inspired someone is about the most inspiring thing I can imagine.
So, here goes – I’m pulling out my horn! Toot toot!
In March I posted on a local mothering message board a story about Lydia Schantz, who died as a result of physical abuse by parents following the child “training” practices of Michael and Debi Pearl (their “ministry” is called No Greater Joy and they made 1.8 million dollars in ’09 selling books and DVDs about how to “train” a child using “biblical” “practices”. I don’t want to link to them and thus up their Google Page Rank but I hope you can infer from my copious use of quotation marks how I feel about the Pearls).
The thread was pretty standard with everyone chiming in with “that’s horrible” and a few people mentioning that they have never heard of the Pearls. I took that opportunity to give a little background on the Pearls and on other spanking advocates like Tripp, Ezzo, and Dobson. This is when the discussion exploded. See, Dobson is much more mainsteam in Christian circles. Even people who would shun Tripp, Ezzo, and Pearl would voraciously read, listen on the radio, and give money to Dobson’s group Focus on the Family. If Focus on the Family sanctions it then many Christians take it as gospel (pun intended).
Ok, stick with me I’m getting to my point. At this point in the discussion the thread that had been all about the horrific death of a child was suddenly talking about how “mild” hitting of children was different. Dobson’s brand of corporal punishment[1. Some quotes about Dobson's methods:
"When a youngster tries this kind of stiff-necked rebellion, you had better take it out of him, and pain is a marvelous purifier...It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely." Dare to Discipline, p. 16.-23
"Minor pain can...provide excellent motivation for the child... There is a muscle, lying snugly against the base of the neck... When firmly squeezed, it sends little messengers to the brain saying, 'This hurts; avoid recurrence at all costs'." Dare to Discipline p.26
"Real crying usually lasts two minutes or less, but may continue for five. After that point, the child is merely complaining... I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears." p.38] is in fact milder than Pearl’s – like Tanya Harding’s kneecaping of Nancy Kerrigan[2. Tanya Harding did not kneecap Nancy Kerrigan - her ex-husband did] is “milder” than the beating of Emmett Till. But it is still hitting. When I mentioned that corporal punishment at schools had just been outlawed in Ohio in July 2009 someone mentioned that they wish they would have know they could have been paddling kids for the past 8 years, others saying that some kids “need a good smack”, how the bible supports spanking, and…on and on. I was just in tears.
You see I was laboring under a serious delusion. In my mind there were 3 types of people who hit their kids:
- People who don’t want to hit their kids but do, regrettably, in anger or frustration.
- People in poor areas that aren’t aware of alternatives and grow up with violence (I’m ashamed of this one because it is horribly biased and I wouldn’t have known it overtly but, upon reflection, that’s what I think I thought. Admitting your bias is an important step in overcoming it so please don’t flame me.)
But here were educated, loving parents who were making a decided choice to hit their children as part of an overall parenting strategy that wasn’t neglectful or abusive[3. Note, hitting kids, no matter how "mild," is abuse in my opinion (and in several countries around the world). In this instance I'll use "abuse" in the societally accepted way of crossing some vague line that moves with every decade.]. I was floored. And worse yet, I didn’t handle it very well. I was too shocked by my own blindness to the problem and much too emotional. I don’t think I inspired anyone. I didn’t inspire myself.
But I was inspired.
It took me a few weeks to shake out all my emotions about it and then I was thankful that it had happened. You see, when we allow ourselves to be deluded by misconceptions about an issue then we become part of the problem. I was the “good people” in “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good [wo]men to do nothing[4. Normally attributed to Edmund Burke; modified from his ideas (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Edmund_Burke#Probable_misattribution)] [5. yes I just called myself "good people." And if that is bragging then I'm a happy braggart!].” You see, I wholeheartedly believe that,
Every parent who uses violence to discipline is in fact part of the problem that killed Lydia Schantz.
That’s right. I said it.
If you hit your child you are contributing to a society that fosters (even grows) abusers.
If an analogy will convince you: My grandfather’s family is from the south and, although none of his family would have been rabid KKK members, they did see segregation of the races as a good thing. This atmosphere of racism created a powder keg for extremism. No doubt the majority of southerners in the 1950s would not have participated in a lynching but they did foster a societal norm of segregation and hatred that allowed extremists to kill. Hitler’s Germany, which institutionalized discrimination of Jews, saw an upswing in violence against Jews even before the concentration camps. I could think of other examples. The point is that,
Our decisions do have an impact on our culture and we can’t turn a blind eye to our complicity.
Then one day I just knew I had to spread the word! And thus was born the Carnival of Gentle Discipline.
And boy does the inspiration get thick here! I was just amazed at the passion of the participants! They are warriors in a fight for the personhood of children everywhere and they inspire me more than I could ever express.
I’m inspired but I think I’ve also inspired others[6. See how we can't even compliment ourselves with out that "think" to hedge our bets?]. Since the end of the Carnival (only 3 days ago as I write this) I’ve had amazing feedback from readers. I’ve gotten much thanks from readers who weren’t sure how to implement gentle discipline (for fear of being permissive) and have tools to do so now. I also had two people contact me for information about specific discipline problems (not that I’m an expert – just passionate and full of resources). When they thought of gentle discipline they thought of me!
This has all really made me feel like the Carnival might have had a real impact. I’ll be honest and say I’m so so proud of what I organized and of what all the participants contributed. I feel I’ve taken a first step to saving the next Lydia Schantz. Dare I say I might have inspired someone?
Ah, it is hard to toot our own horns. How dare I believe I could be part of something real? Can I possibly be a Gentle Discipline Warrior? Who am I to claim such power for positive change?
Maybe what we need to be asking ourselves is – Who am I not to be?
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Be brave and toot your own horn Warrior Woman! You will inspire others to do so as well and be inspired in return.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Woman Seeking Inspiration — Seeking Mother’s struggles and joys to find her own path in motherhood have inspired others — to her surprise! (@seekingmother )
- Paving the Way — Jessica at This is Worthwhile makes a conscious effort every day to be a role model. (@tisworthwhile )
- No Rules Without Reason — The Recovering Procrastinator wants to inspire her husband to discipline their children gently. (@jenwestpfahl)
- Creating a Culture of Positive Parenting Role Models — Michelle at The Parent Vortex shows parents at the playground how to do a front wrap cross carry and tells nurses about her successful home births, as a way of modeling natural parenting in public. (@TheParentVortex)
- Making A Difference for Mamas — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest took an embarrassing pumping incident at work and turned it into an opportunity for all the employees who breastfeed.
- Inspiring Snowflakes — Joni Rae at Tales of Kitchen Witch Momma is a role model for the most important people: her children. (@kitchenwitch)
- Paying it Forward — Amber at Strocel.com inspires new (and often scared) mamas with these simple words: “It will be OK.” (@AmberStrocel)
- A SAHD’s View on Parenting Role Models — Chris at Stay At Home Dad in Lansing doesn’t have many role models as a SAHD — but hopes to be one to his daughter. (@tessasdad)
- Am I a Role Model? A Review — Deb at Science@home brings attachment parenting out of the baby age and shows how it applies (with science fun!) to parenting through all of childhood. (@ScienceMum)
- Say Something Good — Arwyn at Raising My Boychick reminds women that it is within our right to be proud of ourselves without apology. (@RaisingBoychick)
- Try, Try Again — Thomasin at Propson Palingenesis wants to inspire like the Little Engine that Could.
- I’m a Parenting Inspiration, Who Knew? — Sarah at OneStarryNight has received several beautiful comments about just what an inspiration she has been, if not in real life then definitely online. (@starrymom)
- That Little Thing — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing demonstrates the ripple effect, one status update at a time. (@BlkWmnDoBF)
- How Has Your Day Been? — mrs green @ littlegreenblog inspired her friend to be an active listener for her children. (@myzerowaste)
- No, Thank You! — If you are reading Maman A Droit’s post, you’ve probably inspired her. (@MamanADroit)
- My Top 3 Natural Parenting Principles — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now describes how her family’s natural and Montessori principles inspired others. (@DebChitwood)
- My Hope for a Better Life — Mandy at Living Peacefully With Children hopes her choices inspire her children toward a better life.
- Natural Parenting Felt Natural — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes didn’t plan on natural parenting — but her son led her there. (@sheryljesin)
- Rest. Is it even possible? — Janet at where birth and feminism intersect has found that even role models need rest — and that there are ways to fit it into everyday parenting life. (@feministbirther)
- May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model — Lauren at Hobo Mama was the fortunate recipient of a seed of inspiration, and has been privileged to plant some of those seeds herself, though she didn’t know it at the time. (@Hobo_Mama)
- crunchspiration — the grumbles at grumbles and grunts wants to inspire others to parent from their heart. (@thegrumbles)
- No Extra Inspiration Required — Zoey at Good Goog doesn’t think she inspires anyone and wasn’t inspired by anyone in return — except by her daughter. (@zoeyspeak)
- Parenting Advice for the Girl from Outer Space — If Mommy Soup at Cream of Mommy Soup could give one piece of inspirational advice to new parents, it would be to parent with kindness. (@MommySoup)
- Natural Parenting Carnival — Role Model — Sarah at Consider Eden feels the pressure at trying — and failing — to live up to her role models. (@ConsiderEden)
- May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role Model — Dionna at Code Name: Mama encourages natural parenting mamas to take joy in the fact that they are touching lives and making a difference to children every day. (@CodeNameMama)
- Inspiration Goes Both Ways — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! is flustered that people consider her a breastfeeding role model — but the lovely comments she’s received prove it’s so. (@bfmom)
- My Seven — Danielle at born.in.japan has identified seven role models in her life who brought her to natural parenting. Who are your seven? (@borninjp)
- A Quiet Example — Alison at BluebirdMama was one of the first parents in her group of friends — and has come to see almost all those friends follow in her natural birthing footsteps, whether intentionally or not.
- Gentle Discipline Warrior — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries has inspired a gentle discipline movement — join her! (@babydust)
- Change The World… One Parent At A Time — Mamapoekie is more comfortable inspiring parents online than she is in real life. (@mamapoekie)
- Inspirational Parenting — pchanner at A Mom’s Fresh Start has intentionally tried to be a role model but was unprepared for how soon someone would take notice. (@pchanner)
- My Inspiration — Erin at A Beatnik’s Beat on Life has written thank-you letters to everyone who’s inspired her to become the lactivist and natural parenting advocate she is today. (@babybeatnik)