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A Life Less Ordinary

Gentle Discipline Warrior

… 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:

  • Abusers.
  • 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 (] [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.

You are contributing to a culture that allows the Lydia Schantzs of the world to be beaten to death.

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.

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at 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.

~Marianne Williamson

Be brave and toot your own horn Warrior Woman! You will inspire others to do so as well and be inspired in return.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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  1. How fantastic! This strikes two chords for me – we are much stronger when we stand together and encourage others, and doing something rather than thinking about it. These two are a long-term project for me, how great that you are doing them and sharing with others.
    .-= Deb´s last blog ..Am I a Role Model? A Review =-.

  2. I’m so happy to hear what the Carnival of Gentle Discipline was born out of. I’m glad you took a situation where you could have chosen to flame or stew or back away and turned it into — well, holy smokes, a carnival! 🙂 And an inspiring one at that. We hear about the Lydia Schantzes of the world, but we don’t necessarily hear about every time a child is saved from becoming a Lydia Schantz. I know it’s happening, though, and it’s happening because people like you are willing to talk about it, and be honest, persuasive, powerful.

    P.S. I have so much I could say against Dobson. My parents had that stupid Dare to Discipline book on their shelf, and his FOTF flyers were in our bulletins every week at church. I would look at them just to see what would enrage me that week.
    .-= Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last blog ..May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model =-.

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