Happy New Year, Happy New Focus

Ahhh…We can all breathe a deep sigh of new 2012 air.  The dust has settled from the holiday melee, children are back to routines that help them organize their sleep, emotions and expectations.  We (mostly) have cleaned and begun the reorganization that comes with piles of lovingly selected new toys and activities.  Along with the new year comes the feeling of new starts, a new you!, or a new waistline.

Pretty much every year, at least every year that I can remember, I have made a resolution to lose weight.  Yep, my whole life.  I will jog every day.  Lose 20 pounds.  Yoga four times a week…etc. This year as the calendar page flips to 2012 (and reeealy its 2012? I remember when that seemed so futuristic to me) I have new goals.  Goals that come from my drive to grow as a mother, wife and teacher.  Goals that are not just promises to myself or habits that need breaking.  Instead these goals are a reminder to myself to do the work emotionally that needs to be done, to keep growing, learning and becoming the *me* that I can be.

Study and Practice Nonviolent Communication:

In my former life, before teaching, marriage and my boy, I studied social change.  In fact I taught a seminar called “Nonviolence and the twenty-first century” as my senior capstone project in college. The Ghandian idea of nonviolence is not simply refraining from involving in physically violent acts. Standing idly by as someone is abused or marginalized is a violent act.  In other words it is not the abscense of an act.  Nonviolence is a concsious act in and of itself.  You need to make a choice, contribute to violence or contribute to peace.  I choose peace.

I know that during certain conflicts I lose my ability to hear others. Being right can become ridiculously important to me and often I can’t see past my own feelings into the heart of the other person.  Words that hurt are easy to throw around, often easiest to hurdle at those we love the most.  As our family grows I find myself looking back on how we have grown together.  How we truly are turning into a family.  Learning a dance of emotions, needs and responsibilities.  Trying to support each other as individuals and strengthen our relationships while recognizing that our needs may sometimes be at odds with one another.

As a mother I feel the onus is on me to raise a child who is able to express his feelings in a way that is gentle but clear.  Equally important is to raise a child who is able to really hear what others are saying.  Even if it means listening through anger, aggression or pride.  I know that the only way to effectively teach anything is to model it.  To this end I have begun reading (or sort of re-reading, as I started it before with about 5 other books and never finished it) Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg PhD.

As stated on the center for nonviolent communication’s website nonviolent communication is”the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart”.  My goal for this new year is to engage myself in the study of a new type of communication that will help me relate to my son, husband, co-workers and students in a more loving, open and effective way.  I will not throw words around as if they don’t matter or hurt.  I will be conscious of where the other party is coming from.  I will stop, slow down and (try my hardest!) to step outside myself to see the conflict from the outside.

Focus on the study of Child Development and Early Childhood Education and Parenting:

When I first started this blog I didn’t really know where I was headed.  I know what I do, what I like, how I spend my days and I figured if I started writing about those topics I would find my way.  As the days have passed I have become connected to some amazing (and admittedly intimidating) bloggers.  Crafts sites, cooking sites, engaging anecdotes about their daily lives, crunchy eco moms who don’t use toilet paper (!?!).  I just can’t compete.  How do you take such adorable and informative pictures of your toddler doing an art activity (with no mess?) while supervising? Cooking a meal and remembering to take beautifully framed pictures of each step along the way? SO NOT ME.  Maybe someday, maybe another resolution, but not now. I know now what this blog is.

This is me, teaching, parenting, parenting while teaching.  What fires me up is child development.  Learning how children learn so I can support them the best way they can.  As a teacher, parent or friend.  This platform holds me accountable.  In this new year I will support children for who they are. I will advocate for them and their parents.  In our world today there is more help in a hug than in years of starndardized tests.  I will be true to myself  in this new year.

What about you? What are your goals for yourself? Goals for your family?

Happy 2012!


Simple Sunday-Some simply great sites

As I have begun this foray into the blogesphere I have found many sites that have given me information, challenged my thinking, filled my planning book with new ideas for actvities and shown me I am not alone in a love for play and respect for the child.

Below are just a few of these great sites:

1-Janet Lansbury:Elevating Childcare  (informational, full of deep respect for the completeness of a child from birth, based on the teachings of Magda Gerber and honest posts on her journey as a mother)

2-Childhood101 (everything is here from parenting, ideas for playful learning to eating and organizing your home)

3-Teacher Tom (what can I say!?? I just love him, all his posts and what he brings to the table…check it out!)

4-Play at home mom (this is a popular one, if you haven’t ‘liked’ them on facebook go ahead join the club and do it.  You’ll get regular ideas for fun, opened play ideas that are fairly inexpensive and easy to do at home)

5-Aha! Parenting (this is such a resourceful website for information on connected, positive communication and discipline, Thanks Dr. Laura Markham!)

Choosing to spank-Opening the door to violence

A few articles I have come across today have sickened me to the core.  All deal with the death of a child at the hands of their parents and all of the parents in question began their abusive behavior under the guise of  ‘discipline’.  Though I understand people maybe lacking the tools needed to deal with their children in times of stress, leaving the door open to hit a child is inexcusable. I have more than my fair share of expletives to describe how I feel about parents who harm their children.  What follows is my attempt to open up a discussion about how to halt these parenting practices in their tracks.

Many of the aforementioned articles detail the accounts of children who were murdered at the hand of their own parents.  These parents are all believed to have read and followed the discipline strategies of Michael and Debi Pearl, authors of the book To Train Up a Child.  The book, which uses scriptural references as support for the violent ‘training’, is particularly popular with christian homeschoolers who praise it on their websites.  Physical abuse is recommended starting in infancy to teach a child how to stay on a blanket and increases in intensity throughout childhood.  The tragic stories of the three children lost to families reported to be studying this book’s philosophies are beyond imagination.  A little girl beaten for hours until she died for mispronouncing a word during homeschooling, a babe of just four years old beaten and suffocated to death for not staying in his bed.  Most recently a little girl found was found naked face down in her own backyard after what seems to be weeks of living outside with little food and inadequate shelter.

This book is not an anomaly.  Corporal punishment has been widespread in our country for many years despite the piles of literature to prove it ineffective at the least and dangerously damaging at its worst. Recently a video of a judge beating his daughter has gone viral on YouTube.  The daughter taped him in secret in the hopes of finding someone out there that also believed what her father was doing was wrong.  He, however, does not think he was in the wrong at all and is seemingly surprised at the backlash.  “No, in my mind I haven’t done anything wrong other than discipline my child,” Judge William Adams told KZTV Wednesday after the YouTube video went viral on the internet.

Most of the debate over these atrocities goes something like this ‘whether or not you believe in spanking…this should never have happened’ but it DOES matter how you feel about spanking.  In my mind it matters on a fundamental level.  Allowing yourself to use any form of physical punishment as a ‘discipline’ tool opens the door to more violent behavior as your child grows.  Making the desicion one way or the other to spank or not to spank was one of the first child rearing decisions these murderous parents made.

I have heard the arguments again and again “if spanking is used in the proper way it is the right thing to do” or “children need to know there are consequences for their behavior”.  Many circles feel that children need to be hit or they won’t learn to ‘mind’ you.  I have heard people throw phrases around the play ground like “if you had my son you’d hit him too”.  Really? I beg to differ.

In order to strike someone you need to have a few preconceived notions about them in your mind.  You need to feel more powerful, you have some need to control them, you want to ‘win’ or be right, and finally you have to feel that YOU will have no consequences for your behavior.  That or you are just seeing red and haul off and hit someone.  Either it is a choice to use your intimidating size and power to coerce your child into listening to you or you have lost control of yourself and lack the tools to deal with your child in a different way.

We can choose whether to use discipline as guidance that will help shape our child into a self assured, emotionally balanced adult with self control and an intrinsic sense of motivation.  We can also choose to punish a child violently in the short term to halt a behavior.  In many ways I see spanking and other forms of corporal punishment as the easy way out.  Instead of doing the hard work of listening to your child, learning about them and trouble shooting why certain behaviors may be popping up repeatedly a spank is the remedy for all.  Instead of connecting with their eyes as they search for boundaries, structure or a proper outlet for a new skill, another spank is in order.

The hardest and most rewarding work is discipline without shame (of the type outlined in this wonderful article by Janet Lansbury). Parents who use proper outlets to let go of their own stress are able to keep themselves in better control when frustrations and conflicts arise.  Parents who do the work and build a tool box full of strategies to help their children magage themselves in the world are constantly growing along with their child.  Both parent and child stand to learn about themselves and how to better handle any situation they find themselves in.  Those who consciously parent and make a choice not to spank have also made a choice to work harder to support their children’s behavioral development in more loving and effective ways.

As a matter of practice I don’t feel we should be judgmental of other parent’s choices.  I do not think every parent who spanks is on the road to the horrible tragedies listed above.  I also know that many parents make the best choices they have based on their history, family situation and cultural background.  With that in mind I must say that I hope for a world where every child is respected enough to be treated as we would treat our coworker, neighbor or spouse.  Every child deserves a home free from fear especially at the hands of a loving parent.

We should be appalled at books that tout physical abuse of any kind as a way to deal with a child.  As parents we should know better.  For them, we are the world.  No book should be able to convince us that hurting our baby, while they look on with confused eyes full of shame and confusion, is the best option.  These authors, with no child development training, are essentially brainwashing parents into feeling as if they are going against God’s word when they let ‘defiant’ behavior go without a whack. There is a better way, check out this great article on partnering with your child from HandinHand parenting.

In the name of these children I urge you to please follow this link asking Amazon.com to stop carrying books that spread child abuse as a valid parenting philosophy. Click here to sign.

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