Sunday, August 01, 2004

To Train Up A Child Part Deux

After my comments on the review I wrote, I felt the need to add a few things that I believe to be true about child rearing, the use of spanking, swatting, or switching, and my expectations as a parent. Not to mention what I agreed with or didn't agree with in the book.

First of all, I really wouldn't have a problem with the Pearls even if I did think that they were comparing children to dogs, horses, or mules. The Bible refers to us frequently as sheep, and if any of you have had any experience with sheep, you can imagine that it's not usually a favorable comparison. They smell, they're stubborn, they follow one another without thought. Well, you get the idea. The point made in the scriptures is that God lovingly shepherds us. We may be sheep, but He loves us anyway. What I got from TTUAC was that if a dog can be trained to behave at a certain standard, why do we expect so much less from our children who are capable of so much more? As for the innate sinfulness of children, I took the Pearls to be saying that a baby isn't aware that it is doing something sinful and must be trained to not participate in sinful behaviour before they are old enough to know it. For example should I let my child hit her brother, even though she can't comprehend that it's wrong? No. I train her not to.

I don't expect to have perfect children who always behave and never make any mistakes. But I don't think it's an accident that the woman in our support group whom we've always thought had the best kids turns out to carry the rod of discipline in her bag when they go out. The kids aren't little robots, they're happy playful children who seem to love looking after Piper. But they know that their mother means business, and she expects them to behave.

I wanted to be the "Gentle Christian Mother" who bakes cookies and has the big lap that the children come to sit on and hear stories. Turns out the more cookies, the bigger the lap, but that's beside the point. I read everything I could get my hands on to figure out how to deal with Piper and her tantrums. Nothing worked. Eventually I would loose my temper, yell, scare everyone. Hardly gentle. Hardly Christian. A few days with proper implementation of training, and I don't yell, Piper is minding more and more of the time, and I feel more gentle and definitely more Christian.

Here's a story: Piper had a meltdown this afternoon. A real battle of wills. She was either going to learn that she was in charge or I was. I won. Later we took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese's as we'd promised Reagan on his birthday. I took the wooden spoon (our rod) in the kids backpack. Piper started to meltdown, reached into the bag, pulled out the spoon and handed it to me. It was as if she was saying "Mommy, I'm losing control, please help me." Once I had the spoon in my hand, she stopped crying and pulled it together. I didn't yell, plead, or beg and she was able to continue having a good time. That would have been unheard of not long ago.

I don't believe in whipping or beating. I don't believe in spanking, swatting, switching etc. in anger. Certainly these ideas could be used by abusive parents, and the Pearls admit that. But I tend to believe that those people would be abusive without any encouragement.

I don't look to the Pearl's book for theology. I look to the Church and to Scripture for that. But if we judge something by how well it works, then I have to say that the Pearls are really right-on. It's worked and is working. Though I might disagree with them on some things, I don't think they're heretics. And, while I know that was a quote, I am uncomfortable with people who throw that word around.

About child rearing in general I believe in nursing on-demand. I believe in holding your baby or "slinging" and meeting your children's needs. I believe in hugs, cuddles, kisses, praise and love. I do not believe that I am their servant or must spend all of my time catering to their needs. I am their teacher, their guide and yes, their trainer. I must train my daughters to be wives and mothers, and train my son in the things he must know to be a good husband and father. I do this with the help of my husband, the Bible and our God who loves us. I also do this by reading and implementing the tried and true methods of parents before me. I read a lot of opinions and methods and will continue to use what works in the hopes of raising good and Godly kids. No, not to show off in public, but at the very least to not embarrass me. This family is an example after all, especially to unbelievers.

*Note: I have kept this post because it's part of my parenting path.  But I no longer support the Pearl's or their materials.  I no longer encourage anyone to use their methods.*

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