A woman by the name of Peggy O’Mara once said that, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
I would like to call upon this woman, whoever she is, and ask her a question. Is this meant to be used by the individual parent or does there come a time when we must stand up for other children whose parents don’t know this rule?
We have a neighbor who is, um, quite vocal. There have been a few times when it seemed to me that he really was trying to be a good dad, but there are many more times when that is just not the case. He yells. A lot. So much and so loudly that I feel quite acquainted with how he treats his children… outside of the house, anyway. At what point does his degrading tone and constant yelling stop becoming just a neighborhood annoyance and start becoming something that may need to be brought to a larger attention?
This is an awfully difficult question, especially as a parent. If you have children then you can relate, if you do not then you may still relate because you are, after all, someone’s child. We aren’t perfect. Our parents were perfect. Heck, just the other day I got on to Alex in Wal-Mart. Remember the lifting of my dress story? I spatted her hand and firmly told her no. When she laughed I made her look at me and reiterated that it wasn’t funny (though it probably was to everyone but me). My point is, I made eye contact and changed the tone of my voice so that she knew I was serious. I hope my tone and words were not degrading to her, but instead a voice of self control and respect for others. I would like to think that this is an accurate example of my parenting style, but the truth is that there have absolutely been times in the last 10 years that I was less than perfect.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m glad there wasn’t a camera pointed on me for that shining parenting moment”? I have. Example. When Alex was a toddler she went through an awful biting stage. (We know now that it was more about sensory issues than meanness, but we didn’t know that then.) Anyway, I had done everything I could think of and finally gave in to someone else’s advice. One morning she bit me, so I bit her back. Yep, I bit my child’s arm and then she looked at me with scared and confused eyes. I felt bad, but hoped that it would be effective. It wasn’t. She didn’t stop biting and the worst part was that I left teeth marks on her arm. No, I didn’t bite hard, but Alex is a bruising queen and I hadn’t taken that into consideration. I literally dressed her in specific clothing to hide the mark until it went away. I felt like the worst mom ever. I hadn’t actually done anything bad, but the evidence suggested that I had.
I think that there are some who would claim that our current culture makes it very difficult to discipline our children. Example? When Emma was a toddler she went through a period of, um, being a terror. I recall one specific time when I had both of the girls in Wal-Mart and she threw a screaming & crying fit because I wouldn’t let her eat a raw hotdog out of the package. I stood my ground and so did Emma. I was the parent that everyone looks at and thinks, “I’m so glad that isn’t my child.” Ultimately I removed her from the situation. We left our full cart of groceries and headed for the exit. Alex was walking and I was holding a screaming Emma. The sweet little old lady who was the greeter of the morning looked at me and all I could do was say, “I’m sorry.” She smiled back and said, “Oh honey, in my day you could just whoop ‘em, but now you’d get arrested for it.”
That’s true. Agree with it or not, it’s true. I think that many parents have experienced a moment when they questioned what they believed to be proper parenting because of what others (or officials) might say about it. That being said, I’m not a spanker. A spat of the hand or bottom? Sure. A full on spanking? Nope. Alex never needed to be spanked. It was never a necessary form of discipline because she is so emotionally sensitive anyway. Emma? I swatted that child more than once (though never with anything but my hand) and she had this way of looking at me that said, “Whatever I did was worth it and I’d probably do it again.” Each child is different and as parents we much make individual discipline decisions on a daily basis. My parents didn’t spank us and, if I may say so, I think the three of us turned out quite well. Okay, confession, I have come across some children in my life that made me think, “That child needs a swift slap on the a**.”
My point here is, when is it appropriate to step in and defend a child? These kids that I’m referring to are not black and blue. They show now signs of physical abuse, but physical isn’t the only way to abuse a child. This dad is so often mean and hateful. The tone in his voice says, “You are stupid and worthless”. His words and tone don’t demand respect, they inflict fear. I don’t like that.
I don’t have any answers, just lots of thoughts and questions. Aside from casually mentioning Ms. O’Mara’s quote to him or leaving it on his windshield, I don’t know what to do. Pray for those kiddos and the parents, too. I will also pray that if a situation ever comes up that does warrant bringing this to a larger attention that I will know what to do.
Okay, lecture on child discipline over. Earlier this week I used my blog to give Kyle a public lecture on going to the chiropractor and caring for his back. I retract my statements, as he has been going to a chiropractor on a weekly basis. My bad.
Now, for the most shocking news of the day… it is 11:13 am and Alex is still asleep. What the…?! I don’t know, but I don’t want to disturb her. We have been keeping her up a bit later the last few nights and maybe that is the reason. I’ve heard her breathing, so I’m not stressed. I am a bit shocked and surprised, though. Has this ever happened before? I can’t remember. She is 10 years old, so maybe we are prepping for the teenage years of sleeping until noon?