Photo Credit: Darcy Anne
“Train up a child in the way he should go……”
I have yet to meet a religious homeschooler who can’t finish that scripture from memory. If you’re like me, you grew up in a very authoritarian, punitive family environment. Punishment and pain, both physical and emotional, were believed to be the best means to teach a child “the way he should go”. Spanking and instant, cheerful obedience to authority were the norm, with many other kinds of punishments used as retribution for a child’s wrong-doing. Parents were the ultimate authority, and children had no choice but to obey or be punished, sometimes very harshly. I honestly didn’t know there were any other ways to parent. Either you spanked and “trained” your children, or you let them run wild and that meant you didn’t love them.
We were the generation influenced by “child training” teachers like the Pearls, Reb Bradley, Charity Christian Fellowship Churches, James Dobson, and myriads of other Christian authors, all providing materials from within a hierarchical, authoritarian family paradigm. “Break their will”, was a common tenet of “Biblical Parenting”. Spanking was said to be ordained by God. Never let your child win a battle, parents were told. Failure to conform to these tenets would produce perverts and criminals and unbelievers.
But what if they were wrong? What if that’s not the only way to raise strong and wise and good children?
I’ve written elsewhere about my journey from that authoritarian parenting paradigm into non-punitive, or peaceful parenting. Non-punitive parenting is defined as “a style of parenting that breaks the punitive mold by avoiding physical punishment, treating children with respect, and focusing on developing a strong parent-child relationship. It is a method that raises children without spanking, shaming, or yelling, and avoids the punishment-reward cycle of traditional punitive parenting.” Peaceful or gentle parenting is often defined as parenting by connection, relationship, and respect for children as human beings with the innate right to be treated as such. Treated as you would want to be treated. Christian proponents of gentle parenting sometimes call it “Golden Rule Parenting” for this reason.
But no matter the label, the root is the idea that children are people too, and that as people, they can grow and learn and develop best in an atmosphere of peace and connection, not punishment or coercion. We seek to validate our children’s emotions while teaching them how to appropriately express them. Traits that define how peaceful parents interact with their children include empathy, compassion, respect, boundaries, and unconditional love. This philosophy is based in the most recent findings of science, psychology, human development, and sociology. Contrary to popular belief, non-punitive parenting is not permissive parenting. We still set limits and uphold them, we let natural consequences teach life lessons, and above all, we keep a healthy emotional connection with our kids that will be the foundation of everything we do. This is not a “parenting method” with formulas and rules, but more of a philosophy and value set that different parents put into practice in many different ways.
I know that many of us are breaking new ground in parenting our own children. We know that we don’t want to have the antagonistic relationship with them that we we had with our own parents. But often, while we know what not to do, we are lost when it comes to knowing what to do instead. Some of us have yet to find an alternative to punitive parenting. Some of us have discovered the world of non-punitive parenting, yet have no support and are often ridiculed by people that don’t understand our reasons or our methods. Some of us perhaps have never been told “did you know you can raise good kids without spanking them?” and we are longing to hear that we can do differently and succeed.
So I thought I’d put together a resource for those of you who, like me, want to do differently for our kids.
Those of us raised in Homeschool Land have a lot of the same issues, same foundation, and were raised similarly under “Biblical Parenting” rules. I understand the nuances of coming from a parenting framework riddled with fear and control and authoritarianism; the emotional turbulence we have as we try to parent our children and find we are parenting ourselves. This list is by no means exhaustive, and I hope to add to it as more good materials are brought to my attention. I hope it can help in the journeys of those who, like me, just need a little direction and encouragement.
Peace and health to you and your family.
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
The Child-Whisperer, Carol Tuttle
Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Parenting From the Inside Out, Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell
No Drama Discipline, Daniel Siegel
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, Janet Lansbury
Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Laura Markham
The Explosive Child, Dr. Ross Greene (specifically for non-neuro-typical kids, but helpful for everyone)
The Road to Non-Punitive Parenting
Parenting Without Punishment
I Was That Parent
Natural Discipline for the Early Years
10 Steps to Guide Children Without Punishment
Non-Punitive Discipline Does Not Equal Lazy Parenting
Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me, Samuel Martin (from a Christian perspective)
Articles on Spanking and Punishment:
The Case Against Spanking – APA
The Long-Term Effects of Spanking
How Spanking Harms the Brain
Is Corporal Punishment an Effective Means of Discipline?
Study on Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders
Should You Spank Your Child?