Tag Archives: validation

Separation Anxiety?

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.AuthenticParent.com.

Photo credit: Helene Souza
Photo credit: Helene Souza

When my children were young, it was common for me to take them when I traveled for speaking engagements. At their stages of development, they still wanted and needed to stay close to me.

I recall a psychologist friend of mine doubting my decision to take my then two-year-old with me. “If he cries it will help him to recover from past experiences of separation,” she said. She felt that the best way to get over separation anxiety is to encourage separations.

However, my child had no past experiences of separation to overcome, and I wanted to keep him free of such experience as long as he needed my uninterrupted closeness.

By nature there is no such a thing as “separation anxiety.” Instead, there is a healthy need of a child to be with her mother. Only a deprivation of a need creates anxiety. If we honor the need for uninterrupted physical closeness as long the child needs it, no anxiety develops. The concept “separation anxiety” is the invention of a society that denies a baby’s and child’s need for uninterrupted connection. In this vein, we can deprive a child of food and describe her reaction as “hunger anxiety,” or we can let her be cold and call her cries “temperature anxiety.”

My son, Lennon Aldort, says it well: “Our modern society and the nuclear family are large-scale experiments in extreme deprivation of the needs of both children and parents.” Parents are doing their best to move away from denying children their needs. Yet sometimes even the most securely attached parents, under pressure from extended family and friends, expect a child to live up to external expectations.

Some parents feel pressure to compare their children to others: “How come the other child is willing to be without his mother?” I always reassure parents by pointing out that the other child is a different person, and it is possible that the other child has, unfortunately, given up on what is best for himself. If your child is insisting on what is best for her, it is a reason to rejoice and to know that your parenting approach is empowering her self-confidence.

Stages of development

The confusion starts when we see a child as seemingly regressing. She was happy to stay without you at age two, and is suddenly back to needing you all the time at age three. But should we call this a “separation anxiety?” Or is it our own “intolerance for changing back and forth anxiety?”

Children try new things for a while only to recapture their old “baby” ways with gusto a year later. These changes are part of their steps forward. There is no rule that says that once a child achieves something, she must stick to it. In fact, observation tells us that most children go through such changes. They sometimes return to a former familiar stage to establish more confidence and gain a new momentum. Normal development in the early years may be two steps forward and one step back, a balance between exploring autonomy and feeling the need for security. They must feel secure and know that the door behind them never shuts, or they will not dare to try new territory.

Another reason children try things and then retreat is precisely because they become more aware. The world appears quite simple and safe to a toddler: Mommy, Daddy, couch, kitchen, doggy, yard, street, et cetera. As the child’s awareness grows, everything becomes larger and scarier. There is so much more unknown and so much that can happen. The child must be sure that springing out of the familiar doesn’t burn the bridge behind her. Being sure of that, she can try more new experiences with confidence.

Loving solutions

Sonya asked for my advice about her five-year-old child’s “separation anxiety.” “Haya wants to be with me at all times,” she said. “She even joins me in the bathroom.” Such a need can be natural even in a child who was never pushed too soon to be away from mom. But in Haya’s case, there was an early attempt to leave her at a nice, small preschool for half days. She seemed to enjoy the school but was having a hard time departing from her mother in the morning. “She was fearful and clingy, and over time she started to be more whiny at home and less happy,” her mother said.

I suggested stopping taking Haya to preschool. The result was immediate and dramatic:

“I got my child back,” Sonya said. “She is happy again and self-engaged, but she is still unable to be away from me.” Haya will regain her trust and confidence. She needs time in which there is no reminder of her experience of separation. She must know that it is up to her to be without mom. When we respond to the child, rather than try to manipulate her development, she can stay content. Keep a benign attitude of trust and peace with no hints of future expectations. On the other side, stay away from drama about her need for you. With no agenda, the child will act from within.

What if parents work away from home?

In many families, one or both parents work outside the home. Regardless of what options you may have, if you leave the baby or young child before she is ready, she is likely to develop anxiety about losing you. There are ways to alleviate the hurt and reduce the anxiety. If possible, the baby or child could stay in a familiar and loved space, such as at home or in another familiar home, with one or two intimately familiar people who love her, like Daddy, a grandparent or another consistent and loving caregiver.

Breastfeeding is nature’s magical way of telling you to stay close to your baby and toddler. When you go to work without your baby, do express milk for her but also minimize the time you are away. If after you return home your baby cries a lot, or your child is cranky and clingy, give her your full attention, validate her feelings and let the tears flow so she can heal.

Always validate and give outlet to self-expression. “You want mommy to stay with you. I know. I miss you too. I love you so much. Tell me about your day.” Make peace with your child’s anxiety about your absence, so you are not anxious yourself. Your child needs a secure parent who can listen to her.

Denial teaches denial

Some parents believe that by denying the child’s need repeatedly and consistently, the child will develop the “muscle” and learn to be comfortable away from mom. Unfortunately, the child does learn to be away from mom, but in doing so, she must detach emotionally and ignore her own inner voice. The process is not one of developing inner strength, but of resignation and of losing trust.

What we see externally is not always what the child experiences inside. As one three-year-old said to her mother: “At daycare I look smiling outside, but I am crying inside.” The innate drive of the child to please us and seek our approval causes her to comply rather than choose authentically. She learns to deny her own inner voice and follow external expectations instead because she yearns to fit in with our world. In order to do this, she must shut down her feelings and her sense of connection. Training your child to give up on herself and follow others leads to insecure teenagers and adults who, thoughtlessly, follow peer pressure, media and other external influences.

Each family must make the child care choices that they feel are best, and we must learn to love the life we have so the child will develop emotional resilience. But do allow for crying, validate the feeling and know that she may develop a separation anxiety that you will want to keep healing.

Rejoice in your child’s connection

When children rage and refuse to separate, I always celebrate. “Your child is not a tameable one,” I say. “You must have done a wonderful job of protecting her authentic being.” The more the child is rooted in herself, the less you can sway her away from who she is. We call it confidence.

When your child tells you confidently in words or actions, “I want to stay with you all the time,” and you respond to her need, she learns, “I can trust myself. My mom trusts me and takes my cues seriously.” The child who relies on herself and does not deny herself in an attempt to please you is developing self-reliance and confidence. She stays connected not only to you but to herself, creating bridges of love and inner independence.


A Tantrum is a Choice

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.AuthenticParent.com

A tantrum can vanish before it starts if we put the spotlight on it with validation and playfulness. Six-year-old Danny (names and scenarios are changed) came into the kitchen and asked his mother for a dessert. His mother said, “If you want something sweet, there are grapes, peaches or dried fruit.” Naomi Aldort

“I want only watermelon, that’s what I want. Nothing else!” said the boy emphatically.

I was sitting close by and saw the tantrum building up. Danny stamped his foot lightly, he frowned, and his voice became tight as he was repeating his plea and was ready to explode. At that moment I said, “There is no watermelon, and you want to have some! You are getting yourself into a tantrum. Let’s have a tantrum about it together; a double tantrum, you and I.” The boy smiled and immediately relaxed. I then added, “A triple tantrum with Mom, too,” and seeing his Dad walking by, “no, a quadruple tantrum with Dad, too.”

The boy turned around laughing and looking at his Dad. Dad acted a slow walk, sneaking out of the room as though he wanted nothing to do with it. The boy went after him. His father returned to the dining room and produced an impressive tantrum. “I want watermelon,” he screamed theatrically as he stamped and jumped with a thump. Danny was so excited. He laughed and ran to tell his brother all about it. In a minute we heard the boys playing happily. Continue reading A Tantrum is a Choice

When Daddy Goes Away

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.naomialdort.com

Q: My husband will be going away for eight weeks in the near future. I am wondering how I can ease the stress of this separation on my 20-month-old son. My son is quite verbal, very sensitive, and very spirited. He is aware that Daddy is going to work, and has shown signs of stress already (potty training regression). What can I do to help my baby?

A: A baby who is loved and cared for by his mother and expresses his feelings fully can handle a lot more than we realize. Instead of wanting your baby not to experience anxiety, be present for his emotional expression. Children constantly heal themselves if we don’t get in their way or try to stop them.

Let your toddler go back to wearing diapers fully if he needs to, and support any crying, whining, and self-expression. He must go through the experience of missing dad, not avoid it. If you try to cheer him up and “avoid” the feelings, he learns that feelings are scary and that it is horrible to feel them. What heals him moment by moment is fully expressing himself.

To validate without drama, be sure that you don’t make up ideas that he is not feeling. If he cries and asks for his daddy, validate and reassure. He may be afraid that you would go, too. You can say things like, “You want Daddy to be here. Mommy knows,” and, “Mommy will never go. Daddy goes and come back.”

Drama is when you say things like, “Oh, you miss your daddy so much, poor thing, what a bummer…” Drama scares children. You want to give your toddler a sense of peace so he learns, “I have the power to be without daddy.” He does have that power because he is loved and has you always with him.

Be careful not to plant your anxiety in your baby’s mind. At this age, the child is present moment by moment and feels happy in the moment. It is possible that what you see is a response to your anxiety more than to dad’s trip. So, keep your attitude positive and powerful. He can handle daddy being away if you can handle what he feels about it.

As for technical ideas to ease separation, try video chatting and phone calls even before the trip, to get him used to seeing daddy on the screen and hearing his voice. However, some babies are better off not being reminded about the person they don’t get to see, so try and see how he reacts.

How much your baby anguishes over his dad’s absence is a reflection of your attitude. It is the same as when the toddler falls without injury. He will look at you to check what he is supposed to feel. If you rush toward him alarmed, he will cry. If you smile and do nothing, he gets up and keeps going. Be at peace and open to his emotions, and your baby will learn from you that he can go through this experience powerfully and joyfully.

The Playgroup Altercation: Part 1 – Your Child is the Hitter

By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline without Distress, ProfessionalParenting.ca

Judy ArnallYou are having a lovely pleasant chat with a mom you haven’t seen in ages and suddenly you hear a loud thud, an ear-piercing scream, and then another mother appears before you clutching a sobbing preschooler with a tear-stained cheek and red eyes. Apparently, your son hit her daughter and now the mother and daughter and all eyes from the playgroup are on you as to what you are going to do about it.

It’s a parent’s worst moment, and one that is never covered in the parenting books. What is the best way to handle playgroup altercations that leaves everyone feeling content and validated?

Hear are six easy steps: Continue reading The Playgroup Altercation: Part 1 – Your Child is the Hitter

Yelling Works…and Other Parenting Myths Busted

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and API Leader

Family MythsSusie Walton used to yell at her kids – a lot.

“The older they got, the more I yelled,” recalled Walton, an International Network for Children and Families (INCAF) parent educator and author of Key to Personal Freedom who busted a few of the powerful myths outlined in her book during an INCAF teleseminar last week.

When her four boys – all within five years – were younger, yelling was a somewhat effective discipline, she admits. But that changed when they hit their teen years. Yelling no longer worked at all, and Walton was forced to find another way to interact with her children. She turned to positive discipline. As she acquired new skills and a new philosophy of parenting her children, one truth stood out among the others: that 95% of what children learn comes from what their parents model.

What was Walton teaching her sons by yelling? To solve problems, especially interpersonal conflicts, through exerting control over others.

Myth Busted: Validation Works Better Than Yelling

What Walton learned is that the strongest tool parents can use during a moment of conflict with their children is validation. Children, like adults, want to be heard and understood, even if the answer is still “no.”

For example, say a girl asks her father if she can turn on the television and he believes she has watched enough TV for the day. So, she begins to have a tantrum. What does Dad do?  What is not helpful is saying, “No, you can’t.” While the girl certainly wants the TV on, the way to resolve the situation is not to engage her in a power struggle over the on/off button. An example of an appropriate validation here is, “I know you want to watch the TV, but you’ve already watched two hours worth today and that is enough.”

Just as with yelling, the certainty of mainstream culture that spanking and other fear-based forms of punishment are effective at disciplining children is a myth. Parents don’t need to use punishments to get the behavior they seek in their children. The first challenge is for parents to realize this truth; the second, and harder, challenge is for the parents to adopt new ways of disciplining their children. Walton suggested parents first place limits on their behavior, making it a rule that they will not use threats, bribes, or other fear-based discipline tools on their children. With this rule in place, parents can then begin using the positive, teaching- and guidance-based discipline tools they can learn through books such as Attached at the Heart by Attachment Parenting International Co-founders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, local API Support Group meetings, and other API resources.

It’s important, though, for parents to realize that it does take longer for children to learn a concept through positive discipline than through punishments, Walton said. However, once that child learns the concept, he is truly competent in it. Whereas, with punishments, a child behaves out of fear and does not learn the concept for the long term.

For example, a listener at the teleseminar described how her three-year-old son pushes and hits his 15-month-old sister. The mother is having a difficult time dealing with this sibling rivalry without resorting to spankings. Walton suggested she instead try validating her son’s feelings, acknowledging that his acting-out behavior is actually a cry for attention. To do so, Walton suggested the mother to give additional one-on-one attention to her son when he is not acting out, and when he does, to explain to him that it’s not OK to hit his sister and, if she wants more attention, all he needs to do is ask Mommy.

Myth Busted: Mistakes are Opportunities to Strengthen Connection with Our Children

No parent is perfect. We all make mistakes in relating to and interacting with our children. The key is learning to forgive ourselves but also learn from our mistakes – important not only for ourselves but for our children to learn. Walton explained how helpful it is for parents to look upon their children’s undesirable behavior not as something to be feared or ashamed of, but instead as opportunities for learning.

For example, a listener at the teleseminar described how her three-year-old daughter makes grocery shopping difficult because she grabs items off the shelf. She tells her daughter over and over not to touch things on the shelf. Walton suggested that the mother set up a mock grocery store at home and role play the behaviors she wishes to see first at home before going out to the store. Then, before going into the store, the mother would explain to her daughter that she isn’t to touch anything without Mom saying OK, just like when they play at home. Finally, when her daughter starts knocking items off the shelf, the mother should continue to focus on teaching her daughter to clean up and put the items back.

“Teach, teach, teach,” Walton said. “And when she does make a mistake, say ‘I love you, and we’re going to be OK,’ and help her clean up.”

Myth Busted: No One Knows Your Child Better Than You

One of Walton’s favorite parenting tools is to allow children to be children. She recalls a neighbor telling her, when her boys were young, that she needed to exert more control over them. She opted not to take this advice, because she enjoyed her time with her sons. She thought it was fun to let them be who they were, instead of trying to force them into certain behaviors to please those outside her family.

Walton said new parents are barraged constantly with advice from their family, friends, pediatrician, neighbors, and even strangers. But, no matter what others may claim, the real parenting expert for your child and in your family is you. And parents do best to only embrace the parenting tools and philosophies that they find are best for their individual family. For example, parents who cosleep with their children shouldn’t do it because a book said to and shouldn’t stop doing it because they saw a television ad that said so. Each family should be cosleeping or not because that is what they have found works best for their family.

In another example, it is Walton’s belief that parents cannot love their child too much. Others criticize this parenting approach, saying that they will spoil their children. Walton said they can spoil their children by teaching them that love equals material possessions, rather than being derived from emotionally healthy relationships. This parenting approach works for Walton, and no one’s criticism, or approval, weighs as much as on the decision to continue a nurturing parenting approach as what Walton sees working for her children.

Myth Busted: You Can Be Friends with Your Children

Many parents don’t like the thought of being friends with their children, because they connect that idea with an image of overly permissiveness. We know that children need discipline. They need boundaries.

Children also need parents who care and who are willing to listen when they talk about the joys and challenges of their day. The myth that parents can’t be friends with their kids stems from the image of a parent buying alcoholic beverages for their underage teens and perhaps even partying with them. What Walton is meaning is that parents need to give of their time to be with their children and, as was the theme of the 2008 Attachment Parenting Month, to give presence instead of presents.

Being friends with your children doesn’t mean that parents give up striving for personal and family life or not setting and maintaining boundaries and limits for their children’s behaviors, as outlined by the Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting. Parents still need to maintain their self-respect by keeping their parenting approach family-centered rather than child-centered, and parents must remember that discipline is a vital parenting tool.

For example, Walton said her sons used to tell dirty jokes around her, so she talked to them about her concerns. Walton didn’t let her children do  all that they wanted, as it was affecting her sense of balance. Motherhood martyrdom eventually breeds resentment.

The Price Families Pay for Myths

Too many families are stuck living according to these and other myths about parenting and child behavior. They’re trapped by their expectations that children should “act their age” and fears of spoiling their children, Walton said. They cannot truly enjoy parenthood and family life.

“What it can cost is that freedom to create the family we aspire to,” Walton said. And it can cost the child’s development of creativity, emotional regulation and ability to healthily attach to others, and other life skills. Walton calls on parents to bust the myths that constrict their family life – to break free of the bonds of fear and expectations, so that they can experience fulfillment in their parenting roles and reap the rewards of a close, connected family: “When we let go of these myths, it creates so much freedom.”

What myths have you busted in your family life?

Diverting Anger in Toddlers

By Gaynell Payne

angry toddlerWith toddlerhood comes tantrums. While some parents are taken by surprise by the seemingly violent appearance of a child raised in a non-violent home, it is a perfectly natural rite of passage for any child. The reasons behind it are simple: lots of emotions with little logic. The emotions that can overtake a toddler can be a floodgate of overwhelming proportions.

I’m OK, You’re OK

While watching their sweet angel turn into a hitting and kicking tornado may leave some parents at their wits’ end, the idea is not to suppress your child’s anger or frustration but to teach him to control them. In a young child, the strength of his emotions can be scary for him, also. That’s why it’s important that the parents stay in control of themselves during a tantrum. When you do, you are showing him by example how to maintain calm in stressful situations, even if it doesn’t seem like he’s getting that picture yet. If you’re out of control, then you are in effect asking your child to do what you cannot: calm his intense emotions. In this situation, a child’s fear of his “out of control” emotions may eventually escalate into what psychologists call magical thinking, according to Abnormal Psychology by Leonard Zusne and Warren Jones. “If mommy can’t handle my emotions, who can? They must be too strong for anyone.” This could lead to an abundance of issues in adulthood.

No one is perfect – at least, no one I’ve met. The best of parents will occasionally fail to maintain perfect calm and no one will be injured for it, but on the whole that is the goal. If you empathize – put yourself aside and try to see things from your child’s point of view – it is easier to be compassionate and not lose your cool.

Give It an Outlet

Anger isn’t a very fun thing to have bouncing around in your insides. It’s got to come out somehow and  preferably in a way that is acceptable to the rest of the family. For me, I’ve found that some wonderful advice, such as handing my son a crayon and asking him to draw his emotions, didn’t apply to a child under three. When my two year old would try to hit me, I’d take his hands and say, “You’re really mad! I know you’re mad! Hit your hands together!” I’d pretend I was mad, too, to show him. I’d clap my hands together, growl, and say “I’m mad!” He’d clap his hands together as hard as he could and growl.


Part of why this tactic works for him is he feels validated. Validation involves listening to your child, then reflecting back to him what he is feeling.

We all feel sometimes like we are speaking a foreign language. We’re trying to talk, but the person we are talking to just doesn’t “get it.” If it’s someone very important to us, this can lead to a rainbow of very ugly feelings like frustration and despair. To a child experiencing this, those feelings can quickly escalate into rage and hopelessness. This is true from birth. Crying is the only language that infants possess. Picking up our babies to comfort them instead of letting them “cry it out” is the earliest form of validation.

When our babies grow into toddlers, their ways of communicating have evolved a little bit but not that much. It’s still a rare child who can always rationalize what he is feeling and communicate his needs. Many adults haven’t mastered that skill! It is still up to us to help them recognize what they are feeling, identify it, and work through it.

To a baby, it is enough to pick them up and change his diaper when he’s wet. They learn that “Oh, I was uncomfortable, because I was wet. Mommy fixed that.” They not only get a clean diaper but two added bonuses: They learn why they were unhappy, and they learn that someone cared enough to see it and fix it. Knowing that someone cares enough to do that for you is one of the basic emotional needs of humanity. Relationships of all types are won and lost in that regard.

A two year old is just entering the real meat of the emotional arena. Some see their constant need for emotional reassurance as manipulation or a weakness that must be toughened up. But humans are hard-wired to seek out validation at any age. We must know from someone that we are OK as we are, cared for, and loved. A toddler especially is in an age of discovery: so many new challenges and things he is learning to do, and having trouble doing, and things he can’t or isn’t allowed to do. It can all tie in to a child’s sense of self-worth. The newness that a toddler finds herself suddenly experiencing leaves her needing more reassurance.

Most of the time, it is relatively easy to validate a child. All you have to do is pay attention, and reflect back what you see. ”I know you’re mad, (sad), (frustrated), (you’re smiling, are you happy today?)” A validated child feels loved and in sync with the world.

I could tell that my son and I were making progress when we were in the mall and he wanted to go play in the toy store. Again. We were on our way out, and we had already stopped there earlier. I told him “No, it was time to go home.” He drug his feet and finally sat down and said, “I’m mad!”

“You’re mad?” I replied. “I know you’re mad! I know you wanted to play with the toys. But we still have to go now.”

He climbed to his feet and came with me without any more protest. He had just wanted me to know that he was mad. I was proud of his ability to tell me what he was feeling instead of throwing a fit.

Play It Out

Children love to play pretend, and it can be rewarding and fun for an adult to play, too. It is also a wonderful learning tool. Adults can use pretend to teach a child what to do when a real situation arises.

“Pretending that you’re mad” is a fun game for most children. This is the easiest time to show them healthy ways to be angry. This play time gives your child the opportunity to decide what works best for him, or to even come up with his own stuff. One of our favorite books, My Two Hands, My Two Feet by Rick Walton and Julia Gorton, has a line that says: “When I’m mad, I stomp my feet, like drummers as they beat, beat, beat.” My son would joyfully pretend that he was mad and stomp his feet.

The next time he’d get really mad, I’d say, “You’re really mad! Stomp you’re feet; you’re so mad!” And he would, crying through his tears, “Beat, beat, beat!”

It takes repetition for a child to learn to use their new diversion instead of hitting mommy or daddy, or the cat. That’s when you’d just gently take their hands and say, “No, don’t hit Mommy. If you’re mad, clap your hands together.”

Anger Management: Ways to Say ‘I’m Mad!’

  • Clap your hands
  • Stomp your feet
  • Growl
  • Say “I’m mad!”
  • Color a picture with angry scribbles
  • Get a cloth and twist it really tight
  • Hit a pillow

I’m Mad, Too

Sometimes, the best way to teach is by example. Some days we all just get overwhelmed. When you’re upset and he’s yelling, an honest “I’m mad!” said in a childish, exaggerated way may feel silly coming from mommy, but you’re showing your child that you’re human, too. This could be when that light of dawning association may occur: “Mommy said it like I say it. Is she feeling like I felt yesterday?” This is the beginning buds of empathy. As parents, this is one of our ultimate goals! A child who learns healthy ways of handling his emotions will feel emotionally balanced and more in tuned to everyone else around him.

Keep a Sense of Humor

You’ve talked, you’ve validated, he’s still “mad,” and you’re both a weepy mess. It’s time to change the subject. Children have a harder time walking away because for them, everything is now. Joke, make light of the situation (but never make fun of him!), and have fun. Kids are very eager to play – it’s what they do! As parents, it’s important for us also to remember that it’s not the end of the world. Tantrums happen. It’s not a personal attack; it’s just childhood.

Whatever methods you prefer, the important thing is that, as parents, we work towards showing our children what to do when they are angry or upset.  When we do that, we are also showing them that it is OK to feel the way they do. There is no shame in feeling angry. With this validation, they can go on to eventually learn more mature ways of dealing with their emotions.

Sources for Adult Anger Management

  • Boy Town – BoysTown.org,  1-800-448-3000
  • United Way – LiveUnited.org
  • Child and Family Support Center – 1-877-900-CFSC
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
  • Domestic Violence Hotline/Child Abuse – 1-800-4-A-CHILD
  • Family Violence Prevention Center – 1-800-313-1310

How do you help your toddler deal with her anger?

Parenting without Spoiling

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

AP doesn't spoil childrenNeighbor: “Oh, your children are always so wonderful to be around! I can tell that you take parenting seriously.”

Parent: “Thank you! I think they’re wonderful, too, but of course I’m a little biased, so it’s nice to hear compliments from others. Thanks again!”

Neighbor: “I just don’t know what’s wrong with the world today. What don’t more parents be parents? Back in my day, parents didn’t put up with what they put up with now. We weren’t afraid to discipline our children. I’m so glad there’s someone in this younger generation who spanks their children.”

Parent: “Oh, but I don’t spank.”

Neighbor, surprised: “Oh, oh, of course not. Too controversial. Well, those timeouts must certainly be working then. I wouldn’t have thought it, you know, since the paddle worked so well for my children. I guess the point is that you’re punishing your children when they need it.”

Parent, calmly: “I don’t use timeouts, either. In fact, I don’t use any sort of punishment.”

Neighbor, obviously disapproving: “Well! You’re going to ruin your children! They’re going to grow up to be spoiled brats like all the other kids in this neighborhood!”

Parent, firmly but also calm and empathic of Neighbor’s view: “I may not punish, but I choose to use gentle discipline. I focus on teaching my children calmly and lovingly. I find this is best for my family, and as you had said, my children’s behavior show that it’s just as effective – if not more so – than other discipline forms that focus on punishments.”

Neighbor, defensively and indignantly: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What you’re doing is not discipline. You’re spoiling your children. You’re an irresponsible, selfish parent, and you’re going to pay for it as your children grow older and walk all over you and turn into drug users and criminals. If you really loved your children, you’d spank them or at least use timeouts.”

Oh, how quickly, this real conversation turned sour once the neighbor learned of the parent’s childrearing approach and began to apply her judgments on the situation. How ironic that the neighbor began by praising the children’s behavior but couldn’t accept the parenting style responsible for it.

What is this fear of spoiling? Much of it is probably rooted in religious doctrines as well as in past generations’ cultural norms, but there is definitely a pervasive fear that if parents choose certain parenting approaches that don’t align with the popular childrearing techniques, that they’re going to spoil their children – and apparently bring the whole of society to a ruin. Continue reading Parenting without Spoiling