Parenting with Fear vs. Parenting with Love

Sometimes, people find it too easy to pass judgment on a parent they see out in public. Or give parenting advice when it was clearly not requested.

Recently, we were at the mall, walking with friends, and I stopped at a kiosk, to ask about replacing a broken phone under warranty. The gentleman began to help me, and another customer walked up and started to talk over me. The other customer was politely asked to wait, while he finished assisting the customer before him. I was speaking with the clerk, and my son began to get loud, just being silly, and demanding attention, as he grew restless in the stroller. I gently put my hand over his lips and shushed him, but honestly, it was not a punishable behavior. The other customer clearly felt it his duty, in his impatience with waiting, to express LOUDLY, how he felt I should parent my child.

"F***ing smack him and tell him to shut up!". His wife tugged at his arm and couldn't hide her embarrassment as she tried to quiet him. I instantly spun around and looked him in the eye and said "Excuse me? Is that how you raised YOUR kids?" He said nothing more, and I walked away, amazed that I kept my cool, but thinking that I needed to set the correct example for my children, and not engage in a verbal battle with a narrow-minded man.

This encounter has not been far from my mind since its occurrence, and even as I rocked my SugarPlum to sleep tonight, I thought about the subject of discipline, and what's appropriate.

I grew up in an abusive situation, which is not what I want for my own children. I do not want to be the parent that uses fear to raise their child, rather than love. I love my Dad very much, but throughout most of my childhood, I was deathly afraid of him. I was even more afraid of his wife, and rightly so, as she was one source of the largest part of physical and emotional pain I experienced as a child.

It's been said that abuse is a cycle, and that you will abuse if you were abused. I don't believe this is true. After all of my own childhood experiences, I could never imagine doing those things to a child...EVER.

Just having to smack my child's hand as they reach for something that is HOT or SHARP puts me in tears. I'm not saying I've never swatted my child's bum, either, but a swat is a far cry from a BEATING. Each time I have had to swat my child, for whatever reason (usually endangering themselves or another), I am assaulted by visions of myself as a small child, enduring beating after beating, for petty reasons, and I am paralyzed by fear. I am so scared of becoming "that" parent.

I am so scared of that possibility that I have taken measures to LEARN to be a better parent, and have been trying out various forms of discipline, in a quest for EFFECTIVE discipline for my child. I say for my child, singularly, because each of my children are parented in a slightly different fashion. Not all children require the same form of parenting and/or discipline. My son requires a distinctively different method of parenting than does my daughter. Until I find the combination of techniques that work for us, I will continue to experiment with different techniques. Everyone has a different method, and having the internet at the tip of my fingers, along with the advices and experiences of countless other parents, as well as research and book recommendations, I am able to choose and test methods that I am comfortable with.

I like to think I parent with love, rather than fear, but I do know there is a certain amount of fear that is automatically in the equation...a child's fear of disappointing their parents. Because we are the people they look up to and admire the most at this tender age, and they are not looking to disappoint us, but rather to make us happy, and feel the warmth of our love. To parent with fear is to rob them of that admiration and innocent trust, and in turn, it robs the parent of that child's unconditional love...something some of us spend a great deal of time searching for in life. Something never to be taken for granted. I do not want my children to grow up thinking it's okay to walk all over me, like a doormat, but I also do not want them to grow up cowering in my presence because they are afraid I may reach out and smack them every time they walk past me. There has to be a happy medium, and I am making it my quest to FIND that happy medium.

All of this being said, I'd love to hear YOUR methods of parenting...yes, YOU, my readers! How do YOU parent? What methods have you found to be most successful with your child or children? Did you modify your methods of parenting to better fit each child's personality? Please share!


Anonymous said...

Great post. It sounds like that man's wife was having to try to quiet her "toddler" as well. I can't believe he said that. What must it be like to live with a man like that was my first thought and then I thought about how it must have felt from your end. You took the high road for sure, and even though your children are young, it's never too early to set that good example in the face of rudeness and idiocy.

Our guys are 14 & 16 now and the best compliments we ever receive are when folks comment about how kind & polite they are. We certainly don't always parent correctly every time but the years of fairly consistent loving but firm corrections certainly are paying off as we see them emerge into young adults.

Kids crave love and attention but they also crave consistency and clearly outlined routines. If they know that their parent (s) never ever puts up with certain behaviors. Then, over time, it's just one less "job" for them to have to worry about (put their energies towards), i.e. the job of trying to change your mind :o)

So love, consistency, routines, and clearly defined parameters. It's age old but it really relaxes kids in their day to day lives. I know life (especially with little ones) gets in the way of our best intentions, but keeping those goals in mind is a great gift to our children-young AND old!

Just my two cents worth, but more importantly, I wish people would mind their own business about how other parents parent!! You did ask for our opinions right? :)

♥ Mommy ♥ to R & R said...

Thanks so much, SurfsUpButtercup! Yes, I DID ask for opinions! And I most certainly appreciate your input!

Marinela said...

I, too, was raised on fear. My parents, mom mostly, would beat my sister and I so much. Whatever she could find that would hurt the most be it a belt, vacuum cord, metal spatula, the heel of her shoes. They used to say that we needed to be "whipped into shape". Did it work, no. But it wasn't just the physical abuse, it was verbal and emotional as well. It got to the point where we were afraid to go near my mom. As I got older that fear turned into anger. I promised myself when I was 8 years old, I will never forget that day watching my mom go at my sisters, that when I had my own children I would never treat them the way I was treated.
Now that I do have my boys, I do it with love. Now, I am not against spanking at all. Like you said, there are some things they do that do require a spanking. But my spankings are so wimpy he doesn't even cry or get scared. When I even just yell at him, I see the hurt in his eyes and I feel absolutely horrible. So I still can not understand how my parents didn't feel bad whenever they hit us.
I want my children to grow up feeling loved. To view me as the parent, the authority figure but also as a friend, to feel safe.
Most importantly I do not want them to feel any hatred towards me or to have any resentment the way I do towards my mother.
Kids should feel safe and loved by their parents, not scared.


♥ Mommy ♥ to R & R said...

Thanks so much for your response, @_Marinela! I totally understand, and agree. It IS a challenge to be a parent, ruling with a gentle hand, some days...but it is a NECESSITY.

This just proves that what we went through still affects us in a negative way, as we are parenting, because we parent in FEAR of becoming THEM!

I must say, it makes me so happy to see other parents who went through abuse in childhood, taking the appropriate steps to avoid repeating the cycle with their own child(ren).

Anonymous said...

Honey, you are one of the greatest mums I know. I am desperately trying to be a more calm parent and not yell quite so much, but it is hard.

After swim lessons the other day I took the kids into the change room to shower. Unfortunately there was only 1 shower available so I decided to risk it and shower the kids together. Within about 2 seconds Flynn had pushed M into a wall and she squealed. The lady in the shower next to us yelled at her to 'knock it off'. I bit my tongue so as not to have an all in brawl with a naked woman in the shower room ha ha, but boy did she get the stare of death as she walked out.

♥ Mommy ♥ to R & R said...

Tonya, I totally understand. I am working on volume control, myself. For the kids AND for ME! They are always turned up on high, so I find myself raising my volume just to be heard, but then, even when I don't need to be on high volume, I it seems I am ALWAYS yelling, even when I am just TALKING. *sigh*

Miss you much, you are doing awesome to be doing swim lessons with twins. I tried doing it with R&R, but it was just too much for me, so we have postponed for now! I probably would have given more than a stare, in your shoes...Naked brawl would have been CLASSIC! ;)

Love & Hugs!

Rachel Rainbolt said...

First, I cannot believe what that man said to you in the store! Either he truly is a completely ignorant ass hole or he was just trying to grab at any ammo he could think up to throw at you the way he felt "put in his place" because of you (and by "put in his place" I mean politely asked to wait his turn by the kiosk employee). At any rate, I am grateful that he vented his negativity at a confident, intentional parent like yourself instead of another mother who may not have been as sure of herself as a mother and felt the brunt of pressure his comment was intended to apply.

Second, I appreciate all of the honesty and genuine mission to parent your children with love instead of fear.

However, I am quite disturbed by the inclusion of spanking (or "swatting" as people like to call it to relieve themselves of some of the weight of what they are actually doing) as acceptable in your quest to parent with love instead of fear. I am further disturbed by your commenters' approval of hitting children. Hitting a child is never okay- ever. And I know the next wave of comments you will receive in reply to this will be "Well it's only okay to hit your child if they are in immediate physical danger." The example I get all of the time as a family therapist in my court-mandated parenting classes is a child running into the street. "But what if your child is about run into the street and you have to teach them right away to fear the street so they will never go in the street again." Sigh. What this teaches children is to fear YOU, not the street. It teaches them not to go into the street when you are looking. Your lesson will be far more effective if you express a genuine emotional reaction of fear and concern while firmly warning and explaining DANGER DANGER DANGER and explaining why. Watch the cars drive, talk about the cars being big and strong and fast and heavy and about what will happen if they get BUMPED! by a car. Talk about how you would feel if that happened to her, all that would happen to him (if he did survive- as most small children cannot grasp the concept of death) like hospital trip, needles, bleeding, etc. It is especially effective if you then walk through what you want your child TO do (you already explained what you DON'T want them to do- now you need to replace that behavior). "Let's leave your ball in the street and run, run, run, STOP (at the curb), MOMMY STREET, etc.

This is not meant to be a judgmental comment about what a "bad" mother you are but simply a reflection of an honest, educated, and experienced mama. Spanking (or swatting) takes only a minute while Parenting takes more time at the front end but is far more effective and results in much less time disciplining in the long run. I sincerely hope my comment is received in the positive, genuine spirit in which it is offered.

Adrian's Crazy Life said...

What an interesting topic. Neither of us grew up in an abusive home but neither of us got a lot of attention either, so I've tried to do that a lot differently from my own parents. I spend a lot of time with my kids and I really enjoy them. My theory is that these kids are going to be living in your house for at least 18 years, so you want to spend a lot of effort trying to make them pleasant to live with.

♥ Mommy ♥ to R & R said...

Rachel: Thanks so much for your comment! It is definitely taken in the light intended, Lovey!

And to clarify, I am NOT okay with hitting my child, EVER. I did state that I had done so in the past, but I also stated how it made me feel, as a parent, and have taken action to prevent further instances. I have spent countless hours learning more effective ways to parent my children, and keep them safe. I still struggle daily, with the challenges of having 2 toddlers, constantly pushing and testing their boundaries, but I deal with it in a way that is more positive. I am always working on creating a healthy, happy bond between myself and my children.

Just this week, my son locked me outside, and both he and his sister were inside. They walked through an open child gate to go downstairs, and my daughter shut it behind her. He couldn't get back to the front door to let me in. I had to call him from a friend's phone, on MY phone, which was in the house with him, and direct him how to open the gate, so he could let me in. The entire time, he was hysterical and crying. When I got in the front door, I did not yell at him, I did not hit him. I knelt down in front of him and hugged him, and told him very firmly, looking into his eyes, to NEVER. EVER. lock mommy out of the house again. And I know he won't.

And our word for street danger is simply "Cars, Cars, Cars". This works for us.

Again, Thank you for your comment! I love to hear from others on how they parent, and what has been most effective for the children in their lives!

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