Parenting: You’re Doing it Right.
You thought I was going to say you’re doing it wrong, didn’t you? Because that is what we hear most often.
I went to counseling today. Not for myself, but for one of my kids. I’ve never been to a counselor before but my kid is struggling with things that I cannot help her with. It didn’t feel like admitting defeat, or being helpless (my own preconceived notions about taking my child to a counselor). It felt like the logical thing to do when I didn’t have the resources or information to deal with a situation. I didn’t take her tonsils out myself because I’m not a surgeon, I called someone who does it for a living.
Overall, it was really helpful and I’m glad I went. We will go again.
But there was one moment during the session that I just can’t shake. It was just me and baby daddy, and we’re explaining to this nice lady what a sweet and lively child we co-parent, and she starts talking about discipline (we weren’t there to talk about discipline) and she said:
“The very worst thing you could do for a child is to spank them.”
She keeps talking about how under no circumstances is there a reason to spank or yell at your child, unaware of how eerily quiet the room got and how stiff my back became. The most defiant part of me wants to whisper “you haven’t met my kids yet,” but I don’t.
Here’s the thing. I’m not a huge fan of spanking for discipline. I’ve yet to meet anyone that will say “what I really like to do is spank my kids!” But have I done it? YES! I’ve spanked my kids. Their dad has spanked them, their step dad has spanked them, their grandma and grandpa have spanked them. Their aunts and uncles have likely spanked them and if they haven’t then they probably should have. Hell, the neighbors might have spanked them and if they did I would tell my kids they are lucky because when MY neighbor spanked me she used a wooden spoon. (Ok, I’ll probably draw the line at my neighbors.)
All I kept thinking was THAT is the worse thing I could do to my child?
Here I am, sharing a couch with the father of my children, both of us taking the time to come talk about our daughter because we love her that much. And the sharing of the couch isn’t uncomfortable because we are friends. We talk about our kids, we make sure they know that we care about each other, even though we’re not together. We spend time all together as a family, we share meals and memories. We cheer obnoxiously at every single one of their games/concerts/meets/rehearsals. We dedicate most of our time and energy to make sure that their days are spent learning and laughing. I can think of some things that seem worse than the few spankings they’ve received.
It might be debatable about whether or not parenting is the hardest job in the world, but I would put all my money on the fact that it is the most scrutinized job in the world.
I came home to my crazy children, one of which had covered 75% of her face with lipgloss. I won’t let her wear makeup (because she is five) so she smeared watermelon lip-smackers on her eyelids and cheeks. Last week she rubbed it in her armpits after I wouldn’t let her wear deodorant. The eight year old had a complete meltdown and told me I was a horrible person when I wouldn’t let her leave the house wearing a T-shirt and tights. But when they both got in the car without a complaint and buckled their seat-belts without being asked, I told them they were awesome kids.
They do 90% of everything wrong. Every single day. But guess what I focus on when I place a little star on a chart for them, or whatever form of positive reinforcement I’m using at that moment?
The things they do right.
It made me think, as parents we focus on the good in our children, but all we hear about ourselves is what we’re doing wrong. Even though we do the majority of things RIGHT.
If I could I would make a star chart for every parent out there. Goals met are rewarded with wine and chocolate.
You out there that fed your child THREE meals today, you just earned a star! They weren’t organic, all natural, vegan meals? That’s OK. Because you pulled it together enough to provide them with the calories they need to survive. You are doing it right.
You out there who got your child to bed tonight, you just earned a star! Who cares if they are sleeping in their bed, your bed, in the dog’s bed or in the hallway. They will rest their bodies and refuel for another day. You are doing it right.
You out there who disciplined your child today, you ALSO get a star! Maybe you spoke to them calmly and asked them to sit in the middle of their bed for some “think about it time” like my counselor recommends. Maybe you told them you will feed them vegan meals again if they don’t cooperate. Maybe, just maybe, you even had to spank them today. You are still doing it right. You are waking up, day after day, to be the best parent that you can be. You might not be doing everything right. Nobody is. But you are doing some things right. Every single day. That is what matters most. That is what we, and everyone else scrutinizing, should be focusing on.
We all deserve some big, fat, shiny stars for that. Spankings to those who disagree.
Megan, you are getting so good and prolific at this. I am thinking maybe your calling is as a professional knee patient/writer. You seem so wise for your age or at least able to tune in to the signal versus the noise (Nate Silver reference going back to Obama’s 2008 win). I am 20+ years older than you and my kids are grown but recently multiple times I have had backlash thoughts to all of the pop hype we are bombarded with and then you blog about it. It’s every where, in what foods are “healthy” paleo versus vegan, vax antivax, co sleep, self sooth etc etc all with “science” or pseudoscience to back up both sides. It’s like the tower of Babel out there. Everyone is an expert and we all know less for sure. Keep blogging, parenting etc. and giving me hope for another generation….
Love this message.The judging just needs to stop. It’s really great you did the therapy, and I hope after the advice on spanking she was able to help with the actual problem at hand! I totally get that–as my son has (at 9) anxiety (esp. around school work), and while we haven’t taken him to see anyone yet, I suspect we may have to one day, this is something my husband gets, but I have no clue how to deal with..So when he isn’t around? Sometimes I’m ready to pull my hair out, raise my voice, get impatient…and then regret it.Thanks for the awesome message to parents, it’s one we all need to hear!
Great post. And so true… we all do things differently but that isn’t the difference between good or bad. Love your star system haha My child is asleep on my lap right now. Yay, there’s one star for me! I was only home for one of the 3 meals today but between us, we fed her 3 😉 And her punishment for turning the tv off mid show… a tickle attack. But that might not cut it at 3 or 8 or 12 years of age. It’s okay at 19 months..
Thank you thank you thank you. I do all those things every day. No one ever tells me how good that is.
Big fat shiny star to you for dolling out the stars xxxx
I’m the mean aunt. Although I don’t think I’ve spanked either of them, I’m certain the thought crossed my mind. Mom usually beats me to it though! I resort to “hey you. You’re my helper now. Come clean up trash/do something you hate doing until you’ve convinced me you’re sane again.”
We implemented a star system with my older son a couple of months back. It’s done wonders to affirm good behaviors. It’s like that with adults, too–so important to hear the good!
Somehow this reminded me of something my mom told me many years ago, when she took my sister and me to different counselors. My sister’s counselor once told her, “I have parents who would pay me to say they’re good parents, but I actually try to tell you this and you won’t hear it!” That was an important lesson in subjectivity for me. Just because I think I suck doesn’t mean I actually do, just that I’m stuck seeing things one very narrow way.
This is awesome.
I think your mom’s story really brought something home for me. The counselor I saw yesterday actually DID tell me I was a good parent in a few different ways. She said “you did the right thing in bringing her here” “you have done a good job” etc. But I only heard the negative. I think with parenting we are so used to being scrutinized, that we are actually anticipating it and looking for it. Thanks so much for sharing that story.
I love shiny stars! As parents we need to cut ourselves some slack once in a while.
My daughter averages about 1 a year, I can usually feel it building for weeks ahead of time and even the day I tell her if she keeps it up she will be getting one, plenty if chances she gets to reverse the direction it is going in but its like like a clock that just ticks as she disregards my previous warnings and races head first into it until it heads and burst. I don’t even hurt her, not a mark on her but it upsets her so very much and I am stuck explaining to her that she consistently defies me, talks back constantly and begins throwing fits every chance she gets she simply needs a attitude readjustment.
Its a funny thing really, she is a wonderful sweet, respectful child 99.9 percent of the time and yes I am deliberately overlooking the little things and the many debates we have but seriously for the most part if I tell her to clean her room she may stomp away after she loses the argument but she stomps away and cleans her room, she knows the things I am dead serious about and she steers clear. She may argue but she knows when I close the discussion it is done she may go away crying but she knows it is done and 99.9 percent of time will do as I stated. She understand the words I did not ask – I told you, and you asked – I responded – please don’t make me say it again . I have trusted her with crayons since she was 1 alone and she never ever colored on anything inappropriate until she is um 5 ( acting out much?). She is a good girl that understands mommy will always listen to your point of view, I may even at times concede you are right and I was indeed wrong but I am still boss and if I say the debate is over than you will get moving…and yes I may say I am sorry later because I was indeed wrong but in that moment she knows how far I am willing to let it go and she knows she has hit her limit but once a year she calls my bluff and pushes it and pushes it and pushes it until she gets that spanking and than we discuss her attitude readjusted and its all good for another year…she is actually late this year and I hope we have moved on because I don’t enjoy it any more than she does.
and yes I am the mommy that will spank, and she is the daughter that will come to me for comfort afterwards seeking the reassurance that all is still well in our world, that I still love her all the same, and that I am not so mad that I will not still hold her and give her a kiss ( or 20) as she works through in her mind how we arrived here.
I don’t judge other parents but I know that the fact she gets the spanking so rarely that when it happens she immediately knows she crossed a line that she shouldn’t have and I have set the boundaries once again for what I will accept in the fact that she is indeed her own person with her own ideas which I accept and encourage but she is my daughter and I am the mommy….at the end of the day what I say goes