Best advice to give any new parent:
FOLLOW. YOUR. HEART.
Screw the books or websites or articles. Forget the advice from your mom, aunt or neighbor. Don’t do what your parents did just because you turned out “Ok”. Or do. Whatever. The point is, trust your gut. Go with your instincts. Follow your heart.
Raising kids isn’t a competition. It’s not a place for debate. All you should worry about when raising kids is what kind of adults you are raising them into. I write this blog simply to share with you why and how I parent.
Attachment parenting is the word for it. The official label. What this means is I wear my babies. I carry them in slings next to my heart and treat the first few months like the “fourth trimester”. I let them breast feed on demand, whenever they want, 24-7. I sleep with them beside me in my bed. I cloth diaper them. Home school them. I practice gentle discipline. What that means is I don’t hit them.
That’s right. I don’t hit them. I am raising 7 children without the aid of corporal punishment. For a large chunk of my parenting gig I was a single mom and yet I never resorted to hitting any of my kids. Not only do I know all the statistics of violence in the home being linked to violent offenders in prison later in life and the psychological damage that can occur and the simple fact it seems counterproductive from my personal viewpoint to punish a child for bullying or hitting by bullying and hitting them……but I am also a survivor of domestic violence. I know first hand what it feels like to be physically hurt by a person much stronger and bigger than myself. I don’t ever want my child to fear me in that way. I don’t want to break their spirit.
The word discipline is derived from the word disciple.
A disciple is a teacher.
Therefore, when I discipline my children, it is my way of teaching them. Teaching them not only TO respect and obey, but also WHY to respect and obey. Because I have learned that when children learn the WHY, they tend to be more willing to follow through. I allow natural consequences to occur as much as is possible. This saves me the stress and wasted energy of yelling or punishing. Refuse to wear shoes outside? Find out firsthand how hot the pavement is and you’ll remember to wear them next time. Fool around when you should be doing your reading time for school. Well, then you miss your outdoor play time and have to read while your brothers are all outside playing soccer. Don’t eat your dinner? Then you don’t get dessert. There is no need for arguing or battle of the wills. Its just a simple cause and effect thing.
I talk to my kids. I give them the respect I hope they model towards others. I am honest with them. About everything. About life and how it works. I utilize my freedom to home educate them as an opportunity to teach them the many different dimensions and dynamics of how our world really works. This means I teach them about respecting authority figures and seeking out a police officer if they are ever lost but I also talk to them about police brutality. (In fact, this week we watched “Fruitvale Ave.”, a movie based on the true story of a man who was murdered by police.) I teach them about different religious beliefs, different cultures, politics, animal cruelty, not being violent but to always step up if they see a man hurting a woman, transgender and gay and bisexual lifestyles, yoga, faith, God, eating organic local foods, veganism, etc…. I don’t make them agree with me. I teach them everything. For instance I explain the benefits of being a vegetarian and my own personal opposition to guns and harming animals but I also plan on finding someone to teach them how to hunt with a bow and arrow when they are older because they may want to or need to know how. I teach them about police brutality but I also encourage my 9 year old who wants to be a police officer someday. I teach them about being a gentleman and teaching ladies right, the old fashioned holding-doors-open and such. But if one of them tells me someday that they are actually gay, I’ll be just as thrilled because love is love. And they know where I stand with that.
So, I follow my heart. When my 5 year old is bucking up and throwing a fit I take the time to sit beside him and be very quiet and calm him with soft words and a gentle touch on his back. When the 11 year old gets all attitude-y, I back off and give him space to take a walk down the street. I give plenty of love and hugs. I take time to listen to them so that they will in turn listen to me when I need them to. I play with them. I leave the laundry basket of wet clothes sitting by the clothesline to play an impromptu game of football or take them for a walk around the block. I don’t own a cell phone because when I am at the park with my kids I want to be catching my kid at the bottom of the slide or pushing them on the swing, not texting someone. Because they are only little so long. This time is precious.
This time is precious and comes with much responsibility.
Someday they will all be grown up and my job will be done. There are no rewind buttons. No second chances. What I teach them today will mold them into the men and woman they will someday become. This is my legacy. This is crucial that I do it right. Not by the books or other peoples opinions. But that I follow my own heart so at the end of it all my kids can look back and know how loved they truly were.
This is love. Discipline with a firm stance and a whole lot of grace and empathy.