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Thursday, March 09, 2006 

What do you want to teach?

TC responded to my post about lippy kids:
Some may think soap to the mouth is extreme; but you have to teach your kids that some behavior is extremely intolerable. My wife and I have reluctently used bar soap to clean up potty mouth after a couple of warnings to two of our four children who needed it. It worked extremely well! Children are not all alike so what some people consider extreme punishments are not required by every child. As I said only two of our children needed it because they had strong stuburn personalities.
I can agree with the statement that children are not all alike, and that some behavior is extremely intolerable. For example, hurting someone is not to be tolerated, ever.

I find the image of holding down a child to put soap in their mouth so distasteful it turns my stomach. If my children can't count on me to not hurt them, who the heck can they count on?

How would you feel if this was done to you? I'd be furious, and would resolve, "well, I'll never let you see me doing that again! You can't control me!" It divides the parent and child, turning them against each other, OR squashes the child's will. This isn't generally considered good either, except for those who prefer sheep for children.

I, too, have a child with a very strong personality. (I don't label it 'stubborn' as that obfuscates and divides.) A master of her own ship, I call it. Yet, we got through her potty mouth stage without resorting to soap in the mouth. How, you ask? With humor, and perspective.

For perspective, I turn to the long run. What do I want to teach my child? Blind obedience in the form of "you will NOT say those words or you will be sorry"? Or, understanding the reason behind the preference, "no one wants to be around someone that keeps talking about things that happen in the bathroom! That's so gross!"

A child was singing an off-color ditty in the back of my van a few weeks back. My daughter giggled a bit, and I rolled my eyes, then the conversation turned to something else. She giggle because it was slightly funny, not because "mom is going to kill us", nor did she need to worry that I'd do something crazy like treat her friend with a bar of soap, nor was she a prude in danger of becoming the stick in the mud. The moment happened, it was over. It is not a hot button issue that she could push to get a reaction.

Contrast that to a child who was physically shut up by soap. The reason behind the rule wasn't understood (else the warning would have sufficed), and the self discipline to behave in a socially appropriate manner wasn't practiced. Soap squashed the behavior at the expense of the big picture.

Now if someone is belted at the playground, I want my children to be the first one there to say, "that is NOT OK!" Recognizing a situation that requires involvment is easier, I contend, when you don't have to deal with broad exceptions to the rule, such as "well, if a parent wants to hurt their own child to get quicker obedience, that's OK, but this case etc etc..."

Great post. My wife and I have never hit or resorted to physical punishment with our two children, (now 14 & 17 years old).We are always receiving compliments on their manners and behavior from the parents of their friends.
Children learn from example, and it is usually subconscious learning, (it’s an evolutionary survival mechanism). When a child is bullied by an adult, it sets the stage for how they will interact with others for the rest of their lives, which will be negatively.
I have noticed that the more religious a family is, the more they are prone to using physical punishment on their kids. I think it’s just a variation of the, “do what I say, or I will send you to hell because I love you”, technique that they know so well.

I read a post on a blog the other day about how Xians have misinterpretted the biblical "spare the rod, spoil the child". It said something how "back in the day" shepards used rods to "guide"/"herd" sheep. It was not used to "beat" or "punish". SO spare the rod....really means guide your children - you know - to keep them from straying - not "beat them" or GADS! use soap in the mouth! (or Hotsauce!).

Yes mindgames, I had read that somewhere too. It's an example of how even good advice that is found in the Bible, (did I just say that?)can be interpreted, and changed around, to mean just about anything.

mindgames- My father was one of those tho misinterpreted "spare the rod and spoil the child" and was big into beatings with a belt for even the mildest "crimes" and this left emotional scars on me into my adulthood. (He had said he wanted me to "remember" it, and I have.)He was also a big user of soap, and I think that is just as abusive.

I have three grown children and my husband and I have never spanked, used soap or anything. They were never arrested, never in any serious trouble at all over the years. In their teenage years they did try some stuff with their friends, but all kids are going to try things whether you know about them or not. My three used to tell on themselves knowing that we were not going to beat them. They knew a certain thing they were doing wasnt right and talking to us helped them to sort things out. My husband and I never said "oh that's ok...go have a ball!" We would tell them that we didn't approve of such and such a thing and intelligent people didn't need drinking, or whatever to have a happy life. We had lots of nice long talks.
Communication is the key...not soap.

Even when they were little, if they started with some inappropriate behavior I would look at them and ask "is something bothering you?" and oftentimes they would shake their heads "yes" and we would talk about it and he or she would say "Brudder's mean to me"...or "she gets all the pretty stuff" and then I would figure out it was a sibling rivalry issue and I would reassure that child that I loved him or her just as much as all of them.
I have also found that children respond better to a low and calm voice better than yelling.

As for bad words and off-color language etc, we pretty much ingorned it when they were young. If you bring too much attention to it they will just keep it up. I have found it is better not to even have a reaction to it. It's example too. We didn't use certain language or talk about certain things around our kids that we didn't want them to pick up. Kids will usually follow the example that is set by the parents, for the most part.

Yes I think example (language, behaviour, attitude, diet, everything) is way important and I often find my self failing. I also find my religious husband failing too (way more than me ;o). Then we fall into acting like kids oursleves - from "look at what you're doing" to "Well I've seen you do a lot worse". So while I try to focus on being the calm, loving, communicating (while being the overworked stressed out mom) parent I should be, husband focuses on being the authoritive, religious, "kids are seen not heard", correct parent.
Ok - I'm focusing on the negative clashing - we do have our good moments too. But this discipline thing - it's important.
I think I "win" most battles....example: my husband brought home some of those wooden stick paint stirrers from the hardware store. "What are those for?"..."Spankings!". Those were in the outside trashcan before nightfall, with the understanding that's not going to happen. One of many battles- I'm just battle weary, I suppose. I have this awful dread that I'm really messing up my kids - too many mindgames if you will.....Ok a couple of cliches : If life was easy it would be boring right?
And we don't get to pick our parents.

Frankly, I couldn't get upset when my daughter learned a "bad" word from schoolmates or wherever, and repeated it, even though I myself don't use them. These words are part of the world we live in, for better or worse (my brother, for example, defends their use and has some reasonable, rational things to say in making this argument). The one expression I forbade her to use was "shut up." As I explained to her, this is a demonstration of lack of respect for one's interlocutor, and lack of respect for other human beings is the one thing I wouldn't tolerate. From lack of respect for others flows all violence, verbal and physical, and pretty much every other evil in which human beings engage. This is not a matter of atheism versus religion, but of human dignity. On the other hand, it is the certainty of religion-bound individuals that those not part of their religion are somehow less than they which leads to religious persecution, the lynchings that used to be the rage in some parts of the U.S., and such more modern phenomena as Islamist terrorism. Everything flows from respect. My daughter is a wonderful young adult now, and while I won't claim that forbidding the phrase "shut up" was the one thing that made her what she is today, she doesn't use four-letter words much, either, even though she knows them, and isn't shocked by them. I wholeheartedly recommend the creed of respect to all parents. To all human beings.

If my children can't count on me to not hurt them, who the heck can they count on?

That is the thing most parents forget in the desperation to do what's right for their kids.

I thought that I "knew" that my parents didn't want to hurt me because mi madre couldn't hide how bad she obviously felt before she finally decided she couldn't do corporal punishment (I was 'bout 7 at the time.)

It took years to realize that my Dad, despite the fact that he really wanted to do the right thing as a parent, had so much anger and rage about his own life and the circumstance thereof that he got an emotional release for himself when beating us with the belt. He really DID THINK that inflicting pain and violence upon us would be good for us constitutionally. But it was some priest at a retreat who helped him realize that "acting in anger is acting for yourself, NOT your children's benefit."

The soap thing is a lesser form of violence. I'd never do it because There Are Better Ways to get such a point across. Having tasted Irish Spring myself, I can say that I'd personally prefer it over a slap 'crost the face though. I'd have actually LEARNED the lesson about swearing much better if my parents had demonstrated how unnecessary such language is themselves. My experience with a stepchild has shown me that just hearing the kid out (and laughing and "kidding" with 'em) before implementing consequences of a non violent nature is the most efficacious path towards teaching such life lessons.

Very few folks have it easy in life. I think that parents need to give their kids a psychologically safe place in their intimate memories when they need to deal with life's difficulties. Kids need to learn that resolutions can always be had, but even if we don't like the way they happen, they don't ALWAYS need to be painful.

Great topic FTM!

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  • I'm the freethoughtmom from New England. Welcome!
  • The word rational means having the ability to reason. Reasoning takes time. Giving yourself the space to think is practically a luxury in our society.

    My father is a logical engineer, my mother a caring nurturer. My handwriting with my dominate hand resembles that of my father, the other, my mother. I feel lucky to have both sides to draw from.
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