Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Category: discipline (page 1 of 2)

More success raising our boy without spanking/hitting/slapping

We never did slap our kid around or anything like that, but I had originally planned on no spanking at all.  Then my son hit toddler age, and I had trouble getting him to behave.  My ex-friend Richard convinced me to spank, and to do it as hard as I could, and unfortunately, I listened.

It didn’t do one bit of good.  The only thing that ever really worked with my son was to take away things he most wanted if he misbehaved.

After breaking off relations with Richard and his wife (for psychologically abusing me and constantly causing drama), we also stopped spanking, period.  That was about three years ago.

If you read the comments on pretty much every Internet article/blog post about modern discipline, you’d think that parents not spanking/slapping their kids are causing the downfall of society.  That kids run wild because nobody spanks/belts/slaps them anymore.

But I’ve seen kids who are constantly spanked/slapped/screamed at, running wild anyway (Richard’s kids).  I’ve seen well-behaved kids who are raised without harshness.

And the older generations complained about MY generation (X) when we were young, too–even though most of us got spanked or even belted as kids.  In those days, it was still okay to use a paddle or a wooden spoon!

Nowadays in America, according to statistics, most parents do still spank their kids.  So–If most of the kids are getting spanked, then where are all the non-spanked kids who are supposedly running wild?  It must be the spanked-kids who are running wild, then!

Or maybe it’s all imaginary–the same complaints older generations have made about younger generations since the dawn of time–and kids behave no worse than they always have!

Also, violence breeds violence: If you abuse a child, you teach that child to abuse, or to find a spouse who abuses.  Why is it assault to smack your wife upside the head, but okay to smack a child (whose head is much smaller and brain much more vulnerable) upside the head?

Abused kids of today often become the criminals of tomorrow, whom society must then deal with, so it is indeed society’s business when kids are abused.  It is indeed your business if your next-door neighbor is smacking his kid around.

While I hesitate to call a short, quick spank on the well-padded butt “abuse,” especially since most parents still do it, I do intend to raise my child without violence of any kind.  I believe I have apologized to my son for spanking him in the past and following Richard’s bad advice.

He is high-spirited at home.  What brings quick compliance?  “No computer tomorrow!”  The thought of spending a whole long day without playing Minecraft or Roblox, brings him upstairs quick.  But I read that children often push the boundaries with their parents because they’re more comfortable with them.  The real test is how the child behaves for teachers and other authority figures.

Another thing you hear is, “Teachers have trouble controlling their classrooms because parents don’t spank anymore.”  Well, they DO still spank, so it must be some other reason.

And my kid sure isn’t the one causing the problem.  Every year, we hear what a wonderful boy we have, how good he is in class.  Every year, the teacher says, “He’s such a nice boy!”  “He’s a nice kid!”  “He befriended a girl who has trouble making friends.”  “He’s brilliant!”  “His test scores are far above average.”  On Thursday, during parent-teacher conferences, we heard it all again.

He also takes after me: He’s quiet, though he talks all the time with his best friends.  He has also naturally matured since second grade (he’s in fourth grade): He works well in groups, works hard, focuses (he used to be easily distracted), LOVES math (does math problems for fun!), loves to read, reads all the time.

I got paddled, and went to an elementary school where I once heard teachers paddling some poor kid, but I sure didn’t work that hard in school in 4th grade, or do my homework!

And I was a well-behaved kid otherwise, so I didn’t get paddled in school, but just having to put my name on the board was humiliating enough.

(Everybody got spanked or paddled, yet most of my classmates got in trouble more often than I did, and even gasped when I had to put my name on the board, so don’t say the paddling made me well-behaved.  No, it was natural temperament.)

At the beginning of the year, my son had some trouble remembering to do/bring in his homework.  So I gave him some tips, and told him that I would have to take 50 cents off his allowance every time he brought home another late slip.  We also had to tell him because of a problem last year, $1 off his allowance every time he gets to school late.

Guess what?  Ever since then, we’ve had no trouble with forgotten homework or tardiness.  🙂  [Update 12/23/14: So far in fifth grade, he has been remembering homework with no trouble, and his tardiness has also sharply dropped off.]

No violence, but still “hitting” him where it hurts: his allowance.  We do not have to threaten violence to get him to study.  We do not have to threaten violence to get compliance in other areas.

And it’s paying off.

 

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Parent-Teacher Conference: Our Kid’s a “Crazy Inventor”

Just got back from a parent-teacher conference.  Geez, our kid is brilliant.  He’s in third grade now; scoring at the top at everything; behaving; getting along well with other kids; sweet; and the teacher occasionally asks him if he’ll be a crazy inventor when he grows up, because he’s inventive.

I can just see it now….With that hair always in cowlicks because he forgets to brush it, his Gen-X parents into stuff like goth, steampunk, D&D and unconventional sleep times/schedules–our little boy growing up into one of those begoggled steampunk turn-of-the-century inventors.

Like, say, Jasper Dale on Avonlea, my favorite character on that show, by the way.  Forget his social awkwardness and stutter–Jasper is smart and hot.  (Hey, look, somebody else agrees with me!)

We stopped spanking our son a few years ago, and yet he still is well-behaved for teachers and most other adults.  Every year he gets such praise from his teachers.  His parents were both social misfits (still are), yet he’s doing fine.  How did that happen?  His parents both had “issues” in school, yet he’s doing well.  How did that happen?

And yet, with how well this one’s turning out, we’ve been unable to have more children…..What a frickin’ shame.

 

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Fighting the Darkness: Stockholm Syndrome?

Part of my trouble dealing with this issue is wondering how my best friend could turn on me like Richard did.

Stockholm Syndrome can explain it.  From a blog by Jennifer Kesler about the Hillary Adams video:

If you’re wondering how a woman could get to the point of helping her husband beat their child, you need to understand this: when you’re living with someone who gets that violent anytime anyone stands up to him, you don’t stand up to him.

You either become very passive, or you become his collaborator in hopes of mitigating the damage. That’s what we’re seeing here – a mitigating collaborator.

The mother calmly agrees with every argument the judge makes, because arguing with him would only escalate his temper. She takes over the beating not because she enjoys it – that’s clear from her demeanor – but because she’s hoping it will lessen his anger and protect Hilary from his more painful lashes.

Several times she says “That’s en…” and stops herself because that constitutes standing up to him. As hard as it is to stomach, this is clearly a woman doing the best she can under circumstances that are as FUBAR as any war situation. —Hillary Adams: child abuse on film

There’s also the FOG (Fear, Obligation and Guilt) in which spouses of abusers are often kept.  Richard’s betrayal of me, even his intimidation of my husband for sticking up for me, could be seen as all part of trying to pacify his raging wife.

So I do hope that one day, he’ll come out of that FOG and realize just what he did, and come to us to make amends.  But there would still be the separate issues of threatening my husband several days earlier, which had nothing to do with Tracy, and nearly killing his daughter.

Hubby and I don’t know what we’ll do if he does come to us trying to make amends.  We decided we would just play it by ear.

There has been no church for a couple of weeks as my priest has been on vacation, so there have been no more surprises, no anxieties.  But this weekend, church starts up again, and as I do every time I go to church, I’ll be checking the parking lot for Richard and Tracy’s vehicle.

The initial shock, dismay and sadness stirred by seeing Richard again, has dissipated, and once again I feel anger at him for his abusive behaviors.  I want him far from me; I feel calmer.

I want to fight for the end of abuse of all kinds, of child abuse, of domestic violence; I read articles on people who did far less to their kids, but still ended up with jail time, or five years probation, and wonder, Why isn’t Richard in jail???!!!

I don’t want him to show up again like he did a couple of weeks ago and put me back in that dark place of depression and missing him.  I don’t want to miss him.

I want to remember him as a narcissist, Svengali and child abuser who duped me into believing all sorts of things that weren’t true, not as my BFF and spiritual mentor.

Seeing him brings it all back again and rips open the wound.  And if he had any sensitivity at all, he’d realize this.

The simple fact of the matter is, vaguely saying he blames himself for everything does not count as an apology for his violence or his betrayal, especially since right after he said this, he blamed me for Tracy’s verbal abuse, and lied to me, twice.

There are many who say that forgiveness is for when the offender asks for it.  When has he ever asked for it?  When has Tracy ever asked for it?  If they do not seek forgiveness from me, then I want them out of my life completely, leaving me in peace.

It is often easier for outsiders to see what’s going on because they’re not caught in the disorienting and invalidating mists of an emotional FOG.

To a mom, dad, sister, brother or best friend, it can be as clear as day, but when you have your mouth wrapped around the exhaust pipe of the Crazy Fogger 3000 night and day, it’s no wonder you can’t see the forest for the trees.

For anyone who’s ever walked or driven in atmospheric fogs, you know that being in a fog can play perceptual tricks on you. –Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, More Thoughts on FOG, Hoovers and No Contact When Ending a Relationship with a Narcissist, Borderline, Histrionic and/or Sociopath

The combination of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “cognitive dissonance” produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended.

In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed “all their eggs in one basket”. The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.

For reasons described above, the victim feels family and friends are a threat to the relationship and eventually to their personal health and existence.

The more family/friends protest the controlling and abusive nature of the relationship, the more the victim develops cognitive dissonance and becomes defensive.

At this point, family and friends become victims of the abusive and controlling individual. From “Love and Stockholm Syndrome” by Dr. Joseph M. Carver, PhD

 

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I get an inkling of Richard’s own abuse of his children

I am distressed and ashamed that I once looked to Richard as a source of childrearing advice, because he had three and I only had one.  At the time, maybe 2006, I only knew him online and on the phone, and thought he was a godly man–despite his occasional cussing rages against the atheists online.

When I said I was having trouble getting my toddler to stop hitting and such, without resorting to spanking, which I felt was abusive, he wrote that spanking was not child abuse.  He described his own system of three spanks all at once, which his own father did to him.

I listened and followed his advice for a few years after that, but spanking made no change in my son’s behavior.  Taking away privileges and toys was far more effective.

Also, when Richard lived with us, before Tracy moved in, he counseled me to spank harder because my son wasn’t taking it seriously, just laughing at us.  So I tried, but just didn’t have the upper body strength to spank as hard as he said I should.

Here I was, so caught up in this man’s ability to persuade people into anything, that I abandoned my conviction to never spank, convinced my husband to spank as well, and even tried to spank hard enough to hurt, out of the belief that only hurting my child would get him to behave.

It’s horrible to remember this now, to wonder how I was so deluded by someone whose parenting I had never even seen.

The foolishness of it all!  Because of this, my husband and I both did things we now regret, things that never would’ve happened had I not been persuaded by this person I barely knew, to change my mind about spanking.  My husband wouldn’t spank at all for a period of time because of what he found himself doing.

And no matter which of us spanked, it did no good.  As a toddler, my son laughed at it; as he got older, he hated the spankings but still did the naughty behavior.  Because of a recent study that proclaimed no harmful effects from one short, quick spank that barely even causes pain, I don’t condemn that.

But my husband and I have both moved away from spanking, period.  There are far too many studies confirming that spanking is harmful.

All this could have been avoided if I had not been exasperated from trying to figure out how to control a wild toddler without spanking, and if I had not listened to the childrearing advice of a person I had never even met.

Now I know some of what happens in his own house.  Now I know that he’s been convicted (as of 10/3/11) of deliberately choking one of his children.  And I regret and repent of ever listening to his advice on anything.

This is, after all, the same person who told me after Christmas 2008 that he and his wife yelling at each other was somehow “helping” his marriage, that if my husband started yelling I shouldn’t get upset, that men need to “vent.”

The same one who started talking as if angry rages against children or wives was somehow okay, and astonished me, because wasn’t this the same guy reading the works of Orthodox mystics, who wrote about the sins of rage (Philokalia and The Ladder of Divine Ascent)?

Wasn’t this the same guy who told me in 2007 that he was trying to suppress his angry side, not argue back when his wife picked fights, not be that person who beat another kid to a bloody pulp in his teens?

Now he was endorsing angry outbursts?  (My mother told me, “I would suggest not e-mailing your friend, he does not sound like a good person to talk to for advice.”)

I had written to him an e-mail about something that had happened that frightened me.  I will not go into more detail about what happened or who was involved.  But he did not respond, so I called him.  In that phone call, he told me all sorts of things that shocked and disturbed me:

That he didn’t respond because he was holding his tongue–He did not think the person involved did anything wrong, even though it was verbal abuse!  That he and his wife will yell at each other and their marriage is better for it.

That men need to vent and I should allow my husband to scream at me so he doesn’t have a stroke.  (I replied, “But I don’t appreciate being spoken to in that manner.”)

That I should allow him to scream at my child.  That he has friends who were not screamed at, and now they do not respect women; that the ones who were screamed at, respect women.

From the situation I described to him, it was very clear that I referred to SCREAMING, something that frightened me and not just a child, an out-of-control person, NOT firm tones or even yelling.

This conversation–and the way he gets you to believe whatever he says–so disturbed me that I spent the evening searching the Net for what I knew must exist: Orthodox writings countering everything he said, and saying that we must fight the passions (ie, anger).  I wrote to him,

I guess we’re going to have to declare a moratorium on topics such as this one.

It’s really disappointing.  I thought you said you were trying to control this passion, and you know we’re supposed to control it, not give into it, not just for our own salvation but for the well-being of everyone else–and it frightens me that you would think that not only is it okay to yell/scream at a spouse, you think [a certain person] should do MORE of it.

Screaming may be appropriate if your child is about to fall off a roof, out of a window or run into traffic, but not at other times.  There are things which you can just chalk up to differences of opinion, and normally I do that with you, but I just can’t with this one.  It just isn’t right.

BTW, I thought I’d better make clear that I’m not going to pull a Todd on you or anything like that.  I value my friendships, especially since it’s so hard for me to make and keep them.

But I do agree that feelings should be put out on the table (in a healthy, productive way), not kept inside, so I feel you should know where I stand on this issue.

But his reply was strangely dismissive of my concerns, and full of denial of the destructive nature of screaming at anyone (edited below only for certain parts which would reveal who was involved in the above incident).

I thought about summarizing and not posting this e-mail, especially since it makes the section quite long, but figured it was best to let him speak for himself, since I quoted my own e-mails.

Watch gaslighting in action–and an abusive parent justifying what he does.  My comments are in purple brackets:

There is a difference between constructive yelling and destructive yelling. I am controlling my passions for destructive outbursts versus trying to ring in a certain fear my girls need to understand.

The more they pay attention and stop the out of control behavior, the less they get chastised.  [justifying verbal abuse by blaming it on the kids, justifying using fear to control kids]

Why should it frighten you that I believe in discipline, even if it comes with a harsh tone when necessary? [Obviously you didn’t read what I wrote, because “frightening” referred to screaming/yelling at one’s spouse.] 

Its not like I am running around the house at the top of my voice at every second constantly riding their every action.

There is a time and place for when it is called upon for us to raise our tone to put our children into quick action so they can listen, be more attentive and not in control of the situation. We should never have to tell our children twice to do something we ask of them once and sometimes they learn that lesson with a harsh tone.

[Um—no!  This sounds like the destructive “discipline” I’ve found described on extremely conservative religious sites which promote child abuse to control children, which promote instilling fear to get a child to jump to your commands the first time, and teaching “lessons” with a “harsh tone.”  For a critique of such parenting, see here.]

And there was a ton of sarcasm about yelling at a spouse.  [Wait, what?  Where did he find sarcasm?  Does he even know what that word means?] 

In fact I do not remember that was even brought up.  [Um, what?  Gaslighting me again?]  

Tracy does put me into my place sometimes but not in a harsh tone. [Liar!  I’ve WITNESSED her screaming and yelling at you many times!  Here is my account of her rage episode against you.  My husband is a witness of it.  Right after I witnessed her yelling and screaming against you, you said she was being “nice” to you.  And you yourself complained of this many times, including March 2009!  I have it in writing!] 

I also have to call her when she is going too far with her opinions on some issues, asking if she really feels they are right or justified. I think that the little of the conversation which remotely was discussed about that was more playful with my wife commenting on her as a burden on my broken back, but you may not have heard that on your end of the phone. It was more amusing than anything.

[NO!  That is NOT how the conversation went!  You are gaslighting me!  You told me you yell at each other!]

As for suggesting Jeff to yell more, that is not what I said. I suggested letting him be able to loosen up before he explodes. This translates into allowing him to speak his mind more and maybe tighten up his reins on your son when your son needs it, mostly so you do not have to deal with…waiting til the last second of counting with him so he will get up and do what you requested him to do more than once.

[He’s 4 years old and still learning what happens when you get done counting.  Don’t diss the counting method: It works!  You just need to have patience, and don’t use fear to control the child.]

….Jeff seems to get frustrated at times and if he holds it in he is going to explode someday, but these are only my observations. When I have witnessed these similar situations it starts with high blood pressure and eventually turns into a heart attack.

[No, you said I should let him scream at my son, yell at me…. He already would vent his frustrations, and didn’t just “hold it in,” so I don’t know where Richard got that from.  I probably should’ve started recording our conversations so Richard couldn’t do this to me!  My ex Shawn pulled the same crap with me, telling me something then saying he never said it.]

Quelling the passions… Yes I have been quelling my anger issues. I am nowhere near as angry as I have been and I am still undergoing that burden.

Telling my kids to cut it out or they will get in trouble when they are supposed to be cleaning up and not playing is not anger, its making them pay attention to the words I am saying and to adhere to them.

So its said loud. This is not something I need to quell; its called raising my children to respect and obey my wishes. If I never said anything or tried to be calm and peaceful with all three of my girls, two out of my three would be walking all over me daily and I would be living in a worse disaster area than I do already.

[I NEVER objected to a parent using firm tones to get a child to listen.  I objected to SCREAMING at a child.  He said repeatedly that SCREAMING at a child is not only okay but necessary.  A firm tone is proper discipline.  SCREAMING is ABUSE!  He told me over the phone that the situation that frightened me, which was a  screaming fit, was perfectly fine!]

And please take no offense to any of this. It should not disappoint you nor should I be disappointed. We grew up in different houses and we witnessed certain things work and certain things which probably put us in fear on how we see how to raise a child, or three, soon four… pray for me! :O

Also, his claims in this e-mail of temperance need to be taken with a grain of salt because he was later convicted of choking one of his children in September 2010.

People who are in control of themselves, who never abuse, do not suddenly snap one day and choke a 9-year-old child.

I didn’t see it so much, but Jeff witnessed him yelling and screaming at the kids while gaming with him, and Jeff–who also has trouble controlling his temper at times–found it excessive.  Jeff says that yelling like this does not work to get kids to listen to you.

Also, as I describe later, on June 10, 2010, he posted on Facebook for suggestions on how to get the kids to clean without “beating them into bloody submission” which only gets them flinching when he raises a hand and gets them working far less than they already were.

At the time, I thought he was just joking with hyperbole.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Jeff said when I mentioned this post to him, “So: he’s finally learning…?  Yelling at them just makes things worse, and should only be a last resort.”

Also, as I described earlier, Richard had admitted to putting the kids in the closet once (and planning to do it again), and said his dad abused him, he deserved it, and it made him a better person.

To quote my e-mails to my mother, the “male friend” being Richard, and note that by “screaming” I mean screeching and raging, not “raising your voice”:

A male friend of mine says…that men need to vent, that if Jeff doesn’t scream at [my son] on occasion then [my son] will grow up into someone who doesn’t respect his mother and gets put in jail, etc.

But of course, this friend of mine is a guy who’s had a fierce temper of his own, and his wife seems very capable of standing up to anything and has a fierce temper herself, so maybe he doesn’t realize what it’s like for more sensitive females to deal with this.  I don’t think this kind of behavior is right…

I said on the phone today that I seem to have misunderstood what my guy friend told me.  Well, I partially misunderstood.

I could’ve sworn he was telling me that it’s okay for wives and husbands to yell at each other as a means of “getting things out,” that he and his wife do things that way and are much happier for it.

I could’ve sworn he was saying that I should let Jeff yell at me more often to “vent” or he’ll have a stroke.

But he insists that’s not what he said, that he didn’t say Jeff should yell at me more often, that he was just talking about disciplining children.

I’m not sure what to make of this, because what he claims to have said, and what I remember him saying, are entirely different things.

I distinctly remember him saying that he and his wife would yell at each other, that it got things out in the open, and their marriage was better for it.  If that’s not what he said, then why was I so appalled as he said it?

When he said I should let Jeff yell, we were NOT talking about children at the time, but marriage, so that’s why I said, “I don’t appreciate being spoken to in that manner” (i.e., my husband yelling at me).  If we were talking about children, I would not have said that!

He also greatly downplayed what he said about Jeff needing to yell, whoever it was at.

Here is where he and I part ways, however.  He has a very authoritarian view of disciplining children, and seems to think we’re too light on [my son].

I want to minimize the yelling; he thinks we should do more of it.  He’s always telling me things like, “[Your son] rules the roost.”

But no, we’re teaching [our son] that WE rule the roost, not him, and when he disobeys, there are consequences.  When a spank is threatened, he holds his butt because he knows what’s coming.

But I don’t agree with my friend that good discipline means we have to yell all the time and force things.

I agreed with him that screaming may be appropriate if safety is at stake: a child is on a roof, about to fall through a window, running into traffic, reaching for an outlet.

But I don’t agree that it’s right to scream at a child for being disobedient.  I sure don’t remember being screamed at as a child.  Yelled at on occasion, yes, but not screamed at.

Here in this e-mail, you see an example of Richard criticizing us for not being harsh enough with our child.  You see the all-or-nothing attitude, that if you’re not screaming at your kids, then you’re letting them run wild.

There’s a huge middle ground in there, where many parents are able to raise kind, respectful children–without screaming, slapping or even spanking.  Every year, my son’s teachers tell us how well-behaved he is, how nice to the other children, even befriending ones who others push aside.

Also, even as long ago as the 50s, people were moving past the idea that kids should fear you and do things the first time you ask–OR ELSE:

In 2013, I saw an episode of Donna Reed in which the dad told Jeff Stone he should do what he’s told the first time he’s told.  And Jeff said, The kids I know who do that, are afraid of their parents; do you really want that?

In another episode, the dad tells Jeff that when he was a kid, his dad would have taken a razor strap to him; he obviously does not want to raise Jeff that way.

In Dobie Gillis, we soon learn that the dad was raised with more anger and violence, but Dobie’s mother refused to allow Dobie to be raised like that.

So if, as long ago as the 50s, people looked on razor straps, violence and screaming as barbaric, why should we of the 21st century even consider such things “good parenting”?  Especially now that studies show such parenting does more harm than good?

Richard criticized Jeff for not wanting to make our son fear him!  Back in January 2008, he said with concern (as if Jeff were making a terrible mistake–ie, tsk tsk), maybe he was afraid of his dad and didn’t want our son to feel the same.  What, do you really think fear is any way to raise a child?

And despite Richard’s claims that his kids did what he wanted the first time he said so, how can that be when they kept misbehaving and he kept yelling?  If that were true, then after a short time, they should have learned to obey without being screamed at. 

And why did he post on Facebook in 2010 asking for ways to get the kids to clean when asked, if putting fear into children works so well?

Why is it so much easier to get my own son to clean, without making him fear us?  Why do his teachers–year after year after year–tell us how well-behaved and nice he is?

If screaming and putting fear into children is so effective, then why did you choke your daughter for not listening to you, Richard?

Fear is no way to raise a child–unless you don’t mind that your child will not love or respect you, but only fear and hate you.  You want that child to behave because she loves you and wants to please you and do what’s right, not because she fears you, because the moment you’re gone, she’ll do it again.

It’s the same principle for religion: If you want truly righteous believers, they need to obey out of love for God, not because they fear Hell.  As soon as the threat is gone, the “believers,” or children, will rebel.  Just look at all the kids who sneak out of the house to party, or who go off to college and start engaging in all sorts of self-destructive behavior.

My parents weren’t perfect, and did yell, did use a paddle when I was little (because it was the 70s and this was still considered okay).  But they did not scream, did not belittle, did not slap, got furious with my brother for hitting my head one day. 

And I did not rebel as a teenager, not for fear of punishment, but because it was wrong.  The “worst” I did was to carry a Walkman in my backpack, to use when walking to/from school.  (You weren’t supposed to have a Walkman at school.)

In college, the “worst” I did was sexual behavior with a couple of guys I loved–no drinking, no weed, no promiscuity.  Not for fear of punishment, but because I wanted to do the right thing and please God.

An old school friend has borderline personality disorder, but she is not narcissistic, and does not use it as an excuse to bully children.  On the contrary, she is trained in child care, and a fierce advocate against any form of intimidation or abuse of children.  She knows how to get a child to listen to you and obey because the child wants to.  She has already helped raise a few children to adulthood–and from what I hear, they have turned out well.

I remember being a kid: Kids start to tune you out if you lose control and scream at them all the time.  They don’t respect screamers and hitters: They respect people who are firm but stay in control, who show them love rather than violence in discipline, and they want to listen to them.

Richard could really benefit from a few episodes of Supernanny.  Also, here is a much more gracious view of getting kids to obey you the first time.  Another perspective:

Wanting to avoid punishment, we learned to swallow our emotions and just obey, plastering on a smile or at the very least making sure to avoid frowning. But that didn’t mean we didn’t still feel or rage inside.

Even though my parents believed they had broken each of our wills, I think what they had really done is made us so frightened of the consequences of disobeying that we negotiated our circumstances as best we could using what coping mechanisms we had available.

A child raised on the Pearl’s method may be instantly obedient and appear outwardly cheerful, but that tells nothing about what is actually going on inside the child.

…This is actually one thing I’ve seen Christian bloggers who oppose the Pearls’ child training teachings point to as a warning sign. Michael is talking primarily about breaking children and turning them into mindless obedient robots, not about teaching children to love Jesus and love their neighbors. –Libby Anne, Definitional Discussions and Pavlov’s Dog

Here’s a good description of why screaming does not work:

Tone– This is probably one the most important and most overlooked skill. Keeping the right tone with your child is paramount to disciplining successfully. Too light of a tone just tells your kids that you are a pushover. That what you say is not what you mean, or that your authority is weak at best.

Too strong of a tone is either disciplining by fear, which will not work in the long run, or it’s yelling to relieve your own tension, which does not help to scale back the tension. Especially as your children hit the teenage years.

Want a rebellious teenager? Using fear, and only fear, as your primary discipline technique will grant that request very quickly. Yelling in reaction to your own anger or frustration will only result in a daily screaming match.

Your tone should be authoritative. It should tell them that you are the parent, and they will do as you say. It should not be light and airy, or filled with pleas to behave.

Nor should it be screaming. Both of these tones says that you have no control in the situation. A controlled and serious voice resonates with children more than yelling or pleas. –Kerry Chafin, Why Your Discipline May Not be Working

There are several ways we can “make” children behave. One is by using force. Another is by using fear. Still another is by punishment. Unfortunately, these three methods imply that the caregiver is superior and should overpower the child.

Rather than leading to a child with inner control, they make the child angry, resentful, fearful and dependent upon force.

There is another way to discipline children. Though it may not appear to get the immediate results we might like, it is safer, more natural and humanistic.

It is based on the assumption that children are by nature good, fair, and honest and ultimately capable of responding to that which is good, fair and honest within us.

This method is to treat the child with respect. It is treating the child as if he is as important a human being as you are. It is treating him with the same respect with which you wish for him to treat others, you, and himself. –Katharine C. Kersey, How to Discipline Your Child

Fear and discipline only confuse the young child therefore; first look for the real world consequences.  When adults want to teach a child something, explain to them the reasoning in words that they can comprehend.

I have discussed a few ways adults can teach children how to learn and follow rules and do not want ignore the hundreds of other techniques.   However the purpose of this article is to discuss fear and discipline.

Scaring and hitting a child are two different behaviors, but they are both abusive and unnatural.  Remember frightened children will become the frightened adults who have great difficulty trusting others because they are in fear and waiting for the attack.

Do not use fear and discipline as a tool to get them to do what you want them to do because at this point you are being the bully, and severely damaging the ones we love.

This is the relationship between fear and discipline. Children will learn the lessons required to move into adulthood as long as we are there to offer our guidance. –Dr. Cheryl MacDonald, Does health psychology relate to fear and discipline?

Emotional abuse is a form of assault that is deliberate and manipulative and used as a method of control. The abuser uses intimidation, fear, guilt, and/or threats to frighten and belittle the victim.

…Parents or caregivers who emotionally abuse their children also use similar controlling tactics to gain power over the child.

Children who experience emotional abuse may feel that they are responsible for the behavior of their parents and that if only they were more polite, better students, or better children, then their parents would be more loving.

Abuse is often defined as any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, or manipulation. —Emotional-abuse

The goal of effective discipline is to foster acceptable and appropriate behaviour in the child and to raise emotionally mature adults. A disciplined person is able to postpone pleasure, is considerate of the needs of others, is assertive without being aggressive or hostile, and can tolerate discomfort when necessary.

The foundation of effective discipline is respect. The child should be able to respect the parent’s authority and also the rights of others. Inconsistency in applying discipline will not help a child respect his or her parents.

Harsh discipline such as humiliation (verbal abuse, shouting, name-calling) will also make it hard for the child to respect and trust the parent. –Canadian Pediatric Society, Effective discipline for children

Also see:
Can slapping a toddler in the head be anything but unacceptable!?

Here, smacking on the head is called assault:
Husband slapped my daughter

Well I was there and I saw what you did, 
I saw it with my own two eyes 
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been 
It’s all been a pack of lies 
–Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight”

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

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Early 2010: I speak up about Tracy’s child abuse–and ponder reporting her to authorities

Very late December 2009 or very early January 2010 is when I saw Tracy smack the 3-year-old upside the head, which could’ve easily sent her flying into the TV, which was a short distance in front of the child.

Keep in mind this child was very small for her age, and toddlers are already small, their heads not fully formed, their brains still vulnerable. 

Even if the child does not fall on something or get a visible injury, smacking a child like that can give a kind of whiplash to the delicate brain as it whacks against the wall of the skull.

Shaking or hitting a child’s head or face is always dangerous. Young children cannot control the movement of their head as well as adults can.

Shaken baby syndrome (shaken baby–impact syndrome) is brain damage caused when a baby is shaken, slammed, or thrown against an object. –“Physical Abuse: Common Injuries in Children,” HealthLink BC

Help prevent shaken baby syndrome

  • Never shake a baby. Also, do not slap or hit a child of any age on the face or head. A child’s brain is very delicate. Shaking, slapping, or hitting a child can cause serious harm, even though it may not leave any obvious sign of injury. –Healthwise staff, Shaken Baby Syndrome: Home Treatment

But Tracy popped her child in the back of the head right in front of me one evening, so hard that the child’s tongue flew out.

!!!!!!!!!!!!

I sat in shock and disbelief.  I wonder if it showed on my face, if Tracy saw it–and if this is what renewed her campaign against me.

But she only has herself to blame.  Not me, and certainly not that poor child.  Sure the child was being naughty, but abuse is never the answer, never the fault of the child.

I think I wondered if I should call the police.  But when you’re a guest in someone’s home, and that someone already frightens you….

Afterwards, I spoke to Jeff at home about it, and discovered he didn’t see it happen even though he was in the room.  I went through a moral crisis over the next week or two.

I posted about it briefly on an Orthodox forum late on January 6, 2010, hoping somebody would help me with good advice.

Though I soon took it down again (in the wee hours of January 7) after a guy scolded me twice over: first, for “gossiping” if it wasn’t that hard, and second, for not calling the police if it was so hard a slap.

But another poster got upset with that guy, couldn’t believe he wrote what he did, and understood my predicament.  He understood this wasn’t about “gossip” but about badly needing advice about abusive friends.

He urged me to report Tracy to Social Services, even gave me a link to state CPS phone numbers and said I could do it anonymously.

But I hoped that somehow I could convince her this was wrong, without calling the police or CPS.

Those few weeks were so hard that I finally told Jeff the various abuses I had seen and that Richard had told me about, so he’d know where I was coming from.

He already knew some of them, because I told him at other times.  But now I showed him the e-mail and notes from March 22, 2009, the contents of which I never showed him before, keeping Richard’s confidence.  He finally realized just how bad things were in Richard’s house.

I asked Jeff, “How much more of this can I take?”  Because being friends with Tracy, and not calling CPS or the police about what I saw and what I knew, was working like acid on my conscience.

Jeff and I discussed whether we should report her to Social Services, but set it aside for the time.  I forget why; maybe we thought we could still influence them to stop the abuse.

Later in the year, after we ended the friendship, we set it aside again, in fear that Richard would take vengeance like he almost did with the apartment manager, whom he plotted to kill.  (I also didn’t tell Jeff the full details about that plot until July 2010.)

Shortly after the smacking incident, one of their friends, Chris, stopped over for a bit as we played D&D at Richard and Tracy’s house.

His own wife did some of the very same things Tracy did, but he apparently had no clue Tracy did them:

  1. Chris’ wife fought tooth and nail to keep him from seeing Richard, just as Tracy used to fight tooth and nail in early 2008 to keep Richard from coming over for ten minutes just to pick up stuff they left behind at our house.  (So you see it’s not just fearing affairs that gets people to act jealously).
  2. Chris’ wife went into rages and hit him.

Chris complained about latest developments: She left him again.  He saw her smack his son (from a previous marriage) on the back of the head, and he was very upset about that.  Chris said that smacking anywhere but on the butt or hand is abuse.

Tracy said, “Well, I smack [the 3-year-old] on the back of the head all the time!”

He looked startled, and she laughed and said, “I’m just kidding!”

To which my mind screamed, “You are not kidding!  I saw you!”

Then Richard joked about smacking kids on the back of the head, said the way he grew up it was normal.  He talked like they did this all the time and there was nothing wrong with it.

I cried vehemently, “No, no, no, no!”

To hear Richard joke about smacking kids and apparently condone it, disgusted me. 

But at least I finally had the chance to speak up about Tracy’s actions–and without broaching the subject myself.  Not only that, but Chris supported my views.

It was so Providential that I wrote back to the guy on the Orthodox forum.  I said that God seemed to have answered my prayer, and arranged circumstances so I could say something to Richard and Tracy.

We both rejoiced.  I hoped that everything was settled and I would not have to call CPS.

I made my feelings known another time as well: On February 8, 2010, Chris posted on his Facebook wall,

And some say that ‘waterboarding’ isn’t torture!
Daily Mail: U.S. Soldier waterboarded his own daughter, 4, because she couldn’t recite alphabet

I replied at 8:12pm,

Anyone who thinks the US should use torture of any kind, should read “Proved Innocent” (the story of Gerry Conlon). 😛

I wrote at 8:29pm,

And all for not knowing the alphabet. It’s like the parents who made their little girl eat half a bar of Irish Spring and ignored her near-fatal allergic reaction, just for saying a bad word. 😛

Screaming, belittling, hitting anything other than the butt (or maybe a quick hand slap), torture–all are child abuse and inexcusable.  😛

Richard’s reply is no longer available for me to quote exactly because he blocked me months later.  But I recall him writing, “Screaming is abuse?  Seriously?”

I replied the next day at 4:53pm,

There’s a big difference between yelling and screaming. I’m not talking about yelling at a kid who’s about to touch a hot stove or run into a street or who isn’t listening.

I’m talking about screaming, screeching, sounding like a demon….

There was no reply.

Um, screaming is not abuse?  Seriously?

It was absolutely appalling.  I used to think Richard was kind and gentle, with a big heart, like his friends kept saying about him.  But I was beginning to see an entirely different person, the wolf underneath the sheep’s clothing.

This post (and a refusal to get into his extremist politics) is probably why, a very short time afterwards, both Tracy and Richard started bullying me on Facebook and the friendship soon ended.

My mother and father never smacked me anywhere on my head.  When an older brother smacked me one day, my mother became furious with him and said to never do that.

My parents raised me in the days when you could still use a paddle, which I don’t condone nowadays, but I don’t remember them ever doing anything that was abusive, at least according to the standards of the 70s and early 80s.

They didn’t scream, didn’t use a belt, didn’t smack me or slap me on the head.  Of course I did naughty things from time to time, as all children do, and got yelled at, but I turned out fine without being abused by my parents.

If Richard told me the above stories of abuse, and Tracy did the above abuse right in front of me, so brazenly, as if bragging, as if to show no fear that I would report them–what else went on when I wasn’t looking, what was I never told?

What the heck were they thinking?  Why did they think they could do this without me ever reporting them to the authorities?

Why did they repeatedly do these things, yet Richard treated me like I didn’t know what I was talking about when I said this was child abuse and Tracy was abusing Richard?

Why did Richard tell me the things Tracy did, how she’d be mean to him over the phone for example, and why did Tracy demonstrate to me that the stories were true, yet they expected me to befriend Tracy?

Why did they think I’d want anything to do with a child abuser and husband beater?  Why did they think I’d ever want to open up to her?

8 Reasons People Don’t “Get” Emotional Abuse
Unnecessary Force is Emotional Abuse [no longer available on Web]

When I told these things to two friends who were in some way involved in Social Services in my state, both said Tracy and Richard sounded very abusive and I must report them for the sake of the children.  This was in July 2010 and February 2011.  I finally did in March 2011; the story is here.

What did they do when I wasn’t around?  What did Richard not tell me about?  I was to discover the answer in 2011.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

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