Thursday, January 31, 2013

"How Did You Get Started?"

This question was posted to the wall yesterday- Could you share with us the conversation that you had with Josh when you began your transition? We have always followed gentle/mindful parenting principles but have friends who are transitioning and wondering how to start that conversation with their kids. The first step on our journey was mine. I watched a "facts about spanking" video on youtube and pretty much felt like a terrible person. Immediately after the video, without consulting Papa Bear at all, I called Josh into the room and said something along the lines of, "I know in the past we have spanked you, and I'm now finding out how wrong that is. I am so sorry that I ever hurt you or scared you like that. I want you to know I will never hit you again. I want you to know that your body belongs to you and no one is allowed to hurt you, especially not people who love you. I don't want you to be scared of me. I am so sorry." Many tears were shed. Josh hugged me and gently whispered, "Thank you Mama, thank you Mama." After that I talked with Papa Bear. We started reading everything we could. I bought several books on We listened to podcasts, particularly on Freedomain Radio. One interview with Dr. Ross Greene (I'll link in comments) talked about transitioning to a more peaceful parenting approach and how parents should NOT make a proclamation like "we're going to be peaceful now". Because you will mess up, and your kids won't take you seriously. Whoops, too bad I hadn't heard that earlier. Also in that interview, Dr. Greene talked about choosing your battles, but not in the heat of the moment. Pre-planning what you would work on as a family, like not spanking, and dropping everything else. No need to have any additional conflict in the already stressful situation of changing habits. So our first focus was to stop spanking. But we were still practicing a very authoritarian style or parenting, telling Josh what to do and expecting compliance. Spanking was replaced with more yelling. And since Josh *knew* he need not fear physical punishment, he got more courageous with yelling his thoughts back at us. Some would see that as a step backward, and so disrespectful, but we tried to focus on how he had all those pent up feelings of anger and frustration and needed to learn that it was safe to share his feelings with us. It was not easy. These were dark times in our house. Papa and I would often have to walk outside, or go in the car and scream, and take turns diffusing each others' anger. I mean, it was really bad. But slowly it started getting better. Not noticeably at first. Just one day we'd be sitting there and realize, wow, we haven't had to fight to urge to hit our child today. Wow, no one has yelled in the past hour. Things like that. So then we focused on not yelling and developing better communication skills. We made no proclamation this time, we just started working on it ourselves and let Josh's behavior evolve along with ours. It often felt like Josh was two steps behind us. We'd be so good about not yelling but Josh still was. It was a definitely trial of our patience. We had to remember the example we'd set for years, and that our new example would take a while to become the new norm. Not at all easy. So, that's how we got started. No particular conversation. I'd suggest watching that interview and taking the "one-thing-at-a-time" approach. Once we were doing better with communication we started working in conversations like "Who owns your body?" or "Who is responsible for your property?" Just off-hand questions, very relaxed and informal. But there is so much more hard work to be done before that point. Work on changing your own habits and let your children's behavior evolve along with yours. It is a long, difficult journey, but it is worth it. ♥

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