It all starts with not punishing – I don’t mean not spanking, not punishing corporally, I mean not punishing at all. I mean, we said “no” a lot, we distracted, even physically restrained our toddlers sometimes, but punished?
(MOM: I don’t remember saying no very often, I remember saying yes whenever possible, always thinking before responding. It’s like Bea Marshall @BeaTheTree , there is no stress when you can say yes! So say it whenever you can.
ME: True, I didn’t mean to give the impression that we said “no” as often as a lot of folks, or as often as we ourselves were told “no” when we were kids. Just that sometimes the true answer is no, and sometimes we said it, but that’s all, only said it, never backed it up with any sort of unpleasantness.)
Punished? Found a way to disincentivize unwanted behaviour by dishing out something the kids would not enjoy? Never. Never downgraded their life experience to make a point – but there were a lot of other changes that we made in the child-rearing that we practiced generally, relative to the child-rearing that was practiced on us.
The list of parenting blasphemies we practiced were as follows:
- The Family Bed. Our kids didn’t move out of our bedroom into their own until, presumably, they had reached an age where they required the privacy to masturbate. Then they chose a room and moved into it. I assume that was the deciding factor; I’m sure they’ll deny it.
(MOM: Lol….your girls will not like you for saying this….pretty sure that is with boys not girls….I would just say, for privacy….why don’t you ask them?
ME: Why? I’m not so liberated I want to know that! Plus, it’s kinda beside the point. Just trying to give the reader a chuckle, you got a problem with that?
MOM: Oh right – “the reader.” How’s she doing anyway?
ME: Shut up!
DAUGHTER/TRUTH-TELLER: Dad left the family bedroom first on account of snoring, mom soon wanted to be with him, older sister got a boyfriend and moved into her own room, youngest (me) was abandoned and slowly learned to not be so afraid of the dark and being alone. That is all.
ME: Oh, for the love of . . . it was acid reflux and I had to prop the bed up and sleep on a hill. And it wasn’t “snoring,” it was sleep apnea. Look, we had a family bed for a long time, OK?)
For the record, we say “shut up” a little too. But we don’t enforce it.
2. Long breastfeeding times,
(MOM: (The older one) yes, 2.5 years. (The younger one), no, 9 months….lol…but I would have…she had issues with my milk.
ME: Oh, right . . . )
3. Pacifiers as long as they wanted them. We gave them to the kids, we didn’t retain ownership. They were their possessions, not ours to take away.
(MOM: We did talk to them about getting rid of them, and the dentist did too, and eventually, just before kindergarten, they gave them up.
ME: Oh right . . . )
- No toilet training – it’s not difficult, you know. They figured it out themselves, years before school, where it could be a problem.
(MOM: Not true, we did show them, but we didn’t put pressure on them. It was never a struggle.
ME: Well, that isn’t “training,” then, is it? Not in any authoritarian sense.)
4. The kids could choose who they hung out with, no forced friendships with the children of our friends. That gave us some troubles, our parent friends didn’t understand it.
- We cursed and swore, and so did the kids. We let them watch anything on TV, anything we would watch, they could too. I mean we don’t watch porn or horror movies, but other than that. They were raised on South Park, Family Guy, and Jay and Silent Bob.
- We included them in any and all conversations. Sex and death not excluded, politics and science not excluded. We answered any and all questions with the truth, up to and including “Well, Sweetie, we think your uncle had a heart attack, but it’s also possible that he was so sad that he killed himself, I’m not sure” and all the way down to and including “What do you get when you cross an elephant with a Rhino?” (Elephino!) If the true answer was too complex for kids, too bad, true is true; simple and false is wrong for both those reasons, wrong two ways. When they got bored of the answer, they could walk or crawl away, no problem.
There’s more, but the thing is, it all follows not punishing. If you’re not going to punish, you can’t really force any of that stuff, all you can do is talk, make suggestions, rational explanations . . . little kids don’t always listen, and so some things got dirty, some things got broken, some things got lost. Shit happens. But you know what else happened?
- Straight ‘A’s, always.
- Polite, communicative kids that people liked to be around.
- Life has gotten better and easier every year since the younger one passed about four years of age.
- No teen rebellion, on account of no pre-verbal or toddler rage.
- Open communication all the way through life, no secrets, no lies. The lines of communication have always been open – yes, even right through the teen years.
- No drugs, alcohol, or promiscuousness.
- Always been a happy family together, the kids don’t mind being around us, or us them. None of the animosity normal between parents and teens. They want to be with us, and we want to be with them.
So there was more than not punishing to be sure, the family bed, no censorship (including paying no attention to the pressure for “age-appropriate” talk), no bed times, no meal times, no forced friendships. Honestly, we were often viewed as traitors to the adult “united front” that the parents of the world feel so strongly about, and, fair enough. We picked sides, for sure.
We sided with our kids.