We live in a world of quick fixes; almost everything we desire is at our fingertips. When one wants an item, it can be delivered to their door within 48 hours with two, simple clicks. When one wants food, it can be summoned to their doorstep within 20-30 minutes. But fundamental, emotional, human needs cannot be satisfied with such haste. Humans thrive off of connection; authentic, rich connection. So why is it when our children are having trouble, we search for the quickest fix? Behavioral charts, psychiatric medications, spanking, time-outs, etc.? These methods are even recommended by those we are supposed to trust the most, including professionals. Perhaps professionals also feel this desire to deliver the quick fix those are seeking. Perhaps it is scary to not have the quick answer that so many seek. But then isn’t everyone just playing a part of the greater problem?
The issue with how we approach children with behavioural problems, is there are two ways to parent: we can parent through authoritarian fear, or we can parent with understanding, love, and care. The real challenge is, parenting with authoritarian fear can produce quick results, so many are inclined to think, Hey, this works. How do you argue against something that works? What we need to consider with these methods are short-term versus long-term results. Parenting with fear creates more fear; fear creates suppression, isolation, self-loathing, anxiety, etc. In the long-term, do we want our children to be fearful of us? Sure, it may get them to quickly comply when you tap them on the behind at 5-years-old, but what message is that sending? “Hey, when you get angry with someone and you don’t know what to do about it, hit ’em”. It is against the law for an adult to hit another adult, so is this a skill we want to instill for them to take forth into their journey of adulthood? Now some may be reading this and thinking, okay, that’s too far. But really, I would like someone to come up with a good, life-long lesson or skill that spanking teaches.
We have got to stop putting more effort into telling our children what they shouldn’t be doing and put a lot more effort into modelling what they should be doing. Which skills will be valuable to our children throughout their lifetime? What is important outside of this moment? When your child ages and becomes part of the workforce, they won’t be able to smack their coworker into complying with their ideas. When your child is an adult in an intimate relationship, they won’t be able to force their partner’s nose into the corner of the wall to think about what they have done. Real life just doesn’t work that way, so why are we wasting our time modelling these useless methods?
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In all of my years in the field of birth to five mental health, I can confidently say that “but I turned out okay” is the most popular justification for continuing on with unhealthy generational practices of parenting. In fact, I even remember saying it myself when I was in my graduate program, and I […]