Anyone who has ever raised a child or been around children for any extended period of time is well aware that they have the capacity to provoke anger in their parents or caregivers by being naughty, or by overt defiance. It is how kids learn where the boundaries are, how far they can push the adults caring for them, and what happens when they prod those boundaries too much.
In healthy environments, children can poke at the boundaries some without suffering severe punishment of any type. Their parents respond to these tests with firm and loving guidance, generally. This isn’t to say that loving parents don’t get angry at their children—they simply don’t react with vehemence and fury to the majority of their children’s mistakes and wrongdoings. This gives children the safety to be themselves and learn right from wrong. It is no different for bear cubs!
I did not grow up in a safe home, not by any stretch of the imagination. My defiance and misdeeds earned drastic physical consequences, and emotional cruelty was used as an extra weapon to control my behavior as well. I was hit for things outside my control, such as using my left hand instead of my right, and for being clumsy and spilling my milk at dinner. I lived in terror, and it damaged my life in very serious, relentless ways.
When I became a parent, all I wanted was to do a better job, for my child’s sake. I would like to tell you I never spanked my child. I can’t say that. I did spank him on numerous occasions. I didn’t, however, beat my child. I spanked with my bare hand on his covered bottom. I reacted angrily to some of his antics. I wish I hadn’t ever spanked him–that isn’t what I wanted for him. However, I wasn’t able to correct the intergenerational teaching in time.
I learned as I went, like most people do. I struggled mightily to overcome the example of parenting I had. I heard myself say my son was a “bad boy” when he did something wrong as a toddler, but I took it back in the moment, and told him what I meant was, I didn’t like how he was acting, but I loved him so much. I apologized.
Please visit my blog Thursday to find out how I taught myself to be a better parent and how I plan to help other parents be better, too.