At that point, I learned to censor the old messages before they even exited my mouth. I went to parenting classes. I figured out that it wasn’t my son’s behavior that angered me, but what I thought his behavior meant.
For example, I was in college and parenting a toddler. After being in classes all day and riding multiple buses to retrieve him from day care, I was more than exhausted. I fixed a nice dinner for us, although I really wanted to make us cold cereal. No sooner had I set down his plate of chicken, rice, and string beans, he threw it Frisbee-style to the floor.
I was instantly mad, thinking he didn’t appreciate my efforts, but instead of spanking, I sent him to his room. He ran in there crying, and came out a moment later, saying “I sorry mommy.” Of course, I melted.
It was a ridiculous notion that a toddler could (or needed to) appreciate my efforts. It was then I realized how deeply the messages from my childhood had permeated me as a person, and as a parent. These messages stopped having so much impact on my parenting that very day. I had abilities and gifts my parents did not:
- the ability to see what I was doing wasn’t in my child’s best interests AND then change MY behavior.
- I was more than willing to get help. I went to parenting classes and counseling, until I didn’t need to any longer.
- empathy for my little fellow. I didn’t want him growing up being afraid, and hurt emotionally or physically.
In “Benjamin Bear’s Naughtiest Night Ever!” I am attempting to reach parents reading to their children, those who are using corporal punishment as a rule, to discipline their children. I am not saying that all spanking is abuse. I don’t believe it is. I also don’t believe it is necessary to exclusively employ physical methods to guide children’s behavior, on any regular basis.
Mama and Papa Blackbear vowed to each other when they had cubs they wouldn’t hit them, ever. The Blackbears were sorely tested on their resolve to not spank, particularly when Benjamin created a disaster in their home, outdoing his entire history of misdeeds in a single evening. They triumphed though, and their unconditional love for their cub prevailed over all the angry feelings. These furry folks relied on natural consequences to get their point across to Benjamin.
The whole disastrous scenario was initiated by Benjamin because he wanted his parents to stay home for the night, instead of going out, and leaving the three cubs with a babysitter. It is crucial for parents to make time to be separate from their children and meet their own needs as people. These parental time-outs help marriages, assist parents in caring for the children, and it builds the individuals too. Every bit of this equation is important!
When adults don’t carve out time to do adult things, and have a break from their active duty of parenting on a regular basis, activities that could be a joy to them with their children, can become burdensome. That isn’t fair to the kids first, and it isn’t good for the parents either.
I hope as parents read my story to their kids, they are reminded of how important it is to cultivate an adult life separate from their role as parents. I strenuously wish to inspire parents and other caregivers of kids to balance discipline with empathy. Natural consequences of behavior are quite helpful in guiding children away from undesirable actions. At any rate, Benjamin’s plans can be the base for a lively discussion about actions and consequences. Despite all the mess and chaos, mercy and unconditional love prevailed and their resolve not to spank triumphed over anger.
I want kids to be entertained while they listen to Benjamin’s tale and look at the wonderful illustrations. Perhaps, they will start looking for the potential consequences of any plans they feel like enacting, after hearing what Benjamin had to contend with afterward.