What drives parents to such an adversarial level of parenting? Why is parenting synonymous with warfare for many people? Have you noticed the approach, even the verbiage, comes from a place of confrontation, violence and war? Even in pregnancy and childbirth, people turn to this way of talking without a second thought.
I remember when I was pregnant with my first child and I was nearing the estimated due date. Not even there yet. Not even "overdue" as they say. I was talking to a coworker on the phone when she glibly asked, "So, if the baby isn't born soon, are they just gonna go in and take it out?"
Go in there, like a field mission? Take out the enemy?
In another conversation, a mother told me she has a gifted 9 year old girl with special needs. She then went on to say that the girl was too dramatic and she therefore made her stand in the kitchen to eat meals while the family ate sitting in the dining room.
Isolation techniques that are severely restricted and regulated in prison on the worst criminals, used freely on your special 9 year old daughter? The worst people in society enjoy more inclusivity.
Here's one that I see more often. It generally involves younger children and despite hearing it many times, never loses the oomf of "WTF" when it comes to common sense.
"I took away social events. I took away outdoor time. I took away all electronics. I took away books and puzzles. I cleared out their rooms so they don't have anything in there to play with. They still will NOT obey me. They wander around the house, acting up and defying me. I discipline them all the time, but it's not enough. What else can I do?"
Yes, impose complete isolation on young children. That'll really provide for healthy mental development and a good attitude.
All these references you hear about need to be questioned. Making a 9 year old stand in the kitchen and eat separately from her family? Saving up spankings for public places to deliberately embarrass? Removing "privileges" to the point that the child is stuck inside, sitting, facing a wall, daily? Making a tween girl wear "boy" clothing to shame her developing body? Since when did the definition of parent change from nurturing, guiding, caring to a job tasked with isolation, shaming and mental torture techniques that we aren't even permitted to use on (real) war criminals?
And let's not even get into all the regular references of pinching toddlers, crying it out for manipulative newborns or restricting feeding sessions to train hunger cues. As if birth wasn't violent enough in our culture, the yanking and cutting and jabbing quickly turns into slapping, pinching and isolation.
Parents. Let's get this right. You are NOT at war with your children! Your children are NOT evil bad guys coming to destroy your life!
YOU invited them to the world.
YOU brought them here.
YOU are the adult with impulse control.
YOU have the maturity.
YOU have the reasoning ability.
Your children are not trained in combat. They aren't special forces coming to assassinate you. Their antics, mistakes or other behavior, while sometimes frustrating or confusing, are not strategies to win a battle or purposefully defy your steel bars of control.
These children come into the world completely defenseless, helpless and generally clueless. YES, for MANY years they are in this helpless state, including the teenage years due to brain development in the prefrontal cortex.
All of the energy you waste on trying to punish, to hurt, to fight, to control tiny HUMAN BEINGS innocent of any crime could instead be used to uplift, to connect, to nurture and to get to know the people YOU chose to bring into your family.
Stop all this madness already. Face reality. People claim war is working on children. They claim successful obedience, as if that's the end goal of raising children. They claim successful submission, as if children without spirit or personality are healthy. They claim some kind of peace, as if attacking another person into silence is true harmony.
Even if it was (and you know it's not, we all know it's not, the emperor's ass is white as a winter rabbit) there are other ways to meet the needs of all family members and to encourage cooperation.
But, you ask, if you don't ______ (hit them, shame them, attack them, etc) then they'll never learn! Learn what exactly? What lesson are you teaching if you have to hurt someone to make it stick?
Are you raising children or soldiers? You actually want your child to learn that it's ok to hit, as long as the person you're hitting is too small to hit back? That it's ok to hit, as long as you only hit on the butt or mouth? That it's ok to hit, but only for spilling milk or not cleaning fast enough or not doing school well enough?
You want to make sure that she knows the pain, the shame, the isolation is all because you love her? Because if you don't abuse her now, then she'll never learn to find an abusive boyfriend who also loves her. If you don't shame her now, then she'll never know to be ashamed of her body, to hide her talents, to second guess herself for the rest of her life. She'll never learn her place. He'll never learn which people are weak enough to hit and which should be respected.
Call a spade a spade here. The 'if you dont..... then they'll never learn' phrase is just a red flag for, 'if I don't abuse my children, I won't be passing on the cycle of abuse to them, which means I might have to process what was done to me, my scars, my shortcomings, my fears, my lack of skills and that terrifies me. So I'll just hurt my children instead and call it a lesson.'
And we could....we could totally get into the deeper themes running under the surface of this topic. What turns a mother against her child? What makes the most nurturing, loving relationship on the planet turn into a bloody, bruising battle? What makes the mother think that she is coerced, burdened, and thus must resist, must hurt, must pass on a cycle of cruelty to her own offspring?
What about women who break their hearts to do these things? Who leave screaming babies in rooms with the doors closed, sobbing quietly because someone told her she had to do it? What about the mom who hurts her children in "lesser" ways in the hopes that showing some cruelty will stave off more violence when someone gets home from work? It seems children are the involuntary soldiers, the mother's draft for an ongoing war. She must toughen them up if she wants them to survive.
A mother ravaged is perhaps a mother in search of revenge. We see that quite clearly in the discussion surrounding pregnancy, birth and right after birth. The L&D ward is perhaps the first battlefield, echoing the first shot heard around the world. We hear mothers say that they circumcise their sons as payment for the pain they experienced during childbirth. "My son tore me up, he can feel a little cut himself." (Yes, BTW, this is a legitimate argument and people DO publicly talk about this in groups/discussions. Especially in the patriarch communities where the girls are automatically assumed to be future babymakers so they will get their comeuppance with childbirth.)
"He ruined my life." "She took everything from me." "I lost my body to them." "I lost my career." "I lost my friends from college." "They took my nice house." The levels of disempowerment are thick. Mothers are scarred, bloodied, bruised and broken. Society says you deserved it. Society says it's your fault. Thank God at least the doctor saved you. Pay him and praise him.
No one else can take the blame but the mother. Which we've discussed before. When the mother is shoved off a cliff, she is also tasked with taking full blame and guilt. We use language such as birth failure, breastfeeding failure. But, when the load on her shoulders is too much, who will carry the burden? Who will get the punishment and shame that only she is supposed to carry? When she can't resolve her anger or direct it at the right source, who is helpless enough, small enough and innocent enough to take the blame?
Parents, it's time to set down the belts and paddles. It's time to open the borders. It's time to remove the demands and stop the prison techniques. The children in their concentration camps aren't the war criminals.
Bring your children home.