terror as teaching moments?

as a mom, I'm finding my parenting beliefs and concepts challenged and changing on a daily basis. I'm thinking harder about what parenting is and how much of it we do out of habit without taking the time to analyze the 'whys' behind our children's behavior and our own reactions. this is especially the case with discipline. 

I'm realizing that I hate some of the things we as a society reflexively do to control our kids, much of which involves using terror as teaching moments. 

I mean spanking of course, which is literally the act of hitting, smacking, tapping or whipping a child for the purpose of causing pain to get their attention or to punish. that's obviously using the terror of impending pain to teach a lesson. no, I don't support this and can debate it profusely and with supporting medical and psychological references, but that's not what I'm really thinking about.

I mean the more subtle ways we terrorize our kids in order to control a behavior. for example, we've been staying with various family for the past six months or so, a collection of loving, caring individuals who adore my son and only want to protect him. so when they see him doing something potentially dangerous they want to keep him safe, however our methods in doing so tend to be drastically different.

when I see Kidluv about to walk away from me in a public place I'll tell him 'honey I need you to always stay where YOU can see ME because if you can't see me then I can't see you. I don't want to lose you, ok?' usually the response is 'ok, mama!' and all's well, he'll stay close. occasionally he'll forget and we have to stay in hand-holding distance until he gets the reinforcement of 'stay close', then all's well.

but I've had a family member notice Kidluv walking away in a public place and (very sweetly) told him 'you shouldn't walk away from mommy because a stranger could come along and grab you and throw you in their car and take you away and you'll never see mommy and daddy again! so stay close, ok?'

what the bloody hell!!!

another one. the kiddo was doing his daredevil thing on the furniture and I noticed things getting a bit precarious so I told him I'd like for him to stop since it no longer looked safe and I didn't want him to get hurt.

then another well-intentioned family member co-signed and added 'yea, honey, you could fall and break your little arm or leg or bust your little head!'

cheese and crackers!!!

why oh why do we have to use these terrorizing worse case scenarios to scare our kids into obedience? I would much rather teach my child about the world then terrorize them about it. I'd rather give him the knowledge about what situations require caution and why, so that he learns to make informed decisions, than to freak him out at every turn so that he lives in this state of constant paranoia about busted heads and never seeing his parents again. 

I remember a time years ago when I was at the mall with my then 5 year old cousin. apparently someone had just given her the 'some stranger's gonna snatch you away' talk because we were sitting and eating when a guy came up to us flirting and trying to get my number. after less than 30 seconds I heard this almost guttural sound coming from my sweet little cousin and I looked at her. her face was awash with rage and fear and she was snarling 'stranger danger, stranger danger.' I tried to reach over and take her hand but she jumped up, knocking over her chair and screeched 'STRANGER DANGER!! STRANGER DANGER!!' 

hell and damnation!!

I snatched her up, hugging, kissing and consoling, assuring her she was safe, I was safe, there was no danger. ol' dude shuffled off quickly and without another word. 

I realize now there is always a much more patient, kind, intelligent, and supportive way to teach our children to be wary of the hazards of the world without traumatizing them out of experiencing the world. 

so people, please stop trying to freak my kid out, thank you very much.

photo courtesy of Explorations Early Learning, LLC.!

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