Saturday, March 15, 2008

And for the record...

I'm in the middle of this debate on the Autism Bites Blog comment section. I'm kinda done with it. Its not my goal to change people's parenting styles, just to open their minds a little bit to alternatives. But anyway... instead of commenting any more on their blog, I thought I would just release my pent up anger over here on my blog. Cause I'm not going to end up fighting myself or hurting someone's feelings. :P

Someone commented that they spank because that is the way they "train" their kids. Eek. Wow. I had no idea that kids needed to be trained. I have never once seen one of my responsibilities as a parent listed as "trainer". Nurturer? Leader? Life guide? Teacher? Now, those are labels I am much more comfortable with. Maybe it stems from my days as a psych undergrad working with rats, but I'm not too hip on even training animals. And I am a big believer that behavior modification actually works (with both animals and humans) but that you miss the bigger picture when you set out to "train" something or someone. "Training" usually implies you have one goal in mind. For example, training a dog to sit or "sleep training" a baby (which I am wholeheartedly opposed to). It takes nothing else into consideration. The wants or needs or feelings of either animal or baby. The subject learns to to do that one specific task to get the one specific outcome. What a sad way to manipulate another being into doing what you (the trainer) wanted in the first place.

So, yeah. I don't "train" my kids to teach them respect, obedience, or love. They learn respect because I respect them. They obey because they respect me and like to see mom smile when they make good choices. They love because I show them that love means having boundaries and limits and taking other people's feelings into consideration.

I do not mean to imply that my children's behavior is ideal 100% of the time. If it was, than I certainly wouldn't need to be their teacher anymore. But their behavior *IS* age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate.

I get to be "THE BOSS" because I've already been a baby, kid, and teen. I've learned so much about life and the best ways to get through it, that now its my job to pass all that down to my kids. And Jaina isn't going to understand why mommy says, "No jumping on furniture at Monica's house" immediately, but she does learn that not having respect for someone else's furniture is a sure-fire way to cut our precious visit short, the consequence being that we can not return until she is ready to abide by the rules that I, THE BOSS, have set forth. And you know what? It works. Not just for my family, but for hundreds of other families I know who practice gentle discipline and natural consequences.

In short, I love the way I've chosen to parent. And I owe it entirely to my patient mother and my knowledgeable sister-in-law who were examples of "attached" parents before me. What's cool is that they didn't "train" me to adhere to this style of parenting. Nope. Not only were they excellent examples of how *I* wanted to be as a mom, but they also validated all my feelings I had about natural parenting. I learned early on that "if it feels wrong to you, it is wrong." So when Jaina was nursing 45 minutes of every hour round the clock and sleeping either in my bed or in my arms and it felt beautifully wonderfully right, it was such a relief to know that I didn't have to follow some book's philosophy on training my baby to do the opposite of what was natural to both me and her.

Attachment Parenting is what caught Jayce's autism-like symptoms so early on, as well. I can't tell you how many times my pediatrician told me to "let him starve if he refuses to eat what I've cooked" or how many well-meaning MOMS Club friends suggested that I let him cry in the middle of the night so I could get some sleep. Those are typical behaviors that children with autism exhibit and it has everything to do with how their sensory system is wired rather then how they are being "bad". Yeah, like I'm going to hit my special needs kid because his body and brain are wired differently than mine and he's not conforming to society's expectations of "normal" behavior. So all you supposedly well-meaning ladies at Walmart can keep your unsolicited advice to yourself :)

If you know me, you know where I stand on parenting issues. More often than not, living in the Bible Belt surrounded by Babywise and Dobson supporters, I have to just agree to disagree with my good friends. And if you are one of them that are reading this, please know that I am not trying to knock your parenting style, but I'll never stop trying to open people's minds about alternatives to spanking and crying-it-out, just like you guys will probably never stop believing that your parenting style is what God had in mind for Christian families. We'll just have to continue to agree to disagree and leave it as that.

-I believe that a mother's milk is inherently better suited for the health and well-being of babies.
-I believe that the bond created by breastfeeding is hard to mimic with bottle feeding.
-I believe that a woman has a right to natural birth and to birth her baby in the location of her choice, even if that does not include a hospital.
-I believe that co-sleeping is natural, fosters the parent/baby relationship, and is not detrimental to the husband/wife bond if both parties are in agreement.
-I believe that babies are very good self-regulators. They know when they are hungry and when they are full. They cannot tell time, nor do they benefit from a strict feeding schedule.
-I believe that breastmilk contains hormones that relax both baby and mother. Falling asleep at the breast is how nature intended it.
-I believe that your job as a parent does not end at 8 PM.
-I believe that babies cry for reasons. Ignoring them teaches them at an early age that what they say does not matter.
-I believe that children have the right to express themselves through emotions and feelings, even if we disagree with them as parents. And that their feelings are valid.
-I believe spanking is a form of child abuse.
-I believe the more you hold your baby, understand your toddler, and nurture your pre-schooler, the more secure and independent your older children will be.
-I believe choosing to stay-at-home when your children are young and dependent on you is more important than any career you could possibly have.

Thanks for reading. I am now officially off my soapbox and can return to regularily scheduled activities of Jaina and Jayce.

8 comments:

  1. I love you, Jess. ♥

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  2. I wish there were more parents like you in the world.

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  3. Oh Jessie, I love you. You are absolutely the best. I stand by you 100% and believe you have said everything that I believe in and stand by. I am happy that I was able to be a positive influence for you. You are such an astronomical influence on me. You are so very strong and yet so soft and peaceful. That is exactly how your brother is too. That's why I love him so much :)

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  4. beautifully written, jess... you are such a beautiful mama...

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  5. Jessie, you already know that I agree to disagree with some of what you said, but also know that I agree to AGREE that you are a great friend!! Whatever I feel is right, your post was really well written! I miss hanging out! You already knew that though too. :)

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  6. so well written jess. thank you, i really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

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  7. Anonymous9:13 AM

    Well put from a Mother who obviously has two perfect children! Please be careful as to not sound judgemental to those who were not dealt such a lucky fate. Katie

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Thanks for commenting!