This post is brought to you by Jane Evans, a childcare expert.
I’ve been a parent and a parenting worker for many years now, and I have reached a point where I am saying loud and clear, no more punishments, consequences or reward systems! Children don’t need them and in the long term they don’t work. Many parents and professionals respond to this with outrage. How will they know right from wrong? They will not have any boundaries! It will make society worse than it already is! So I had better explain!!
I grew up in a strict, religious family as the second of 5 children. There were many punishments and few rewards that I can recall. No one explored any feelings I might have or anyone else’s. I often felt confused, unlikeable, bad and very sad. Consequently, I did know right from wrong as I got older, so I mostly chose wrong. I rebelled as much as I dared and was not able to ask for guidance or share my feelings with anyone. I couldn’t ask for help. I lived a life of vulnerability, risk taking, drinking and several abusive relationships. I will not dwell on all of this and I have hidden it well over the years, always working and putting on a great mask. But I do not want any child to feel as confused and unlikeable as I did for even a minute.
Breaking the pattern of parenting with punishment
When I was fortunate to have my own son I did not want him to ever feel bad or sad because of anything I had consciously done to him. He was too beautiful and precious. He still is at 22 years of age! I did use time out, take things away from him and shout sometimes but it never felt right. Mostly, I tried to wait until we both calmed down and talk things through. I gave him insight into the feelings around the action or lack of action we were discussing. Instinctively it felt uncomfortable when we ‘fell out’ and I often used how it had felt for me as a child when I was in trouble to guide my parenting.
When I started supporting children and parents about 19 years ago, I knew very little but could offer kindness and attention, which is often what many of them needed. Throughout my working life I have been searching for ways and reasons to raise children with only kindness, as that seems to make sense. They are children, they are learning, they are very precious. When I became a respite foster carer in 2007 for 2 years, I was encouraged to read about brain development, attachment between children and their caregivers and the effects of repetitive trauma on children. This was my Aha moment!!
I then went on to work in a child protection team and eventually as a domestic violence parenting worker. I was dealing with traumatized parents and children every day .I saw that they only needed kindness and not to feel mad, bad and sad if they got things wrong, as they felt like that 24/7 anyway! How does this relate to non-traumatized children though?
I’ve studied brain development and function, the importance of the relationship between a child and their main caregiver and the benefits of being emotionally intelligent for the past 7 years. During that time, I learned that parenting based upon this is what ensures a child grows up with a good regard for themselves and others and enables them to achieve, and to live a physically and mentally healthy life in the short and long term. We all want our children to be considerate citizens who can relate well to others, express and understand their own feelings and offer balance and stability to the World.
If this is all new to you, may I suggest you follow me on Twitter @janeparenting and read my recent article for Yano, an innovative web site looking at parenting from different perspective, as an example of what I promote and please comment on this piece so we can begin to discuss the most important topic of all, how we are raising our children in the 21st century and is it time for change?
Trauma Parenting & Behaviour Skills Specialist & Trainer
Finalist in The Enterprising Wiltshire Awards 2013