I’ve been on a bit of a rant recently about stopping the dead end, research uninformed, culturally sanctioned (behind closed doors) childrearing practice of inflicting pain to get a child to learn. Sorry about the ranting, but I just gotta do it a little more.
Perhaps it would be helpful to talk about the role rage and anger play in the culturally sanctioned (behind closed doors) childrearing practice. When we hit our children in anger and/or rage, we are abusing them. That’s the plain truth. Have I ever hit my child in anger? Yes, and if you have read my book or my blog, you know my children feared me because I consciously set about putting the “fear of God” into them. Frankly, I thought I needed to do that because they showed very little fear in the face of my best Joan Crawford, Mommy Dearest, hairy eye-ball. It followed, in my mind, that the lack of parental fear at 3- and 4-years-old would certainly lead to them becoming axe murdering criminals in their later years. I know many of you fear this. I went so far as to actually fear they would kill me in my sleep. Fear is cra cra like that.
What I didn’t know then is what I can share with you today. That lack of fear I saw in their faces was frozen terror from trauma caused by the several parents that came before me. My kids showed up in pure terror, and I didn’t help things by resorting to anger and rage over their lack of respect for my authority.
I am here to tell you that my children were never going to be axe murderers. That was fearful, catastrophic thinking from the loss of my illusion of control. My children didn’t need to fear me to do what they were told, thy needed to trust me to do what I asked. I was so confused in the beginning of raising my very challenged and traumatized children that I couldn’t see how challenged and challenging I was. I couldn’t think clearly myself, so I guess it makes some kind of twisted sense that I would try to teach my children not to hit by hitting them.
I was expecting ordinary child mischief from my kids and they were dishing out exponential amounts of B-movie ruckus. If I had know that they needed more TLC than the average child; more understanding; nerves of steel on my part; and the patience of a running river to keep the high road, maybe I would have held structure and bathed them in nurture. Maybe. I’m not sure, but I hope so.
How cra cra do you get in the face of your child’s lack of trust in your parental authority? If you are calling it defiance, opposition, resistance, evil, calculated, rejecting, soulless, heartless, or hateful, then I know you need help seeing your child for who s/he really is–a traumatized, terrorized, wounded child who needs lots of consistent structure, consistent nurture, and years of patient loving persistence. If you aren’t giving your child those last three things, you need to get yourself some help to do it. Otherwise, it just gets worse, and no amount of spanking will change their fear into trust.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT, is an attachment specialist, adoptive mother, stepmother, guardian mother, dog/cat mother, grandmother, not her husband’s mother, and author of:
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