Sally’s Scissors and How We Teach Lessons

I have been really surprised by the response to the post I put up this morning about Sally’s scissors. In that post I told what was for me an important moment of self-discovery, and I used that moment to draw out a more important point, and yet the majority of the commenters there responded by telling me that there’s nothing wrong with taking away a child’s scissors, that I shouldn’t feel bad about acting out in anger toward Sally because everyone’s human, and even that Sally was likely just “playing” me. From a bit of distance I can see the points these commenters were trying to make, but feel like they are missing the main point of my post, which didn’t really have anything to do with whether or not taking a child’s scissors is ever an appropriate comment, whether it’s normal to sometimes act in anger toward a child, or whether children are always honest. So let me use this post to add a bit of detail and see if I can’t explain it better.

For me, positive parenting is most primarily about listening and connecting rather than about reacting and punishing. In the incident I described in that post, I reacted and punished rather than listening and connecting. I was wrong. Did I commit some huge sin or scar Sally for life? No! But to suggest that I did nothing wrong at all when in reality I acted in the face of my core parenting values? Sorry, no. I absolutely handled this situation wrong, and I’m absolutely going to learn from it.

When I was a child, my parents would say “there will be consequences!” And by consequences, they meant spankings. I think too often people jump to the word consequences and assume that consequences are totally differently from punishment. Not so. Consequences are very often experienced as punishments, and when it comes to kids what matters is how they experience it. If they experience something otherwise than how you intended it doesn’t matter how you intended it, because they still experienced it the way they did and your intent doesn’t change that. The line between punishment and consequences becomes blurred and sometimes even irrelevant, and I think all too often we as parents use the veil of “consequences” to mete out punishments.

After Sally cut the couch, I took her scissors away before even talking about what had happened with her. I took them away before listening or connecting or having a any sort of conversation with her about the incident. I took them away because I wanted to make her feel as sad as I was feeling so that she would suffer for what she had done and not do something like that again. I pretended it was a consequence when really what I wanted to do was punish. And that was wrong of me.

If Sally hadn’t been sorry, or if I actually thought she might cut furniture again, taking away the scissors might be completely appropriate. Even then, though, it should be done in the context of conversation, explanation, and honest communication. A parent can easily say, “I am not taking these scissors away because I want to be mean, and I do understand why you did what you did. If I were your age I’d probably find cutting up a couch interesting too. But it’s important that our furniture doesn’t end up cut up, so I’ll take care of your scissors for you until you’re able to keep them without cutting things you’re not supposed to cut. Don’t worry, I’ll give them back.” When a parent does that, he or she establishes that the removal of the scissors is not a punishment or intended to be adversarial. But I didn’t do any of that.

The whole point of my post, too, was that I didn’t NEED to do any of that. If I’d simply approached Sally and talked to her about why we shouldn’t cut furniture and why it made me sad that she cut the couch, that would have been enough. I know my child. She would have realized the problem with what she had done and, with my help, would have understood why she shouldn’t do it again in the future. Sally didn’t cut the couch to spite me. She didn’t cut the couch to make me feel sad. She cut the couch because when you’re in preschool, cutting things like fuzzy couches is interesting. All I needed to do was talk to her, listen to her, communicate with her, and connect with her. Instead I chose to punish her, under the guise of “consequences.” That was wrong of me.

I’m reminded of a time when one of my brothers did something similar, cutting up a stuffed animal to see what was inside. He was curious, you see. Afterward he realized that he would get in trouble for what he did, and he was so terrified of the punishment he would receive that he planted the evidence and framed one of my other siblings for it. Instilling that kind of terror in a child is extremely inappropriate, and I don’t want my daughter to ever respond to realizing she’s done something wrong by feeling that she has to hide it out of fear of punishment.

Some commenters have suggested that Sally was playing me later in the day when she brought up the incident and remembered only my punishment and not what she had done. I refuse to approach my daughter with suspicion or assume that she’s out to “play” me. That’s how the Pearls urge parents to approach their children. I will never, ever do that. I will be open and honest and respect her as an individual, and unless there is solid evidence to the contrary I will assume that she is the same with me. Look, I know my daughter. I also know what it was like to be raised by parents who assume that their children were out to get them. When you’re a child and your parents are ascribing all sorts of terrible motives to you and refusing to take what you’re saying at face value, and instead assuming that you, the child, are lying or engaged in some plot to cause them mental anguish, I can’t even begin to describe how much that sucks.

This suggestion that Sally was playing me also flies completely over the point I was trying to make. That readers would be incredulous that the punishment would make a greater impression on Sally than what she’d done before it shows how backwards we can sometimes be in how we approach teaching children lessons. If a child remembers the punishment but not what they did beforehand, that doesn’t not evidence that they’re “playing” the adults in their world but rather evidence that the way the adults are approaching teaching the child is ineffective and needs to be changed. There were plenty of times as a kid that I remembered the punishment but not what I’d done before hand. My takeaway was not “this is why not to play with matches” but rather “don’t do something to make mom angry or she’ll hold you down and hit you.” I don’t want Sally to remember “don’t get on mom’s bad side or she’ll take your stuff,” I want her to remember “here is why we don’t cut the couch, and here are the things we can cut.”

Finally, some readers suggested I was being too hard on myself, and pointed out that it’s fine and normal for parents to get angry. This is true. However, my post was not one of self-hate but one of self-discovery—and besides that, while it’s true that parents do sometimes mess up and act out of anger toward their children, that does not make it “okay.” It’s still wrong. But the point of my post wasn’t to hate on myself but rather to detail what was for me an extremely positive reminder regarding how to most productively approach situations where Sally has done something wrong. And that was it. I’m not beating myself up over anything.

And finally, did anyone miss the thought-provoking questions I finished the post with? The post wasn’t designed to be a be-all end-all, but rather an opening to a conversation I think we need to have and a way to bring up some things I think we, as parents, need to think about. I’ll finish this post by restating them:

How often do we threaten children with punishment when a conversation would work just as well? How often does punishment send different messages than intended? How often do we miss opportunities to teach life skills and focus instead on threatening our children?

 

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Christine

    Libby, I think that the reasons we didn’t address those questions is that we don’t see them as being entirely in line with the story you told. For those to follow naturally, the story you told has to be one where you punished Sally where a conversation would have worked just as well, and where the actions you took were intended to intimidate her into behaving the way you want her to. If we don’t see it that way, then it’s hard to use the story as a jumping-off point to discuss those questions.

    Also, there is a lot of space between assuming that your child will never try to manipulate you, and assuming that they’re conniving little schemers, and you can’t trust them. I’m not trying to dictate your parenting style, but to say that you are always going to assume that Sally’s upset is large enough to change what you have done in her favour is necessary because you don’t want to do what your parents did is to miss a lot of nuance.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I’m not even completely sure what you’re saying in that last sentence, but to suggest that my parenting is simply reactionary rather than an attempt to actually understand my children and treat them with respect as I help them grow into mature and independent adults is actually extremely insulting.

      • badgerchild

        It’s not only insulting to you, but also to Sally, and to any other children where the presumption “children are the adversary” is indulged in. Libby Anne, I do understand that you are trying to raise your child to believe that loving relationships are supportive and happy instead of characterized by wariness and second-guessing.

      • Christine

        Perhaps I misunderstood what

        I refuse to approach my daughter with suspicion or assume that she’s
        out to “play” me. That’s how the Pearls urge parents to approach their
        children. I will never, ever do that. I will be open and honest
        and respect her as an individual, and unless there is solid evidence to
        the contrary I will assume that she is the same with me. Look, I know
        my daughter. I also know what it was like to be raised by parents who
        assume that their children were out to get them. When you’re a child and
        your parents are ascribing all sorts of terrible motives to you and
        refusing to take what you’re saying at face value, and instead assuming
        that you, the child, are lying or engaged in some plot to cause them
        mental anguish, I can’t even begin to describe how much that sucks.

        was intended to convey. As I understood it, you were saying that you intend to always assume that if your children say that they are upset, it means that something is wrong. I saw you giving the harm that your parent did as a reason to not do so. If that is indeed what you were trying to say, and me stating that I think there is more of a middle ground than is being implied gives strong offense, then there is not sufficient ideological room here to discuss.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I’m still confused as to what you’re saying. Where is the upset part or the something is wrong part in that paragraph?

      • Christine

        If Sally says “Mommy took away my scissors and I was sad” she is definitely upset. But I do not see that her being upset means that actions you took which led to her feeling that way were wrong. Reading your original post, the impression was that because Sally was upset, your reaction must have been inappropriate. The abovequoted paragraph appeared to have been written in response to people in the comments pointing out that kids have been known to use the fact that something upset them to get it changed.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I see what you’re saying. No, you understood incorrectly what I was saying. I didn’t have a problem with her being upset, I had a problem with the fact that what she took away as the most important thing from the incident was not “we don’t cut furniture” but rather “mom took my things.” That what stuck with her first and foremost was the punishment, not our very constructive conversation, was the problem. Here is where I explained this:

        That night we were talking about all the fun things we’d done that day when Sally added “and then you took my scissors away and made me sad.” I reminded her of the rest of what happened and of our conversation, and none of that had been forgotten, but for Sally the biggest take away from the whole incident was that I took her scissors away and made her sad. I had thought that taking away her scissors, albeit temporarily, would impress on her the seriousness of not cutting furniture, but I don’t think that’s what it actually did. I think her main take-away from my taking her scissors away was actually that I don’t have a problem with taking her things and making her sad.

      • Christine

        I would like to take repsonsibility for missing what you said. I can’t tell you if I would have understood it without all this extra context I made you provide (i.e. I don’t know if I wasn’t putting sufficient effort into this, or if you quite reasonably wrote for non-autistic people), but I definitely screwed that up. I’m sorry for that, especially since it is such a difficult subject for you, given your own childhood, and how your parents harass you about the fact that you’re trying to be a good parent.

        The problem that Sally had is actually one of my biggest issue with people who claim that spanking is effective – I was spanked once as a child. I remember this, I even vaguely remember it happening. But I haven’t the foggiest idea why I was spanked. (I mean, I know that it’s because my dad lost his temper, and he has received help for this since, but generally he gets upset for fairly reasonable cause, it’s just magnitude that’s a problem.)

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        That’s fine, I’m glad I was able to finally explain it in a way you understood it. :)

      • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

        When I am referring to “playing” or “manipulation” I am ABSOLUTELY not saying that kids are conniving schemers always looking to pull one over on you.

        I am saying it’s a typical human behavior to try and divert responsibility, and that seems possible here. I mean, that’s how I read it, when she framed it about how she felt about what happened instead of what she did.

        Now, you’re observation, that maybe it wasn’t necessary is a good one. But unnecessary doesn’t mean bad or damaging either. And it’s not necessarily the only thing that can be taken from that, like my thought that if the consequence had lasted longer, she may have taken a different lesson.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Sally wasn’t “framing” it. When kids are that little, they blurt lots of things out without giving a thought to framing. Also, I know kids sometimes try to divert responsibility, etc. Sally’s already tried to blame something on Bobby once, but she’s a really bad liar and that simply prompted a conversation about telling the truth. Sally was genuinely and honestly blurting out what she remembered of the experience, in the middle of a conversation about ho we’d been to the park and played a game, etc. She’s 4, she wasn’t framing anything, and suggesting that I not take what she said at face value and instead respond by seeing her as a manipulator just because you don’t think it’s possible that she would have remembered that rather than what she did strikes me as a very bad idea.

      • Christine

        Ok, I don’t understand at this point what “face value” is. I can hear that Sally was sad, and that’s what she remembered. Why am I supposed to assume that what she meant was “Mommy was mean to me”, rather than something else? Everything we say is framed one way or another, and we had to make assumptions from what you told us.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        The “face value” thing is not assuming that when she says she was sad she’s just saying that in an attempt to manipulate me. It’s assuming that when she says she was sad that means she was sad.

      • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

        To clarify, it’s possible that Sally was sad, and that was an honest assessment. At the same time, Sally is prioritizing her feelings over yours, and that can be intentional, to avoid repercussions.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Really? Really? I’m sorry, but NO. Sally was sad.There’s no “it’s possible” about it. Do you have any idea how that comes across?

        Sally wasn’t prioritizing her feelings over mine, she was simply blurting out what she remembered, and it just so happens that because of the way I handled it her immediate anguish after I took her scissors was what she remembered! If I’d handled it differently and had a conversation rather than starting by punishing her, the pain she caused me by cutting the couch might have been the thing she remembered! That’s my whole point!

      • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

        I do apologize, I stated that wrong. You are not the one who should be sorry.

  • AnotherOne

    I think some of the issue is that this wasn’t clear (at least to me) in your previous post:

    “After Sally cut the couch, I took her scissors away before even talking
    about what had happened with her. I took them away before listening or
    connecting or having a any sort of conversation with her about the
    incident. I took them away because I wanted to make her feel as sad as I
    was feeling. I pretended it was a consequence when really what I wanted
    to do was punish.”

    Also, I have the same exact gut response as you about calling kids “manipulative” or saying they “play” their parents, and I trust you when you say this wasn’t the case with Sally.

    But kids do “manipulate” in a very non-morally-loaded sense of the word. They unconsciously make note of the results of different emotional reactions and behaviors, and if something has a desired reaction, they’ll do it again. That’s not a bad thing–it’s how people are socialized, and it’s an integral, crucial, useful part of development. I think most people’s comments about manipulation weren’t encouraging parents to be suspicious so much as they were a conversation about how parents should approach and interact with this part of kids’ development.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I very clearly stated in that post that I took away her scissors and then, AFTER that, we had a conversation. I very clearly stated that I wish I’d had the conversation first rather than simply reacting by taking the scissors. How that doesn’t clearly indicate that I took the scissors before having a conversation I have no idea.

      • AnotherOne

        For whatever reason, your reaction as you described it in the first post didn’t sound all that unreasonable or harsh or punitive to me. To me, this:

        “Anyway, I took her scissors away. I told her that if she couldn’t make sure not to cut things that aren’t supposed to be cut, she couldn’t have scissors. I’ll be honest: I took them away knowing full well that I would give them back as soon as I was sure she knew not to cut things like furniture. I took them away because I wanted to make sure she understood how serious I was.”

        sounded different than this:

        “After Sally cut the couch, I took her scissors away before even talking about what had happened with her. I took them away before listening or connecting or having a any sort of conversation with her about the incident. I took them away because I wanted to make her feel as sad as I was feeling. I pretended it was a consequence when really what I wanted
        to do was punish.”

        But i can see what you mean, and see your frustration with commenters (including me) not getting what you were trying to say, which I did get once I read your second post.

      • Mary C

        I agree, I think the incident being framed in two different ways confuses the conversation a great deal, and causes frustration on both sides…

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        When the first post wasn’t clear enough I wrote the second one to give more context. I wasn’t trying to make things more confusing but rather to clarify.

      • Mary C

        Its ok, it really is hard to convey complex thoughts and emotions over the internet, especially when they are so personal to you. You do an exceptional job of this most of the time, and it is one of the reasons yours is one of my favorite blogs. Because so many of us come from kind of crummy parenting, topics like discipline and punishment are going to be hot buttons.

        I can see more of where you were coming from when the incident was described differently in the second blog, and had I read that the first time, I would have originally replied a bit differently.

        And in a way, I felt like all the comments to the first post were painted with a pretty broad brush in your second post – but again, knowing how triggering this is for you makes that make more sense.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        From several hours distance, I just went over that first paragraph and edited it slightly. I hope you feel that it uses a slightly less broad brush. :)

      • The_L1985

        I would have taken the scissors out of my child’s hand too, in that situation. Granted, it would be in order to set them down so we could have a conversation about it. But when your child is damaging your property (especially at that age, when “that can’t be fixed easily/cheaply” isn’t really a concept they’ve grasped), you do have to make sure they stop first.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        She had done it earlier. The scissors weren’t even in her hand when I noticed the couch. It’s not like she was in the middle of cutting when I found her.

    • badgerchild

      Be very careful about borrowing the language and attitudes of people who are brought up and/or brainwashed into thinking that all children are naturally and intrinsically corrupt (because of original sin). That line of thinking leads naturally to the idea that children need to have proper morals instilled in them by correctly socialized parents according to the standards of experts, preferably by watching for the corruption to surface and then taking steps to snip off its buds.

      • AnotherOne

        I didn’t use “manipulate” in my previous comments, and I was only using it here in response to Libby’s post. I don’t believe children are naturally and intrinsically corrupt, nor do I watch for corruption to surface in my children so I can nip it in the bud. In fact, I operate in quite the opposite way.

      • badgerchild

        I was taking care to keep my language advisory rather than accusatory in that comment, but, as my grandfather used to say, “the kicked dog howls”.

      • AnotherOne

        I guess I deal with accusations better than I do with patronizing advice.

      • badgerchild

        Then I should have accused you rather than offered you advice, I suppose, since you’re not addressing the substance of what I said, so you’re not dealing with it very well.

      • AnotherOne

        For some reason your comment showed up as being from Rosa. I did deal with the substance of what you said. I said that I only used the language of “manipulation” because that is what Libby and others were talking about, and that I’m completely opposed to conceiving of children as intrinsically corrupt. I’ve had no small number of conversations with friends and family about how damaging I think it is to think of children as having a “sin nature” that you have to quash, and so yes, your comment hurt, and seemed out of place. I also don’t get the dog comment–someone kicks someone else, and the kicked person gets sneered at for howling?

      • jdens

        Hit refresh!

      • Frimp

        o.O You are being deliberately cruel and antagonistic to someone simply because she did not respond to you in a way that you hoped/wanted. Not cool.

    • Rosa

      Yes!

      When other parents talk about how their kid had learned to act cute/charming to manipulate them into doing things, I say – good! Your kid has learned that they can get what they want by being charming sometimes. Other kids learn they have to sneak it, or get it by being annoying.

      You want to be aware of your kids aims and techniques, especially if they’re doing things you don’t appreciate. And you don’t want to be the patsy all the time (just as you don’t want to with other adults). But the goal is not to raise grownups who can’t persuade others.

      • CarysBirch

        Or lying. My parents’ methods taught me to lie. I am not proud of the fact that I’m a great liar, but I am what they taught me I needed to be to get by. I think charm is a far far better tool to use than lying.

        (NB – I try to be as honest as possible now. But I have ingrained habits and certain, uh, skills, I’d rather not have now.)

      • Rosa

        Oh yeah. Lying and defensively not sharing information. There are a lot of things to unlearn from an authoritarian upbringing.

    • Barbara Fryman

      I have two ultra-manipulative kids. They always start as charming and funny, but if the answer is not what they want they can turn nasty. I find I too have grown manipulative in my responses to them. I try to complement the charming behavior so there is some pay off even if I cannot give them what they want. I never thought their charm was a bad thing, but I do want to help them control the pouty, whining side of that coin.

  • AlisonCummins

    Libby Anne, you seem really upset.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      And your point is . . . ?

      • AlisonCummins

        Just that you seem really upset. I don’t remember seeing you this upset before.

      • trinity91

        maybe being told the exact things her parents tell her about raising children isn’t what someone wants to hear from a site where she is trying to get some support for actual good parenting.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Yes! This! I post this story about connecting with my daughter and moving toward being the best parent I can, and what I get in response is everyone saying that what I *know* was bad parenting is actually a fine thing to do to a kid, and that I shouldn’t be so trusting of my daughter. No one here seems to be able to look at it from the kid’s perspective, which as my daughter’s mother is something I try very hard to do! This is triggering as all get out!

      • trinity91

        I’m really sorry Libby. Is there anything we can do to help you out right now?
        I want to affirm that you did the right thing by thinking about how you parent. Your children are so incredibly lucky to have you as a mom!

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Thanks. Your understanding why this upset me helped already. :)

      • AngieGW

        I completely agree! I think that questioning our parenting is *so* important, and having the guts to not only realise you were mistaken, but to apologise to your daughter AND discuss it publicly is something really worthwhile. I hope this doesn’t put you off blogging about this kind of thing in the future, because I find it really helpful to know that there are other people sharing this particular style of parenting journey.

      • Monika Jankun-Kelly

        I am trying to be sympathetic to you, an abuse survivor, who is very triggered by discussion of punishment. That said, I think it is inaccurate to say that all your commenters were recommending bad parenting, or recommending anything resembling authoritarian and abusive practices. I did not see a single comment saying “Yeah, just take her scissors, don’t discuss anything, act in anger, make her feel bad so she’ll fear you and your ability to control her, and who cares if she understands the why of any of it.”. Maybe there were some posts like that, and I missed them, but most posts I saw were rather minor disagreements or misunderstandings, not endorsements of bad parenting. It’s also inaccurate to say all commenters can’t see a child’s point of view. We do understand kids enjoy cutting fuzzy things, don’t always know our rules, or understand our rules, or understand why parents do what they do, and they need things explained to them calmly, kindly, and age-appropriately.

      • AlisonCummins

        trinity91, that makes sense.
        Libby Anne, you are an excellent parent and I don’t think you should be doing anything differently. I wanted to validate your feelings of anger and didn’t realize I was attacking your determination to be a positive parent. I think I was making assumptions that were unwarranted and I apologize.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Thanks. :)

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        It’s been a while.

      • AnotherOne

        I understand. The internet is a hard place sometimes, and I can see how you would feel piled on (and I apologize to contributing to that). Honestly, I’m guessing just about everyone here thinks you’re a pretty great parent, and your kids are lucky to have you.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Thanks. :)

  • trinity91

    Hi Libby,
    I was pretty appalled by the justification of other parents in that thread. I think that you stopping to think about this is a great thing that you did. I think Sally is going to learn a much better lesson this way because now Sally is going to get to learn the value of money, why you have to pay to fix things that are broken before having fun, and is far more likely to come to you and ask before cutting things that she is unsure of in the future. Because all she got out of having her scissors taken away was that it made her sad she wasn’t going to actually learn not to cut things. I think you are doing an excellent job parenting your children.

  • Sophie

    Libby Anne, I did not see one person suggest that it was right to act in anger. The account you have written in this post is very different to the one in your previous post. So it’s hardly surprising that people responded the way they did, when the information was presented in a very different way. I find it interesting that so many of us interpreted the events in such a similar way, and maybe that was down to the way you wrote it rather than us all being terrible parents as you seem to be suggesting.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I did not say that any of the commenters said it was right to act in anger, nor did I suggest you are all terrible parents.

      The account I give here is the same one I gave before. What exactly are you saying is different? I added detail, sure, but It is the same account, the same story.

      • Sophie

        The fact that you took the scissors away with no explanation or with the intention of hurting Sally was not at all clear in your first post. That information completely changes the tone of the incident. I think that if you go back and read the comments on your previous post when you are calmer, you will see that no one was suggesting that Sally was manipulating you in the way the Pearl’s describe. We were simply pointing out that children, very innocently, learn to push our buttons to get what they want. And that it’s a normal part of cognitive development and that unless it’s done all the time, there is nothing wrong with it. No one was attributing anything malicious to the behaviour or suggesting that it should make the parent-child relationship fraught.

        And yes the implication that any parenting style that is not exactly like yours is no good, is very clearly present in this post.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I said in the first post that I took them away to show her the seriousness of it and to punish her. If taking them away wouldn’t hurt her, then it wouldn’t do either of those things. I clearly did take them away to cause her pain—as I said, intending to impress on her the importance of what she had done (but again, as I said in that post, what I did didn’t actually impress on her the seriousness of what she’d done, it just meant that she remembered that I made her sad by taking her things rather than remembering that she’d cut the couch and shouldn’t do that again). So no, I didn’t change what I said in the first post.

        I also said in the original post that I took the scissors first, and had the conversation second, and that I wished I’d had the conversation first rather than starting with taking the scissors. That was sort of the whole point of the post. Again, this wasn’t different from what I said in the second post.

        Finally, please show me where I said that if people don’t parent exactly like I do, they are terrible parents.

      • trinity91

        this is saying exactly the same thing as Libby’s parents who follow the pearls teachings say to her. You are saying exactly the same thing, even if your words sugar coat it. As has been stated up thread this line of thinking has triggered Libby and it really really needs to stop.

      • AlisonCummins

        trinity91, good point.

        Libby Anne, have you considered closing comments on these posts? There are people here like me (I’m not a parent) who treat this as an abstract intellectual exercise, and people who are defending their own points of view as parents, and people who are just going to quibble. I think you’ve made your thoughts clear, we’ve had the conversation, and I think you would be entirely reasonable if you decided that we aren’t demonstrating our ability to keep our scissors out of the couch and you need to keep the comments safe for a while.

        I would also make the point that I think you are an excellent blogger and moderator and whatever decision you make will be the right one.

      • Sophie

        You know triggers me, people having emotional outbursts because people dared disagreed with them. I grew up with an emotionally abusive mother and she could have written Libby Anne’s post. So I’m going to protect my mental healh and never darken the door of this blog again. Because I’m never going to be able to read another entry without worrying that Libby is going to flip out. It’s only been a safe environment so far because everyone always agrees with her and people who don’t either don’t comment or they get accused of trolling and leaped on by all the other commenters. Libby Anne, I have lost all respect I had for you and I’m truly sorry that I have previously recommended this blog as a safe place for abuse survivors.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=141304249 Sarah Jones

        Overreacting much?

      • Frimp

        It’s okay for you to flip out, though, and completely denounce someone over a single incident?

      • alwr

        Yeah… disagreeing with her is definitely a problem. It is always perceived as abusive and often results in an attack.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        And that would be why I never read a comment that disagrees with me, rethink a topic, and then change my mind and admit I was wrong . . . . oh wait. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/01/a-mea-culp-on-the-devaluation-of-domestic-labor.html

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        alwr, I don’t know anything about you except that you have commented here numerous times for months now, and that you have on a number of occasions accused me of being a fundamentalist. I almost never really dive into the comments sections here—today is a rare exception—and I think in all of that time, before today, I’ve responded to you twice. And I don’t believe I “attacked” you either time, I believe I simply disagreed strongly and explained why. I was inappropriate to you in a comment earlier today, but if you will note I went back and edited it to be appropriate and point out your misunderstanding of what I was saying.

      • Composer 99

        To me, at least, a crucial part not present in the first post is:

        I took them away because I wanted to make her feel as sad as I was feeling. I pretended it was a consequence when really what I wanted to do was punish.

        Reading it through again, the closest equivalent I can see is:

        I took them away because I wanted to make sure she understood how serious I was.

        I don’t think people reading text on the Internet will easily infer the former from the latter. Certainly I didn’t.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I also said in the first post that I took them as a punishment. And yes, I wanted her to feel sad because I wanted her to understand how serious I was, and I wanted her to understand how serious I was by feeling sad, because I mistakenly thought that she would not understand how serious it was if she didn’t feel pain over it. Seriously, how would taking the scissors make her feel how serious it was if it didn’t make her feel sad?

      • AnotherOne

        Libby Anne, I say this as gently as possible, knowing how easy it is to get defensive when people do an internet pile-on. But seriously, your description of your actions in the first post has a completely different tenor than your description in your second post. You provided excellent clarification in your second post, and many of us welcomed that clarification and apologized for not having tried hard enough to understand your first post correctly. But at this point your defensiveness is really offputting. If something “went over absolutely everyone’s heads,” and “everyone” refers mainly to a group of people who generally agree with your perspective on parenting, then maybe it went over people’s heads because it wasn’t expressed well. That’s no sin; we all express ourselves poorly at times. But it seems strange to insist that you absolutely expressed yourself clearly the first time, when so many people, most of whom are inclined to agree with you on most subjects, are saying otherwise.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I’m sorry I’m being off-putting. There’s a difference between being triggered and upset and expressing that and using those feelings to push people away. If you’re referring to how I responded to alwr, I would simply point out that I have a backstory with hir in these comments, one that goes back months. As for the rest of you, I’m not trying to alienate you, and yes, I was surprised by the response I got to the first post.

        And no, my first post didn’t go over everyone’s heads — I just had two people who hadn’t been in the comments or read it before read it to verify that I hadn’t been unclear, and they both said they understood completely what I was saying, and repeated my point back to me without any additional explaining.

        I guess what I’m getting hung up on is the information I added didn’t actually change the entire point of the first post. The point of my post is that if we approach situations like this in a punitive fashion, we may not teach children what we intend to teach them, and that approaching them by having a conversation and connecting instead of reacting by punishing may well be more effective. I never said this was true every time or that it was true for every child. I said it was true in this situation and it made me think.

        So I made this point and then people responded by saying that no, I did nothing wrong and I was right to respond by taking the scissors. Or that I shouldn’t trust Sally’s account of her primary take away from the incident. And yes, I found that both surprising and triggering.

        But you’re right, that’s not excuse for being dickish.

      • AnotherOne

        Oh, I didn’t think you were being dickish at all (and have no beef whatsoever with your comments to whoever alwr is); I was just surprised at your insistence that any misunderstanding was all on everyone else.

        And yes, I understand being triggered. Hence my snippy and less than mature response to feeling patronized by badgerchild.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        It’s been a little while and I think, thinking about it, the problem was simply that a lot of people thought that you should take scissors away if a kid cut furniture, and thought I was saying you shouldn’t do that, and a lot of people thought I was saying that I shouldn’t have taken the scissors simply because Sally later said it had made her sad. My point had nothing to do with whether kids should have scissors if they cut furniture or whether you should ever make your kid sad. My point was that sometimes we get so focused on punishing a kid that we miss that just talking to them might be way more effective, and sometimes when we punish a kid it doesn’t teach them the lesson we think it will. I don’t actually think that point wasn’t clear, because I’ve asked others and that’s what they came away with, I think for some people, especially people not raised by authoritarian parents, the whole scissors and sad thing, which were ephemeral to the point, got in the way, and got in the way in a way that was, when expressed, really triggering. Of course I could be wrong, that’s just what it looks like from this vantage point.

      • Joykins

        ” sometimes when we punish a kid it doesn’t teach them the lesson we think it will”

        I’m not sure that was entirely clear to me on my initial response, but there are a LOT of things kids learn that aren’t the intended lesson, because kids don’t think at all the same way adults do. Punishments are hardly unique that way. It’s a good idea to listen.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        But if you want to argue semantics, fine. Be my guest. I think the general response to my first post was wrong and I think it was wrong even without additional context. It was wrong because my entire point was that in focusing on punishing rather than connecting I made it so that she remembered the punishment but not the lesson I was trying to teach her, and that that’s a problem, and that apparently went over absolutely everyone’s heads.

      • Alix

        I think the general response to my first post was wrong and I think it was wrong even without additional context.

        …But you don’t get to determine what is and isn’t a proper response to your post. You don’t get to choose how a reader reacts or dictate how they read it. People weren’t responding “wrong” just because they didn’t respond in the way you wanted.

        I’ve attempted to write this comment three times, and I’ve otherwise been sitting this out, because I don’t want to upset you. But the idea that any author has the right to dictate what is a right and a wrong reader reaction … it appalls me.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        You’re right, I worded that badly. I suppose I would say that I disagreed with some of what the commenters said, but mostly I felt like the point I was trying to make was getting totally missed. And maybe I didn’t write clearly, but I guess I feel like people got hung up on whether it was appropriate to take scissors away from a kid who had cut a couch, when that really had little if anything to do with the point I was trying to make. But yes, I should have said that I disagreed with many of the commenters and that I thought they missed the point (which again, may be partly my fault for not being clear enough), because I can’t dictate how commenters respond and I wouldn’t want to if I could. Thanks for catching that and calling it out.

        Also, one reason I included in my post on triggers that how I react is my responsibility and being triggered is no excuse is that I don’t want commenters like you to be afraid of commenting here in the future. I’m sorry. :(

      • sunnyside

        My concern is that you’ll worry about how you word every little thing in the future. I got the point of the original post, thought it was interesting, moved on with my day.

        The original post sounded like one of my journal entries – laying something out with a helpful resolution. Yay! I really don’t understand why there needs to be an opinion on that…which is why I could never share my journal. I’m completely missing exactly what it was that caused all the commenting, but as best as I can tell it all just sounds like misunderstandings. Different vocabularies, different personal experiences, and all the social pressure, personal history, guilt or anxiety that get stirred up in re: to parenting.

        (my trigger is people being disappointed with/angry at me – I obsess and try to fix and get all wound up about not being liked. Who cares if a perfect stranger they’ll never see again is put-off by or disapproves of them? Me. Working in retail helped a bit)

      • Alix

        And I actually like how you handled the comments missing the point you wanted to talk about – making a second post that focused on that more. I just find so many people who do believe writers should be able to control what readers respond to that I feel it’s important to push back on that.

        Ha, I just commented over there that writing things that I’m afraid might upset people is one of my own triggers. XD Thank you for the apology, but it isn’t necessary. That reaction’s all on me.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Hey, I want to respond here again because I value you as a commenter and I hope I haven’t upset you. I do think most of those who commented on the original post missed the point of what I was actually trying to say, but I also realize that my readers can’t read my mind and I’m responsible for being clear in my writing and that this time I wasn’t clear enough. I also think some of the disagreement lay in how words are defined, especially words like “punishment.” I’ve always defined punishment as having an intent to cause sadness or pain, because if there was no sadness or pain it wouldn’t be a punishment. But I realize not everyone is operating off of the exact same definition I am. Anyway, sorry for snapping at you. :(

      • Composer 99

        Thanks, Libby Anne.

        I had tried to think up responses but had not come up with anything satisfactory (by which I mean a response which defended my original comment without me being a jackass or a ‘splainer). So I didn’t say anything. I’d rather be silent and be thought a fool (or a hairsplitting word-parser) than speak and remove all doubt, as the saying goes.

        Having reflected upon it, it’s not like you’ve never discussed growing up in a very authoritarian household until now: you have, and you’ve also discussed having to combat urges to parent in a similar style. I don’t think I adequately took where you’re coming from into account when constructing my comment on this thread (or the previous post), and I apologize for that.

      • Mary C

        The two descriptions are different, and definitely came off differently to me when reading. A commenter above quoted them so I won’t bother to do it again.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I’m sorry I didn’t give enough context to make the first post clear to all of my readers. The thing that’s still hanging me up here is that my point has never had anything to do about whether taking a kid’s scissors is ever okay. Of *course* it is sometimes completely appropriate to take away a kid’s scissors. My point only ever had to do with the fact that in this case Sally remembered the punishment rather than the lesson I was trying to teach her, meaning that the way I’d gone about it was ineffective. With my specific child, at her specific age. That was all. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be more clear about that. :(

  • AngieGW

    sorry, in all my comments on the previous thread, I, too, forgot to answer your actual questions! I think for me, the more regularly I look at this stuff, the more I realise that I am in some way using a veiled (or not so veiled) threat. When my kids aren’t getting ready to go out, I often suggest that there might not be time to go to the park after we have finished what *I* need to do. Now, that actually might be a natural consequence, but it is also (as I find on my “good” parenting days!) just as easy to help them get ready, and we can then all leave in a timely manner.
    I’m fairly convinced that punishment *always* gives the wrong message – it says that someone bigger and stronger or more powerful than you can do something detrimental to you for whatever they perceive an infraction of their rules. That goes for the “punishment” of adults too – the docking of pay for example.
    I would even go further, and suggest that rewards are simply the flip side of the same coin – offering physical or verbal rewards for “good” behaviour is still placing one person in the position of manipulating another to achieve *their* goals, rather than working *with* another person to help them achieve their own goals. I really think it comes down to whether we see children as inherently bad and manipulative or inherently good and *wanting* to learn the societal norms (but sometimes getting it wrong). I believe they are the latter.

    Angie
    washedupfamily@blogspot.co.uk

    • alwr

      A child can sometimes manipulate or attempt to manipulate an adult without being “inherently manipulative”. More black and white thinking, there.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Do you enjoy hanging around my blog to pop up and accuse me of black and white thinking every chance you get? Doesn’t it ever get old? It seems to be quite the hobby of yours.

      • AngieGW

        I agree that a child (or adult) can unwittingly (or because they have been taught to by fear-based parenting) be manipulative. I have done so myself, and have to battle the tendency to do it to my kids. What I was getting at is that if we see children as *inherently* good, we will “ascribe the best possible motive” (to quote Alfie Kohn), and if we see them as *inherently* bad, we will tend towards thinking that they are deliberately and maliciously trying to manipulate.

      • Rosa

        See, I don’t think it’s only a product of fear-based parenting. We all spend a lot of time (including most of the time we spend thinking about our parenting) thinking about ways to get other people to behave more like we would like them to. We take the skills and habits we learn in childhood into adulthood and try them out in jobs, personal relationships, dealings with neighbors and authority figures, everywhere. Dealing with other people is our main use of brainpower. There are less loaded words than “manipulation” (especially since the child-beating type of parenting advice uses that word). Persuasion is pretty neutral. But manipulation doesn’t only mean that a person is manipulATIVE, or malicious.

        There’s no need to assume that children are inherently good or inherently bad – they can be inherently human, just like adults, and be approaching others with a mix of altruistic (how can I make this person happy and help them with their goals?) and self-centered (how can I get what I want out of this encounter?) motives.

  • HematitePersuasion

    I think your style of parenting is exceptional (alas) and a very positive and supportive mode for your children. Children, and toddlers in particular, are not adults, and do not think as adults. They can’t. They think as children, and from our lofty viewpoint as adults, it’s hard to remember that, much less to attempt to remember the need to see things from the child’s point of view — or how the child will see and remember and experience the events.

    The discussion of your being somehow ‘played’ leaves me dumbfounded, as much because it is the projection of adult thinking onto childish behavior as to imagine a toddler as a crafty manipulator of her parents. Unthinking manipulator, perhaps, but … children really aren’t that good at self-modeling, let along other-modeling, that needed for that kind behavior.

    • alwr

      I don’t think Sally was trying to play her mother in this incident. But I do think that when she says “but that consequence made me sad” and sees mom go into a tailspin of “OMG bad parenting, mustn’t make her sad!”, she will eventually learn that being sad is her ticket to getting everything she wants. Again, I know an 18.5 year old who pouts like a baby and says he is sad and mommy and daddy go into that same tailspin and kill themselves to make him happy. To the tune of $26,000 a year that they do not have starting when he checks into the dorm this afternoon. And it started when he was Sally’s age.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Reading comprehension FAIL. Seriously, did you actually read these two posts? Because I did NOT introspect on this because she was sad. I don’t have a problem making her sad. Again, reading comprehension. This had nothing at all to do with the fact that I made her sad.

        Also, where the hell do you get that I went “into a tailspin”?

      • HematitePersuasion

        The conceptual leap from ‘Mommy taking away my toy made me sad’ as a toddler to that of an 18-year old pitching a tantrum over a car seems … well, extreme. (I would point out in passing that an 18-year old hardly has a mature adult outlook, either. Give him another ten years, and he’ll have fully adult equipment with which to work.)

        And the point to these posts is that, had Libbey Anne reacted as her hindsight guided her — rather than as she did — she could have made her point about the proper use of scissors in a way that would work bypassing the negative sadness experience. Being sad neither helped her daughter regain the scissors (that came from understanding her mother’s concern), nor assisted her daughter in learning why she was less than thrilled. The sadness and unhappiness was at best irrelevant to this lesson — and at worst, a serious distraction.

        Or so I understood it.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Yes, that was exactly my point.

    • Leigha7

      “Children, and toddlers in particular, are not adults, and do not think as adults. They can’t. They think as children, and from our lofty viewpoint as adults, it’s hard to remember that”

      This is very true, but another thing I’ve seen just as often as expecting children to think like adults is assuming that children don’t know ANYTHING, which is also untrue. Children can have pretty big, interesting thoughts and, as someone who distinctly remembers feeling patronized as a child, adults underestimating what kids are capable of has always bothered me.

      That’s another reason why talking to your children, instead of assuming they couldn’t possibly have a logical reason for doing what they do, is a good thing.

  • jasondick

    Posts like this are one reason why I really love to read your blog, Libby. I do want to have kids one day, and while my parents weren’t as authoritarian as yours, they were still authoritarian. And I totally do not want that for any kids I may have in the future.

    So, thank you!

  • Susie M

    What caught my attention was “the couch was fuzzy and I like cutting fuzz things”–that makes sense. Obviously, all of this depends on how old she is and whether or not she has a decent idea that cutting up furniture is unhelpful. I did the same thing as a four year old. I broke the screen of my bedroom window when I was trying to take it out. Why? Because I wanted to have an accessible escape route in case of a fire. It was a reasonable option for a four year old.

    This is actually something I LOVED about my parents. Breaking things never got us in trouble. My mom just told me that my window wasn’t going to have a screen from then on. It wasn’t a punishment, just a natural consequence. (Which, I was happy about because i felt safer that way.)

    Also, kudos for not assuming your child is playing you. Small children aren’t very subtle anyways. If she really was trying to play you, I suspect you’d figure it out.

    • CarysBirch

      Yes, the last toddler that tried to bribe me with cuteness was quite transparent. (It worked.)

      “You’re very pretty! Will you take me to look at those fish over there?” [Big pleading eyes]

  • Niemand

    I’m sorry if my comments triggered you or were otherwise inappropriate.

  • Jayn

    Part of my reaction to your initial post came from my experience with my nieces, where my instinct was always to reduce the potential for harm first (though both were younger than Sally when I was watching them regularly). Had that been me, taking the scissors away would have also been my first response simply because FFS it’s my couch, and the scissors are easier to remove than the furniture is. Though as I said, they were younger (the younger non-verbal), and even when I did try to explain something to the older one I usually got little more than a blank stare as a response–I don’t think she really understood what she did wrong most of the time. Maybe it’s not the best response, but something like that I’d be more concerned with not giving opportunity for her to repeat the scenario on my loveseat than with whether or not I’m punishing her.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Yes, the response to younger kids in this situation would be totally different from the response to preschool kids. If Bobby had done this (he’s almost capable, not quite), I would totally have started by taking the scissors away, followed by finding him a book or another toy to replace it with. With the non-verbal kind, the “remove and distract” approach works perfectly, and without even needing to feel like a punishment. It’s also pretty hard to explain to a non-verbal child why you shouldn’t cut the couch (or draw on the walls with marker, or knock over an expensive vase), so keeping implements of destruction out of their hands is the best approach. But Sally’s completely verbal and very mature for her age, and she’s four. That makes a huge difference.

      • AnotherOne

        Yes, it does. Actually, i think part of what got in the way of me understanding was not having a clear sense of Sally’s age. My kid was probably right around three when I took the scissors away, and the truth was that no matter how many conversations we had, she just wasn’t developmentally ready for unsupervised scissor use. No matter how much I tried to lovingly explain, her takeaway wasn’t an understanding of the seriousness of cutting up something valuable, but instead feeling upset that her scissors got taken away. If I had given in because she was upset and didn’t understand, something else would have gotten cut up. But you’re right, it’s very different when you’re dealing with an older, more verbal kid who would actually understand the conversation, understand the seriousness of her actions, and wouldn’t need the scissors taken away. And you’re right–doing something punitive that feels very harsh and senseless to the child actually prevents the very kind of understanding you’re trying to accomplish, and so taking away the scissors went completely against the grain of what you’re trying to do as a parent.

        On an unrelated note (and as further evidence of how my own experiences as a parent inform how I read your post), one of the absolute hardest things for me to deal with as a positive, non-authoritarian parent is what to do when calm discussion, compromise, and taking the child’s views into consideration just doesn’t work. I feel like I’m back in toddlerhood again when it comes to standing my ground about my pre-adolescent not getting a facebook account. We’ve had many discussions about why the answer is no, and as parents we’ve tried to take her concerns into account by giving her more avenues to communicate with friends, suggesting alternate social networking sites geared toward younger kids, etc. But her genuine takeaway is a sense of righteous anger, and she truly believes that we’re deliberately trying to make her unhappy. And she tantrums about it like a toddler. This doesn’t change no matter how many reasonable, loving, reassuring conversations we’ve tried to have.

        My kids were always so amenable to working things out through discussion and compromise when they were in elementary school. But this pre-adolescent stuff is kicking my positive parenting ass. I never thought there would come a point when I would say “The answer is no, and it is final, and there will be no more discussion until you’re 13.” (end of massively tangential angsty rant).

      • sylvia_rachel

        Pre-adolescence is HARD. WOW is it hard. I honestly don’t remember parenting being this hard when DD was two (she’s now 11).

      • AnotherOne

        I’m thinking it has to be hormonal. How on earth does she go from being the reasonable, smart, compassionate, hard-working kid she is most of the time to completely flipping out over a reasonable boundary, sobbing and screaming that we hate her?

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Yeah, I haven’t flat out said her age before. But what the heck, she’s four. :P And Bobby’s one.

  • Alexis

    Libby, if I ever have a child I hope I have the courage to admit when I’m wrong like you do. This happened so many times to me as a child: I would get punished for something, but because I couldn’t make the connection between what my mother felt I had done wrong and the punishment it never actually changed my behavior.

  • sylvia_rachel

    I think I am one of the people who misinterpreted your first post, and I’m sorry for that. I think what I actually did, specifically, was read it through the lens of some of the things I wish I had done differently when my own kid was your kids’ age, and read my feelings into what you wrote when they didn’t altogether belong there. There are a few people in my life (not very many, fortunately) who like to criticize my parenting, or certain aspects of it, as too permissive; I think my gut reaction to posts wherein people talk honestly about their own parenting fails is generally to try to be reassuring, so as not to be that voice of criticism.

    Also, I did not altogether get from the first post that you were trying to make her feel bad. I still don’t think taking the scissors away is completely unreasonable; but I do absolutely agree that taking the scissors away before having the conversation and with the intent to make the child feel bad is something I would definitely not want to do (which doesn’t mean I haven’t done it, alas). And maybe I was too busy admiring how well you (ultimately came to) understand and appreciate Sally’s point of view to fully grasp that initially, you didn’t do that.

    To answer those questions at the end of the post: For me, the answer is probably “too often, but I really am trying”. One thing that’s very important for me, personally, to remember is that (as Fred Clark says) intent is not magic — just because I don’t consciously intend something as a punishment, that doesn’t mean DD doesn’t experience it as one.

    • AnotherOne

      Yes, this. A thousand times.

  • Mary

    This reminds me of a misunderstanding I had with my two year old. After getting back from swimming, I’d hop in the shower with her to clean the chlorine off both of us. But I didn’t want to play in there forever.

    “Okay,” I’d say, “We’ll just jump in the shower and then get right out.”

    After a few days of this, she started goofing off in there, dangerously. Wanting to jump up and down on the slippery, wet, hard bathtub surface.

    “No jumping in the shower!” I would shout, frightened and distressed. And she looked even more frightened and distressed at my anger.

    Fortunately, the second time this happened I realized why she was doing it — because I kept saying we were going to “jump” or “hop” in the shower, of course. From her point of view, I was telling her that was the plan, but then yelling at her for trying to do it.

    If I had just punished her for her (quite dangerous, not acceptable) actions, I would never have figured out that it was my own fault she was trying to do them. After that we made a list of places where it is okay to jump (living room, bedroom, basement) and places where it is not okay (bathtub, bathroom, kitchen). And she is perfectly happy with that arrangement, can recite the lists back to me, and hasn’t tried to jump in the shower since.

    • sylvia_rachel

      Toddlers and metaphors: not always a good combination. (We’ve had some misunderstandings like that, too … funny in hindsight, not so funny at the time.)

  • krisya0507

    I think some of the conflict is a result of our experiences with different children. Sally seems to be pretty close to one end of the spectrum between a mature/compliant child and an immature/emotionally-reactive child. Some of that has to do with your parenting style, but a lot of it is just Sally. I absolutely believe and trust you when you say that Sally didn’t need you to take the scissors away, and so doing it wasn’t the right decision. She WOULD have remembered the lesson if you hadn’t done that.

    To me, part of what is motivating the commentators is that many children (including many of their children) wouldn’t have internalized the lesson the way Sally did. That doesn’t make anything about your experience wrong, but a lot of your commentators probably weren’t really meaning to say taking the scissors away from Sally was right, but in that situation, taking the scissors away from their children would have been justified. They’re thinking about their children or children they know and the idea of taking privileges away in general. Again, not your fault, because you specifically said that with some kids, consequences would be necessary, but it’s understandable. Most people who are parents and read parenting blogs are filtering, they’re thinking about the situations described and how it would work with their kids, and responding with that in mind. I would have had to take the scissors away from my son, because otherwise, he wouldn’t have stopped what he was doing long enough to focus and learn the lesson (as I said in my comment to the previous post).

    Again, I understand why this is triggering for you and I think your reaction is right on target. I just hope you can see that many of the commentators weren’t saying what they did to criticize you, but to defend how they have behaved with their children.

    • Alexis

      Krisya0507, please pardon me if I’m coming across as confrontational – that’s the last thing I want, but I’m a little put-off by your correlation between maturity and compliance, and between immaturity and emotional reactivity. I know many adults who are highly mature, and also very reactive emotionally. I’m not sure where you’re coming from, so can you clarify? Thank you.

      • krisya0507

        That’s totally fair, no apology necessary. I should have phrased it different spectra. Mature vs. immature, compliant vs. assertive, emotionally perceptive vs. emotionally reactive. Those might not be perfect either. My impression of Sally from reading this blog is that she is both intellectually and emotionally mature, compliant and responsive to p raise, and perceptive. My son, about the same age, is intellectually mature but emotionally immature, not compliant and discounts praise if he’s praised for something he doesn’t care much about, and very driven by his own emotions and not very empathetic yet. Other kids are all kinds of combinations of those characteristics and others, and it’s going to influence what parenting techniques work. I apologize because what I said was inaccurate. I was trying to simplify and it didn’t work quite right.

      • The_L1985

        I’m ridiculously emotionally-reactive, especially when I’ve spent a lot of time around my parents–I just cry at the drop of a hat. It’s irritating, because I don’t want to cry, and other people are clearly confused and uncomfortable when I start crying, but I just can’t hold back the tears sometimes.

    • Leigha7

      I wouldn’t necessarily say being compliant and being emotionally-reactive are opposites. I was both as a child. I very rarely broke any rules, but I would sob hysterically any time I was punished (which, unfortunately for me, often meant standing in the corner until I stopped crying–I still have no idea how long that was, because it felt like forever but was probably no more than 10-15 minutes). I vaguely remember feeling devastated every time I was in trouble, either because I felt it was undeserved and I wasn’t being given a fair chance to defend myself, or because I knew it WAS deserved and I felt horribly guilty.

  • jdens

    I’m not a parent, but I found the original post both thoughtful and thought-provoking. I thought almost all of the comments seemed to come from a positive wish to affirm Libby Anne’s parenting even when she found fault with it. It seems that in that desire to affirm Libby Anne’s instinctive reaction, what Libby Anne really wished to talk about was mainly ignored or even undermined. Thank you, Libby Anne, for starting important conversations, and thanks to those commenters who are responding with both grace and honesty.

  • Jenn Dyer

    Hi, Libby Anne. I’ve really enjoyed your posts on positive parenting. As a child I grew up in an authoritarian house that was much like yours. For years I’ve been opposed to spanking as punishment as well as other authoritarian methods. I’ve always been at a little bit of a loss though when I thought of how I would raise a child. Your posts have been very educating.

    I’ve never had children, but I do have a cat that is like a child to me, Sonya. I very much want to treat her in the ways you treat Sally. I want to listen to her moods and wants and reason with her. I realize the communication isn’t like it could be with a child, but perhaps similar to how someone communicates with a baby. The language communication isn’t there, but tone is important and as much as it isn’t verbal a baby can communicate through actions, mood, and crying.

    So, I’ve tried to use some of your examples and I think it’s made a difference in my relationship with Sonya. When she meows at me I know she wants something. I get up and follow her to see what it is. I check her water and her food, her litter box, things like that first. Even if that’s all good sometimes I realize she just wants to play. It’s a bit like a kid saying, “Mom, I’m booooreeed.” And sometimes she wants to go outside, which she can’t do without supervision. So I’ll take her outside for a little while if it’s not raining. If it’s raining, I open the door and show her the rain. She hates to get wet, so she looks outside and then she turns around and seems to accept it.

    While I know we won’t always be able to communicate on everything, I know our relationship is better. And I don’t think of her crying as something I need to stop, but something I need to figure out. She’s a reasonable kitty and I know she wouldn’t be asking me for something if she didn’t need something.

    Anyway, thank you.

  • katiehippie

    Thank you for your posts! I wish my kids were small again so I could try some of the things you talk about. I may have done the conversation rather than punishment thing once though. My son was about 3 and helping vacuum and got one of his socks in the hose. He didn’t know you don’t try to vacuum up something like that. But rather than make him feel bad about the trouble it was to get the sock out, I just had him watch and ‘help’ me take things apart to get it out. It worked because a couple weeks later he was vacuuming again and he stopped, turned to me with this very serious look on his face and said, ‘no socks, mom, no socks’
    I probably threaten punishment too much now that they are older. It doesn’t work because I’m not too good at following through and I’m having my own issues that makes it hard to deal with my teenager and preteen.
    There’s nothing like a parenting discussion to bring out people that ‘know’ the correct way to raise a child. :-)

  • Mary C

    I think it is great that this incident has inspired so much introspection on your part. However, I think in this post, you are coming close to negating the experience of your readers in favor of your own perspective. I also think you are reading many of the responses in a different tone than they were intended.

    Frankly, it is hard not to feel that you are being condescending to parents with different perspectives on this when discussing the whole “punishments vs consequences” thing, and I’m not sure it is clear in your mind what the difference is between the two either. Losing a tool that you’ve used irresponsibly is a punishment, but losing out on ice cream because your money needs to go to repair the couch is a consequence? What is the difference? Not sure what definitions you are using to say one is one or the other… Is it only the intent? I guess if you just lost your temper and grabbed the scissors away from Sally, and marched away without another word when you saw the hole in the couch, then ok, something is lacking in the discipline. But choosing one consequence over another (losing the scissors or losing ice cream money) doesn’t inherently mean you are just “punishing” your child and trying to dress it up as something else.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Although I didn’t go into detail in my reply, I answered from my own perspective of having a very creative, very smart seven year old who, when she was younger, had several incidents of cutting things she should not (including a couch, her hair twice, her toys, and her pajamas) – not because she isn’t aware that it is wrong, but because she cannot help herself. It is too tempting. Trust me, I’ve had veeery similar conversations with my daughter as the one you describe having with Sally, and I’ve had them more than once. She was sincerely sorry every time she did it. And I’ve supplied a ton of appropriate cutting materials. What made a strong enough impression on her that she was able to resist the impulse was knowing she’d lose her scissor privileges if she cut n on-appro ved objects.

      This is why I said that Sally is not a serial couch-cutter, and also why I pointed out in both posts that taking away a kid’s scissors can be completely appropriate. Here’s where I say it in this one:

      If Sally hadn’t been sorry, or if I actually thought she might cut furniture again, taking away the scissors might be completely appropriate. Even then, though, it should be done in the context of conversation, explanation, and honest communication. A parent can easily say, “I am not taking these scissors away because I want to be mean, and I do understand why you did what you did. If I were your age I’d probably find cutting up a couch interesting too. But it’s important that our furniture doesn’t end up cut up, so I’ll take care of your scissors for you until you’re able to keep them without cutting things you’re not supposed to cut. Don’t worry, I’ll give them back.” When a parent does that, he or she establishes that the removal of the scissors is not a punishment or intended to be adversarial.

      And here is where I said it in the first post:

      If Sally was a serial furniture-cutter, or if she was unapologetic and unremorseful, taking away her scissors might have made sense. But in this case, all that was needed was a conversation.

      So yes, I completely agree with you. My post was not an attempt to say that taking away a kid’s scissors is never appropriate, but rather that sometimes punishment can be counterproductive when a simple conversation would be enough. I’m sorry that wasn’t clear. I was not trying to suggest that every child is the same; I’m aware that they’re not.

      As to the difference between consequences and punishment, I hope to address this further later. I touched on it a little bit in what I quoted above, though, when I laid out how I would explain Claire’s loss of scissor privilege if she weren’t remorseful or if she couldn’t help herself.

      • Mary C

        So after re-reading it, I had deleted that last paragraph out of my post, because I felt that it was a side note to my main point.
        Just to clarify, as it might be confusing for someone reading through, wondering what you are quoting.

  • John Kruger

    I too must admit to misunderstanding the first post, but I think I know why.

    When Libby replied to the criticism that this post was different than the first one, the reply was: “I said in the first post that I took them away to show her the seriousness of it and to punish her. If taking them away wouldn’t hurt her, then it wouldn’t do either of those things. ”

    The standard use of the word “punishment” that I use is only the method of enforcement used when rules are broken. It does not inherently entail an intent to make someone sad or otherwise cause emotional distress when I think about it. So when I read that Libby felt she was wrong to punish, I read that there should not have been any corrective consequence to the cutting incident, which is all I thought was going on in the scissor confiscation.

    I now realize that the intention to make Sally sad actually WAS there, and that is what she regretted. THAT I completely agree with. Without catching the emotional manipulation aspect, I thought that she was arguing that confiscation of possessions was categorically wrong. Other comments she has made in this post indicate that that is clearly not what she thinks.

    I apologize if my poor comprehension hurt any feelings. I certainly do not think that hurting the feelings of children is an appropriate method of guiding their behavior.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      At some point I want to write about punishment v. consequences. Punishment is designed to cause pain. That’s the point. Whether it’s spanking or taking away a possession, it’s supposed to make the child hurt and therefore regret the action and purpose not to do it again. When my brothers didn’t do all their homework, my mother would take away their computers *to hurt them* so that they would think twice about not finishing their schoolwork. It was never framed in a cooperative “you’re not doing all your schoolwork, so let’s brainstorm and figure out some way to help you get through it.” Said brainstorming might lead to a decision to keep the computers off between hours X and Z, or it might even lead to deciding to let mom keep the power cord for each so that there wouldn’t be too much temptation to use them before finishing schoolwork. But those things are not *punishments.* Anyway, I think you’re right, I think different people may be operating on different definitions here. I hadn’t thought of that!

      • minuteye

        I think a post on punishment vs. consequences would be really interesting! Also, I definitely agree that different definitions (particularly with a topic like this where words can have a lot of emotional baggage) can make communication very difficult.

        As a kid, my mother always insisted that what she was doing was “discipline” and NOT “punishment”. I found this very frustrating, as by my understanding, I was being punished for breaking rules (eg. losing tv privileges for yelling). Looking back as an adult, though, I know now that her own father was abusive, and I suspect that the word “punishment” carried that meaning to her. So I understand why describing her behaviour towards her children as “punishment” might have felt really horrible to her, hence why she avoided it.

      • Monika Jankun-Kelly

        We’re absolutely operating on different definitions of punishment. Given your definition, your posts make so much more sense to me now. My definition of punishment is quite different. It’s not about hurting someone to hurt them, to control them through fear or pain or suffering. Punishment, to me, means restricting access to something one is not responsible enough to use, or losing a privilege because those who behave badly and aren’t remorseful don’t deserve said privilege, or doing something unpleasant, like corner time, to really emphasize that those who hit their sibling and aren’t stopped by their own conscience will be stopped by parents. Punishment, to me, includes an explanation of why it is being administered, what the wrongdoing was, how it hurts other people or endangers the child, and discussion of how to improve, and how to earn back lost privileges. My goal would be first and foremost to cultivate a child’s conscience, so they have internal self-control and an understanding of the reasons behind rules. However, if that fails, or the child is too young to have such control and understanding, I want kids to know there will be external enforcement of rules, and consequences for not following them. Unpleasant consequences should NOT be the reason one chooses to follow rules, but not having such consequences for habitual or remorseless rule breakers teaches them they can break rules with impunity. A speeding ticket is a punishment for adults. Punishments should not be motivators, but they can be useful teaching and enforcement tools.

  • TLC

    It has been an interesting day to read these two blog posts and the comments.

    Libby Anne, I think you were very brave to write about this and open it up for discussion. It was great to see all the comments and perspectives on how to handle this.

    As the parent of a gifted and very intelligent child, I have been criticized by many because they think I haven’t been strict enough, enforced enough discipline, etc. Others have warned me not to be too restrictive with him or he’ll be afraid to pursue his interests according to his gifts and talents.

    As Sally’s mother, you know what’s best for your daughter. You know the best way to talk with her, respond to her, discipline her. Likewise, we parents or parents-to-be who follow your blog respond and comment from our perspectives. And hopefully, we all learn something.

    After reading both posts as well as your post on triggers, I am once again amazed that you have the courage to do this. This Christian homeschooling lifestyle SEEMS so “wholesome and pure” to most of us. You have really opened my eyes to the abuse lurking there behind the scenes.

    If you post on a parenting issue again, my suggestion would be to stay out of the comments until the end of the day, then review them all at once. And knowing what you know about your triggers, have some coping mechanisms handy.

    But please, Libby Anne, TRUST YOURSELF. You obviously have thought things through and know you want to raise your kids. We’ve all made mistakes as parents, and have examples of times we wish we could have a do-over. That stuff happens. What works for one child doesn’t work for the next one, even within families.

    You know your kids like no one else does. Do what’s best for you and for them. If you write about this, expect to get comments that differ from your point of view. But at the end of the day, you’re the Mom, and you’re a VERY GOOD one. And that’s all that matters.

    • Hilary

      What she said!

  • Hilary

    One thing I’ve thought, and I don’t know if anybody has brought it up yet, is some of what you taught Sally today about being sad and angry. You said that what you were reflecting on is that you didn’t want making Sally feel sad to be what she took out of ‘this is why we don’t cut couches with scissors.’ But think about this:

    She just learned that she could feel sad, and that mommy could feel mad, and nobody got hurt. She can feel sad, she can tell you she feels sad, and you listened to her, and everything was eventually ok. She learned that her mother could get angry at her, without yelling, or screaming, or swearing . . . or hitting, spanking, throwing something, threatening to hit, or any other act of abuse. She learned that someone feeling angry (mommy) and someone feeling sad (Sally) does not lead to abusive behavior. It’s ok to feel those emotions, and still have enough self-control to not hurt the other, and still have enough respect to listen to the other.

    So years down the line, if anybody tries to say, “Hey babe, I’m sorry I hit you. I love you but you just made me so mad” she will be able to see through the bullshit for what it is. She will know to the core of her bones that being mad, angry or sad is no excuse for abuse. She’ll know that because her parents taught it to her over and over again.

    Good job.

    • luckyducky

      Sometimes we do our most important teaching through our mistakes… and Howe we recover from them. Oh wow, mom gets angry and loses her temper sometimes, I can do things that make mom that angry… but mom doesn’t hurt me, mom calms down and explains why, and mom apologizes. It can help her grow in empathy as well as teach her how to recover from her own mistakes.

      No, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that what made the biggest impression on her was what you *did to her*, as mature as she is, she is still preschoolers and limited in her ability to empathize. The cutting was not shocking for her, she didn’t appreciate how frustrating it might be for an adult, but getting her scissor taken away was shocking, so that’s what she remembered. Not how you want every screw up to go but the occasional shock to the system is okay…

      • Hilary

        I agree with you about learning from mistakes, some of the most important life lessons I’ve learned have come from recovering from failures, and making mistakes. in fact that is one reason why I find Christian claims about Jesus being perfect less then convincing. How could he understand the human process of repentance and learning if he had no sin and no mistakes?

        Of course Sally focused on her own feelings! She’s four years old, that’s normal in a four year old. Learning reciprocal empathy takes time, patience, love, support and trial and error. Many adult people never learn the human art of reciprocal empathy, no matter what claims they have about ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ Or as I prefer, ‘What is hateful to yourself, do not do to others, everything else is commentary, go and study.’

      • ecolt

        It’s actually been shown that the ability to think through the consequences of our actions and calculate risks doesn’t fully develop until about age 22. That’s part of the reason that kids do some of the silly things they do, and part of the reason they don’t always connect results to actions. That’s totally normal, not a failing of a parent.

    • ecolt

      A very good point.

      I had a similar experience with my stepson recently. He’d been getting in trouble all day for being bossy and whiny (long story short, he can get away with being nasty to his older siblings at mom’s house by fake-crying and his dad and I are desperately trying to get him to be more polite and take more responsibility for his actions and emotions) and I was honestly a bit at my wit’s end with him. I came down the stairs that night and caught him hanging off the railing and just snapped. I yelled, I sent him to his room, I got mad.

      But after taking a minute to cool off I went to his room to talk. I told him that I wasn’t trying to be mean. I explained that there’s a book shelf with a pointy metal top right under where he had been hanging off the stairs and that I didn’t want him to hurt himself. I explained that I had yelled the way I did not just out of anger but also because he had scared me, that I loved him and didn’t want him to get hurt. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and I wasn’t punishing him (it was time for bed anyway). I was scared because he was in a dangerous position, and I was angry because he’d been told not to hang over the railings before and didn’t listen.

      I didn’t handle things perfectly and I lost my cool. But I owned up to my emotions and my reasons. I talked to him honestly and reached a level of understanding. Ultimately, that’s the same kind of behavior I’ve been trying to teach him.

  • die Geisthander

    This whole thing reminds me so much of an Astrid Lindgren (a Swedish children’s author) quote:

    “When I was about twenty years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time.

    But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking-the first in his life. And she told him he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying.

    He said to her, ‘Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock you can throw at me.’ All of a sudden a mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.

    The mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. Because violence begins in the nursery—one can raise children into violence.”

  • AAAtheist

    Please be advised I’m prefacing all of this as a potential TRIGGER WARNING. Descriptions of child abuse/violence will follow.

    Question #1:

    How often do we threaten children with punishment when a conversation would work just as well?

    Answer #1: Often. When I was younger, I went into my ex-stepfather’s den and took a sugar cookie from his stash (the really good kind with almonds in the middle—yum). When he found out, he exploded at me. He never hit me, but he yelled at top volume, letting me know in no uncertain terms there’d be hell to pay if I ever did anything like that again. He scared me so bad I almost wet my pants. He could have said, “Hey, son, I appreciate that the cookies I buy are delicious, but I’d really appreciate you asking me first if you want one, okay?” I silently hated him for years until my mother divorced him.

    Question #2:

    How often does punishment send different messages than intended?

    Answer #2: I’d say most of the time (see answer #1). As a kid, my biological father (highly religious, extremely authoritarian, and a believer in corporal punishment) whipped me with electrical cord around my legs for the unforgiveable transgression of falling asleep in church. At the time, I didn’t make the connection between his fundamentalist beliefs and what he did to me. I just thought he was a weapons-grade, chrome-plated bastard. I’m ashamed to say this, but once, while watching my sister’s kids, I did the very same thing to my nephews for the huge infraction of laughing and jumping on the bed, as all kids do. I was annoyed and I had absolutely no excuse to do it. I scared one of them so bad he threw up. When my sister got home, I told her immediately what I had done. I apologized to my nephews, letting them know how ashamed I was with myself and that I’d never do that again. They forgave me, but I still feel like shit about it to this day.

    Question #3:

    How often do we miss opportunities to teach life skills and focus instead on threatening our children?

    Answer #3: Well, just see answers 1 and 2. I’d say “most of the time” and “often”, yet again. The life lessons I learned from my dad and ex-stepdad were to never tell a difficult truth or trust the adults in my life. Any coping mechanisms or conflict-resolution strategies I’ve managed to use (as an adult myself) I learned on my own, not because of the “spare-the-rod, spoil-the-child” mentality.

    Good for you, Libby. Your parenting methods are truly inspiring. If I ever have kids (as unlikely as that is), I’m taking a page from your example.

  • Ibis3

    I’m reading this a bit late, Libby Anne, but I wanted to tell you that I totally get where you’re coming from. My mum has a very suspicious mind and even now (I’m past 40!) she sometimes imputes to my actions intentions that I’ve never had. As a helpless kid it was frustrating as hell for my words not to be taken at face value. It sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job trying to connect with your daughter as an autonomous person with motivations and feelings of her own.

  • Ursula L

    Reading through these posts and the comments, another perspective comes to mind.

    It was quite natural for you to be upset that your sofa was cut, and to be upset with Sally for cutting it. And your initial action reflected your upset.

    I do think that it was an appropriate and proportional expression of how upset you were.

    It also, I think, served to buy you a little time to calm down. It’s nice in theory to want to have a calm and rational conversation about these things immediately. But you’re human, and not always going to be in an emotional place to react perfectly. Even just a minute, as you carry the scissors into the other room, buys you time to think.

    Taking the scissors, immediately, had the practical effect of ensuring that the behavior couldn’t continue or be repeated. More specifically, it ensured that she could not continue or repeat the behavior before you’d had a chance to calm down and pull yourself together in order to be able to have the needed conversation.

    If needed, you might explain to her why you too the scissors in that way. You were upset, and needed time to calm down before talking. But it would not have been fair to leave the scissors with her before you talked, and explained why you were upset, because she might have gone on to cut something else she shouldn’t before you had a chance to explain.

    It is, perhaps, an opportunity to discuss how sometimes the things she does will upset you, and your reaction will need to meet your emotional needs as well as helping her learn.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    I understand your point that we should start with conversation and explanation. If a child understands wrongdoing, accepts responsibility, and makes a believable promise to change, taking away scissors (or some other punitive action) may not be necessary.

    My small disagreement with the scissors posts is that I think due to the horrific parenting methods of your parents, there may be more hesitancy to use non-abusive punishments than is warranted. Punishments are supposed to serve as lessons [edit: and rule enforcements], not as means of controlling kids through suffering. Kids that can’t be responsible with scissors should have their scissors taken away, and if they’re sad about that, I have no problem with them being sad. I just want them to be sad for the right reasons, sad that they are not responsible enough to have scissors, not just sad because they want scissors and can’t have them. I want them to undersand they can earn the scissors back by showing self control and respect for other people and property. I want kids to understand that mommy or daddy can get mad about the couch being cut up, and that anger is a natural reaction to being hurt (having your property destroyed does hurt). It’s what we do when angry that can be good or bad. Parents can be angry, but remain calm, talk to the child first, and only act punitively if warranted. So it is good to read that while you wish you had talked first, you would definitely have restricted Sally’s privileges if she hadn’t understood she shouldn’t cut the couch.

  • http://oddestnotions.blogspot.com/ Ginger

    The last time my mother ever spanked me was when I was 13 (and she hadn’t spanked me for years before that.) I didn’t do anything wrong- she reacted over a misunderstanding. I was so upset it took hours to find out why she was even mad. But reacting with punishment before conversation becomes an ingrained response in parents. I think she was embarrassed about it.

  • galacticexplorer

    I think punishments very often send a different message than we think they will. For example, despite the fact that spanking was supposed to teach me responsibility and consequences for my actions, it was most successful in teaching me to /avoid/ owning up to my mistakes because I was too scared of the pain and humiliation. It also taught me that certain crimes or mistakes couldn’t be made up for; I could only suffer for them. It also taught me that I could deserve violence and humiliation, which is a horrible lesson to learn. None of these were supposed to happen… and my parents spanked in all the “right” ways, as far as I can tell. I wrote a post about it here, if y’all are interested, detailing a bit more about the unintended messages of corporeal punishment. http://shelteredevangelical.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/why-i-oppose-spanking/

  • Kate Monster

    Hey, Libby. I hope you’re still reading these, though I totally understand if you aren’t. Sally is lucky to have you as her mom.

    I will say that until I read through your comments on THIS post, I was under the impression that your conversation with Sally happened while she was cutting/right after she had cut the couch–in which case, at least in my opinion, taking the scissors away would have definitely been the right response, in order to stop further damage to the couch. I didn’t realize (and maybe that’s just my reading comprehension?) that you noticed the couch later in the day. I think that possibly colored a lot of people’s interpretation of your actions. I certainly see a big difference between “seeing a child in the midst of mischief and putting a stop to it before getting into a discussion” and “noticing the evidence of mischief after the fact and reacting a bit hastily rather than talking things out”.

  • http://preciousscars.wordpress.com/2012/06/page/2/ pi31415

    I understand that acting in anger was a problem. There were ways to handle the scissors by taking them away without it feeling like a punishment, however, but when we’re angry, it’s hard to think logically sometimes. Been there, done that.

    But saying, “Hey, scissors are fun, but they can also be dangerous. They can ruin things, and they can hurt people. So I think we need to put them away and only use them with mom during craft times. Just let me know when you want to use them, and we’ll do it together, ok?”

    She may’ve learned not to cut the couch, but she’s four and lacks an internal dialogue. Therefore she very well may not think, “Huh, if I can’t cut the couch, I probably also shouldn’t cut the lace off my favorite shirt or cut off one of my braids or cut pretty designs in the curtain.” Kids do all kinds of things without thinking through to the consequences — and I mean that literally rather than punishment. They don’t think that if they cut off their braid, they’re losing their hair. They don’t think that cutting this pretty lace will ruin the whole dress. They live in the moment. As parents, it’s our job to help them learn boundaries, and giving your daughter boundaries doesn’t have to feel like a punishment.

  • Barbara Fryman

    You know your child best, so you know how to respond when she messes up. That is the important thing. I have 5 kids. One does best like you treat Sally. One does best to be removed from the situation, some would say punished, then be spoken to. Two are very manipulative by nature, first with charm, then pouting. It takes a while before they are able to talk over the negative consequences of negative behavior. Our baby has Ds, and I’m learning raising her is a horse of another color. So, if you feel your response, or rather, reaction was wrong, you’re probably right. I think those who criticize you are comparing their individual children to yours.

  • Sara Lin Wilde

    “I refuse to approach my daughter with suspicion or assume that she’s out to “play” me. [. . .] I will be open and honest and respect her as an individual, and unless there is solid evidence to the contrary I will assume that she is the same with me.”

    Beautiful. Golden. Libby Anne, you are one of my parenting idols. In general, I find that people don’t give enough thought to “respect” as something children deserve. The fact that you do tells me that, though everyone makes mistakes, Sally & Bobby are lucky to have a mom like you.


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