As I read about the death of poor Hana, it brought back images and emotions. You see, Larry and Carri Williams – adopted parents of Hana – followed “To Train Up A Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl. They followed it too closely, too strictly.
I read that book. Before Lizzie was born I read it and prepared for parenthood, armed with the old adage, “Spare the rod or spoil the child.” I was going to have a well disciplined child that respected me, I was not going to have a spoiled brat of a child.
Let me get a few things straight here: I am not against spanking. I am not even 100% against this book (pretty much, but not 100%, I will explain later). I am here to share my story and only my story because that is the only story I know to tell.
My parenting philosophy when Lizzie was born was, “I am the parent. She is the child. She must learn to obey and submit to me all the time.” The book is drenched in this philosophy. Nowhere does the book talk about child development. Children are either submissive or rebellious. Period.
Then, I soon discovered that God gave me a child that knew herself, her needs, and would stubbornly not give up until her needs were met. But at the time I saw it as rebellion. In a baby.
This is the quote from chapter 9 that I tried to follow in my stubborn daughter that refused to sleep at 10 months old.
When your baby is tired and sleepy enough to become irritable, don’t reinforce irritability by allowing the cause and effect to continue. Put the little one to sleep. But what of the grouch who would rather complain than sleep? Get tough. Be firm with him. Never put him down and then allow him to get up. If, after putting him down, you remember he just woke up, do not reward his complaining by allowing him to get up. For the sake of consistency in training, you must follow through. He may not be able to sleep, but he can be trained to lie there quietly. He will very quickly come to know that any time he is laid down there is no alternative but to stay put. To get up is to be on the firing line and get switched back down. It will become as easy as putting a rag doll to bed. Those who are MOSTLY consistent must use the switch too often. Those who are ALWAYS consistent come to almost never need the switch.
“Get switched back down.” I tried it. Imagine if you will, trying to do cry it out with a switch. I tried. Have you ever tried cry it out? I remember my nerves being completely shot from her tears, her screams. When she would not sleep I took it as rebellion and the need for a spanking. But the core of this book also says that parents must never loose their calm, their patience.
Here is the problem with me and this book: I can’t spank without losing my calm. I simply cannot. I feel emotional. And doing cry it out, I felt like I was at war with a demanding baby – and a losing one at that! What kind of mother cannot control her baby? She must learn to obey me or else I am not doing my job.
I spanked Lizzie once for not sleeping. She screamed even louder. I waited and spanked her again. More screams. I was at a loss. To give in and nurse her would “reward her complaining” as the book put it. But eventually I could not handle the tears and screams. I nursed her to sleep, my pulse racing, my guilt overwhelming. I did not want to feel this way about my baby.
And yet there were other instances just like it. I took this one pretty literally (from page 9)
At four months she was too unknowing to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good, we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of “No” with little spats on the bare legs. The switch was a twelve-inch long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow tree.
I decided that behavioral training was the way to instill in her the respect she must have for her parents. I remember sitting at home with my 7 month old Lizzie who was crawling at the time. I let her try to crawl to the stairs and said no and spanked her bare legs each time. No redirection, no doing things at her level. It was all just behavior training, trying to teach her to respond to my voice and respect what no meant. But, again, my temperament didn’t work. My baby was very curious and very stubborn. I started to feel angry at her lack of submission!
So what happened? Why did you stop parenting by the Pearl book?
Because of my parenting gut. Because deep inside, I knew Lizzie was just like me and I was never rebellious, just inquisitive and needing someone to understand me, not rule me. And also because I was scared of how it felt when I spanked my children. Some people might be able to spank without feeling angry, able to separate their emotions from the situation and be serene and loving yet firm. That is not me. I feel like these bulls:
So I spoke with family. I spoke with friends. I read more and more books until I found one that finally brought peace to my motherly instinct and helped me do my job as a mother: Love my children, teaching them to be who God created them to be and to strive for excellence. My life is not a war against my children, constantly trying to bend their will to mine. I now view it as a journey, a relationship. I am nowhere near a perfect parent nor do I have all the answers. But I do know that I had to begin using consequences I could follow through with that did not result in me expressing anger physically.
This book is not for me.
Who is this book for? Shouldn’t it be burned?
I don’t know for sure. Anyone that knows me knows I am the farthest thing from a judge. I just wanted to share my story. I hope that if parents are hurting their children in the desire to “break their will” and finally create submission, they will just stop! Please, read the book for yourself and decide what you think.