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I Do Not "Gentle Parent" My Children, I Teach Them

Other Parents Think I'm Mean - But My Kids LOVE Me.

By Hope MartinPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 17 min read
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photo by JLN photography

In the last few years, there has been a lot of focus on child psychology and 'gentle parenting' techniques that are supposedly 'better' methods to use to raise our children. And yeah, they are better... they are much better alternatives to the "beat the crap out of your kids until they are obedient" method that the older generations are used to.

And it's true. There was a generational abusive mentality in my family. I don't know anything about my family before my great-grandparents, but I do know my Grandmother was sold by her own mother (twice, the first time to her grandmother, and then when her grandmother died, her mother sold her to the Chicago Italian mafia), and my grandmother had to fight to survive.

When she had her own children, she didn't have a good example of what a good mother should be. So... she did her best. Which from what I've heard from my mom and aunt... it wasn't great. There was a lot of abuse, and... well grandma was a criminal. Not sure what else to say.

My mom grew up, determined not to be like her family.

My dad is a piece of crap - he has so much childhood trauma and he's so weak-minded he should have never had children. But he did. He abused my mother in various ways, and my stepmother he had after her for a long time. Generational abuse is a real bitch, and it's heavy in my paternal side.

She did the best she could. And so did my mom.

My mom raised me with a healthy mix of discipline, friendship, trust and communication. I went through a lot as a kid, so when mom finally got custody of me, she was a part of the first generation that really started to change the way children are raised and disciplined.

She did research. She called therapists and asked questions. She put a LOT of effort in curbing her first instinct behaviors when we misbehaved. Of course, this was the early 90's, and 'child psychology' wasn't a big deal yet. And by the time all this 'gentle parenting' and psychological mumbo jumbo came into existence. Before people were like: "OH MY GOD YOU SPANKED YOUR KID YOU MONSTER?!"

Mistakes were made. But lets get real here: I don't care if you are a gentle parent or not: You make mistakes. Mistakes are human. And every 'oldest' child is the guinea pig you test your ways out until you get it right. Then you have another kid.. and that kid is the polar opposite of your first one and you have to re-learn how to do the things you thought you knew how to do.

There is no such thing as a 'perfect parent.' And anyone who is striving to be the 'perfect parent' is putting way too much pressure and stress on themselves. All we can do is do our best. If God wanted us perfect, he'd have made us perfect. But he left our imperfections so that we can use them to grow.

Parenting is hard - no matter what your approach is.

There are a lot of books on parenting now. And some of them are very helpful. But I'm going to tell you right now: There is no right or wrong way to parent.

Sorry, I'm going to retract that: There is a wrong way to parent (obviously if you're abusing your child in anyway) but we are not talking about that horribleness. That's a negativity for another article.

You can't read a book or google articles and think: OH, yeah that's seriously the answer. There is no right answer. Every single child is unique, so not all parenting techniques work on every child.

My little fiestypants daughters - Left is Marlee and Right is Sky -Taken by Auntie Jessie

For example:

My first child was a DREAM infant. The pregnancy was almost fatal, and she was born VERY tiny because I was sick, but she was a dream.

No colic. No behaviors that were concerning. She wasn't fussy, she was always happy - and she only fussed when her diaper was dirty or she was hungry. Dream. Baby.

Now that she's five... she's a miniature version of me in my teenage years.

No. I'm not happy about that. It's a combination of Diva, Extreme Intelligence, SASS OUT THE ASS, and the ability to debate like a lawyer whose been in the field for 30 years. And she's the most out-going social butterfly I've ever met. I don't know where she gets THAT from because I don't like to human with other humans. She's straight forward and holds no bars. She's brutally honest, and I am going to have to teach her 'tact' and 'timing' with her astute observations and the opinions she forms on them. If I scold her or even get a little frustrated with her, her heart breaks. She's mean as snot to her sister, but no one else is allowed to be mean to her or she'll fight someone. She's a freaking TORNADO of energy. It's VERY rare that I ever have to do more than talk to her in the "Mom is losing her patience" voice.

My second daughter came to me when she was one years old, and she didn't even know how to play with toys. She was non-verbal, and had been neglected nutrition-wise when I got her. She's now three, and a perfectly normal baby girl. We taught her how to play (thank goodness for Sky, she taught her that), how to eat (and that she doesn't have to eat like she's a starved dog - she now understands she will ALWAYS have food when she's hungry, she just needs to ask) and talk (we had to teach her some ASL before she began to talk so we could communicate with her for her needs, and we did! It was awesome).

Marlee is shy at first around people until she gets comfortable. She'll hide behind her brave sister or me and peek out. She also has a trigger anxiety, that when someone is upset she immediately locks down. Where talking to Sky in my mean mommy voice fixes the behavior, doing it to Marlee only amplifies the behavioral issue, and also makes it so she won't communicate with me. It's like "OH NO! ANXIETY! But, also challenged accepted, Mother."

Unlike Sky, she is kind of sneaky and manipulative (and for you snowflakes who are like: Oh my god she's not manipulative she's just a baby - I have watched on the cameras in my house - THAT I HAD TO INSTALL BECAUSE OF THIS CHILD AND HER SCHEMES - Silently terrorize her older sister until Sky snaps and yells at her - then when Sky gets in trouble for 'being mean to Marlee', Marlee grins REAL big and takes whatever toy or whatever her sister was playing with. I'm telling you right now, that baby is smart and manipulative and I am going to have to teach her to use her powers for good and not evil, okay?) and while Sky can be bossy, sometimes Marlee will wake up feeling down-right mean and cranky.

This happens sometimes, but for the other 95% of the time, she's the sweetest, loving little girl. We are still working on using her big girls voice. I do not let her whisper what she wants to me, I do not enable her shy behavior. I also do not let her whine at me, or talk to me trying to be cute while she's asking for something. I make her use her big girl voice and speak up and look me in the face when she's speaking to me. And if she doesn't, she doesn't get what she wants.

She's also prone to crying fits and temper tantrums, something I wasn't used to at all from Sky. Sky was a regular kid and as a baby she would throw fits when she was learning. But she picked up relatively quickly that temper tantrums do NOT work with me and they get her in trouble rather than what she wants. Marlee... she's slow on the uptake.. or she's very stubborn and she thinks she can wear me out eventually. Not sure. She's dangerously smart.

Marlee will also continue her behavior and escalate it until FINALLY she gets in enough trouble where she's okay: "Okay. I done pushed my luck enough for today."

And then there is my one year old son, and I am excited to see that he is turning into the 'class-clown' type mixed with a whole lot of bard. He's gonna have so many adoring fans when he's older - and by golly those eyelashes are gonna break hearts. And we have learned that he does NOT like to be told no, that he's stubborn, sensitive, and I am pretty sure I won't have to be too rough on him growing up. He's at that stage that when he's told "no," he'll flop over on the floor dramatically and cry... but he also won't do the thing I told him 'no' to.

The littlest spawn… he’s so cute. Picture taken by JLN

This only started happening though after I used the 'three-finger-tap-of-devastation' on his thigh.

And before ya'll go shouting: ABUSER! at me - you gotta read the story first. It's actually kind of funny.

He was on the floor, and one of our cats was laying near him. He decided that he was really curious about her tail, and he wanted to take it OFF of her to examine it. He had that tail in his tiny little super-saiyan strong grip and was pulling.

Luckily - this particular cat is one of the bestest kitties in the world, and all she did was let out a horrified: "MRREEEEEEOOOOOOOW!" while looking at me with big eyes, begging me to save her.

So I had a choice: let the cat fuck him up, or rap him on the thigh with my three fingers. I decided his face is too beautiful for scars this early in life, and I used my three middle fingers to give him a sharp little 'tap' on his thigh, while saying in the 'upset' mommy voice: "NO. You be NICE to the kitty. That hurts her!"

He let her tail go. His big brown eyes looked at my hand, then his leg, then my hand, then my face. His eyes slowly filled up with the most crocodilist of crocodile tears, he flopped on his side and let out the most heart-wrenching soul-twisting wail of betrayal that I had ever heard.

I am pretty sure the neighbors down the holler thought someone received news of a death, because it was like I had just ripped his heart out and stomped on it. It didn't even hurt him. No marks, and it was not his 'ouchie' cry either. It was more like the wail of a man who was just dumped by his first love. He's not a mommy's boy at all - even in the slightest.

Where's the cat in all this? Loving on him. Trying to comfort him and looking at me like I'm the one that did something horrible. See if I ever save her again, the ingrate.

That was 4 months ago and now instead of pulling tails, he gives them forehead boops.

Not abuse. It's discipline.

100% Gentle Parent Approaches Don't Work In My Opinion.

There is a very fine line between abuse and discipline. I should know, I've experienced both. As I said, my mother raised me with a well-balanced mix of mutual communication, trust, respect, and when I needed it - discipline and consequences (which isn't often because I am like my oldest daughter - with some additional childhood trauma built in.) She worked hard at being my best friend AND my mother. She put the effort into building a relationship with me that I felt safe to go to her when I was teenager with anything. I never felt the need to sneak out, do drugs or go party.

Not because I was afraid of my mom, but I respected her and trusted her.

My mom was determined to start the breaking of the cycle of generational abuse, and I think she was a phenomenal success. But when I was younger, she disciplined me. As a result, when I grew up I respected her, and trusted her. She didn't shelter me, lie to me, she always told me the truth, and when I messed up she sure as hell let me know. To this day, the first person I call when I need advice is my mom. And when she uses her mom voice on me, I still shut up and listen to what she has to say, even if I disagree with her. Because of respect.

I find a lot of young parents nowadays, who focus on the gentle parenting method, have been abused, which is why the thought of some serious discipline has been convoluted into abuse.

I don't particularly agree with gentle-parenting... mostly because most 'gently parented' kids I've met are obnoxious, rude, disrespectful and mean... and as a human with flaws when I meet a child like this who is above the age of 5 - I immediately think: "Well. This child's parents aren't doing their job correctly." And I hate that I do that- because as I said there's no real right way to parent - and I don't mean to judge. I don't know everyone's story, and I try to keep that in mind.

our attempt at a good family photo… lol Photo by JLN

But there comes a time when gentle parenting stops being effective.

I don't believe children the age of 6 should be gentle-parented anymore. At this point they should know the rules, right from what, what they are not supposed to touch or do, and they should already have mastered manners and being respectful by that age. If your child is 6 years old and being a monster - it's time to get more serious with your discipline.

I have found that children need a healthy amount of respect for an adult for a good relationship. Some children come by it naturally, and other's need to be taught it. And some children act like they need it beaten into them. Again though... when I meet a child who is by my standards, a 'brat,' my resentment of that child's behavior is immediately shifted to that child's parents. I know, it's super judgey, and I am greatly shamed by my human instinct, because I know for a fact that I am not perfect either.

I still stand by the fact that it is our job as parents to instill respect, manners, communication, emotion regulation, and knowledge into our children. And if your child doesn't know how to behave, then you haven't taught them. It is literally as simple as that. It is not up to our public school teachers to teach your children how to behave. That is YOUR job as a parent. These teachers should be focusing on these children's education, not having to do the parents job to teach them behavior.

Have you ever noticed that kids are naturally drawn to the people in their lives who are more strict and stern with them?

It's a respect thing. Kids doesn't understand this yet, but they CRAVE structure, and discipline. Kids who act up at home because they feel neglected or ignored by parents sometimes are VERY good at school if they connect with a teacher. And generally those teachers are strict, and stern. They don't ALLOW that child to do the things that it gets away with at home. And they do it all with stern but gentle DISCIPLINE.

If your child doesn't respect you, they aren't going to mind you. And if you do not discipline your children, they will not respect you. Because you are no longer the alpha, or the boss. They are. And they know it. Children are intelligent little predators. They can SMELL your fear and exhaustion and unless you establish your dominance they will walk ALL OVER you.

Discipline is not abuse - and it doesn't have to involve spanking either.

Speaking of spankings. Let's talk about it. I know a lot of people are like OH MY GOD SPANKING IS ABUSE. And I hate to burst y'all bubbles, but if spanking is abuse, then you are doing the spanking incorrectly my darlings.

Spankings aren't abuse in my opinion but there are rules.

A. You do not spank out of ANGER. If you are angry with your child, you calm down before you discipline them - or even better, call on your support network or the other parent to help you deal with the issue (assuming you have support. If not, then put them at the table for a time-out while you go take some deeeeeeep breaths).

B. Flat hand. Booty cheek. Not the face. Not the hand, not all over the body. Don't spank them with Grandpa's cane. Hand. Flat. Palm. Booty cheek.

C. One bop for the age - assuming you don't need to continue to spank your child as they get older. 

D. If you are having to spank your child more than once a day (which is STILL very excessive) then you need to look into alternative methods to handle your child's particular needs. Don't just spank them harder and more when it doesn't work the first time.

Spanking in my house is not taboo. I am not afraid to admit that I am not afraid to bust my children's little butts - if they need it. Spanking is the LAST resort, and reserved for especially heinous crimes against the famila (said in a raspy Don of The Mafia voice).

But let me be real here... spankings only work on my oldest and my youngest. My youngest has only had one spanking in his little life, and it is appropriately described above (see: three finger tap of devastation). Sky is 5 years old, and she's only had about 4 spankings in her life. Mommy's disappointment is the most powerful force in the world to these two.

Little Marlee gets spanked, and she cries because she knows she's supposed to, then she stops crying in .5 seconds and gets up and does whatever it was AGAIN for the SEVEN HUNDREDTH time that finally made me bop her on the booty in the first place. Usually doing something stupid like putting her fingers in the light socket after pulling out the 'child proof' plastic tab. At least, that's how she used to be.

Since she's been going to school and she's learning now things, her wild streak has simmered down, and I have spent WEEKS of my life researching infant trauma, and the behavioral issues it can cause, and how to address her issues properly. She is still a learning curve.

The most effective punishment I have found for her is scrubbing walls. Once again, don't start with me. When she decided to join the group of bullies at her pre-school and punched a kid in the face for no reason, THEN the next week after getting in trouble for it she decided to push another, I had options. One of them was to beat the bully out of her. But I'm telling you this kid is so mean sometimes I'm afraid if I beat the mean out of her, there will be nothing left. My other option was to normal bop on the butt spank her, then make her scrub walls until her arms fell off, publicly apologize to the teachers, and the kid, AND the kid's mom, and take away all JOY in her life until she went back to being a good friend to her classmates, not a mean one. I don't know about y'all but my kid will NOT be a bully!

Haven't had an issue since. Not abuse. Discipline.

With all of my children, I have taken the time to know them, so that way I know when they are having a bad day, or when they are just being jerks (listen all of you naysayer-children-do-no-wrongers - you are not a real parent until you can call your own parent and apologize for what an asshole you were as a child because your child is JUST like you and you now know what it's like to deal with yourself. Kids are JERKS sometimes. And it's okay that they are jerks sometimes to you because they are learning, and growing and that crap sucks).

If they are just being jerks - it's usually because my kids are tired. They all take after me: hunger or fatigue = I turn into a creature of hellfire. If they are being jerks, I give them a snack and send them to bed for a nap or a 'reset.' The rule is: if you don't sleep, you need to at least rest. You need to reset yourself and your day so that when you wake up and you are feeling like a better sister/friend. When we take this route, it's like I returned the heart of Te Fiti.

Kids are naturally sweethearts who crave love, especially my children. All three of them are super needy in the love department. So when they are being hateful, I know somethings wrong and it's probably hanger or fatigue.

On their bad days, the days when they are being jerks but not intentionally, I use these days are teaching opportunities about their feelings and communication.

It works differently for each girl. With Sky, it's straight forward. She's generally honest, and at 5 years old and well attuned to the rules I have set, it's easy for her to tell me what is the cause of the behavior. She's also very articulate, so it's easy for me to get to the root of the problem and help her fix it.

Marlee is only 3, so it's harder for her to understand and converse about these things - and I keep that in mind. In order to prevent her from shutting down and the situation escalating to where I need to send her for a 'stress reset,' I have to approach her like she a wild animal stuck in a trap, and have a 'gentle discussion' on her behavior.

First I'll ask her why she did what she did. Since she's three, it usually involves me asking her questions like: "Where you mad when you did this?" or "how are you feeling right now?" Afterwards I tell her what she's done wrong, and I explain why it was wrong. We will usually come up with a plan together to help counter the bad behavior. The problem usually lies in the fact that she's just... too smart and bored, and normal 3 year old activities are just not challenging or fun enough for her. She gets mean when she's bored.

So as you can see, I don't gentle parent my children.

They get in big-kid trouble when they do big-kid trouble things. I discipline them when they need it. And I praise them when they deserve it. I am not trying to raise humans who ignore consequences to their actions.

I am trying to leave the world a better place than what I found it. Which means I have to alter my parenting methods to the needs of my children individually. And I discipline them and uphold my standards of their behavior always.

And all three of my children love and respect me. At 5 and 3 years old, my children are more emotionally mature than most adults I know, because I have a mix of communication, trust and respect with my children. And I did that through the exercise of discipline. Not the type of discipline where I beat the crap out of them. But I create consequences for them.

Spankings aren't supposed to be abusive. They are supposed to be attention grabbing. They aren't really supposed to 'hurt,' they are supposed to startle, and hurt the kids feelings more than their bodies. That's why spankings are SUPPOSED to be done with a flat hand on their booty cheek (not their hand, you can damage those tiny little underdeveloped hand bones and tendons).

Either way the ultimate point of discipline is to create a consequence for your child's behavior, that will teach them not to do what they did again.

The point of discipline isn't to hurt. It's to TEACH.

And discipline doesn't have to be physical or abusive.

That's the fine line. Abuse is to hurt. Discipline is to teach. And they are a far cry different.

And some of you need to be disciplining your mean little terrorists more please. LOL

Love y'all!

Stream of ConsciousnessTabooFamilyChildhood
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About the Creator

Hope Martin

I am a published author of a book called Memoirs of the In-Between. I am doing a rewrite of it, as it needed some polishing. I am a mom, a cook, a homesteader, and a second-generation shaman.

Find me on Medium also!

@kaseyhopemartin

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  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    I loved this article and the pictures. Beautiful, honest, and real!!!

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