Parenting is hard, like “trying to see the world clearly while you walk on your hands spinning on a merry-go-round” hard. You survive through the baby stage, and if you were anything like me, you might be naive enough to think it’ll be more smooth-sailing from there. You’ve got the “keeping a tiny human alive” thing down, but here comes the fun part; raising that tiny human.
You can read all of the parenting books out there, research the do’s and don’ts, hear earfuls from literally everyone (yes, you too, supermarket lady who felt inclined to tell me a spanking was appropriate for my 4-year-old’s tears!) But at the end of the day you are the parent, and you will do what you feel is best.
So that is why I stopped punishing my child.
Punishment is a harsh word. I struggle applying that word to my parenting and the ways in which I respond to my daughter. I don’t feel in control when I threaten a punishment towards my child– I feel like a judge handing out a sentence.
Let me be clear: my child does face consequences. She does not have a free pass to run rampant with no repercussions. I have no intention of raising a child who has no limits or understanding of right from wrong.
But I did stop punishing my daughter for actions that have no consequences in actual life.
Whether it’s spilled milk, stained clothes, a lost glove, or a forgotten book order, these things are accidents, unintentional, and can happen to anyone.
As an adult I;ve lost track of how many times I spill my morning coffee on my drive to work. Or, how often do I go grocery shopping only to realize I left my list at home and end up forgetting things I need? I’m also sure in my future as a parent I will forget to sign a few permission slips, schedule a dentist appointment, or find a babysitter before the week of school conferences.
My point is, these are all things I am not punished for in adulthood. So how do I justify punishing my child for them?
Instead, I believe in the power of natural consequences.
What am I really teaching my daughter if I don’t allow her the opportunity to learn from her own mistakes? The easiest way I have found to teach a lesson is for my child to learn that lesson through her own actions.
It is not always easy for me to not threaten punishment. There are times I feel instant annoyance when my daughter announces she has a grape jelly stain on her shirt right when we are about to head out the door. But after a few deep breaths it becomes easier to tell her to go pick out a new shirt, and not let it cause a ruckus in our morning.
The growth I have seen and felt in our relationship fills me with immense adoration for my daughter.
She is more open, and honest with me. Oh how I hope that continues into her teenage years. Because my daughter isn’t worried about being in trouble over the little things anymore. Instead she is learning to understand and grasp the facts of situations she gets herself into. I love watching her grow into this truly amazing little girl.
“I’m sorry mom, I forgot my snow pants at school, but it’s okay– I will bring them home tomorrow so I can play in the snow then!” It wasn’t a big deal she left them at school, but she understood that her actions were the reason she could not play in the snow that day. I didn’t punish her; she faced a natural consequence.
Our whole dynamic has changed.
We both are in better moods more often now that we stopped negatively focusing on a few rough moments in our day. I actively engage more with my daughter and am more willing to include her with things like making dinner now that I don’t let myself fret over the mess that her help might entail. It has benefited us both, and I am thankful I made this change.
I still discipline my daughter. She doesn’t get to park herself in front of a TV all day. I enforce forms of a time-out as needed, I take away toys or outings if her behavior prompts me to do so. Parenting still happens in our house.
I just do not punish my daughter for the same kind of mistakes I still make as an adult.
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