These harmful parenting practices are practiced by most parents because we were all taught this is the way to go. Time-outs, punishments and spanking represent human society the way it currently is, but is it the way it should be?
We live in a society that believes that age equals power, and thus deserves respect just for the very fact of being. Stemming from this idea, we treat children in ways we would never ever treat adults. But these children, our children, that’s who they grow into – adults who carry these harmful ideas of power from one generation to the next.
Unless we stop and make a change.
All items on this list go against the human nature that is essential good. We all want to be good to, and for, the ones we are connected to. Making our loved ones happy is an existential need all human beings share. But for the past 7,000 years of Patriarchy, we are taught that in order for someone to do better – we first have to make him feel worse.
So many families are struggling, finding themselves unable to communicate with the ones they love most, dealing with rebellion, lack of cooperation, and a continuous disconnection, all stemming from these parenting practices which don’t represent how human brain works, how our hearts work.
While for some parents these practices are the last resort, for others it is their parenting strategy, this way or the other – these parenting practices will forever perpetuate the behavior they aim to change, and work to weaken the connection between parents and kids.
Here’s the list of harmful parenting practices, the reason for which we believe these are not harmful, and, of course – what we can do instead 🙂
Harmful Parenting Practice #1: Time-Out
Everything people do is a strategy to have their needs met. We’re just not aware of it because the only thing we see is the behavior. We were never taught or even advised to look within, and question why do our children do what they are doing.
We were taught that when we see something we don’t like, we can send it away, “discipline” it with isolation and the withdrawal of connection. And it will then stop/disappear/get buried under layers of unmet needs.
Time-out is the withdrawal of connection; it is us telling a child that he only deserves our love if he behaves a certain way, and he is invited to find his way back to us after he had thought of what he had done, understood why it was wrong, and agrees to never do it again. We send kids as young as 2.5 years old to complete this thought process, when their brains are miles away from this ability.
Instead, what they learn is that their parents’ love is conditional. This is the only lesson that can be taught by this kind of solitude. Children take this idea of conditional love into their future, and it will rule their adult beliefs and decisions.
Imagine a person sending his “misbehaving” or emotional partner to another room, ordering them to only come back after “they’ve calmed down”? We would never accept that, would we? So why do we think it can be beneficial for children, who are much more attuned to their needs and feelings than adults?
Why Do We Think a Time-Out is Harmless?
Not only because everyone is doing it or because we were parented this way, too. But because sending a “misbehaving” child on a time-out is easy. It takes all the emotions we we not taught to handle and sends them to another room until they disappear. It saves us from the need to talk to our children, explain why we request what we request, why it is important to us. It “saves” us from communication. And I get it, I really do.
Looking at the world we live in – where dividing strategies are abundant and connecting strategies are so rare, this is what we learn. But we can break this cycle with love 🙂
What To Do Instead of a Time-Out?
The truth is that children KNOW EVERYTHING. When they are doing something they are not supposed to be doing – THEY KNOW THEY ARE DOING SOMETHING THAT THEY ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. Telling them just that doesn’t give them new information. Instead, we should start asking ourselves WHY are they doing what they are doing? All kids usually NEED is play, connection, autonomy, choice, and to be seen, heard, and understood.
A time-out reaches the exact opposite and increases the chances for that behavior to repeat itself, again and again. Because children are controlled by their unmet needs. We all are.
So instead of a time-out, we should all switch to a time-in, where we come closer to our children, allow all their feelings, accept them for the needs living within them, allowing them the authentic self expression they deserve, and letting them know we are there for them – when they are ready. Remember we said that we all want to be good to and for the ones we love? Following this strategy we will address our children’s inner motivation to be good for us, and the behaviors we wish to amend will slowly wither away. Using nothing but love.
Harmful Parenting Practice #2: Punishments
Right, a time-out is a sort of punishment, but there are other sorts, too. Since we see ourselves as stronger, and thus more powerful than children – there are many things we can restrain them from, not only connection but activities and possession, too. Doesn’t it seem like we really do believe that in order for a child to do better, we first have to make him feel worse, right?
We really do believe that if a child lied to us, or engaged in an activity we didn’t allow, or said words we found painful, taking away HIS possessions or forbidding him from seeing his friends will teach him something meaningful that will help him avoid this behavior in the future.
But it won’t, really. It teaches children that there is force in this world, and that it can be used negatively against them. Children who are punished are the same children who take this learned force into the world, and punish others. I a variety of ways.
I was punished and grounded, and had possessions taken away from me. I clearly remember sitting in my room, feeling terrible feelings about my parents, using terrible words to describe them, and simply waiting for them to leave the house and have the freedom to disobey them again. Because when I’ve lost they’re connection, there’s not much left to lose. This is the result of a punishment, there’s no learning here.
Imagine a person who takes away their partner’s phone or disallowed them to leave the house until something else is done? Would we ever accept it in adult relationships? I don’t think we would. So why is it okay for children?
Why Do We Think That Punishments Are Harmless?
Not only because everyone does it or because we were parented this way – but also, because we resort to this sort of power-over-children when we feel completely powerless around our children. When we can’t seem to gain their cooperation, understanding, or agreement in any other way – we resort to force. In the heat of the moment, with the escalation of feelings and tones, it feels NATURAL to punish – I get that.
But it’s not beneficial.
What Should We Do Instead of Punishing?
Communicating, questioning, showing sheer curiosity, accepting our children for what they have done, and telling them the values we wish to instill in them. Explaining why we believe in these values, how these values have shaped our lives. Sharing with them the mistakes we had made – and how these affected our lives.
When we talk from the heart – another heart will listen.
One of my favorite parenting quotes from Marshall Rosenberg is that punishing seems fine when I ask myself what I want my child to do. But it feels different when I ask myself which reason I wish for his actions to stem from. Do I want it to be out of fear of me, or because he now knows that’s the right thing to do?
Harmful Parenting Practice #3: Spanking
And now for spanking, aka corporal punishments. I was spanked. Did I turn out “fine”? Most definitely. But what did I have to do to unlearn the lesson I’ve learned, according to which someone stronger and bigger than me has the right to hurt me? Has the right to my body? I personally know too many adults who didn’t yet unlearn this lesson, and they struggle every single day of their lives trying to find their voice, trying to define how they really want their lives to be, trying to learn that their voice does matter.
There are so many children out there who we call “bullies”, who are completely powerless at home and go out to this world doing the only thing they believe will meet their need for autonomy, will give them the sense of accomplishment and meaning – violence, belittling others, hurting others, both mentally and physically.
Children who are begging to be seen, and understood, and hope that by inflicting pain they can have their pain shown, and someone will finally see them, and know how they feel, and reach out with a loving hand and pull them out of their darkness.
Why Do We Believe Spanking is Harmless?
Because the idea of power and of age-equals-power is rooted in our society. We don’t treat children as human beings, we treat them as, well, children. And as such, they have significantly fewer rights to their bodies, their lives, their autonomy, their feelings, their freedom, their respect, and the list is endless.
But what would we say about an adult, who find his partner “disobedient”, and spanks them to show them who’s the boss? We would call the cops, won’t we? So why are children any different?
You can read my full account on how to empower the bully following this link.
What Can We Do Instead of Spanking?
Power and force teach power and force. And there are no one-sided lessons. Everything that a parent can do to a child, that child can do to others.
Children who don’t learn the idea of power at home, the idea that they can hurt others to empower themselves or to get what they want – don’t go out to world hurting others. Their worlds just don’t work like that – in their world, power is never a strategy.
When we feel we are about to lose it, and a hand is about to be raised, let’s take a step back. Let’s walk away. It is not always that we are strong enough to do something beneficial, and when we can’t – lets, at least, not make it worse.
As a first step – this is very much good enough.
From Harmful Practices to Mindful Parenting
If you’ve sensed any of my words as judgment or criticism – please accept my apology. There is no judgment here – I’ve lived it, too.
These harmful parenting practices are the ones this world hands down to us, from one generation to the next. This is how we all work, and we all feel so guilty sometimes, don’t we? But it is not our fault. This is what we’ve learned.
I know what a different life looks like. A life of communication, and pure inner motivations. A life of cooperation everyone desires, a life where making each other happy makes everyone – happy. A life of Nonviolent Communication.
These harmful parenting practices belong in the past, love is the future. And I would love for you to join me on my journey to a connected life – today.