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“All behavior is communication.” ~ Linda Hatfield, cofounder of Parenting from the Heart

spankOutLogoToday, as we celebrate SpankOut Day April 30th — an annual observance founded by the Center for Effective Discipline (now part of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center) to bring attention to the need to stop physical punishment of children and promote nonviolent discipline — I want to encourage everyone to take this movement a step further than ending spanking as a discipline method. It’s time to talk about timeout and the detrimental effects this very widespread alternative to spanking has on children, families and society.

This week’s featured article is “Why you should never use timeouts on your kids” from PBS Newshour. It is written by journalist and parenting blogger Wendy Thomas Russell who shares what she’s learned about using timeouts and why they’re really no better than hitting our kids.

“Decades of neuroscience and social research have shown that timeouts and other methods of punishment are not only ineffective in steering the behavior of children but outright damaging,” Wendy writes.

You read that right.

The fact of the matter is all punishments are damaging. It doesn’t matter if its spanking or timeout or taking away privileges or any other punishment. Every form of punishment is harmful, as Wendy reports, because “it takes the core need of the child and uses it as a bargaining chip.”

The core need she points out here is emotional attachment. Timeout separates parents and children, using the child’s emotional needs as a trade — if the child wants that attachment, he or she has to do this certain behavior, even if that behavior compromises another need, such as hunger, tiredness, or acceptance…and even if that behavior is not even developmentally appropriate for that child.

I like how Wendy describes children’s misbehavior — that children simply do not misbehave. All they do is behave, and their behavior — as so many attached parents understand — is a reflection of their needs in combination with their biological development stage. So a 2-year-old child is going to behave differently when hungry or tired or unwell or sad or angry or scared or overstimulated or bored or happy than a 6 year old or an 8 year old or an 11 year old. And it’s our job, as parents, not to punish them for their innate, biologically driven behavior but to guide them toward behaviors that help them cope with the situation.

If we look at spanking, parents who use spanking or hitting or physical punishment are hurting their children in their attempt to teach. If we look at timeout, parents are also hurting their children in their attempt to teach — through isolation and ignoring — and this type of emotional pain is just as damaging to a child as physical pain. What children are learning when they’re in pain or fear of pain is much different than what they are learning when not afraid or in pain.

Think about if you are trying to learn a new skill. Let’s say it’s painting a picture. If your painting instructor yells at you, hits you, or puts you in a corner every time you make a brush stroke she doesn’t like, what are you learning? Anxiety mostly.

If that same instructor guides you on how to hold the brush, how to put the paint on the brush, how to sweep the stroke over the canvas — exercising patience for your skill level, without punishment — what are you learning? How to paint.

Some parents may see this as a long way from trying to teach children not to do certain behaviors, but what all parents are trying to teach are actually skills — life skills. And considering that children learn more from what parents model, the skills that parents are teaching when they spank, issue timeouts, or use other punishments is to feel anxious and afraid, to expect physical or emotional pain when they approach a behavior boundary, and to react to feeling angry by controlling and coercing others.

That is violence.

Let’s promote nonviolence. And we can do it. Many parents when faced with the alternative of not spanking, using timeouts, or punishment assume that there are no ways to discipline their children. But discipline does not equal punishment. There are far more ways to discipline a child without punishment than with, and to be honest, nonviolent discipline is far more effective than punishment in teaching children — every time.

Many, many, many parents who have done both punishment and positive discipline will tell you this. The problem is, many parents who use punishments and who criticize positive discipline have never really tried doing the latter. If they did, they are bound to learn what Sarah Clark at Mothering learned — that positive discipline works and doesn’t turn our children into brats and heathens, but rather into some really amazing kids motivated out of attachment, which is far more powerful than fear.

But it does take a definite learning curve for parents to learn to discipline without punishment. There’s a lot more at stake than simply changing their parenting behaviors regarding discipline. How each of us react when angry or feeling another strong emotion is tied into our own neurobiology shaped by how we ourselves were raised, and even how our parents were raised, as well as the generation we grew up in and the community and society we knew then. Punishment is rooted in a worldview that goes way beyond the moment a parent feels angry and strikes her child or shuts his child, screaming and begging (even if not out loud) to come out, in his room.

All this to say that as we gently push our society toward positive, emotionally healthy relationships, we have to be patient with one another. We have to recognize how far society has come, and while it has a long way to go, we are making progress — bit by bit — through this Attachment Parenting movement. As parents and professionals hear more and more, from mainstream media especially, about the ever-mounting research of the negative effects of spanking, timeouts and other punishments — more parents will be willing to go through the hard work of addressing their often generations-deep perspectives on what it means to have a healthy relationship and to change their hearts toward parenting.

I applaud every parent who is on this journey toward a more trusting, empathic, affectionate, joyful, and peaceful family where punishment will some day have no home.

attachment is everythingEven $5 makes a huge difference to furthering the Attachment Parenting movement, which relies exclusively on donations, to continue providing free education and support to parents around the world

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divya singh 1I hope you were able to reflect on ways to make changes in how you live during this year’s Earth Day on April 22. Having a baby has made me so conscious of every day choices I make for myself and my soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter. Parenting is a learning experience, and when I look back, indeed every day has been nothing short of a live classroom.

Before I was expecting, a local Earth Day event had really got me thinking of the power each of us holds to change things.

My family’s health has become my top-most priority, and eating well is a big part of that. We get farm-fresh milk from a local dairy, fresh vegetables from another farm and freshly baked goodies from local bakers. The rest, we cook at home most of the time.

We had always recycled, but we still generated some waste. That waste multiplied manifold when we had our baby and made me look for ways to reduce diaper waste. I found cloth diapers. We also have a compost bin in the backyard that helps us eliminate most of our remaining waste. The compost is used for our fruit trees and vegetable beds.

The joy on our little one’s face when she plucks her own fruits and vegetables to eat is so immense that it keeps me going with gardening no matter how busy life may be.

When we started solids, my daughter started daycare around the same time. I struggled with the reality of balancing life and work with the option of serving prepackaged food versus preparing fresh food. Eventually — between breast milk, some freshly prepared food and some store-bought jars — we found our balance.

Soon after our daughter’s first birthday, we bought our first house. The house came with a yard that was landscaped with native species of shrubs and trees. It attracted some rare species of birds that I have gotten to see thanks to our little one who encourages me to spend time outside with her, rain or shine. The freedom from having to water the yard even in the driest of Oregon summers is such an advantage.

Every new parent knows the amount of stuff we accumulate when babies arrive in our lives. Trying to fit all the stuff in an apartment when we had our baby made me very conscious of how much “baby stuff” I was going to get, either as gifts or buy on my own. I did not stop myself from buying something if I really liked it, but I had to make a conscious effort to say “no” to a lot of gifts. Moving into a house hasn’t changed much in terms of lack of storage space, and I continue to use stuff from close friends and pass down stuff to new families as soon as I get the opportunity.

Celebrating birthdays has been another occasion where I have put my green choices to great use. I call these “gift exchange” parties and encourage friends to bring used or recycled toys. I send home potted seedlings as return gifts that our friends’ children can plant to enjoy their fruits.

As a mother wanting to raise a like-minded daughter, I am already starting to reap the benefits of sowing these “seeds” of conscious living. My daughter saves her toys to give away to other little ones, and whenever the kitchen tap or shower faucet has running water flowing with full force, my little one reminds me to use it just as much as I need and to not waste too much water in the shower.

I hope you have been inspired to make some small every day changes in how you live to benefit the health of our Earth.

Simplicity Parenting” with Kim John Payne

Kim John PaynePurchase this one-of-a-kind API audio recording for only $9 and learn how to:
– Define family values for our children
– Put limits in place to guide our children to our family values
– Develop a multi-faceted foundation of connection with your children, being careful that connection isn’t based on a sole factor
– Understand the power of simplicity in reducing stress and boosting connection, creativity and relaxation among both parents and children within a family
– And so much more!

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Editor’s pick: Reconnecting our kids with nature for healthy development

April 22, 2016
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“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement, the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” ~ David Attenborough, English broadcaster and naturalist Today is Earth Day. We are reminded […]

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Embracing persistence in children

April 18, 2016
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When my son was younger, I wondered why he had to be so determined? Why couldn’t he be easygoing like most other kids I know? And why did he have to challenge me nearly all the time? I vividly recall an incident when Ethan was about 2 years old. It made me realize how strong-willed […]

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Parental presence: A compromised human right

April 15, 2016
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A little more than half of all babies in the United States — 53% — are born into families that income-qualify for WIC, a federal supplemental nutrition program that serves low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women and their children from birth to age 5 in the United States. Think about that for a second: Half […]

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5 lessons learned about Attachment Parenting after a cesarean birth

April 12, 2016
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Editor’s note: April is Cesarean Awareness Month, an observance of the International Cesarean Awareness Network designed to reduce unnecessary cesareans, advocate for VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and help women heal from the sometimes-difficult emotions surrounding a cesarean birth. While Attachment Parenting International (API) promotes childbirth options with the least interventions, we also recognize that […]

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Editor’s pick: 6 evolved needs for healthy human development

April 8, 2016
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“…we have forgotten that we are social mammals with specific evolved needs from birth.” ~ Darcia Narvaez, PhD, Notre Dame Psychologist, member of Attachment Parenting International‘s Board of Directors The Attachment Parenting approach can be regarded as parenting guided by nature’s lead — being attuned to our own feelings and instincts as well as our […]

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For the love of art, authenticity and our children’s dreams

April 4, 2016
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“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” ~ Thomas Merton, American writer When my daughter was a toddler, an acquaintance asked me, “What would you like your daughter to be when she grows up?” […]

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