Parenting Beyond Our Past: A Resource Guide

Simple Things

Photo Credit: Darcy Anne

“Train up a child in the way he should go……”

I have yet to meet a religious homeschooler who can’t finish that scripture from memory. If you’re like me, you grew up in a very authoritarian, punitive family environment. Punishment and pain, both physical and emotional, were believed to be the best means to teach a child “the way he should go”. Spanking and instant, cheerful obedience to authority were the norm, with many other kinds of punishments used as retribution for a child’s wrong-doing. Parents were the ultimate authority, and children had no choice but to obey or be punished, sometimes very harshly. I honestly didn’t know there were any other ways to parent. Either you spanked and “trained” your children, or you let them run wild and that meant you didn’t love them.

We were the generation influenced by “child training” teachers like the Pearls, Reb Bradley, Charity Christian Fellowship Churches, James Dobson, and myriads of other Christian authors, all providing materials from within a hierarchical, authoritarian family paradigm. “Break their will”, was a common tenet of “Biblical Parenting”. Spanking was said to be ordained by God. Never let your child win a battle, parents were told. Failure to conform to these tenets would produce perverts and criminals and unbelievers.

But what if they were wrong? What if that’s not the only way to raise strong and wise and good children?

I’ve written elsewhere about my journey from that authoritarian parenting paradigm into non-punitive, or peaceful parenting. Non-punitive parenting is defined as “a style of parenting that breaks the punitive mold by avoiding physical punishment, treating children with respect, and focusing on developing a strong parent-child relationship. It is a method that raises children without spanking, shaming, or yelling, and avoids the punishment-reward cycle of traditional punitive parenting.” Peaceful or gentle parenting is often defined as parenting by connection, relationship, and respect for children as human beings with the innate right to be treated as such. Treated as you would want to be treated. Christian proponents of gentle parenting sometimes call it “Golden Rule Parenting” for this reason.

But no matter the label, the root is the idea that children are people too, and that as people, they can grow and learn and develop best in an atmosphere of peace and connection, not punishment or coercion. We seek to validate our children’s emotions while teaching them how to appropriately express them. Traits that define how peaceful parents interact with their children include empathy, compassion, respect, boundaries, and unconditional love. This philosophy is based in the most recent findings of science, psychology, human development, and sociology. Contrary to popular belief, non-punitive parenting is not permissive parenting. We still set limits and uphold them, we let natural consequences teach life lessons, and above all, we keep a healthy emotional connection with our kids that will be the foundation of everything we do. This is not a “parenting method” with formulas and rules, but more of a philosophy and value set that different parents put into practice in many different ways.

I know that many of us are breaking new ground in parenting our own children. We know that we don’t want to have the antagonistic relationship with them that we we had with our own parents. But often, while we know what not to do, we are lost when it comes to knowing what to do instead. Some of us have yet to find an alternative to punitive parenting. Some of us have discovered the world of non-punitive parenting, yet have no support and are often ridiculed by people that don’t understand our reasons or our methods. Some of us perhaps have never been told “did you know you can raise good kids without spanking them?” and we are longing to hear that we can do differently and succeed.

So I thought I’d put together a resource for those of you who, like me, want to do differently for our kids.

Those of us raised in Homeschool Land have a lot of the same issues, same foundation, and were raised similarly under “Biblical Parenting” rules. I understand the nuances of coming from a parenting framework riddled with fear and control and authoritarianism; the emotional turbulence we have as we try to parent our children and find we are parenting ourselves. This list is by no means exhaustive, and I hope to add to it as more good materials are brought to my attention. I hope it can help in the journeys of those who, like me, just need a little direction and encouragement.

Peace and health to you and your family.

~Darcy

Parenting books:

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
The Child-Whisperer, Carol Tuttle
Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Parenting From the Inside Out, Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell
No Drama Discipline, Daniel Siegel
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, Janet Lansbury
Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Laura Markham
The Explosive Child, Dr. Ross Greene (specifically for non-neuro-typical kids, but helpful for everyone)

Websites:

Aha! Parenting
Little Hearts (For Christian parents)
Elevating Childcare- Janet Lansbury
Positive Parents

Individual articles:

The Road to Non-Punitive Parenting
Parenting Without Punishment
Raising Humans
I Was That Parent
Natural Discipline for the Early Years
10 Steps to Guide Children Without Punishment 
Non-Punitive Discipline Does Not Equal Lazy Parenting
Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me, Samuel Martin (from a Christian perspective)

Articles on Spanking and Punishment:

The Case Against Spanking – APA
The Long-Term Effects of Spanking
How Spanking Harms the Brain
Is Corporal Punishment an Effective Means of Discipline?
Study on Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders
Should You Spank Your Child?

17 comments

  • I think that this is one of the few contexts where “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk” makes sense to recommend. I was raised largely by it, and it’s a bit heavy on the self-esteem ideas that were so big in the ’80’s. My mom says, however, that she needed it because she had no idea how to compliment a child because she never got any. As a next step for anyone wanting to avoid the mainstream parenting mistakes of the decade, I recommend “How to behave so your preschooler will too”. It isn’t a positive parenting manual, it’s a mainstream one – the author advocates not merely time outs, but a stricter version of them. But it has a lot of tips on how to deal with various situations, as well as explaining why they would happen.

    • I personally love How To Talk and recommend it all the time. It was revolutionary for me and my husband in completely overhauling how we interact with our kids. It still is one of the most practical books I’ve read and I refer to it often. I think that as we learn new parenting philosophies and values, and new ways to interact with our kids within those values, we find a groove that fit our individual personalities and those of our kids. But sometimes we need a literal script because we have no idea how to change what we’ve always done. How To Talk was that script for me, and I fine-tuned it as I figured out what worked well for myself and my kids.

      • It was a bit of an aha moment for me, seeing your list, to realise that there are reasons other than momentum that it’s still selling well enough to be in print. I suspect also that it works better when it isn’t so much the dominant cultural narrative of parenting, so it may see continued success. If your parents were using mainstream parenting (for kids of the ’80s this really means “if you were parented from How to Talk) it comes across as a bit of a blunt object though. It’ll be interesting to see how the third generation (kids raised with it now, when there are moderating cultural influences, instead of strictly reinforcing ones) sees it.

    • It’s an interesting thought to me, about how “mainstream” parenting happened in the 80’s. Not one i would even know to consider. I wouldn’t have the first clue about that or the culture that surrounded it. Like I wrote, many of us homeschoolers were raised in a completely different parenting paradigm and we knew nothing else. All my friends were parented the same, some much harsher and deeper into the “children are born evil” religious influence. I think you’ll find that the prevailing parenting influence among Evangelicals (not just homeschoolers) of the 80’s is the one I wrote about.

      • I know that a lot of my friends are on the more progressive side of Evangelical practice, so presumably their parents were too, but I have conservative relatives with Evangelical leanings, and I think it’s really only the very conservative Evangelicals who would have been following Pearl et al. The rest might have been reading them, but I know that while my cousins were spanked (unlike most of my friends who were either spanked when very young or not at all, depending on how old they are) they didn’t have to go through anything quite that extreme. Unfortunately I find Evangelical culture a more difficult one to see the splits in, because there appears to be more of a tendency to assume that one’s own beliefs are universal, so comparison points aren’t common.

        That said, I think that said cousins would probably also benefit from How to Talk, even though the parenting style they had modelled wasn’t as bad. I don’t think they would need it explained that it’s good to listen to kids, but I’m fairly sure that most, if not all, of them would benefit from examples of how to do so.

  • Reblogged this on kind-ism and commented:
    Very glad to have found this resource guide! I’ve already read How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk and Siblings Without Rivalry and found them to be helpful. Look forward to exploring the other things listed as well!

  • nicolesassy123

    I was fortunate to use my common sense…..growing up my mother was abusive (not so much about church or anything) and I made a vow to never hit or abuse my children; I became the parent I wanted to have.

  • Extrabrightsunshine

    Yes!! This article is like a breath of fresh air. When you grow up under heavy discipline for any infraction that crosses your parents there can be a disconnect at first on how to deal with your own kids. I knew I wasn’t going to do the same stuff to them because of the way it affected my life. I didn’t have any reasoning to back it up yet because a lot of people in homeschool circles don’t value “that phsycology crap” aka..sound reasoning. I want every aspect of my parenting to be thoughtful and my kids to understand that I respect their rights as human beings and that their thoughts and opinions are just as valuable as my own.

  • As a mom of 4; born mid 80’s to mid 90’s we went the homeschool path for the older 2; along with Dobsons parenting techniques and had friends who gave us a copy of the Pearl’s “Train up a Child”. I did read it but thankfully was repulsed (I was going to sell the book at a garage sale; my husband saw it and suggested we not inflict it on anyone else, so into the trash it went.). I regret deeply the punitive parenting I did at that time. We began some personal growth/recovery work at church about the time our youngest was born and we read a book called “Parenting with Love and Logic” by Foster/ Cline and that helped us do a 180′ change. One of the main “AHA ” life changing moments I had was when I realized that most of my major parenting decisions were made in response to fear. Thank you for your perspective!

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  • Hey Darcy, messaged you on fb with some relevant questions! It might have gone to your spam folder. Thanks for the resource guide

  • What a nice article. Going to check out that guide. Mel at mothersheeporganics

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