Is It a Coincidence I’ve Never Spanked My Children and Yet They are Known for How Well Behaved They Are? “Misbehavior” is a Signal a Child is Hungry, Tired, Bored, Lonely and/or Sick

I recently made a video on my YouTube channel for Family Friendly Daddy Blog where I asked everyone for help, tongue-in-cheek, about what I should do since it is normal for parents to spank their children, yet I never have, explaining that my children are known for how well-behaved they are.

Even just this past week, my 7 year-old son was invited to go to Chili’s with another boy his age in our neighborhood. The first thing the boy’s dad told my wife and I when they returned from dinner was this:

“Your son is so well-behaved! I’m not used to that. Usually, I’m spending my time getting the boys to settle down. But I never had any issues with your son as the friend my son chose to take along! He’s great!”

And for both all of Kindergarten and 1st grade, whenever the teachers have given us feedback it’s always the same:

“He is a very well-behaved boy. And smart, too! Yes, I have to remind him not to talk to his friends during class at times, but he truly is a model student.”

As for my daughter, she just turned 2 years old, but she is also known for being a bright, yet mild-mannered little girl.

So here’s the question:

Is it just a coincidence that both of my children are known for their good behavior; and as their parents, my wife nor I have ever spanked them?

It raises the question of how necessary spanking actually is:

If what I’ve been doing as a parent has yielded a well balanced, well behaved children, what is the point of spanking them?

But if I’m not spanking my children in order to get them to behave, then what am I doing? Because, no, my kids were not just born with some magic gene where they automatically know how to behave.

And granted, they still require much teaching and direction regarding how to behave. But I provide that for them, instead of physically striking them. I accept they are still kids, too.

So I don’t freak out when my son leaves a note on the couch for his sister, with a picture of her with an “x” through it, saying, “go home away“.

The way I see it, it’s not a matter so much of disciplining my children. Instead, it’s about proactively managing their physical, social, and psychological needs.

It’s a simple 5 step program that I invented years ago. When a young child is perceived to be “misbehaving”, I recognize they don’t yet have the emotional intelligence to verbally communicate what they really need. I interpret that “misbehavior” as a predictable signal or warning to the parent that they are at least one of the following:

Hungry

Tired

Bored

Lonely

Sick

So as their parent, I am constantly prepared to feed my children, help them get to sleep, find a way for them to entertain themselves, socialize with them, or restore them to good health.

It’s true that my method isn’t the norm. Only 20% of parents worldwide are like me, in that they don’t spank their children.

I’m okay with not being normal. Especially if my kids are known for being well-behaved without having to hit them.

Here’s the question that I want to close with:

Is it a coincidence I’ve never spanked my children and yet they are known for how well behaved they are? Or am I on to something with my simple 5 step program?

Photo courtesy of April Milan Photography.

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5 Reasons My Young Child “Misbehaves”: Tired, Hungry, Bored, Lonely, or Sick

Louis C.K. spanking quote

I am of the 20% of the American population, the minority, who does not believe in spanking in order to discipline my child.

With that being said, I always give a disclaimer when I write about this: I have no interest in judging other parents for their decisions. If anything, today’s post has more to do with defending my own unusual parenting style.

My theory is that it’s easy and natural as a parent, especially a new parent (which I no longer am), to assume your child is “misbehaving” when really they are needing your attention as a parent, but are incapable of explicitly communicating that to you.

I simplify the symptoms into 5 simple categories. When my child “misbehaves,” he is really just tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick.

As his dad, it’s my responsibility to recognize these as symptoms of a greater issue, instead of problems themselves.

Otherwise, I could allow myself to believe my child is misbehaving simply because he is “being a brat right now”.

It comes down to emotional intelligence. I’m a 34 and a half year-old man. I am good at communicating how I feel and at understanding emotions.

However, my son is a month away from being 5 years old, so he’s got about 3 decades less of communication experience and emotional control than I do.

I feel it would be unfair to my child to physically strike him simply because he is tired, or hungry, or bored, or lonely, or sick; blaming him for “misbehaving” when really, he’s in need of my parental provision.

So instead, whenever he is “acting up”, I ask myself this simple question:

“Is my child tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick?”

There has yet to be an instance where at least one of those symptoms was not the answer.

I remind myself, that again, my son typically is not going to simply state what the problem is:

“Daddy, the reason I am crying and refusing to sit still is because I didn’t take a long enough nap today at Pre-K. Therefore, the best solution is to put me to bed tonight sooner than usual.”

If I myself am tired, I recognize that fact and make plans to try to sleep; like yesterday, I used my lunch break at work to sleep in my car.

If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m bored, I find a way to entertain myself. If I’m lonely, I engage someone in conversation. And if I’m not feeling well, I do something about it.

But imagine babies and young children, not being able to necessarily recognize those issues about themselves. They need their parents to recognize these issues and proactively handle, and even prevent, these from even happening.

With my 2nd child due to be born in April, I feel I will be better equipped with this knowledge than I was with my 1st child.

I feel I will be less frustrated because I will clearly understand that a newborn has no way, other than screaming and crying, that he or she is tired, hungry, bored, lonely, or sick; and is depending on me to be proactive enough to do something about it.

So instead of spanking my 4 year-old son, I follow these simple guidelines I learned from back when I was Parents.com’s official daddy blogger for those 3 years:

1. Ignore attention-seeking behavior.

2. Pay attention to good behavior.

3. Redirect your child.

4. Teach consequences that make sense.

5. Use time-outs for serious offenses.

dad from day one: Won’t Ever Be Lonely

Week 6.

Maybe somewhat surprisingly, I am a proud Country music fan- though I’m ultimately a Dave Matthews Band/Guster/John Mayer/Bruce Springsteen/Tom Petty kind of guy.  In the past few weeks, in the midst of leaving our lives behind in Nashville and entering uncertainty and a current status of “in between jobs” in Alabama, not having much to do but constantly search for jobs and take care of our baby, the lyrics to a Country song by Andy Griggs from 1999 keep coming to my mind: “I promise you now, you won’t ever be lonely.”  Though the song is obviously written from the perspective of a man in love with a woman, looking forward to spending the rest of his life with her, the lyrics now speak to me in a different way:

“You’re safe from the world wrapped in my arms and I’ll never let go.  Baby, here’s where it starts and I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely. Here’s a shoulder you can cry on and a love you can rely on.  For as long as I live
there will always be a place you belong.”

But while the words to this song obviously make perfect sense in the perspective of me speaking to my child, they actually are more relevant to me in this mindset: I won’t ever be lonely.  Not just him.  But I won’t ever be lonely.

I am better able to understand now why there are so many pregnant teenagers and why MTV’s 16 and Pregnant is such a popular show- because so many kids today are lonely. (I am under the crazy notion that a good number of pregnant teens and extremely young parents are not getting pregnant simply because of the careless lack of birth control, but instead because they subconsciously want to be have a baby in a attempt to be loved by someone.) So many daughters have never been told by their fathers that they are beautiful. So many sons have never heard their father tell them “I’m proud of you”.   Having a baby definitely changes the lonely factor in many ways.  Even if the 19 year-old father who works for minimum wage at the oil change place bales on her soon after the baby is born- at least that young mother will always have someone depending on her.

Granted, I haven’t been lonely in a long time.  But I can easily remember it.  It can be painful; literally.  Last week I watched a National Geographic documentary on solitary confinement where I learned that loneliness is processed in the same part of the brain as pain.  I can easily remember being 20 years old, feeling lost, out of place, an unmatched. I wondered for the next five years if I would be like the actor who played Mr. Belvedere, who never married or had children his whole life. But at age 25, my wife and I met each other and those heavy and desperate thoughts of loneliness haven’t entered my mind in over four years.

Now at age 29, I am the opposite of lonely.  I have a wonderful wife and a beautiful and hilarious baby son that I will always matter to.  And I have a feeling that the older our son Jack gets, the more attention and energy of mine that he will require.  At least until he reaches 7th grade and gets too cool for me.

Lyrics to Andy Griggs’ “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely”:

Life may not always go your way
And every once in awhile you might have a bad day
But I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely
The sky turns dark and everything goes wrong
Run to me and I’ll leave the light on
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely

For as long as I live
There will always be a place you belong
Here beside me
Heart and soul baby — you only
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely

It’s still gonna snow and it’s still gonna rain
The wind’s gonna blow on a cold winter day
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely
You’re safe from the world wrapped in my arms
And I’ll never let go
Baby, here’s where it starts
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely
Here’s a shoulder you can cry on
And a love you can rely on
For as long as I live
There will always be a place you belong

Here beside me
Heart and soul baby — you only
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely
No, no, you won’t ever be lonely

Singleness; The Gift No One Really Wants

Not all single people mind their status.  But they may mind being reminded of it.  I know- I used to be one of those single people.

A month after I graduated high school (June 1999) I joined the youth group of First Baptist Church for a trip to Centrifuge, a one week Christian camp for teenagers.  We stayed in the college dorms of Union University in Jackson, TN.  I was the oldest one in dorm; the other guys were mostly freshman and sophomores.  

One night after whatever campy game we played, we were hanging out in the dorm, getting ready for bed.  And I observed a chance conversation that has stuck with me (and my sister after I told her, turning the event into a longstanding inside joke) – one that I will never forget, not that it was some prolific thing.

The most good-looking guy of the youth group (tanned, blue eyes, well-mannered, came from a respected family) was being told by his peers that Jenny, the token Barbie of the youth group (aside from her looks, she was caring, sincere, and also was a good kid from a good family) was rumored to have said that she said he was cute.

His peers were doing their darndest to get him to ask her out, talk to her, just to do something to make her his girlfriend.  His response?  Shrugged shoulders, looked down at the ground, a sort of “eh, I don’t know…” demeanor. 

One of the guys then responded with what is now, to me, a very famous line:

“Dude… ya gay?”

Sitting across the room from him, halfway pretending not to even listen to the conversation, aside from laughing and thinking it was funny, I related to the kid.  Because I knew his struggle.  Not a struggle with his sexuality, but a struggle with having to entertain other people’s expectations of him dating.

Not all teenage boys are obsessed with “one thing, and one thing only”.  Yes, they are aware, as they are wired to be.  But sometimes a kid just wants to be a kid.  And having a girlfriend gets in the way of that.  And he knows that, so he doesn’t bother wasting a girl’s time when he knows he would just hurt her feelings by eventually choosing something else over her.

Not the norm, but the norm for some.  And it’s the only norm I knew.  Anything else, to me, would be phony.  Or deceitful. 

So yes, I was like him.  Never had a serious girlfriend in high school because, if nothing else, I knew I was moving out of state for college.  So why even get into a relationship if I’m just moving away anyway?  Me and my logical mind. 

Well-meaning people, often in an effort to help me be normal, would offer to set me up with a “nice Christian girl”.  Always a nice gesture, but I didn’t want anyone’s help.  If I was interested and inspired enough, I would find a “nice Christian girl” on my own.  (I have a feeling that there are Jewish guys out there who can relate to this story by simply replacing “good Christian girl” with “good Jewish girl”…)

I almost feel sorry for the few girls that I may or may not have strung around in the process of being in any situation that somewhat resembled me dating them.  Keeping them guessing.  Having them wonder why I didn’t show more initiative to pursue them.  Having them possibly (and understandably) take it personally that I wasn’t making them more of a priority.  I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t really want to.

It was me.  Not them.  I honestly cared more about learning to drive and strumming my guitar and playing James Bond on N64 with my friends and shooting paintball guns at street signs than I did having a girlfriend. 

So how did I treat this situation?  I had girl friends (friends that were girls), not girlfriends.  And it worked for me- I was good friends with many girls and around them a lot, but kept the relationship platonic.  But I also had plenty of friends that were guys, as to not become that guy in a modern day setting who would end up going to watch Sex in the City 2 for “girls’ night out” and be the only guy in the group.

(It goes without saying; Man Law prohibits straight men from going to see Sex in the City 2, under any circumstances.  However, watching and discussing The Bachelor and/or The Bachelorette is completely permissible; as it is excused as a way for husbands/boyfriends to spend more quality time with their wives/girlfriends.) 

By the time I actually was ready to date, a few years later, the whole concept seemed to have more of a purpose.  I never had to date a bunch of people to know who I was looking for in a wife.  So when I finally did meet her at age 25, there really wasn’t anything to figure out.  And I looked back at all those years of other people wanting me to seem more normal (by regularly dating), and knew that I did what was right for me.

There is more pressure than there needs to be when it comes to dating, especially for teenagers and people over 30.  When the time (and person) is right, a “friends only” person will make an effort to date. 

I think the Christianized “gift of singleness” concept is a bit hokey; it’s the gift no one really wants.  But just because a person is 30 years old and still single, it doesn’t mean anything.  They’re just being smart.  And patient.  Not settling.

I could easily be in the same single situation.  It’s just that I was spared at age 25 of meeting the right one.

Yeah, right!

Religious Views on Facebook Profiles

“You gave your life to Jesus Christ… and you were not the same after that.” – “Not the Same” by Ben Folds

It’s interesting to see what people list as their “religious views” on their facebook profiles if they are Christians. Some just simply list “Baptist” or “Protestant”. And many, in an effort to creatively avoid a label, list something like “saved by grace” or “in Christ alone”. And that’s cool.

I’m sure for others, summing it all down to one phrase can be difficult, especially for those who believe in God but not necessarily that Jesus is the only way to Heaven as the Bible teaches and as Jesus himself proclaimed. They are not Christians. But they are not atheists either.

For me, simply listing myself as a Christian is a struggle. Because “Christian” has become somewhat of a watered-down generic term, thanks to the way many non-Christians and non-Americans perceive Christians.

I’m quite familiar with the fact that often non-Christians see Christians as selfish hypocrites, as non-Christians often use some of our worst specimens (or those who claim Christianity) as the model for all of us.

And from a non-American perspective (especially non-Catholic and non-Protestant countries), everyone in America is a Christian. They see influential American pop stars and their famous lifestyles and assume that is Christianity. Britney Spears is suddenly the epitome of what all Christians stand for.

I am a Christian. And I don’t believe that I am better than any person in this world nor do I believe that Christians are better people than any other religious group of people. If anything, I feel quite inferior to most people on this earth. I strive for a more giving spirit, like the kind I see in those who have much less than I do.  I’ve got a long ways to go.

I belong to a Baptist church. That means my ultimate goal in life is to introduce others to Jesus as the only way true to eternal life, by showing them love and truth. And I believe that being baptized is an important outward symbol of the surrendering of my life to God, as Jesus did.

The Baptist denomination best resembles overall what I believe.

But there are some things about the Baptist culture I stray from. For example, I don’t oppose the reasonable consumption of alcohol or feel it’s taboo for a Christian to drink. Yet I share the all the same major spiritual doctrines as Baptists. Therefore I’m a little bit Presbyterian. (My wife and I were married in a Presbyterian church.)

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And though as a Baptist I’m very aware that I can’t earn my salvation by anything I do on my own, I’m a little bit Catholic because I believe salvation in Christ is more than just saying a prayer for Jesus to save me and then saying “I got saved” and then going to church.

My faith does require “works” in order to prove my faith to be genuine and alive; by serving others- caring for the poor, helpless, lonely, and misunderstood. Because that’s what Jesus was all about.

And that’s something that perhaps has best been taught to me through some of the examples of some of the Catholic saints and missionaries I’ve heard and read about, the most obvious being Mother Teresa.

It troubles me that many Baptist churches are so good about making sure no one in the congregation leaves the service without being given the opportunity to “become a Christian” by saying “the sinner’s prayer”. But afterwards, these confused spiritual infants are often left without being nurtured through discipleship.

Not understanding that so much of their sought-after Heaven is just as much in this life as it is the next. And that it takes serving others to help bring Heaven to Earth.  I really like the way that over the centuries that Catholics have chosen some of the most humble servants as their legendary heroes. Of course I don’t pray to saints, but I’ve learned to admire and attempt to mimic their lifestyles.

I’m a little bit Jewish because I share the Old Testament with the Jews. The Old Testament actually makes up around 2/3’s of the Bible’s content. And of course I don’t eat pork or shellfish (or many other kinds of carnivores, predators, and “bottom feeder” animals) as God instructed the Jews in Leviticus 11.

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I’m a little bit Seventh Day Adventist. They are the health nut freaks of Christianity. Most of them are vegetarians and avoid processed foods and the consumption of sugar (except in the form of whole fruits). Seventh Day Adventists also have a better understanding of resting “on the Sabbath”.  And statistics show they live around 7 years longer than the rest of us believers.

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So that is my religious status.

When all that is thrown into a blender, arguably it could be said I am closest to being a Baptist who unofficially converted to Messianic Judaism.

Messianic Jews are of Hebrew heritage but unlike other Jews, they accept Jesus as the Messiah. And though I have still yet to prove that somewhere back in my Italian lineage there was a Jew in there (my Mexican grandmother is convinced that’s the case), a person without Hebrew heritage can still convert to become a Messianic Jew.

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Maybe I should just list my religious views as “It’s Complicated”.

Would You Define Your Life as a Comedy or a Tragedy?

The same question goes for the movie Garden State.

I have struggled for a solid ten years trying to figure out what makes things funny. Universally, seeing someone fall down (who doesn’t get hurt) is always funny, but I don’t know why. Defining what humor is, is almost impossible to simply and briefly put into words. What I can do is make a judgment call on whether something as a whole is a comedy or a drama.

One of my college professors taught me there is a clear way to distinguish between the two: Comedy involves a protagonist who in the beginning of the story is standing outside the borders of his society and by the end of the story is accepted into it. Therefore a tragedy is when the protagonist in the beginning is accepted as part of the society but by the end is expelled from it.

To test this theory on comedies, I will take Adam Sandler for example: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Water Boy, The Wedding Singer, and Big Daddy all involve a character who starts out as one or more of the following: incompetent, poor, lonely, selfish. By the end of the movie, Adam Sandler’s character is accepted into the fold as these previous attributes are resolved. So I can see how the definition of a comedy works here.

For tragedies, I will take some horror movies for example: The Blair Witch Project, Skeleton Key, The Strangers, Quarantine, and Carrie. The protagonists end up either dead or in a really bad situation by the time the credits roll. So I can see how the definition of a tragedy works here, as death or loss of freedom is a way of being ousted from a society that the protagonists were once a part of.

The end of a movie ultimately defines it as a comedy or tragedy. Garden State, which is more a drama than anything, ends with Zach Braff’s character being able to overcome his dependence on his doctor’s/father’s misdiagnosed prescription of anti-depressants and feel alive for the first time as he moves back home to New Jersey, making new friends and finding love: That’s a comedy.

Using this theory, these other genre-vague movies would also be considered comedy: Fight Club, Forrest Gump, and Elizabethtown. And these would be tragedy: Into the Wild, Vanilla Sky, and One Hour Photo.

Life is comprised of rotating moments of comedy and tragedy. Times where I’m on the outside looking in and I get in (comedy) and times where I’m inside but am pushed out (tragedy). In ways big and small. But a person’s general perspective will cause him or her to see it ultimately as one or the other:

If life is comedy-in-progress, then life is me trying to figure out how to be normal enough to succeed in being accepted by my immediate society, eventually dying satisfied, knowing I’m surrounded by those who love me.

If life is tragedy-in-progress, then life is me already having everything I need and want in life but having it all taken away from me in the end, eventually dying sad and alone.

Big decisions, big decisions. I’ll go with comedy-in-progress.

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