Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I couldn’t stop thinking about Whitney Houston’s death this weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, I loved her songs since I was a kid. Here is a couple new developments surrounding her death, according to the New York Daily News: it appears that she drowned in her bathtub in a drug-induced haze. Also, her daughter Bobbi Christina was rushed to the hospital after learning of her mother’s death. What a sad story all around.  

In non-Whitney news: Mitt Romney won the Maine Republican caucuses, and once again, failed to garner even half of the votes, according to the Washington Post.

Washington state legalized gay marriage. I was especially moved by this Republican legislator’s testimony.

As I have mentioned here before, one of my concerns of running outdoors by the freeway is inhaling too much air pollution. In a timely article, Moms Clean Air Force had a guest post with advice on how to avoid high levels of air pollution while running outside.

In “water is wet” news: here is yet another article on how spanking increases aggression in children.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Managing the immovable object and the unstoppable force.

My house has been Ground Zero for recent memory.  DS is 2, with all the joy that entails.  He has had a temper since he was born, and kicks, throws, and pulls hair.  DD is 5, and is finally discovering the depths of her temper.  She was never a temper tantrum thrower–her “terrible twos” were a cake walk compared to her brother.  But now, she gets angry, and can’t find ways to control it.  It manifests physically, of course–trembling, shaking fists, crossing the arms.  And shouting, to high heaven.  Together, the two of them ensure that a goodly portion of every day is spent screaming.

Today, we had a bad morning.  She and DS were fighting over who got to sit in one particular chair for breakfast.  Grammie was here, and she and DD fought about getting out of the chair, and DD was VERY angry with her.  I had to haul DD up to the bedroom and read her the riot act for being mean to her Grammie.  DD told me something VERY telling, with tears and clenched fists: “I don’t know how to stop!”

That brought me up short.  Of course she doesn’t know how to stop.  That’s one of my primary jobs as a parent, teaching my children to control their emotions appropriately.  I’ve never really had to teach her before, which is so intensely clear in how I deal with DS.  He defeats me almost regularly.  He will not stay in a timeout.  Taking something away from him only ratchets up the tantrum to eardrum-vibrating levels.  I confess, I’ve spanked him more than once–it does diddly squat.  The resort to the physical is happening more and more here:  DD refuses to move and go to her room, and we bodily pick her up and remove her.  DS pulls someone’s hair, and his hand gets a swat.  DS, I’m not TOO worried about yet, because he’s still little and doesn’t understand what he needs to do with his anger.  But I need better strategies with DD now.

After she told me she didn’t know what to do, I calmed down significantly.  (Clearly, that is the first new strategy I need to adopt: remember that she doesn’t know these things, and get control of my own damn temper. WHY is this so hard??)  I told her when she gets upset, she needs to take deep, deep breaths and count to ten.  In truth, though, this doesn’t really work for her.  She needs to do it several times to really get a grip on herself.  So, MTers, I need some suggestions.  What techniques work for your kids to control their temper?  I need to teach her these things.  I think she gets really scared when she gets so out of control!

This doesn’t bode well for when DS gets older–he is going to be twice as bad.  Easily.  I will either have to lock him up or send him to boarding school if I can’t figure this out.


I spanked

I’ve always been one of those “spanking is bad” kind of people. The type who used to support laws against spanking, and who called it “hitting” or “abuse.” I thought (and still think) that it’s horrible that the most powerful and loving person in a child’s life could think of physically hurting her.

DH and I have pretty much been at our wits’ end lately with her behavior at times. She’s so so so strong willed (spirited, stubborn, whatever). And she has gotten a really rude back-talking mouth lately. And she lollygags, and she doesn’t listen, and she shouts at us. How in the hell did she get THIS bratty? We’ve read all the “spirited child” stuff and have all kinds of tricks for distracting, using humor, etc for gaining her cooperation. We are thoughtful parents who read Alfie Kohn from cover to cover and emphasize building empathy over obedience. But, damn it, sometimes she just needs to obey.

It happened today, for the first time ever, on the last day of our 9 day vacation. We get that it’s hard to be in the car, and that she gets tired and cranky, and that we need to be more understanding of misbehavior in situations like this. But there’s also a limit. When we’re bending over backwards to meet her needs and she’s STILL bratty? What then? A few times during the trip, DH and I threatened to spank her bottom if she didn’t stop doing this or that. The threats worked a couple of times. Today…not so much. I’ll spare the play by play of the behavior, but when she was throwing a fit at McDonalds I took her to go to the bathroom before we got back in the car and to hopefully give her time to collect herself. While there, she pushed me to the end of my rope. I lifted her up off the potty and gave her 3 swats to the bare butt. Hard enough that she said “ow.” Not hard enough to leave a mark. I wasn’t in a blind rage…in fact, I was kind of calm and matter of fact about it. And damn if it didn’t stop the behavior. She cried a few more minutes, wiped her tears, did her business, and then I snuggled her and told her that I love her and that I am sorry that I spanked her, but that I needed to stop her behavior (blah blah blah). I confessed to DH as soon as we got to the car and he was fine with it, but I felt like a total piece of shit. I still do.

DH and I are going to redouble our efforts at discipline, read more books, etc. I still think spanking is wrong. And I doubt it’s effective at all in the long term. But I kind of get why people do it now. I don’t want to make it a habit. I hope I never want/need/choose to do it again. And I hope I can forgive myself for letting that genie out of the bottle.


Physical Abuse vs. Corporal Punishment?

I was asked to lead the children’s liturgy at my church. As part of my training, I had to take an online course titled Shield the Vulnerable. It was about how to identify sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and how to report it to authorities.

Most of it was self-explanatory, although I was stuck on the chapter about physical abuse as it tried to differentiate that from corporal punishment.

For example, here is one of the questions I got wrong. Because I did not write it down, I will paraphrase:

A.) Every Saturday, Reggie puts his 5-year-old son over his knee and spanks him with an open hand. Even if he has not seen his son do anything wrong, he knows that he is capable of misbehaving and the spanking is in response to that.

B.) Once or twice, Willy has whipped his 5-year-old son with a bamboo whip on his bare buttocks, leaving red welts. He reserves this form of punishment for only the worst misbehavior and relies on this form of punishment because he says it is quick.

C.) About once a month, Ginny gets so upset over her 5-year-old daughter’s incessant crying that she gives her a 10-minute timeout in her bedroom.

The course asked us to pick the MOST LIKELY scenario of physical child abuse. I had a hard time deciding between “A” and “B” as I thought both these fathers sounded abusive. I chose “A” because I thought it was effed up that Reggie was hitting his son for no reason.

The answer was “B” because Willy was leaving marks and using a foreign object to hit his child. Reggie was merely disciplining his son, and spanking is considered an acceptable form of punishment in some cultures. Wow, am I so far removed from that world.

Can you tell the difference between physical abuse and corporal punishment?


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Hi all!

I am back from a trip to Chicago. My brother-in-law got married in a unique and beautiful ceremony. You can read all about it and see pictures here and here.

Now onto some parenting news…

Are you a yeller? You are not alone. We discussed a New York Times story about how yelling is the new spanking. A poll cited in the article stated that as many as 88 percent of parents have yelled at their children. But no studies have been conducted to show whether this is harmful to kids.

Our Erika highlighted this MSNBC story about kids getting braces younger and younger. How old were your children when they got braces?

I am sure similar diaries have been posted here, but I thought I would mention to you that the Courage Campaign is seeking a few good volunteers to help fight the anti-gay marriage initiatives in various states and cities.

In somewhat related news, one of our front-page posters, Katie, is wondering whether she should change her last name when she marries her partner Kelly. It sparked a long discussion about women changing their last names — if at all — hyphenated names and everything you can possibly think of when it comes to choosing a last name. Ayayay!

Yet, in other LGBT news: The Scholastic Book Fairs banned books with gay and lesbian relationships, according to our contributing writer Dana. She and other moms on our site, who signed a petition, received a less than satisfying response from the company.  

Our Gloria highlighted this brow-raising article in Jezebel about mothers in their late 30s or early 40s being jealous of their teenaged daughters’ good looks. I am not there yet and found this article surprising and disturbing. What do you all think? Are you jealous of your gorgeous teenagers?

Attention Patrick Swayze fans: I reviewed the book Time of My Life. What a satisfying and quick read!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Are You a Yeller?

My confession for the day: I have been known on more than one occasion to blow a fuse and scare the bejesus out of my children by yelling at them. Sometimes after a day of work, cooking, cleaning, carpooling and running around like a madwoman there is only so much crap one person can take, ya know?

But I am aware of it and try to enforce time-outs as my preferred method of discipline. (Although, I probably should stop yelling “time out!” at the top of my lungs.)

You could say I was not surprised to learn that “shouting is the new spanking,” according to this New York Times article.

Many in today’s pregnancy-flaunting, soccer-cheering, organic-snack-proffering generation of parents would never spank their children. We congratulate our toddlers for blowing their nose (“Good job!“), we friend our teenagers (literally and virtually), we spend hours teaching our elementary-school offspring how to understand their feelings. But, incongruously and with regularity, this is a generation that yells.

“I’ve worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking,“ said Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, which teaches parenting skills in classes, individual coaching sessions and an online course. “This is so the issue right now. As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior. In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again.“

A study cited in the Times article stated as many as 88 percent of parents have yelled at their children. Another study listed “yelling” as the No. 1 guilt-inducer for parents over spanking, working outside the home and missing a school event.

While there are no studies showing the effects of regular yelling, childcare professionals said loud sarcastic and hurtful comments could have a long-term damaging effect.

My reaction? When I first became a parent, I felt guilty every time I yelled. But now that I see that Ari is a smart and sweet boy, I don’t worry about it as much. It’s not like I yell regularly and every once in a while it probably is not a bad idea for him to see that even adults get frustrated.

Are you a yeller? What other tools of discipline do you have at your disposal?


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

What’s up?

Our Erika had a compelling piece on whether it is okay for someone in public to berate a parent for hitting his or her child. Check out the New York Times story and comments related to an incident in the subway station.

We had an in-depth discussion on whether parents should be allowed to pick their child’s teacher. On this matter, I defer to the faculty and staff. But some parents felt they should at least get to veto bad teachers. We also discussed this Associated Press story on the grassroots effort by parents to decrease the number of homework assignments, or at least make them more relevant.

We had an intense discussion about a mother in Montana who was arrested for leaving her 12-year-old daughter and her friend who was also 12, at the mall with younger siblings aged 8, 7 and 3. Apparently, Macy’s employees spotted the 8, 7 and 3-year-olds alone as the 12-year-old girls went to try out clothes in the fitting room.

Former General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jack Welch touched a nerve when he recently said women are often passed up for promotions because they are choosing to take time off for their families. We are disappointed that he chose to aim his comments at only women, when unfortunately for too long, men have been denied a relationship with their children to climb the corporate ladder. How sad.

In related news, we bemoaned the lack of “non-connected” time on vacations, but offered tips on how to stay in touch with work without ruining the fun. How do you balance the two?

In celebrity gossip break, we discussed the Gosselin and Jackson families. Enjoy!

What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: Funny Forwards Edition

I have to share with you an e-mail forward I recently received from one of my neighbors. Do NOT scroll down to the second page until after you have read it. :)

Tough Love vs. Spanking – Good Argument

Most of the American populace thinks it improper to spank children, so I have tried other methods to control my kids when they have one of  ‘those moments.’

One that I found effective is for me to just take the child for a car ride and talk.

Some say it’s the vibration from the car, others say it’s the time away from any distractions such as TV, Video Games, Computer, IPod, etc.

Either way, my kids usually calm down and stop misbehaving after our car ride together.  Eye to eye contact helps a lot too.

I’ve included a photo below of one of my sessions with my son, in case you would like to use the technique.

Your Friend

I love the 99 on the sign. So funny!

Have you received any good forwards lately?


Spare the Spank

Cross-posted at Fussbucket

Should states outlaw spanking? Currently lawmakers in Massachusetts are debating the issue. According to this article in the Boston Herald, the proposed bill was prompted by a local nurse who wants parents to be educated on alternative forms of discipline. Thanks to Salon’s Broadsheet for the tip.

The liberal lot of the Massachusetts legislature are not the only ones considering the issue. The Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments last week about the limits of physical abuse after a 12-year-old turned in his father to authorities after he was hit with a wooden paddle 36 times. Say what?

Broadsheet’s Carol Lloyd writes: “According a Star Tribune report, the hearing delved into the ugly details of what’s considered ‘acceptable violence.’ The lawyer representing the boy argued that 12 blows were ‘completely admissible’ but the subsequent 24 blows were not. The lawyers for the defense suggested the punishment remained within reasonable limits, since it left no scars or bruises and the beating ‘was not a decision made in haste or anger’ but ‘planned discipline.'”

If Massachusetts decides to pass an anti-corporal-punishment ban, it would become the first in the nation to make spanking a criminal offense for parents. (Some consider Minnesota’s combination of statutes to add up to a virtual ban.)

But if a spanking ban makes Massachusetts an anomaly, it will have plenty of company internationally. According to Stop Hitting, a nonprofit dedicated to banning all forms of corporal punishment, 20 countries now outlaw all forms of corporal punishment: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and Ukraine.

I’m not a fan of spanking. I do, however, currently live with a four year old who is driving me crazy. One word: testing. If you’ve never lived through this, beware. If you have, you know what I’m talking about. He refuses to do simple things, insists on doing things he’s not supposed to do, and demands to have things he’s never been allowed to have before. Annoying does not even begin to describe it. Here’s a typical scene:

Me: Hey buddy, could you take that toy out of the kitchen, because I’m trying to cook dinner and you’re kind of in the way.

Him: No.

Me: Well actually it isn’t a choice. I want you to move. But you can set up your playing right there in the dining room and I’ll still be able to see you.

Him: No.

Me: I’m going to count to three and I want you to move.  One, two, three.


Me: Okay, here’s your choice. You can move yourself or I’ll move you for you.

Him: Silence.

Me: Is that what you want?

Him: No.

Me (getting louder): Then move!


Me: Okay then, I’m moving you.

Lots of yelling and arms flailing.

Now what was it you said you wanted for dinner? Agh!!!

After a few rounds of this kind of thing in a day and I’m all over the thought of whopping his behind. Actually, one time I did lose it and swatted his bottom with my hand. (A paddle is unimaginable to me.)

The result was interesting. We were both very surprised and it jolted us out of the battle we were having. I apologized and told him that I had lost my temper and that what I did was not okay. He really seemed to appreciate that. We hugged and then read a book together. I think we were both chastised by the experience.

Now that I’m a seasoned spanker, I have loads of wisdom. Here goes: There is a short-term satisfaction that comes with a spank because it allows you to do something with all the anger you’re feeling, but then you feel guilty and realize that you really didn’t solve or teach anything. It’s not the way to go, at least for me.

When I’m not doing battle with him, I actually appreciate that what he’s going through is normal and understandable. He’s learning who he is and what happens in the world when he asserts himself. I think of him of as playing a new instrument, like the trombone. Right now, he’s hitting a lot of wrong notes. As his parents, we’ve got to endure the loud cacophony, grin and bear it as best we can until he gets a handle on the thing.

I have faith in him that he’ll figure it out. In the meantime, I’m taking lots of deep breaths and leaving the room when I can’t take it anymore.

So what do you think? Should states outlaw spanking? Is there ever a time when spanking is appropriate? Have you ever lost it like I did? Isn’t it the worst?