Today we celebrate the birth of my son. Caden won’t actually turn 7 until tomorrow morning, but his party is this afternoon.
This morning as I was preparing for the day I decided to blog a bit about what an amazing child he is and why I believe parenting is the main reason that is the case. I needed a title. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” came to mind. That’s a word-for-word saying my mother used to use, right before she picked up the wooden paddle my father had carved. Mom truly believed that our butts needed to be reddened in order to help teach us right from wrong.
A wooden paddle was used after belts were outlawed following an incident at my grandmother’s house. I’d misbehaved, and dad pulled off his belt to adjust my attitude. He swung and it wrapped around, hitting me in the balls. He felt horrible. After that incident, only solid “rods” were used when administering discipline.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” was my mother’s summation of a verse in Proverbs. When my own son was born, however, I rephrased her saying:
Spare the rod.
Spoil the child.
As a parent, I see that phrase as two separate commands.
I “spare the rod” and never spank my son. I did so just one time in his life and I will never do so again. It happened so long ago Caden doesn’t even remember it. Sometimes I’ll say something like, “I’m gonna have to wup on you Boy!”, and he laughs at the thought of daddy spanking him. It’s just not something that ever happens, and he knows it never will.
I “spoil the child” with love. I’ve never once raised my voice to him, and I’ve never let him hear the words “because I said so” escape my mouth when he asks “Why?”. Instead, I tell him “why” so that he understands.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not feel mistreated in the slightest by my own parents, but I can honestly say I learned nothing positive from my mother’s yelling and spankings. Does anyone truly have a change of heart if they obey out of fear? I don’t think so.
Caden is a fantastic child. Is he perfect? Of course not. Only one perfect human existed in all of history. But Caden is so well behaved his teachers frequently comment on it, as do others who spend a little time around him.
My heart burst in my chest when I received one of the verbal reports given to his mother by his Kindergarten teacher last year. Caden, she said, has a habit of putting his arm around crying children on the playground and walking them to the teacher. He tries to comfort them.
This year, in first grade, his teacher recently told Wendy (my ex-wife) that during reading time, when other children mess up while reading aloud and most of the other children laugh and snicker, Caden doesn’t do so. He simply doesn’t find it acceptable to ridicule others.
I was bragging about him to Pastor Bill Giovannetti. We were in Bill’s home and several children were present. Not 5 minutes after telling the Pastor about those two incidents I just shared with you the children came tearing into the room, being chased by a “monster” in the form of an adult. One little girl tripped and fell. Rather than hurdle over her and continue running, Caden stopped to ask if she was okay. The Pastor noticed and commented about it to me. I’m surprised my shirt didn’t tear as my chest expanded with pride.
It just makes sense to get rid of violence and yelling when dealing with children. Let me get into your face, screaming, and you tell me how that makes you feel. If I don’t like something you’ve done, let me hit you. Does that make you want to cooperate with me?
Children feel no differently. The only thing yelling and spanking accomplishes is to instill fear and anger, and as stated before, fear does not change hearts. It hardens them. Spanking and yelling results in children who hit others and yell at people when they’re upset.
When correcting Caden, I get down on one knee and look him in the eye. I speak in a loving tone and tell him “why” he should do something differently. I make sure what I’m saying makes sense to him, which is why “because I said so” has no place in my vocabulary. That saying, my friends, is a cop-out used by parents who are too lazy to put in the work required of them when raising a child. Work that actually results in LESS work down the road. If the work is put in while they’re young and they UNDERSTAND why things must be certain ways, their behavior changes. They aren’t confused. They understand for themselves why things must operate by certain rules.
If we’re in public, or in front of others, I pick Caden up and hold him in my arms as I whisper in his ear about any behaviors he needs to change. There is no point whatsoever in embarrassing him. After all, I am the adult. He is the child. I am the one expected to have enough brain power to correct my child in a loving non-violent manner (which includes refraining from yelling or using bad attitudes).
In return, he obeys out of love and respect, not out of fear.
Despite the fact that we divorced several years ago, Caden’s mother and I talk to each other daily. We want to be on the same page in matters relating to Caden. We feed off of each other. She spends much more time with Caden than I do, but we discuss nearly every aspect of parenting that arises. She’s the one doing almost all of the work with our son. I simply get to follow the same parenting guidelines while he’s with me.
We all spend time together a few times per month. Instead of fighting about our own differences, as divorced people often do, we try as hard as we can to remember that our son is much more important than petty disagreements we may have with each other. Most of the time we succeed. If we do happen to bicker, Caden is quick to let me know Mom is always right. He loves sticking up for her.
My dad has been raising my brother’s daughter. She’s almost a year younger than my son and has lived with my dad and step-mother for a few years now. Some of the most flattering compliments I’ve ever received are when my dad asks my opinion on parenting issues. He sees how well behaved a child Caden is and respects the parenting decisions we’ve been making while raising him. It’s really cool to be able to compare parenting notes with one’s own parents.
Caden, my son… I love you so very much. Happy 7th birthday, buddy!
PS: after a previous blog entry one reader commented via email that he/she was proud of the parent I’ve become since surrendering my life to God. Let me assure you, I have always been a very good father, long before surrendering my life to God. Let’s get that straight. 🙂