Rewiring the Ol’ Brain

For years after we decided we wouldn’t spank anymore, I would threaten the kids with a spanking. One of the children would do something and I’d say, “Keep it up, and I’ll smack your butt.” It was a hollow threat, of course, and eventually they caught on, telling me, “Dad, you know we don’t spank in this house!”

When we abolished punishment, the same thing happened. One of the children would “misbehave” and I’d say, “If you don’t knock it off, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll….” It was ridiculous. I was stammering away like an idiot. I couldn’t threaten them with anything. I knew I shouldn’t be threatening them. I knew punishing them was wrong, but my brain hadn’t adapted to this new knowledge.

The journey from authoritarian parenting to a more peaceful approach is rocky. It was uncharted territory for me. My brain needed to be rewired. I’m still a work in progress.

To change my behavior, I had to change my brain.  This doesn't happen overnight.  I'll often revert to old patterns when stressed, tired, or ill.  But it can be done.

To change my behavior, I had to change my brain. This doesn’t happen overnight. I’ll often revert to old patterns when stressed, tired, or ill. But it can be done.

I find as time passes, the rewiring is taking hold. I never threaten to spank anymore. I rarely say, “If you do ‘x’, then I’ll have to do ‘y’.” It’s like learning a new language as an adult. I had French in school and I could write it, speak it, and even understand it when I heard it spoken, but I couldn’t think in it. I had to translate the words into English.

Learning to parent gently is like this, for me. For the longest time, I had to “think” about what I was going to say. I had to translate it. Often, I’d have to simply keep my mouth shut or walk into another room so I wouldn’t say or do something I would later regret. I needed to be immersed in it for the new language to take hold.

It’s working. I don’t have to stop and think as much. I respond more instinctively. I’m learning to think in this new language. It’s a constant struggle, but I’m evolving. It’s still not easy, but it does get easier.

Me, kissing Tiny Dancer, when she was an infant.

Me, kissing Tiny Dancer, when she was an infant.

9 comments to Rewiring the Ol’ Brain

  • Cindy

    I love the concept of how you are parenting your children. It sounds like you are on an amazing and empowering journey from which your children will benefit in ways that I can’t even imagine. I always say that I want nothing more than to support my daughter (she’s 3.5) in becoming more of who she is. Yes, that is what I say… I have absolutely no clue how to put this way of thinking into action. More specifically, there are times that I don’t really care about supporting her in anything…I just want her to bend to my will. Of course, the results of these disempowering interactions are damaging… she usually cries (lately she has been telling me that I hurt her heart), I feel like a failure, and I wonder if she will ever trust me again. Do you have any links for beginners? What do you do when your children just flat-out refuse to do what you ask? How do you handle it when your children ignore you (or is my daughter the only one who does this)? How does one begin to let go of needing to control their child? And what do you do if you stumble in your parenting? I need help. Not for me but for my sweet daughter who deserves nothing less than for me to get out of her way and support her in becoming…

  • Cindy

    P.S. I already sent you a message on Facebook. I don’t mean to bombard you but I’m feeling a bit desperate.

  • FreeYourKids

    I sent you a message, Cindy. Hope it helps.

  • aMom

    So… what DO you say when your kids misbehave? I want to get there but don’t have an alternative!

  • aMom

    Oh… whatever you sent to Cindy, that’s exactly what I need!

  • […] I know I talk about it like it happened overnight, but in reality it has been a process that is still going on with me.  I was spanked as a child, and we aren’t talking a tap on the but. So for probably a year and a half to two years, when I would get really angry with my oldest, my first thought would be to hit her.  I never acted on it, and am so grateful those thoughts went away, but it is a great example of being conscious of the way you were raised. Most likely, you will parent the way you were parented.  If you want to read another’s parents thoughts on rewiring your brain, click here. […]

  • Phoebe

    Cindy, please check out aha parenting on Facebook or google for the webpage. I think this will help you so much 🙂

  • sara

    We are also former spankers/screamers. While we feel like we are 95% there, I also still threaten with spanking and often times find myself stammering. I’ll… I’ll… LOL! It is quite ridiculous and it is TOTALLY a new language to learn. Not only did I always speak that way as a parent, but I was also SPOKEN to that way so it is all new to me. Doing the best we can, and our home has changed so much it is ridiculous! We ENJOY each other again. Such great healing came when we decided not to punish. I love it. Could never turn back!

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