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.
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.