Monday, December 10, 2012

Why Should I Parent Without Coercion?


I used to make my children sit and have time outs. I used to raise my voice even when a child was near me. If these techniques worked for a short time, they never worked long term. I was not a bad parent and I did not use these techniques daily. But they were used sometimes. I hear people discuss children testing boundaries. I wish they knew what I know now. You do not have to yell, punish, or take anything from your child unless he or she is being unsafe with said item. (In that case you can keep the item and child safe for a time then give the item back if age appropriate.) There is a way to parent without coercion. You see what I found is that when I tried to intimidate someone into making a kind responsible, or helpful choice he or she often ended up making the choice because I said so. The definition of coercion as found on the Dictionary.com site is

co·er·cion

[koh-ur-shuh n] 
noun
1. the act of coercing; use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance.
2. force or the power to use force in gaining compliance, as by a government or police force.

My children now make choices because they are kind, responsible, or helpful rather than because I said so. This means that they are learning and beginning to understand empathy, how to take care of their things, and how to make choices independent of my wants and desires. I cannot go to college with them or be in the car every time they drive. I cannot punish a 20 year old because I don't like a choice he or she made. My children need to know how to make choices on their own that are sound in judgement.

There is the added issue of coercion teaching children that bigger is better which often leads children to think that bullying someone who is smaller is acceptable. This was a constant issue in my kindergarten classroom and also when I worked in daycare. The children who took from others were often, though not always, children whose parents went heavy on coercion and punitive parenting techniques. There were occasions when a child was developmentally not ready to share or take turns which is fine, but when a neurotypical six year old child is constantly hitting others and taking their things something is going on in that child's life that to cause such a behavior to repeat.

So how can you deal with a child who is not responsible or a child who refuses to listen without punishments? My answer is to model responsible choices, have patience, use your words, practice what to do in different situations, and use play to teach skills. It is not easy to go this route, but helping children to grow into responsible adults without coercion is worth the time and effort.

Anyone can parent without coercion. If you were raised with coercion, it may be hard to break those binds but you can do it. Seek out support. Take breaks when you need to. Know that no one is perfect and we all have easy days as well as hard days when parenting.

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