Monday, September 13, 2010

Last Sunday Marked The End Of Child Protection Week

By Jenny Chapman

I didn’t even know it. Did you? Thank you to the Twitter people who brought this to my attention, particularly @carolduncan .
Child abuse is something, unfortunately, that happens daily, hourly, in every corner of the globe. I am not just talking of physical violence, or even sexual abuse, but of psychologically and emotionally violating our children.
I am not talking about protecting our children from learning hard lessons in life. I am not talking about ‘cottonwoolling’ them. I am certainly not talking about letting them grow into inappropriate behaviours. I am talking about respect and care for these little human beings. I am talking about being responsible for the way our children are treated in this world—a world that at the moment, we are custodians of. The world where someday, our children will take the reins and steer this planet into the way of being that they themselves have been taught. By us.
Right now, I want to talk about spanking.
In some cultures and countries, even so called advanced, western countries, ‘spanking’ is not seen as child abuse, but of a firm but loving form of behaviour modification. There are some articles on the web that I find abhorrent, advocating boundary control with spanking, in the most ‘loving’ and concerned language. Here is one such article . Some things said there just left me speechless.
I grew up in a household where there was moderate spanking, and grew up believing that spanking was required to ensure boundaries of behaviour. In fact, I was taught by a famous American Christian author that (and 25 yrs since reading it I STILL remember this) one must break a child's spirit by the time they were three, in order to control his/her behaviour in the future. And that spanking was the best method to do this. Thankfully I wasn’t a parent at the time I believed in this.

Here in Australia spanking/hitting/corporal punishment is illegal. And I am glad. It is an act of violence toward another person. By this I mean for a child, it violates their personal space;  it violates them physically, emotionally and psychologically. How can it not? It is a shock to the system in every way, and why would we willing want to do this to our children who are absolutely dependent on us? To overpower a child is hardly difficult. To do so physically through the medium of spanking is hardly difficult. It is an 'easy' form of control—but is it right? I don't think so. We come from a culture where spanking has in the past, been a traditional form of control. We live in a culture that believes it has to disempower others in every invasive way possible in order to achieve our goals. So it can be difficult to think outside this square. But hang on—this is almost an insult—we are intelligent beings. If we can’t think of suitable working alternatives we have a big problem.

Nowadays we do know and are far more aware of our parenting practices. There are alternatives to 'spanking' and we as individuals can choose these alternatives. Our children are so trusting to us with their lives, their little bodies. I want us to honour that trust by respecting them in any way that we possibly can. Physically overpowering them, except when safety is an issue, is not an option.

Conscious parenting for me is not about perfect parenting (thank goodness) but about trying to think through the consequences of my parenting choices, preferably before I make them (being the nature of being ‘conscious’). What am I teaching/modelling for my child? What am I really doing to my child?

If you are interested in a great article against spanking, I do suggest you take a look at The Natural Child Project . It has an impressive list of resources at the end.
For  a heartfelt, informed blog highlighting child protection issues here in Australia, I direct you to Rants of a Redundant Mother
For further information regarding Child Abuse in Australia, or to get involved with campaigns, have a look at NAPCAN.  There is local contact info on this site for those who need help.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

On Feeling Welcome

By Jenny Chapman

Be welcome.

What is it that makes us feel welcome? Does it come from the way others treat us, or from our own sense of self acceptance? I think it comes from both. We need a level of self-acceptance to sit comfortably with the acceptance of others.

Last year my world crashed around me as I dove into a black pool of depression and self-rejection. I isolated and gave up on myself, my work, my friends and my lover. Every day, and this was the worst because I could see myself doing it, I rejected my son and his needs. I spent days in bed and did not want my son around. Not because I didn’t love him, but because I felt I had nothing to give him, and to be awfully honest, I preferred most times to have my head in a book. I palmed him off to friends, family and his father, much more than was necessary. But being a single mum, he was around—and had to wear whatever I dumped on him. He was not welcome, and though I tried to mask it, in his own four year old way he knew it. The memory of it horrifies me.

Slowly his behaviour changed as his sense of being welcome and accepted diminished. Nothing changed about his needs, but his sense of freedom to come and go in my presence obviously started fading. He became more wary; not knowing if or when he would be pushed away. He became clingy. He changed to being more ‘contrary’ and behaving from a base of frustration and uncertainty rather than contentment. He changed to inappropriate attention-seeking behaviours. (And I wallowed in exhaustion, sadness and guilt.)

Thankfully I have been learning ways of coping that suit our little family. First and foremost was to heal the fractures of the bond between my son and I. I am so thankful for the resilience that is in a child. I’ll share another time, how I have discussed depression with him. We enjoy a wonderful intimate relationship again now.

Through my experience I learned that one of the most important things we can do for our children’s self esteem is make sure they know they are 'welcome' in our home, our workplace...our personal space. It MATTERS. Our facial expressions and body language, MATTER. That their company is welcome, MATTERS. And, knowing that we want to be in their company, MATTERS. It’s not always easy, I am the first to admit.

Welcome=acceptance=self acceptance. I think it's the foundation of our 'social needs' as human beings. I think that this early sense of feeling ‘welcome’ as a child, becomes the foundation of our own self-acceptance, and avoids that gnawing, insatiable ‘need’ that many of us experience, leading us to make all sorts of choices and behaviours that invariably leave us, still wanting, in fragmented relationships and communities.

Be welcome. A magical element of being alive and part of an amazing world.

Be welcome to our Barefoot community, where our passion for parenting, community and our earth mingle together in words, provoking thought and discussion.

Be welcome, to read each others' stories of life, love, loss, and laughter.

Be welcome. Welcome to read, share, comment (please do!)