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Tips and Tricks, Raising Happy Children

 
Posts: 280
Location: Philippines
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Hello Permies,

We are currently raising a 10 month old human. So this question comes to mind. But I do think this should be a subject of interest to all of us here not just parent, as we are dealing with priceless commodity. I know there are lots of superdads and supermoms  and supergrands in here (permies) and out there (at the ramch). So lets hear them please.

Important: This is a grand project for me and I named it " project Superhappy Boy" initially I thought of "superkid". But I thought its kinda I will be pushing him to a certain level. Thats the worst I can do to this boy. This is a sort of study to me and hopefully to all parents there, in this "school of the people for the people and by the people" in short Permies, Which I hope I/we can pass on to generations to come.

Make is as short and concise as you can please, if you can. I'm short of english and memory.

Thanks for reading. More thanks for the tips and tricks.
 
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My kids are 5 and 7.  I think some of the best things we've done for them are giving them lots of affection, lots of time with parents (we were fortunate enough to be able to have a parent at home full time), strong boundaries, and to set the bar low with parties/celebrations, activities, and material things.  

By that last statement, I mean that birthday parties are a few other kids, a cake or some cupcakes, maybe a day at a local play area, and as few presents as I can manage (other people are not on the same wavelength as us).  They get one big gift (often something shared between them, like Lego blocks) from Mom and Dad at Christmas, and one small one each from Santa (maybe a coloring book, or materials for a fun craft).  We don't do much for other big celebrations like Easter, even though the local norm is pounds of chocolate and often gifts.  We focus more on a nice meal with family.  

They don't get a ton of new clothing.  A lot of their stuff is handed down from cousins and neighbors.  We make sure they are dressed in clean, modern clothing so they don't get teased at school, but no fancy stuff or brand names (though they haven't asked for those things yet - there may be some angst when we get to that age).  

We haven't enrolled them in any sports or activities yet - that may come this year or next.  Instead, they get lots of time to free play and hang out in nature (we live in a rural area).  When (if?) we do get into sports, it will be one sport, one or two days a week, tops.  Skills are important, but so are family dinners and time spent together.  

We practice gratefulness, out loud.  The adults frequently talk about things we are fortunate to have (a safe, warm house, for instance, and lots of good food to eat), and we encourage the kids to talk about things they are grateful for.  We want to recognize/remember our privilege and good fortune.  

For my crew, a day at the local water park is 'the best day ever'.  A day of horseback riding is 'the best day ever'.  They've never been to a carnival with rides, but we're debating taking them this year, and I'm pretty sure it will be 'the best day ever'.  Getting a pretty dress is, for my daughter, 'the best day ever'.  Going to the used book store and getting three books each is 'the best day ever'.  They are really happy with things that a lot of kids in our area take for granted (or even turn their noses up at), because they aren't immersed in a day-to-day situation of tons of fun activities and lots of sparkly 'stuff'.  Having such a low bar means that they are happy kids, not jaded, greedy, stressed out kids.  

All of this may become more challenging as they get older and compare themselves to other kids, and we may change some of our approach, but for now it is working well for us.
 
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This is a page out of Kahlil Gibrans the Prophet.   Had I read this 20+ years ago, I'd have maybe had a different approach to raising humans, but it's never too late, since they've begun to multiply.

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pollinator
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I am pretty much done raising kids (and teaching high school) and I'm pleased, overall, with my experience.

I can sum my advice up into three points:

1 - kids learn what they live. Don't say one thing and do another. Model what you want, they will follow (it may be hard to believe, but they will eventually). Have faith and keep in mind that you are the adult, in charge of this project. You can do it.

2- kids arrive "themselves". you are not molding them into something- they already have personalities as newborns. that is one responsibility you can absolve yourself of. Instead, your job is to give him the tools he needs to have his best life (note: not what you want for him. what he needs for himself). Think about those tools and remember that your end goal is a functioning, happy adult.

3- breathe and take one moment at a time. you can do this. even if you screw it up, and i think we all do at some point, don't despair. Make things right and keep going. Kids are worth it and it is an amazing experience.
 
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I have two kids , one is 24, the other 11.
As I told them, "I'm not always an example to follow, often I am a cautionary tale."
In that spirit, consistency of expectations set by we,the parents, is the thing I wish we had done.
Presenting children with two conflicting sets of expectations has predictably poor results.
I'm not bad mouthing changing ones mind, I'm talking about both parents being on the same page.

 
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I've raised 9 kids  over about 37 years.  I think we did a good job.  Each child arrived with their own personalities and each one is unique.  I don't claim expertise, but I do claim quite a bit of field experience.  Here are a few of my thoughts.

What kids need most are Love, Teaching and Discipline in that order.  The methodology will vary with different parents and kids.

Little kids are physically exhausting, teenagers are emotionally exhausting.  Little kids and teenagers together can sometimes suck you dry, although the small ones may actually save the older ones  by giving them someone who looks up to them and loves them.

What works brilliantly for one may be a failure for another child.  

Children will parent shop, looking for the parent that will let them do what they want.  You need to present a united front.  If you are not united, go into the other room and get united, stay there until you can agree.  Our rule was if either parent said no, it was no.  If you got a no and were caught shopping for a yes, then that was dealt with seperately and on top of any other actions.

Do your best, but know you will screw up sometimes.  That's unavoidable because this is on-the-job learning.  Try not to make a habit of it.
You will 'default' to your parents techniques.  It takes thought and effort to change that, if and where you feel the need.  
Admit it when you're wrong and apologize if appropriate.

Don't pay too much attention to the latest fad.  There's always a 'new approach' coming out.  It's mostly a way to sell a book.  

It can really suck to be the adult in the room, but that is your job.  

You are the role model, whether you want to be or not!  Kids learn mainly by copying you.  Not your words, but your actions and attitudes.  If you panic when a kid is hurt, the kid will panic.  If you act like "ok, we can deal with this" the kid will develop the same attitude.  If you don't want your kids to do something, don't you do it.  They are observant little beggers and will catch you in your hypocrisy

Kids need a parent more than they need a friend.

Enjoy them, treasure them.  In the end, houses, cars, etc are just stuff.  Your kids are what matter.  



 
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I have a few.

1) Teach them emotional control starting at birth. I did this in stages. This is what emotion you are feeling. It's ok to feel things. Tt's not ok to display those feelings in violent ways. This is a good way of expressing that emotion. That's what we teach.

2) Mean what you say. When I tell my kids something (even if it's something stupid I shouldn't have told them like, do that again and we aren't going to do X, a thing I really want to do) I stand by it. In this way my kids know that I'm not messing around.

3) Clear boundaries goes along with #2.

4) Honesty. Even when it makes me uncomfortable. It's really awkward to honestly explain why a boy is necessary to make babies. Even more awkward since I'm currently pregnant. I still do, in an age appropriate way. Anything I don't feel is age appropriate I tell them I'll explain when they're older. So my kids know if they ask my a question they're going to get an honest answer.

5) as a working Mom I've read all the studies on child care. They all pretty much say the same thing. It's about the quality of time you spend with your child and not the quantity of it. So when I'm with my kids I'm with them. They have my full attention.

The rest is obvious love and care.
 
elle sagenev
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William Bronson wrote:I have two kids , one is 24, the other 11.
As I told them, "I'm not always an example to follow, often I am a cautionary tale."
In that spirit, consistency of expectations set by we,the parents, is the thing I wish we had done.
Presenting children with two conflicting sets of expectations has predictably poor results.
I'm not bad mouthing changing ones mind, I'm talking about both parents being on the same page.



I have totally told my husband not to tell the kids something stupid I'm forced to back up. lol
 
gardener
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Mick Fisch wrote:

What works brilliantly for one may be a failure for another child.  

Admit it when you're wrong and apologize if appropriate.

It can really suck to be the adult in the room, but that is your job.  Kids need a parent more than they need a friend.

Enjoy them, treasure them.  In the end, houses, cars, etc are just stuff.  Your kids are what matter.  



Yes, yes, yes and yes to all the above.

We've only got 2, but they've turned into great young adults.  Both have found their way and are growing into amazing people with a clear direction in their life and are making wise decisions.

I would add:

1.  Consistency.  Bed-times are firm -- with few exceptions.  Meal times are consistent, and food put on the plate is eaten.  For things that they don't want to try, you put one (peas, green beans, whatever) per year of age.  Thus, a two year old is expected to eat 2 lima beans.  If there is an expectation about behavior, you must consistently enforce that expectation with few (if any) exceptions.  A lack of disciplined consistency on the part of the parent will produce that same in their child.

That just sounded like advise from the resident hard-ass, but it doesn't mean that you are militant or inflexible.  But if you say bath time is 8:00 and bed time is 9:00, you need to be consistent.  We expected obedience on the first ask.  I go crazy when I see parents standing over a 2-year-old tyrant counting, "1 . . . 2 . . . I mean it this time . . . 2 and a half . . . you don't want me to get to 3".  How absolutely crazy.  The child should clearly know your expectation for them, and if they fail to do it, they already know what the consequence will be.  One ask, and if they don't do it, you quietly give them a time out.

2.  For every "no", there needs to be plenty of "yes's".  Our home was a creative workshop.  It was messy at times, but we encouraged exploration, experimentation, and discussion when there were decisions that the kids didn't like.  Find a way to say yes to their best instincts: classic reinforcement of good behavior.

3.  We never use the term "punishment".  We spoke of discipline when there was a need for firmer correction.  As someone who was raised by an angry father who used the belt, I determined never to "hit" my child or discipline them in any way that was angry.  We did spank, VERY RARELY, and it was only in the face of outright disobedience.  I little smack on a diaper'ed bottom has a way of breaking through the attitude that needs adjustment.  And once the kids were verbal, no more.  So after the age of 3, I would strongly protest anyone swatting a little bottom.  It's counterproductive at that point.

Time-outs were our go-to form of correction.  Time outs were expected to be silent.  If they yelled, the time would start over.  Who is being disciplined here?  If the child is punishing you, then something is wrong.  They are expected to be quiet.  Then once it's over, there is a hug, words of forgiveness and away they go.  

4.  We use the words, "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"  Both parts.  When the children were young, we'd prompt them with these words after they got busted for something.  Once their time-out was over, we would call them over: "What do you need to say?"   And following that, we would respond, "You are forgiven."  Then always a hug.  Never a discipline without a tender touch of affirmation afterward.  That was it.  Once forgiven, no further mention of what they did would happen again.  If it's forgiven, it's over and we move forward in the relationship.  Grace covers all and we don't bring it up again.  Teaching them to respond in this way becomes a positive piece of their emotional vocabulary.  It's not shame based, but its grace based.  

And when I screw up, I say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me?"  My children have heard me ask for forgiveness from them and from their mom (my dear bride) 100 times or more.  It's the oxygen of human flourishing.  

If someone isn't ready to respond, "I forgive you", that's OK, but it's not OK to walk away at that point.  We either continue to talk it through, or we set a time later that day when we're going to return to the subject and bring resolution.  Doing this with a 2 year old is pretty quick: and the offenses are pretty minor.  But as you move into the teen years, these are critically important words that will hold the family together then so much conspires to tear it apart.  The complexity of conflict increases, but the words remain surprisingly simple:  "I'm sorry.  That wasn't thoughtful of me.  I will not make excuses.  Will you forgive me?"

Related to the above thought about swatting them on the bum when they were little, I remember one time when my son did something particularly disobedient.  He was maybe 3.  He just wanted to be defiant that day and it really pushed my buttons.  I knew that for my sake, I needed to step away from the situation to cool off.  So he got a time out, but he knew that he probably was going to get a spanking for that (he had hurt his sister and done something dangerous, and then lied about it -- one of the few spankable offenses in our rule book).  So after a 10 minute time out, I called him over.  The discussion was simple: "What did you do?"  He quietly confessed.  Then, without me saying, he said, "I'm sorry Papa.  Will you forgive me?"  I did.  I said, "I have to spank you because you lied to me."  A quick three swats on his bum, and it was over.  Then he INSTINCTIVELY reached his little arms up to me for a hug.  I held him for 20 seconds, and then he was off and about his little business --- no shame, no baggage, and a lesson learned positively.

People may disagree about spanking and I totally respect that.  But the result of that interaction was beautiful, tender, affirming of all we wanted for our children, and overwhelmingly positive.  

5.  As stated by several people above, each child is unique, so you have to find what works for them, both in discipline, but also affirmation.  Find the unique ways of affirming each child in the way they like to be loved (affirming words, hugs, going for ice-cream, all of the above . . .).  Even today, my 21 year-old daughter just wanted to be listened to.  We sat on the couch and I made space to affirm her as I listened to her share about her stressful weekend.  My son, on the other hand, loves it when I take him out for a burrito or we go to a ball game or movie.  If I come directly at him and ask, "So how are you doing?", he doesn't like that.  But sitting side by side as we watch a football game, I can quietly inquire, "How are things going?" and he'll open up.  He wants that, but you just can't be so direct.

6.  Share the struggles of your own journey.  Both historically ("when I was growing up, this was really tough for me") as well as contemporary ("I've had a difficult week with this person at work").  In our family, we pray about these things together.

7.  Traditions.  Kids thrive on this.  This is all a part of my first point: consistency.  Putting up the Christmas tree, opening gifts on Christmas eve, making fondu on Christmas eve, squeezing fresh orange juice on Christmas morning, going for Thai food on birthdays, all family swims on hot summer evenings, me out on the grill making tri-tip or brisket, summer traditions, fall traditions, birthday traditions, little songs and rituals and repeated things.  My daughter LOVES these kinds of things.  She'll run to the kitchen and dig out a special deviled egg dish or turkey-shaped salt and pepper shakers.  The love returning to Taco Surf for dinner on warm summer evenings the weekend before they go back to college, and then getting a caramel role at Sweet Jills afterward.  

One of our traditions is that on your birthday, you get to ask anyone else around the table any question you want, and they have to answer honestly.  

We've got this piece of wood -- a birch 1 x 2 that is about 7 feet long.  On their birthdays, we would stand them up against the stick and measure their height, seeing how much they'd grown over the past year.  (I started this because I thought that if we measured them against a door-frame, for instance, what would happen if we moved?  All those precious lines that marked their growth through the years would be lost.) . On the back of the piece of wood is written the bible verse, Luke 2:52.  We say it together and then the commentary goes about who grew faster last year, who is gaining on whom, etc.  A silly little tradition, but one that adds color and texture and sentiment.  

OK -- that's WAY more than you asked for.  

Grace to you as you raise your precious little ones.
 
Mick Fisch
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You can't control when it's quality time.  You have to be there, in all ways.   The kid also.  Then, sometimes, it magically happens.  You may not even recognize a quality moment for your child.  So you have to give them time and attention.
 
elle sagenev
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Mick Fisch wrote:You can't control when it's quality time.  You have to be there, in all ways.   The kid also.  Then, sometimes, it magically happens.  You may not even recognize a quality moment for your child.  So you have to give them time and attention.



Is this in response to me? I do believe the point is that kids do need attention. I stayed home for a time and was friends with other stay at homes. Just because they are home with their children does not mean they are giving them attention. In fact it's easier to give less attention to someone you are around constantly. Hence my saying when I'm with my children they have my full attention.
 
julian Gerona
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Thank you all for the beautiful advices. I will try to sum up from what I've read above.

1; "Be an example children copy". For this reason I believe that raising children generally starts with being a happy person. Our little one came to our home when he was around 4 month old. Even before he arrive I already cautioned everyone in the household saying " sad and poker face is no longer allowed in this house, also anger especially in front of the little one". Infants are most susceptible to the energy surrounding the place they are very quick to adapt to it.

2.Children come as they are. They already have their own personality, a set of strength as well as weaknesses. Thanks Ed for the beautiful quote. i wish I have known it 25 years before.

3. Spend time with them especially on things that interest them.

4. Set definite boundaries.
 
Tereza Okava
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Elle, I kind of see it the opposite way- memories and learning happen all the time, whenever, no matter what your arrangement. I went back to work early (9 months) and worked the whole darn time, my daughter rode along with me or with her father sometimes, and we had a fabulous time, and made great memories. I never really saw it as a choice or something lost. We simply did what had to be done with what we had, and it was still great fun.
 
master pollinator
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I have always talked to my kids as if they were adults. Not adult topics, or adult-foul-language, but what I mean is, no baby-talk.


 
Travis Johnson
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My kids had no concept of money, so we changed dollar amounts to American Girl Dolls. Okay, so I only have girls, but they knew an American Girl Doll was $100, or a lot of money. So when they asked for something we could not afford, to put it finacial terms they could understand, we converted it the the number of American Girl Dolls it would cost. Say a trip to Disney World. Say that cost $7000, we would say, "Jeeshhh, that would cost us 700 American Girl Dolls.

They might not know how much $7000 is, but they knew 700 expensive dolls was a lot!
 
elle sagenev
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Tereza Okava wrote:Elle, I kind of see it the opposite way- memories and learning happen all the time, whenever, no matter what your arrangement. I went back to work early (9 months) and worked the whole darn time, my daughter rode along with me or with her father sometimes, and we had a fabulous time, and made great memories. I never really saw it as a choice or something lost. We simply did what had to be done with what we had, and it was still great fun.



I'm not sure I understand. Or perhaps it is that I'm not being understood. I don't know. All I know is that spending active quality time with ones kids is what I'm saying. Not just being physically present with them but mentally and emotionally present as well.
 
Tereza Okava
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elle sagenev wrote:spending active quality time with ones kids is what I'm saying. Not just being physically present with them but mentally and emotionally present as well.


that makes sense. i also may not have been clear either. i meant to say that i didn`t think the response was personal.
 
julian Gerona
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Travis Johnson wrote:My kids had no concept of money, so we changed dollar amounts to American Girl Dolls. Okay, so I only have girls, but they knew an American Girl Doll was $100, or a lot of money. So when they asked for something we could not afford, to put it finacial terms they could understand, we converted it the the number of American Girl Dolls it would cost. Say a trip to Disney World. Say that cost $7000, we would say, "Jeeshhh, that would cost us 700 American Girl Dolls.

They might not know how much $7000 is, but they knew 700 expensive dolls was a lot!



Hey mate that's fun. But forgive my poor English , they are not as good as they may appear on witting. this is kind of confusing to me.

:My kids had no concept of money:, ...  "but they knew an American Girl Doll was $100, "
 
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I've been out of the kid toy market for years. Had to look that one up. Apparently American Girl is a brand of doll for kids. Has Barbie been dethroned?
 
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So much good stuff here. My kids are grown, one grandkid so far.

Biggest ones for me are giving each child exactly what they need at a given point and time, not trying to give each one the "same". Never being afraid to admit that I made a mistake to my kids, whether in reference to my treatment of them, like yelling/lashing out when it isn't helpful, or in reference to my personal life choices. reassuring them that you can make a bad choice and recover from it. But mostly, just being there with them in the trenches so to speak. Whether it's being there dealing with bad medical stuff, or breakups, arrests, whatever, I'm here, I love you, we will get through it.

Oh, now, I'm all emotional.
 
julian Gerona
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Marco Banks wrote:

Mick Fisch wrote:

What works brilliantly for one may be a failure for another child.  

Admit it when you're wrong and apologize if appropriate.

It can really suck to be the adult in the room, but that is your job.  Kids need a parent more than they need a friend.

Enjoy them, treasure them.  In the end, houses, cars, etc are just stuff.  Your kids are what matter.  



Yes, yes, yes and yes to all the above.

We've only got 2, but they've turned into great young adults.  Both have found their way and are growing into amazing people with a clear direction in their life and are making wise decisions.

I would add:

1.  Consistency.  Bed-times are firm -- with few exceptions.  Meal times are consistent, and food put on the plate is eaten.  For things that they don't want to try, you put one (peas, green beans, whatever) per year of age.  Thus, a two year old is expected to eat 2 lima beans.  If there is an expectation about behavior, you must consistently enforce that expectation with few (if any) exceptions.  A lack of disciplined consistency on the part of the parent will produce that same in their child.

That just sounded like advise from the resident hard-ass, but it doesn't mean that you are militant or inflexible.  But if you say bath time is 8:00 and bed time is 9:00, you need to be consistent.  We expected obedience on the first ask.  I go crazy when I see parents standing over a 2-year-old tyrant counting, "1 . . . 2 . . . I mean it this time . . . 2 and a half . . . you don't want me to get to 3".  How absolutely crazy.  The child should clearly know your expectation for them, and if they fail to do it, they already know what the consequence will be.  One ask, and if they don't do it, you quietly give them a time out.

2.  For every "no", there needs to be plenty of "yes's".  Our home was a creative workshop.  It was messy at times, but we encouraged exploration, experimentation, and discussion when there were decisions that the kids didn't like.  Find a way to say yes to their best instincts: classic reinforcement of good behavior.

3.  We never use the term "punishment".  We spoke of discipline when there was a need for firmer correction.  As someone who was raised by an angry father who used the belt, I determined never to "hit" my child or discipline them in any way that was angry.  We did spank, VERY RARELY, and it was only in the face of outright disobedience.  I little smack on a diaper'ed bottom has a way of breaking through the attitude that needs adjustment.  And once the kids were verbal, no more.  So after the age of 3, I would strongly protest anyone swatting a little bottom.  It's counterproductive at that point.

Time-outs were our go-to form of correction.  Time outs were expected to be silent.  If they yelled, the time would start over.  Who is being disciplined here?  If the child is punishing you, then something is wrong.  They are expected to be quiet.  Then once it's over, there is a hug, words of forgiveness and away they go.  

4.  We use the words, "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"  Both parts.  When the children were young, we'd prompt them with these words after they got busted for something.  Once their time-out was over, we would call them over: "What do you need to say?"   And following that, we would respond, "You are forgiven."  Then always a hug.  Never a discipline without a tender touch of affirmation afterward.  That was it.  Once forgiven, no further mention of what they did would happen again.  If it's forgiven, it's over and we move forward in the relationship.  Grace covers all and we don't bring it up again.  Teaching them to respond in this way becomes a positive piece of their emotional vocabulary.  It's not shame based, but its grace based.  

And when I screw up, I say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me?"  My children have heard me ask for forgiveness from them and from their mom (my dear bride) 100 times or more.  It's the oxygen of human flourishing.  

If someone isn't ready to respond, "I forgive you", that's OK, but it's not OK to walk away at that point.  We either continue to talk it through, or we set a time later that day when we're going to return to the subject and bring resolution.  Doing this with a 2 year old is pretty quick: and the offenses are pretty minor.  But as you move into the teen years, these are critically important words that will hold the family together then so much conspires to tear it apart.  The complexity of conflict increases, but the words remain surprisingly simple:  "I'm sorry.  That wasn't thoughtful of me.  I will not make excuses.  Will you forgive me?"

Related to the above thought about swatting them on the bum when they were little, I remember one time when my son did something particularly disobedient.  He was maybe 3.  He just wanted to be defiant that day and it really pushed my buttons.  I knew that for my sake, I needed to step away from the situation to cool off.  So he got a time out, but he knew that he probably was going to get a spanking for that (he had hurt his sister and done something dangerous, and then lied about it -- one of the few spankable offenses in our rule book).  So after a 10 minute time out, I called him over.  The discussion was simple: "What did you do?"  He quietly confessed.  Then, without me saying, he said, "I'm sorry Papa.  Will you forgive me?"  I did.  I said, "I have to spank you because you lied to me."  A quick three swats on his bum, and it was over.  Then he INSTINCTIVELY reached his little arms up to me for a hug.  I held him for 20 seconds, and then he was off and about his little business --- no shame, no baggage, and a lesson learned positively.

People may disagree about spanking and I totally respect that.  But the result of that interaction was beautiful, tender, affirming of all we wanted for our children, and overwhelmingly positive.  

5.  As stated by several people above, each child is unique, so you have to find what works for them, both in discipline, but also affirmation.  Find the unique ways of affirming each child in the way they like to be loved (affirming words, hugs, going for ice-cream, all of the above . . .).  Even today, my 21 year-old daughter just wanted to be listened to.  We sat on the couch and I made space to affirm her as I listened to her share about her stressful weekend.  My son, on the other hand, loves it when I take him out for a burrito or we go to a ball game or movie.  If I come directly at him and ask, "So how are you doing?", he doesn't like that.  But sitting side by side as we watch a football game, I can quietly inquire, "How are things going?" and he'll open up.  He wants that, but you just can't be so direct.

6.  Share the struggles of your own journey.  Both historically ("when I was growing up, this was really tough for me") as well as contemporary ("I've had a difficult week with this person at work").  In our family, we pray about these things together.

7.  Traditions.  Kids thrive on this.  This is all a part of my first point: consistency.  Putting up the Christmas tree, opening gifts on Christmas eve, making fondu on Christmas eve, squeezing fresh orange juice on Christmas morning, going for Thai food on birthdays, all family swims on hot summer evenings, me out on the grill making tri-tip or brisket, summer traditions, fall traditions, birthday traditions, little songs and rituals and repeated things.  My daughter LOVES these kinds of things.  She'll run to the kitchen and dig out a special deviled egg dish or turkey-shaped salt and pepper shakers.  The love returning to Taco Surf for dinner on warm summer evenings the weekend before they go back to college, and then getting a caramel role at Sweet Jills afterward.  

One of our traditions is that on your birthday, you get to ask anyone else around the table any question you want, and they have to answer honestly.  

We've got this piece of wood -- a birch 1 x 2 that is about 7 feet long.  On their birthdays, we would stand them up against the stick and measure their height, seeing how much they'd grown over the past year.  (I started this because I thought that if we measured them against a door-frame, for instance, what would happen if we moved?  All those precious lines that marked their growth through the years would be lost.) . On the back of the piece of wood is written the bible verse, Luke 2:52.  We say it together and then the commentary goes about who grew faster last year, who is gaining on whom, etc.  A silly little tradition, but one that adds color and texture and sentiment.  

OK -- that's WAY more than you asked for.  

Grace to you as you raise your precious little ones.



"OK -- that's WAY more than you asked for."

Yep I guess so . Some good points and some points that I will disagree which I'd like to mention because of the possibility that I did not understand you right. This is important to me and I am not taking any chances.

"So after the age of 3, I would strongly protest anyone swatting a little bottom.  It's counterproductive at that point."

I wish you have explained why is it so. But anyway to me swatting a little butt is totally unacceptable more so below 3 years old. for how would you explain to the less than 3 year old butt that what he did was wrong or dangerous. Our little one will climb anywhere grab anything even chairs that will normally fall upon his head had I not installed a safety lock. he is putting himself in danger or even hurt himself. Shall I spank him for that? How would he know the reason for the spanking?

You dont have to answer my queries if you dont feel like doing it. You have been more than generous with your time in sharing what you believe in. But I will appreciate it if you can spare a little more of your time.
 
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I have the pleasure and responsibility of raising 5 kids. Oldest is 23, youngest is 4.

Some great advice already given.

I think that to children love is a three letter word, FUN.

I think FUN is like the sweetness that helps medicine go down. Each kid finds different things fun, but its easist to do often if the parent finds it fun too. For me this has meant rolling around on the floor with them, climbing trees, hide and seek, and being silly (licking noses and ears, eating bugs for shock value, etc)

As for boundaries and discipline, if you are lovimg kids and having fun with them, you are making deposits. When you need to discipline, they are more apt to recieve it well.

I did smack some hands and pat some bums, and I explained to the little ones that I am causing a tiny bit of pain to help them avoid greater pain. My youngest had a tendency to walk into the road. I set him on the edge and said stay. Each time he went in the road, I smacled his little hand. I think it took 3 smacks to vastly reduced the risk of him one day being struck by a car. We are best friends today.

Life will teach them boundaries if you don't, but the consequences may be far greater.
 
Mick Fisch
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Mick Fisch wrote:
You can't control when it's quality time.  You have to be there, in all ways.   The kid also.  Then, sometimes, it magically happens.  You may not even recognize a quality moment for your child.  So you have to give them time and attention.



Is this in response to me? I do believe the point is that kids do need attention. I stayed home for a time and was friends with other stay at homes. Just because they are home with their children does not mean they are giving them attention. In fact it's easier to give less attention to someone you are around constantly. Hence my saying when I'm with my children they have my full attention.



Elle, this was not a response to you.  I agree with everything you said.  I think your post brought it to my mind, so I brought it up.  The quality time thing has always been a little bit of a sore spot for me because I remember back when the "quality time" notion first hit the book stores and there were lots of people abusing the notion by saying things like, "Sure, I spend very little time with my kids, but then we go to Disneyland for a few days a year and spend quality time with them".  I always thought that sounded lame.  

Only the government is allowed to throw lots of money at things and declare them solved, with no proof.

The quality time I remember as a child was things like my mom scratching my back or telling us stories, playing cards at the kitchen table, my dad getting me to help him with some job that I really didn't want to be part of, but feeling like we had accomplished something significant together when it was done and he put a hand on my shoulder and thanked me for my help.  I remember many times when the whole fam damily used to pile into the car and drive down the back roads, with my mom laughing and telling stories and my dad stopping periodically to shoot doves off the lines with a 22.  (we were poaching).  It stands out in my memory as a wonderful time.  I asked my folks why we did that when I was an adult and they told me it was because they didn't have anything else to make a meal with.  Rather than a hard time, or a bad time, they made it a wonderful time.

Quality time with your kid can't happen if your mind is a million miles away.  Quality time happens when it happens.  You can try to schedule it, but mostly you have to BE THERE, and not just physically.

I had a job for years that required me to be out of town about 1/3 to1/2 the weeks of the year, from monday through friday.  I occasionally had to be gone over the weekend too, but that was only a few time a year.  I always felt bad about it (and the honeydo list NEVER got any shorter).  I know it put an extra load on my wife.  I've asked my kids about it and they all say that they realized I was out of town somethimes, but they didn't really realize I was gone that much because when I was home I was with them.  I always had at least one kid with me when I was working around the house or had to go somewhere.  When I had to take a load to the dump, we made it a group activity and it was fun, seeing who could throw the bags of trash higher, or some silly thing like that.  I would do silly things like tell them we couldn't stop at the cheap candy store, then start yelling as I turned into it's parking lot "Oh, no!  The car is turning into the parking lot all by itself, I can't stop it..... Darn!  I guess we might as well get a candy bar while we're here."  I would play guitar and sing when they were going to sleep at night.  We would turn out all the lights in the house, light a small candle and gather around for a story night.  A few times a years we would organize a poetry night and everyone would have to write a poem and read it.  Some really good poems were written.  We had cable for a year or two, but we got rid of it because it was interfering with our together time.  We did have quite a collection of videos, but a video ends at some point.  TV doesn't.  It also gave us more control on what came into the house.  

There's an old saying "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink".  Someone added to it "but you can salt the oats",  We couldn't control exactly when the quality time happened, but we salted the oats as much as we could.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:My kids had no concept of money, so we changed dollar amounts to American Girl Dolls. Okay, so I only have girls, but they knew an American Girl Doll was $100, or a lot of money. So when they asked for something we could not afford, to put it finacial terms they could understand, we converted it the the number of American Girl Dolls it would cost. Say a trip to Disney World. Say that cost $7000, we would say, "Jeeshhh, that would cost us 700 American Girl Dolls.

They might not know how much $7000 is, but they knew 700 expensive dolls was a lot!



I have a story about the teaching power of the cost of an American Doll.

When I was young, I really, really, REALLY wanted one. I wanted the Victorian Samantha doll. I'd get the catalog in the mail and dream about having my own doll

(These dolls, for those who don't know, are not like Barbie Dolls. They are at least a foot tall, posable dolls. You can get strollers and beds and dressers and all sorts of accessories for the dolls.  As well as matching clothes for yourself. These are all, of course, very expensive, and add up if you want all the accessories. They have historical dolls that teach about different american eras and cultures--a swedish pioneer, a native american from the 1900s, a Victorian doll, etc, etc. And they also allow you to customize your doll to look like you, and there's new accessories for the modern doll every year).

Like I said, I really wanted one. And, my parents were not about to buy one for me. Interestingly enough, inflation hasn't affected the cost of these dolls that much. When I was 12--a little over 20 years ago--they cost $99. I got a $10 allowance each month. My parents said I could save up my allowance to buy one. After a whole year of buying nothing, I had $120, enough to buy a doll and one accessory. It was then I realized that I did not need a doll, and I didn't want to spend all my money on a doll. So, I put most of it the bank and the rest to the church and maybe bought a book.

This was an extremely important lesson that I carried throughout my whole life. To this day, when I look at something, I ask myself if it's something I need, or something I want, and if I'd rather use the money for something else.

I think one thing my parents did really well was make sure we knew the difference between wants and needs. They paid for our food and clothing (thrift store stuff, but we never cared for new and the price difference from new and thrift is extreme), but they didn't give us toys except for Christmas and our birthday. Christmas/birthdays were for wants. We always had our needs met. it really helped me to know and understand on a subconscious level what was a need, and what was a want, and to have the internal security to know I would always have my needs met. That's a huge things to give to a child!

Growing up, my husband's parents did not know how to manage money, and they often had utilities turned off and being sent to collections and no food on the table....but they also would buy video games and motorcycles when times were good. My husband grew up not getting his needs met, and sometimes getting his wants met. To this day, he still has problems with wants and needs. He thinks we won't have enough money for what we need, so why not buy something he wants. Even when he logically knows that's wrong, he still struggles with it.
 
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What a lovely group with such wonderful anecdotal advice offered.  My boys are grown and I adore each of them.  It is rather a miracle that they survived as my hubby is a good father and a deplorable babysitter, so there were multiple instances that were dangerous, unhealthy and just plain wrong about their upbringing.
That said, during their growing years we were dirt poor which was a huge blessing in disguise.  They weren't swayed by TV for quite some time and did not go to stores when they were little.  We were, back in the day, rather fanatical Christians.  But the one lovely thing about that was a firm belief that we should raise each child up in the way he should go so that when he was an adult he had that down.  For me, this involved recognizing each son as their own person with their own unique way that I needed to support.  It involved a lot of prayer, time and most of all love through each and every beautiful phase.  The goal was independence, love for themselves and others, and overwhelming love in our relationship.  Two of my boys dropped out if college and hopped trains for an extended period of time and are now both tattoo artists _as is their father) with lovely relationships and community, the third also dropped out and also has beautiful relationships and community and is a hairdresser.  They learned far more of life and love doing it their own way.  Give them space.  Let them be who they are (which may involve revisiting your long held beliefs about how life works, God, what is good, and what love actually means).  Love unconditionally.  Make firm boundaries when they are young but assure that dialog can happen about boundaries as they grow.  Fall in love with plants, or yarn, or food, or water and share that passion with them.  Hug...lots.  Pic is from my oldest sons wedding that I officiated in my garden a few months ago.  ❤
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Raising kids, I raised two, son and daughter.

Observation first:

From 0-5 they think you are Gods.
From 6-13 they challenge but with respect
From 13-15 they think you are a nut and ogre.
From 16-18 they wonder how you feed yourself.
From 19-23 they think your life is regressive.
From 24 - they are in awe at how smart you have become in just two years.

Recommendation second:

Having to cover their own checks is an eyeopener so the key to successful parenting is to be sure your children write their own checks as soon as possible!
 
Mick Fisch
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Something we did that was really effective was to give the kids a treat budget.   It was my wife's idea.  We were living near Chicago and there was a store a couple of blocks away that sold cheap candy.  In the summer they always wanted to go down and get a treat.  I think my wife gave them a $5 a week budget (4 kids and a toddler).  The first week they blew all the money the first day and they had a week long dry spell (I think they all thought they wouldn't survive).  The next week my wife showed them how they could get a little penny candy each day, with maybe a minor splurge at the end of the week.  They really got into it.  When candy was on the line even the preschoolers could figure the numbers after a few weeks.  

I'm not advocating for candy, but I'm sure you can adapt the principle.  $20 a month was a lot for us then, although my wife felt they wheedled more than that out of her, so it actually saved us money, and cut down the on the wheedling.  They would ask for something and we'ld say "you have your budget, is this where you want to spend it?"  That generally ended it.  If they all agreed yes, then that was where the money came from.  Of course, the toddler didn't have as much influence as the older ones, but since whatever was bought was shared equally they were surprisingly fair about it, using gentle persuasion rather than trying to dominate by cruder means.
 
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Most of what I would say has already been said (affection, acceptance, quality time, encouraging their interests, etc). But I do have some other things.

We're trying to be role models and we are authority figures and sometimes it can be hard to admit we're wrong, even to other adults, but you have to be able to go your kids when you've messed up and use it as a teaching moment. Tell them you're sorry. Admit you made a mistake. Talk about mistakes you made in your past so they can learn from that (and not be shocked when they find out later what you did...from their grandparents maybe).

If you get sideswiped by a serious diagnosis of something for them, go ahead and let them see you be sad (not crying hysterically, falling apart stuff, that's for after they're asleep). Tell them it's okay for them to be sad. There's a time for sad. Feel that. Share it. Then move on. Doesn't mean there won't be moments of screaming "I hate this" out loud for them or internally for you, but it teaches them that they can feel their emotions and then let them go and keep living. And if it's Type 1 diabetes, learn to count carbs so they can still have a cookie once in a while or cake on their birthday.

As they get older have long talks. About life, about philosophy, about sports. About anything, and especially about things you both enjoy, or anything that is really weighing on them. You might lose sleep time...they never seem to want to discuss big problems during daylight...but it's worth it.

If you end up with a child with autism who can't talk to you, maybe for years, remember they can still listen and might be taking in and understanding more than you think they do. Find other ways to connect. Music. Laughter. Making a mess in the kitchen while baking cookies. And remember when they act up it could be that they're getting sick, or that they are overwhelmed with sensory input or negative feelings and can't release the pressure through speech, or there are storms coming in (I live with human barometers). Stay calm as much as you can in those moments. If they could control themselves in those moments, they would. And if you've apologized to them, you've already modeled remorse and they will feel it themselves and say they're sorry after they've calmed down.

There may come a time when the child who was your devoted adoring companion as a baby and toddler says "I hate you." That will hurt. Look them in the eye and say "I love you." It won't make things instantly better, but it will make an impression, and it's the absolute best way to respond. If they were just trying to get a reaction, I guarantee that's not the one they expected. By the way some kids are more likely to try this than others.

In the midst of the worst of anything--up in the night, teething, teenagers--remember that it will pass. Those days can feel like forever, but one day you will wonder how it went by so fast.
 
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This works as a teacher or parent:

Treat kids as if they are human, and intelligent. So many adults talk down to them. That does not build confidence or trust. Listen to what the kids say. They're usually honest.
 
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julian Gerona wrote:

Marco Banks wrote:

Yes, yes, yes and yes to all the above.

We've only got 2, but they've turned into great young adults.  Both have found their way and are growing into amazing people with a clear direction in their life and are making wise decisions.

I would add:

1.  Consistency.  Bed-times are firm -- with few exceptions.  Meal times are consistent, and food put on the plate is eaten.  For things that they don't want to try, you put one (peas, green beans, whatever) per year of age.  Thus, a two year old is expected to eat 2 lima beans.  If there is an expectation about behavior, you must consistently enforce that expectation with few (if any) exceptions.  A lack of disciplined consistency on the part of the parent will produce that same in their child.

That just sounded like advise from the resident hard-ass, but it doesn't mean that you are militant or inflexible.  But if you say bath time is 8:00 and bed time is 9:00, you need to be consistent.  We expected obedience on the first ask.  I go crazy when I see parents standing over a 2-year-old tyrant counting, "1 . . . 2 . . . I mean it this time . . . 2 and a half . . . you don't want me to get to 3".  How absolutely crazy.  The child should clearly know your expectation for them, and if they fail to do it, they already know what the consequence will be.  One ask, and if they don't do it, you quietly give them a time out.

2.  For every "no", there needs to be plenty of "yes's".  Our home was a creative workshop.  It was messy at times, but we encouraged exploration, experimentation, and discussion when there were decisions that the kids didn't like.  Find a way to say yes to their best instincts: classic reinforcement of good behavior.

3.  We never use the term "punishment".  We spoke of discipline when there was a need for firmer correction.  As someone who was raised by an angry father who used the belt, I determined never to "hit" my child or discipline them in any way that was angry.  We did spank, VERY RARELY, and it was only in the face of outright disobedience.  I little smack on a diaper'ed bottom has a way of breaking through the attitude that needs adjustment.  And once the kids were verbal, no more.  So after the age of 3, I would strongly protest anyone swatting a little bottom.  It's counterproductive at that point.

Time-outs were our go-to form of correction.  Time outs were expected to be silent.  If they yelled, the time would start over.  Who is being disciplined here?  If the child is punishing you, then something is wrong.  They are expected to be quiet.  Then once it's over, there is a hug, words of forgiveness and away they go.  

4.  We use the words, "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"  Both parts.  When the children were young, we'd prompt them with these words after they got busted for something.  Once their time-out was over, we would call them over: "What do you need to say?"   And following that, we would respond, "You are forgiven."  Then always a hug.  Never a discipline without a tender touch of affirmation afterward.  That was it.  Once forgiven, no further mention of what they did would happen again.  If it's forgiven, it's over and we move forward in the relationship.  Grace covers all and we don't bring it up again.  Teaching them to respond in this way becomes a positive piece of their emotional vocabulary.  It's not shame based, but its grace based.  

And when I screw up, I say, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me?"  My children have heard me ask for forgiveness from them and from their mom (my dear bride) 100 times or more.  It's the oxygen of human flourishing.  

If someone isn't ready to respond, "I forgive you", that's OK, but it's not OK to walk away at that point.  We either continue to talk it through, or we set a time later that day when we're going to return to the subject and bring resolution.  Doing this with a 2 year old is pretty quick: and the offenses are pretty minor.  But as you move into the teen years, these are critically important words that will hold the family together then so much conspires to tear it apart.  The complexity of conflict increases, but the words remain surprisingly simple:  "I'm sorry.  That wasn't thoughtful of me.  I will not make excuses.  Will you forgive me?"

Related to the above thought about swatting them on the bum when they were little, I remember one time when my son did something particularly disobedient.  He was maybe 3.  He just wanted to be defiant that day and it really pushed my buttons.  I knew that for my sake, I needed to step away from the situation to cool off.  So he got a time out, but he knew that he probably was going to get a spanking for that (he had hurt his sister and done something dangerous, and then lied about it -- one of the few spankable offenses in our rule book).  So after a 10 minute time out, I called him over.  The discussion was simple: "What did you do?"  He quietly confessed.  Then, without me saying, he said, "I'm sorry Papa.  Will you forgive me?"  I did.  I said, "I have to spank you because you lied to me."  A quick three swats on his bum, and it was over.  Then he INSTINCTIVELY reached his little arms up to me for a hug.  I held him for 20 seconds, and then he was off and about his little business --- no shame, no baggage, and a lesson learned positively.

People may disagree about spanking and I totally respect that.  But the result of that interaction was beautiful, tender, affirming of all we wanted for our children, and overwhelmingly positive.  

5.  As stated by several people above, each child is unique, so you have to find what works for them, both in discipline, but also affirmation.  Find the unique ways of affirming each child in the way they like to be loved (affirming words, hugs, going for ice-cream, all of the above . . .).  Even today, my 21 year-old daughter just wanted to be listened to.  We sat on the couch and I made space to affirm her as I listened to her share about her stressful weekend.  My son, on the other hand, loves it when I take him out for a burrito or we go to a ball game or movie.  If I come directly at him and ask, "So how are you doing?", he doesn't like that.  But sitting side by side as we watch a football game, I can quietly inquire, "How are things going?" and he'll open up.  He wants that, but you just can't be so direct.

6.  Share the struggles of your own journey.  Both historically ("when I was growing up, this was really tough for me") as well as contemporary ("I've had a difficult week with this person at work").  In our family, we pray about these things together.

7.  Traditions.  Kids thrive on this.  This is all a part of my first point: consistency.  Putting up the Christmas tree, opening gifts on Christmas eve, making fondu on Christmas eve, squeezing fresh orange juice on Christmas morning, going for Thai food on birthdays, all family swims on hot summer evenings, me out on the grill making tri-tip or brisket, summer traditions, fall traditions, birthday traditions, little songs and rituals and repeated things.  My daughter LOVES these kinds of things.  She'll run to the kitchen and dig out a special deviled egg dish or turkey-shaped salt and pepper shakers.  The love returning to Taco Surf for dinner on warm summer evenings the weekend before they go back to college, and then getting a caramel role at Sweet Jills afterward.  

One of our traditions is that on your birthday, you get to ask anyone else around the table any question you want, and they have to answer honestly.  

We've got this piece of wood -- a birch 1 x 2 that is about 7 feet long.  On their birthdays, we would stand them up against the stick and measure their height, seeing how much they'd grown over the past year.  (I started this because I thought that if we measured them against a door-frame, for instance, what would happen if we moved?  All those precious lines that marked their growth through the years would be lost.) . On the back of the piece of wood is written the bible verse, Luke 2:52.  We say it together and then the commentary goes about who grew faster last year, who is gaining on whom, etc.  A silly little tradition, but one that adds color and texture and sentiment.  

OK -- that's WAY more than you asked for.  

Grace to you as you raise your precious little ones.



"OK -- that's WAY more than you asked for."

Yep I guess so . Some good points and some points that I will disagree which I'd like to mention because of the possibility that I did not understand you right. This is important to me and I am not taking any chances.

"So after the age of 3, I would strongly protest anyone swatting a little bottom.  It's counterproductive at that point."

I wish you have explained why is it so. But anyway to me swatting a little butt is totally unacceptable more so below 3 years old. for how would you explain to the less than 3 year old butt that what he did was wrong or dangerous. Our little one will climb anywhere grab anything even chairs that will normally fall upon his head had I not installed a safety lock. he is putting himself in danger or even hurt himself. Shall I spank him for that? How would he know the reason for the spanking?

You dont have to answer my queries if you dont feel like doing it. You have been more than generous with your time in sharing what you believe in. But I will appreciate it if you can spare a little more of your time.



I didn't see your question answered yet, so I thought I would try to quickly and objectively explain how spanking stops unwanted behavior. Animal learning and behavior was my area of study in graduate school. To be clear, this is not a judgement of right or wrong, this is a quick explanation to the best of my knowledge.

The goal of punishment, in this case spanking, is to stop the child from repeating a behavior.

I'll use the walking into the road example. Your goal is for your child to stop walking into the road. When they try to step into the road, they feel the pain of the smack. They learn: If I walk into street, then pain. Usually children want to avoid pain, the behavior (walking into the road) stops.

The child has been conditioned (learned) that going into road=pain. This kind of conditioning is called positive punishment (positive means you added something(the pain)).

For children who are too young to understand why they are spanked, they will simply learn that their behavior has caused the spanking and pain, so they avoid the behavior in the future.

Timing of the spanking is important for learning to occur.

The younger the child, the quicker you have to spank. If too much time has passed between behavior and spanking, the child may not learn the connection.

As children get verbal skills, you can tell them why they are being spanked and they can learn the connection even when some time has passed.

As children get even older and get more cognitive skills, learning becomes more complex. Spanking becomes less effective at stopping unwanted behavior for many reasons. For example, when they learn that spankings only come from their parents, they may still do the behavior when they know their parents won't find out. Or they may think spanking is an unfair punishment causing resentment.

Each child is different, each parent is different, each spank is different. When spanking is used at the wrong time or too often or without explanation, it may still stop the unwanted behavior, but may also have lasting negative effects on the child's mental health.  

You can use anything that a child wants to avoid to achieve the same learning. Each child will have a different threshold for avoidance. For example, some children will learn from just a low tone of voice and disappointed, frowning face. Others may only learn after many repetitions.

There are other kinds of conditioning, like positive reinforcement, that also change behavior.

I could go on all day about learning mechanisms. I hope this answered your question about spanking, if not please ask again!



Also I will quickly add my advice, even though my kid is only two years old:

Go with your gut. (It means trust your instincts.)
It's okay to change your mind, just explain why.
It's important to take care of yourself too.

I know you asked about happiness, but everyone has negative emotions sometimes and that's ok! Be careful not to punish negative emotions. It is important for children to learn the words and tools to deal with all of their emotions as early as possible.

Feel free to ask any questions you have. I love talking about this stuff.
 
pollinator
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One little trick that I found effective: when my boys would fight, I would make them stand up, face each other, look the other in the eye, shake hands, and say “brothers and friends forever.”  

They could not do it with a straight face, and would soon be giggling, fight over.  

To this day, they are very close as adults. I can’t prove it was because of this, but I do know it was very effective at defusing the dispute.
 
john mcginnis
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Artie Scott wrote:One little trick that I found effective: when my boys would fight, I would make them stand up, face each other, look the other in the eye, shake hands, and say “brothers and friends forever.”  

They could not do it with a straight face, and would soon be giggling, fight over.  

To this day, they are very close as adults. I can’t prove it was because of this, but I do know it was very effective at defusing the dispute.



When my son was in the 5/6 grades if a fight started the PE instructor took over. Gloves and helmets were doffed and the fight ensued. 3-4 minutes later both were exhausted and the engagement ended. Why encourge it? -- to end it.

* Fighting does not mean you always win. The calculus of a loss tempers one's willingness to fight to begin with.
* The real point was burn off excess energy. That is part of the reasons boys are considered 'trouble' by schools. Would be less of that if school systems had not eliminated much of the physical activities.

Have never been one for fighting but the coach had a moral lesson delivered in every one of them. Nobody was ever injured, the gloves were like pillows.
 
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