[Parenting] Appealing to the Mind or the Behind

A good friend of ours posted this on Twitter and asked me my thoughts:

Jason Asked About Unschooling

Even after I responded, I thought about the question for a few days, as it brought up much of what I process each day as Kris and I maintain our commitment to unschooling Marley and Sage-Niambi.

We have, and always will, encourage our daughters to practice self-inquiry, self-expression, and self-governance.  But they are young and they are still unaware of much of the social implications that come along with prioritizing their emotional wellness, which is what all those “self” principles are about.  So, we make room for their growing/understanding, and we correct course as we go along.

That works for us, and we are very proud of who our daughters are, and very excited about who they are becoming.  When we committed to unschooling, we could not have imagined how much we (Kris and I) would benefit from the practice.  We are learning so much more about the girls’ personalities, learning styles, quirks, etc.  Sending them off to school during their most active hours, for our family, cost us far more than we gained.  I realize now that I operated, in many instances, as if the girls were interruptions to my life’s flow, and I’m sure they felt that.

Now, it’s different.  Not perfect; but certainly better.  Now, we use the analogy of a farm.  We have this land—the four of us—and we get to farm that land, each of us with our own skills, and we reap the benefits together.  The girls have learned how to cook, they’ve learned to have conversations in settings with adults, and they’re learning a lot about goal-setting and consequences in ways that they could not have learned in a classroom with a group of children.

Now, as most of you will probably already know, this is not me judging parents whose children are in school.  Nor is this me saying that school equals bad; home equals good.  Nor is it me saying that everyone needs to do what we do. I am saying though, that I appeal to my highest emotional space as much as I can, and when I do that, a physical consequence is not usually what comes to mind.  I am also saying that in response to Jason’s question, this is what I know and feel:

When I focus solely on discipline in a tangible form (a spanking, whoop ass, bus’ ass’n — depending on where you’re from), that’s typically from a place of anger and frustration.  That is less about teaching them something, and more about me not knowing what else to do to get the result I want.  However, when I focus on “appealing to my daughters’ minds”, that is more about me standing in our expectations, and maintaining consistency in terms of what Kris and I deem acceptable, and what we find inappropriate.  This can be challenging because we do give them room to express themselves, but we use intuition, research (yes, I believe in that!), prayer, and good ole-fashioned heart-to-heart talks with our girls to keep our farm in working order, both tangibly and emotionally.

I am not the parent who will say that I would never ever spank.  It’s not excluded from our arsenal at all.  It’s an option; always, but I think it depends on your child, and it depends on YOUR mind, and YOUR emotional state in the moment.  I would say, however, that MOST parents use physical discipline out of frustration, and that it should not be the first line of recourse.

What about you?  Do you appeal more to your child’s mind? Or are you  that old-school-no remorse-get the switch/belt parent?

Either way, just know that we teach our children much more with our actions than we do with mere words.  So, if you do not believe that violence is the way to resolve conflicts, then please consider what it might say to your child if you use physical discipline as your primary source of training.  No judgment, just reasoning…

You can always email me with your thoughts–I LOVE that!

Our Transition to Unschooling by Akilah S. Richards