Wednesday, August 16, 2006

more on discipline...

Thanks to all who commented on my parenting post. To respond to some of the points of those who commented, both here and in the original discussion over at Danielle Bean's site...

I am sure that Dr. Ray is a great guy. I did not mean to imply that he is a bad parent or a bad Catholic. From what I know of his beliefs, I think that his understanding of the human person and child development is not entirely in keeping with the Catholic faith. But I know lots of parents who spank and are otherwise not very "AP", and are still good parents and good Catholics. I just think they aren't living the fullness of what Catholic parenting should be. (Not that I don't often fall very, very short.) Dr. Ray sounds a lot like Dr. Dobson - and the Catholic way to parent should be different from the Protestant way, because we have an entirely different view of the human person.

Gentle parenting is not permissive parenting. Really, it is not! My child does not run wild. We explain to him why he needs to do certain things instead of just ordering him to do it, and let him make the choice. Just an example, tonight we went out for ice cream. One of Samuel's friends was there and got 2 scoops. Well, of course Samuel wanted 2 scoops. Rather than just telling him no, which would have made him upset, I helped him make the decision for himself. I reminded him that he barely finished his one scoop last time, and asked him if he thought 2 scoops would be a good idea. He thought about it and decided that one scoop was sufficient, and happily ordered his chocolate cone. No tantrum, no argument, just a five-year-old making a good choice. Now, if he had still wanted 2 scoops, I would have let him have it, because if you're going to make it the child's choice, you have to mean it. (In which case, we would have discussed wastefulness when he failed to finish the cone, or he would have experienced some rather unpleasant natural consequences if he managed to cram it all in.) Just to clarify, I do not let Samuel choose every little detail of our lives. Some things he just has to do. But I believe he is much more cooperative at those times because I do let him have as much control over his own life as I can. Because I am willing to work with him, he is more willing to work with me.

A common response to this sort of talk is, "Well, I'm glad that works for your child, but it would never work for my child." If that is your reaction, I would encourage you to give it a shot. Your child may surprise you. Children are so much more capable than we give them credit for. Although I would guess that there might be a brief transition period where your child might run a little wild with their newfound freedom of choice until a new trust is established between you. Kind of like "deschooling" when embarking on an unschooling lifestyle. Someone (I can't remember who! Sorry!) once said that you can't really dabble in unschooling, that it has to be a way of life. I think that the same can be said for the attachment parenting/gentle discipline lifestyle - trying it for a day or a week won't really tell you if it works. You have to really do it for a longer period of time until it is a way of life to really see the difference.

Another common response is simply that we all do what works for us, and as long as it works, it's fine. This kind of relativism is very disturbing to me. I don't think that there are many (if any) actual moral relativists in the world (if you find one, ask them if it's okay if you punch them in the nose), but that's what that type of statement suggests. As Catholics, we do believe in moral absolutes, and morality is all about how we treat people - including children. Who ever came up with this idea that children should be subjected to treatment that no one would inflict upon an adult? The next time you need your child to do something - or stop doing something - think of how you would handle the situation if instead of a child, it was another adult. Of course children are not adults, but many of the same principles apply. If you want your child to grow up to be a healthy adult, start treating him more like one! I don't know any adults who would improve their behavior and be more likely to cooperate after being hit, belittled, or told "because I said so". I know I certainly wouldn't. The Golden Rule applies to parenting, too.

With that, I had better get to bed! I'd love to hear what others have to say on this, as it is one of my favorite topics. (As you can you tell!)

11 comments:

Elena said...

From what I know of his beliefs, I think that his understanding of the human person and child development is not entirely in keeping with the Catholic faith.

WOW! What a loaded sentence!!

Care to back it up?

Tracy said...

What I mean is that he seems to have a very Protestant view of the human person - that because of our fallen nature, we're born bad and need a lot of correction and punishment. The Catholic view, which Popcak explains way better than I am about to, is that despite our fallen nature, we are still created in the image and likeness of God. (Many - maybe all? - Protestants believe we are no longer imago dei.) Because of this, the Catholic way to parent should not involve breaking the child's will, assuming the worst of the child, and generally treating the child disrespectfully. You would not strike an adult, why a child - unless you believe that they have lesser value? I will have to come back and revisit this, no time for more now!

Elena said...

Tracy, it is Catholic doctrine to believe that we do have a fallen in nature. That's the doctrine of original sin. There is nothing un-Catholic about that. It is also the basis for the need for the sacraments.

I read the Popack view. He had some good points, but I didn't agree with all of it.

I think it is an error to say that Popack's view is "the Catholic view" and Guarandi's is "Protestant." Catholics are free to disagree on certain things, and this is oen of them.

However, I'm willing to go with this if you can give me a direct quote illustrating what you believe to be Ray Guarandi's view that we are not in the image of God. I have his discipline book, so page number and paragraph would be great and then I can just look it up.

Tracy said...

it is Catholic doctrine to believe that we do have a fallen nature

I said "despite our fallen nature", implying that while we do have one, we are still created in the image of God and must be treated accordingly.

I am sure that Dr. Guarandi's theological beliefs are completely in line with Church teaching - I just don't think that the parenting style he advocates is in line with those beliefs.

You are correct that pious Catholics can disagree on these things, as they have not yet been defined by the Magisterium. The Magisterium has yet to outlaw the death penalty, but I think you can make a good case for that being against Catholic teaching, too. In the meantime, Catholics are free to follow their conscience in the matter. Good Catholic parents can spank their kids - but I think it is good to think and talk about these issues. This is how doctrine develops.

Elena said...

The Magisterium has yet to outlaw the death penalty, but I think you can make a good case for that being against Catholic teaching, too.

Actually the catechism says that the death penalty may be warranted in some extreme circumstances but that it should be rare. It has yet to define "extreme" or what needs to be in place for it to be rare.


In the meantime, Catholics are free to follow their conscience in the matter. Good Catholic parents can spank their kids - but I think it is good to think and talk about these issues. This is how doctrine develops.


I totally agree! However, I don't think it is helpful to label one way "the Catholic" implying that any other way is not. Implying that Dr. Guarandi is somehow less than Catholic without supporting that statement is wrong in my opinion.

Tracy said...

Actually the catechism says that the death penalty may be warranted in some extreme circumstances but that it should be rare. It has yet to define "extreme" or what needs to be in place for it to be rare.

My husband saw your reply, and was kind enough to type up the following for me:
"While it is true that the catechism does allow the death penalty in “extreme gravity,” the same CCC paragraph (2266) concludes by stating, “finally, punishment has a medicinal value; as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.” This is why JP II was so against the death penalty, even praying for an end to it in his 1998 Christmas Day message. Once the offender is killed, the potential for reform and correction ends. JP II says also in Evangelium Vitae that the need for the death penalty in order to defend society is “practically nonexistent.” The Church never called the death penalty a positive good. The Catechism merely says that it was permitted in the past as a viable course of action due to circumstances. However, the statements of JP II and even the wording of the catechism leave suspicion as to whether such circumstances actually exist today. Therefore, it may come to pass that the Church may say that since these circumstances no longer exist, the exercise of capital punishment would be contrary to the moral goals of the Church, even though it was not the case in the past due to different circumstances and penal practices. So even though you are correct to point out the CCC statement on the death penalty, that paragraph does not assert that it is the final word on this practice."

For a sampling of statements from John Paul II on this subject, you can look here.

However, I don't think it is helpful to label one way "the Catholic" implying that any other way is not. Implying that Dr. Guarandi is somehow less than Catholic without supporting that statement is wrong in my opinion.

Guarandi and Popcak directly contradict each other in what they teach. Among other things, Guarandi says spanking is okay, Popcak says it is not. Both cannot be true, so both cannot reflect Catholic teaching. You may believe that Popcak's statements do not reflect Catholic teaching (which is fine!), and I believe that Guarandi's do not. It's uncomfortable to say something that sounds so harsh, but I refuse to be relativistic about this and say both are fine when the two cannot coexist.

Elena said...

However, the statements of JP II and even the wording of the catechism leave suspicion as to whether such circumstances actually exist today.


And that's totally open for debate. I have seen Catholics make a good case for "we ain't there yet." This is a gray area that we can agree to disagree on.


So even though you are correct to point out the CCC statement on the death penalty, that paragraph does not assert that it is the final word on this practice."


OK, but that's not the same as saying that it is against Catholic practice, because the truth is, it's not. As it currently stands, that is an incorrect statement.



Guarandi and Popcak directly contradict each other in what they teach. Among other things, Guarandi says spanking is okay, Popcak says it is not. Both cannot be true, so both cannot reflect Catholic teaching.


Or both could be true in some circumstances, with some children, at certain times.


You may believe that Popcak's statements do not reflect Catholic teaching (which is fine!),

Actually I think Popcak did a great job outlining his thoughts in line with Catholic teaching. I do not however think he is the final definitive word on the matter and I don't think that anyone who disagrees with him is somehow "less Catholic."



It's uncomfortable to say something that sounds so harsh,

Well it's uncomfortable because it's wrong.

but I refuse to be relativistic about this and say both are fine when the two cannot coexist.

LOL!! BUt they do co-exist. They co-exist in my own family.

You are very young. I think you need to be very careful and precise in the language you use when slapping a good, Godly, practicing Catholic with the "un-Catholic" label.

Also, is this the sword you really want to fall on? There are a lot more important things put your reputation on than an occasional swat on the bottom for correction by a loving parent.

Sarah said...

I find this discussion to be very interesting also, so pardon me for jumping in to an ongoing discussion.

My question is regarding the comment about spanking, that "it's okay for some children, in some instances" (pardon me for not quoting directly)

My question then is, how do you decide? What are the elements that go into your decision? Are they based on the current circumstances? based on the child's personality? what factors are they that determine the appropriateness of it?

I think this is what I personally have struggled with...because I have at time ridden that fence of, well, sometimes there is nothing else that will work. But if I am truly honest with myself, and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in my heart, then I will eventually realize that the real reason "nothing else would work" was because I was refusing to love enough to find what would have really worked. I didn't want to take the time, or the effort to do anything more than simply giving a swat.

But my problem then is....if I excuse it one time, where does it end? Because if you can effectively make an argument for a given circumstance "making it okay" to give a swat, then I can bet you I could turn it into an argument to allow for more frequent hitting.

And if it is not a "spur of the moment" situation, but is actually a more planned part of your discipline style (and I'm using "your" in the generic sense), then if you are going to take the time and the effort to decide that this tactic is going to be part of your discipline bag, can't you also simply take a little more time, a little more effort to learn discipline techniques that do not involve physical violence?

I don't think there is really any way that you can escape the relativism that exists in any sort of argument that you may think it is wrong, but I think it is okay. Our Church has been the standard bearer when it comes to saying, This is Truth....one way or the other, black or white. Just because this is an issue that isn't making the front page of the newspapers, or the 24-hour news channels, does not mean that there is any more absence of truth. As Catholics we are called to live the Truth in every moment of our lives, in all those private moments that no one sees but our Heavenly Father. So whether we like it or not every aspect of our lives will be judged as being in accordance with Truth, or against it, and even a decision as to whether to spank or not will not be exempt from that judgement. So yes, I think that we all need to be as concerned with this issue just as strongly as we would be with any other issue that may seem more "important."

John C. Hathaway said...

You establish as the litmus test for parenting morality the question of whether one would do the same to an adult. The question is one of relationship. In religious orders, corporal punishment used to be standard practice. And look what's happened to the religious orders since they stopped doing it.

Catholics are supposed to practice self-mortification. We believe in fasting and self-denial, and physical mortification if necessary to heal sinful tendencies (St. Francis would throw himself into thorn bushes). We also believe that violence is permissible in cases of self-defense.

I do not think spanking should be a standard method of discipline. I don't think that it should be the first thing a parent resorts to.

I do, however, believe there are cases where spanking is necessary. For instance: a 10 month old who insists on crawling up on the top of the couch, trying to unplug the television, or some other dangerous behavior.

You cannot reason with a 10 month old. A spanking, in that situation, teaches the child that that action will result in pain.

And every child *is* different. Our 5 year old has ADHD. She can't make a decision to save her life. Using your ice cream example, I have learned to simply tell my five year old, "You're getting one scoop. That's that. You wasted it the last time, and just because that other girl has it doesn't mean you have to. Remember what a privilege it is to have ice cream at all." She would accept that.

On the other hand, I could have the very conversation you describe with my three year old.

There are many aspects of Catholic teaching that come to bear on parenting. I do believe certain philosophies of parenting are better than others, but there comes a point where it's like comparing Thomism to Scotism or Carmelite to Ignatian spirituality.

Beate said...

I've read through these comments with interest. Personally, I don't believe in spanking and I'm not young ;-) I've seen this philosophy play out on both sides of the fence as I've watched my own 5 children and my 2 step children grow and develop. I do think Gurendi's view shows that he (as most of us) has grown up in a predominantely protestant culture. The last comment shows that rather clearly. From a Catholic perspective, we know that a 10 months old is totally without sin. How could one possibly justify punishment for such a child? My children simply learned how to crawl onto and off of the couch once they became mobile. I also have a child who would be labelled ADHD. He definitely exhibits all signs of the Edison trait. Yes, decisions are a struggle for him. Still, he has to learn to make them and what a better place than in the safety of a loving home?

John C. Hathaway said...

Beate,

I fail to see how my omment reflects a "Protestant" culture, when I specifically referred to the physical mortification that has been a standard part of Catholic practice up until the hippie mentality infected the American Church in the 1960s.

I think Guarendi and Popcak are equally wrong, two opposite extremes, both "gurus" trying to claim an absolute voice in an area where there can be no absolute voice.

My objection is to the claim that there is any "one" Catholic parenting technique, or any "one" parenting technique that "works" for all children. There is no such thing, just as there is no one absolute Catholic spirituality or one absolute Catholic philosophy.