Is That Normal?

Is that how other people do it?

Possum is 6 years 6 months

Bandicoot is 4 years 4 months

Little Princess is 1 year 11 months (23 months)

My back is to the wall with my kids’ behaviour right now.  My husband and I try our best to use Grace Based Discipline with our kids, despite neither of us having been raised like that (and despite all the discouragement we receive. Like the compulsory parenting course our Church sent us on…)  It is very hard, we often fail, but we keep on trying.

Today as I, once more, discussed Possum’s appalling behaviour in Church with him, I outlined what happened in my family when I was a similar age.

By the time we were school age, we were expected to sit quietly in Church, joining in with a growing number of hymns, prayers and responses.  We had no books, no toys, no drawing activities and definitely no snacks.  If Mum or Dad had to speak to us, even once, during Mass, we were done for.

This he listened to and took in, petulantly.  It was the next bit that got him.  I went on to describe what being “in trouble” entailed.

Of course, first off there was the smack when we got home.  I don’t remember that much, but I remember the fear of it.  My parents used fear a lot, too, so I think, quite probably, once you were properly afraid they didn’t actually smack as much.  Or maybe I’ve blocked it out.

Then there was the penance.  There were no snacks or treats.  You would just get your plain lunch and plain dinner.  There were no fun and games and often access to toys was restricted.  I told Possum no TV, but we hardly watched TV anyway.

He asked me a lot about it.  He was incredulous.  He was horrified.  Fancy being in trouble ALL DAY.  Yes, fancy.

“Really?”  he asked in disbelief.  “Is that normal?  Do other people do that?”

I re-iterated the kind of offence that this was for.  I explained that for “big trouble” this could go on for days.  Then I told him about the punishment I hated the most.


“If you were really in trouble, then you weren’t allowed to talk to your brothers and sisters and they weren’t allowed to talk to you.”

No, really, my parents had a firm grip.  There would be no mutiny in our household.

My parents had eight children and they could not afford insubordination, so we were broken.  We never considered ourselves a unit.  Maybe that is why we have so many problems acting like one now.

I have to say, Possum’s question has thrown me for a loop.

  • “Is that normal?”

Firstly, how is my little boy socially aware enough to ask that?

  • “Is that normal?”

Well, no.  Probably not.  Sure, everything was much stricter then.  Or maybe it WAS normal.  I never thought to ask.  It would only have landed me in more trouble, anyway.

But is has made me think:

  • “Is this what we want for our kids?”

Really, I don’t think so.

I was an adult before I realised there was an unconditional component to my parents’ love for me.  I absolutely believed that love was earned.

My childhood and adolescence was lonely and fear-filled.  Oh, I was happy a lot, too – most of it, in fact, but very, very lonely.

And I am still deathly afraid of getting into trouble or raising someone’s ire.  Just yesterday I was in tears because a misunderstanding meant that I was late meeting DH and the boys in a shopping centre.  I was so frightened of the disapproval (DH) and the the harsh words (Possum) that could come my way.  (They didn’t.)

I believe my spirit was broken.  Unlike some of my more defiant siblings (who have grown defiant and aggressive), my survival technique has been to NOT fix it.  I am non-confrontational and worn and any self-expression or rebellion is though subversion <link to that really cool post I didn’t write…>

That isn’t what we want for our kids.

Yes, I want kids who behave in Church, kids who attend to what is going on, kids who participate.  Polite, considerate, well-behaved kids.

I also want kids who have a healthy sense of self.  Kids who not only give respect, but expect to be treated with respect.  Kids who do not live in fear.  Kids who grow into functional, loving adults.  Kids who value the special bond they have to each other.  Kids who are whole.

Is THAT normal?

I don’t know, but it is what I want.  And that is why I try to practise Grace Based Discipline.


END NOTE:  It is important to add that I understand my parents’ situation.  There was an understanding of how to best raise children that was different to what we now believe.  I am also sure that had they not been so desperate – they never intended to have so many children, but that is a different story about abused medical authority – or had they realised how the family until may later suffer, things would have been very different, regardless of the norms of society.


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