No Judgment here on Baltimore Mom of the Year!
Comment on the choice of parenting methods used by Baltimore Mom of the Year, Toya Graham, and you’ll spark a whole lot of debate.
Was Toya justified in her use of physical violence? Could at home violence be what brought her son there to begin with? Is she perpetuating the underlying belief of many that the black family needs to prove to the typically white judicial system that her black child is not a trouble maker? (http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/04/29/why-is-america-celebrating-the-beating-of-a-black-child/, Patton)
These are difficult questions, and anyone watching the riots in Baltimore, or living through them as we were, will tell you that we just wanted them to STOP. And Toya, got her son to STOP! In the case of her family and her son, it wasn’t “too little, too late” as we’ve seen happen in other very sad cases. And Thank G-d for that.
But going forward, whether you agree that Toya should be celebrated by the media as mom of the year or not, there are some important parenting lessons that we can learn from her.
Toya’s case is the extreme situation, a time of intense mob violence, and her reaction was truly a fight/flight reaction. Those stories we hear about adrenaline rushes at emergencies? This was truly that. The brain stem (reptilian brain) sure does take care of us in scary situations.
Most of the time though, with our kids, we CAN access our problem solving cerebrum brain, rather than resorting to the use of our reptilian brain, which can only process black/white, fight/flight, one way or the other thinking.
When our kids annoy us, embarrass us, publicly humiliate us, we have a choice (even though it may not feel like we do!). We can resort to Coercion parenting or Connected Parenting. Toya, without a doubt, had to coerce her son to STOP. But We don’t have to (except for absolute emergencies), and the good news, is that if you’ve been resorting to coercion with your kids until now, you can choose to stop and learn connected parenting.
Another example. A preteen son flies into a rage at home. He pulls his hair, kicks his father, screams, wont go to school, curses, wont get out of bed. What should his father do? Call the police as some parents would? Threaten to tell his friends or take away privileges? Or lay in bed with the child, holding him until he calms down, even if it means not showing up at work, losing an entire day of productivity, but gaining a lifetime of connection with your child.
A less extreme example. Your child refuses to leave the playground when you ask. Do you threaten her and say, If you don’t get into the car now, I’m going to take away your toys? Not let you go to the birthday party? Put you into bed with no dinner? And I dare to say that we’ve all been tempted to force the hand of those children who are not listening because sometimes it is just so hard to gain their compliance!
But ultimately, we need to keep sight of the goal. And that is, to stay connected to our kids throughout their ENTIRE lives, so that we can gain their trust and truly be their partner in ensuring their proper growth and development into mature, responsible, functioning citizens.
So what to do with the child that won’t listen? Connect, connect, connect. Find ways to connect. If you’ve been coercing your kids until now with threats and bribery, its going to take some time to regain their trust. So for starters, if connecting with your kids means taking you away from other activities that you need to attend to, that is what is going to have to happen until you work to regain their trust. Spoiling? No, its called Rebuilding.
Connected Parenting is a commitment. Once you commit to it, you now have a course of action for every time your kids don’t listen, and that is freeing. You won’t need to threaten, bribe, shame, or punish your kids because you’ll have made enough positive deposits into their bank account. And you can begin applying methods of connected parenting like talking, apologizing for your mistakes, treating your kids with respect, and problem solving together.
Is Toya a connected parent? I do not have a window into her home.
But the question is not about Toya’s parenting. Its about our own.