Equal Rights for Kids: DON’T HIT! Part 2

picture-6Unfortunately, the number listed above is not my current salary. It’s an alarming statistic, tallying the number of students spanked or paddled by teachers during the 2006-2007 school year — according to the Department of Education.

Did you know that in 21 states corporal punishment is legal in public schools? In other words, it is LEGAL for a teacher, principal, or guidance counselor to spank someone’s child if they misbehave in school.

Here’s my question: would it be wrong if your coworker were treated this way? How about your wife or husband? What  if you were given a spanking when you missed a deadline? Would that be OK? If your answer is no, then why in the world is it considered “OK” to do to a child? Quite simply, IT’S NOT.

Research has proven that there are many negative side effects associated with spanking, swatting & paddling. As a mater of fact, it has the capacity to cause long-term brain damage! This is true whether it occurs in school, or in the home. No matter how you slice it, it’s bad news for kids. More on the research I’m speaking of in a moment.

First I’d like to explore some common beliefs about hitting children.

Zig Ziglar, in his fantastic book, See You at the Top, wrote the following about spanking and discipline:

“I am certain that many civil libertarians will scream it’s archaic to lay your hands on kids. Psychologists generally agree that when a child understands he is going to be held responsible for his deeds, he is far more likely to be concerned with those deeds…” 

“…Psychologist James Dobson strongly feels it is most destructive to permit a child to go through life without the loving assurance expressed in discipline. Discipline assures the child he is worthwhile and that you love him enough to discipline him for conduct which is not in his own best interest.”

I whole-heartedly agree that children, like adults, need to be held responsible for their actions. It’s true that we can not let them act and speak however they want, like wild animals.

What I do not agree with is the use of physical force as discipline.
(this is one of very few issues Zig and I are in disagreement on.) 

“Discipline,” is not a one-dimensional word. As a matter of fact, if we utilize positive forms of discipline (punishment/consequences), we instill discipline (self control & determination) in our children — as well as virtue, morality, manners and responsibility and self respect.

Our children do not need to learn fear and repression, they need to learn integrity and positive expression.

We don’t want to beat them down, we want to build them up — all the while making sure they have a solid foundation to build their own future on.

Mark Brady, PhD., has written many books about parenting. He also specializes in the
brain development of children. In his book, A Little Book of Parenting Skills, Mark explains:

“A parent’s role fulfills a sacred trust: one intended to safely help grow the heart, mind, brain and body of a vulnerable human being. No matter what you think, or what your own parents did that made you ‘turn out alright,’ hitting children violates that sacred trust.

Modern brain imaging studies clearly show that hitting children disrupts and disorganizes the developing structures of the body and brain. The home that used to be a safe refuge, no longer is. The people who used to be the ones a child could turn to for safety, no longer are. With nowhere safe to go, and no one available to turn to for soothing and help in regulating emotional distress, the world becomes an overwhelming, confusing, unmanageable place.”

In An Interview With Mark Brady, Part 3, Mark had this to say:

“Research suggests that parents who hit children were themselves hit by their parents. From their perspective, they were hit and ‘they turned out all right.’ My response to this assertion is: ‘Compared to what?’  How might you have turned out had your fear circuits not been intermittently triggered in ways that make the world look like a dangerous and difficult place?”

In Part 3 of this series I’ll touch upon how religion plays into the discipline paradigm. I’ll also share more of Mark Brady’s findings, as well as some healthy discipline alternatives.

Until then, don’t hit!

And remember, you are not alone…

Related Links:
Never Hit a Child
Equal Rights for Kids: Don’t Hit (Part 1)
Equal Rights for Kids: Let Your Kids Decide
Why Spanking Children is a Bad Ideaby Mark Brady 

Depeche Mode: “Wrong” is So Right

Daddy Brain is happy about some new music from his favorite band.

This new Depeche Mode song is awesome! And the video is pretty sick.


Although sometimes life might feel like this, remember what you think and what you speak becomes your reality. It’s never too late to change your destiny…

And remember, you are not alone…

Do Your Kids Know What Goals Are?

Do your kids know what a goal is? Or do they think it’s what occurs when somebody scores in soccer?

Recently, I’ve been listening to a motivational/inspirational speaker named Zig Ziglar. Zig has an amazing audio book called Goals, which I highly recommend.

Listening to the CD’s, I got to thinking about my boys. Have I been teaching them about goals?

For some reason, probably because they’re both so bright, I assumed they already knew what a goal was.

When I asked them about it and got the, “it’s when somebody scores in soccer dad” response, I realized that I had not been teaching them — at least not in a direct way. We work on goals all the time, but I had never given them the language to understand what it was we were doing.

They needed a kid-friendly definition of the word and the concept. And they needed it now so that goal setting (and attainment) could become a core value and a way of life.

Although I’ve been “setting goals” for many years, until recently I have not written them down or defined them clearly  so they were always in a cloudy, “gaseous” state. Since they were not clearly defined, I didn’t have a tangible idea of how I would attain them, which made it impossible to fully commit to them. I just figured they’d manifest eventually if I did a little something for them here and there.

In other words, I didn’t really know how to set a goal. I was never taught.

Without a plan with realistic steps in it, I found that my “a little here and there,” was nowhere to be found. Without a clear intention there is no real goal to work towards. Just a lofty idea. As Zig would say, I was a “wandering generality,” and I needed to become a “meaningful specific.” He goes on to mention that even Howard Hill, the greatest archer in the world could not hit a bulls-eye while blindfolded. “How on earth could anybody hit a target they couldn’t see? …How can you hit a target (goal) you do not have?”

So, what’s the best way to teach these values to our children? Live them ourselves.

I do my best to start each day by asking myself: “what great thing am I going to do today?” This puts me in a good frame of mind to be proactive.

I’ve also started asking myself the following:

– Do I have milestone goals for my kids? To teach them how to ride a bike, be able to read or understand an appropriate level of spirituality by a certain age?

– Do I help my kids set “high-reaching” goals, teaching them to reach high for themselves in the process?

– Am I helping my kids set their own goals, and giving them the space to attain them? Am I supporting them (when necessary) through the process so they can come out of it having completed the goal — developing the values of integrity and perseverance?

I want to make sure that my boys know even if it’s hard, in this family we don’t give up. If this is important to you, you can get it done. I believe in you.

And remember, you are not alone…

The Modern Day Dad Award Goes to David Goldman

This is the first Modern Day Dad Award presented by Daddy Brain.

I was inspired to create this post when I heard the heart-wrenching story of David Goldman, a dad who had been denied seeing his son for over 4 years. It is an unusual story, one which I fear is more common than we might think.

David’s strength, dedication and refusal to give up under extremely difficult circumstances exemplifies what it means to be a modern day dad. 

Before you read the article, I’d like to ask a question. What would you do if your wife took your 4-year old son on vacation to her homeland and never came back?

The following is a reprinting (in its entirety) of the Today Show’s online article about David’s crusade…

After bitter 4-year fight, he finally sees his son again

Dad has ‘beautiful’ reunion with boy whose mother abducted him to Brazil

By Mike Celizic, TODAYShow.com contributor
updated 9:41 a.m. CT, Tues., Feb. 10, 2009

Choking back tears that had been building up for more than four and a half years, a New Jersey father tried to describe the emotions he felt at finally being able to hold and hug his son and tell the boy how much he loved him.

“It was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen since his birth. It was incredible. Amazing. I got to see my son,” David Goldman told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday by phone from Brazil.

The previous day, accompanied by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, Goldman had finally reached the end of a nightmare that began in June 2004 when his wife, Bruna, left with their son, Sean, for a two-week trip to visit family in her native Brazil. She never came back.

In all the years since, Goldman had traveled to Brazil numerous times hoping to see his son, but all the contact he was allowed to have consisted of a few brief phone calls.

International dispute
A New Jersey court ruled that Bruna had to return Sean to New Jersey for a custody hearing. But despite international law and treaties between the United States and Brazil that upheld the court ruling, Bruna refused to either return or to give up custody of the boy. Instead, she divorced Goldman in a legal proceeding that violated international law, and married an influential Brazilian attorney.

Then, last August, Bruna died while giving birth to a child by her new husband. After her death, that husband petitioned a Brazilian court to take Goldman’s name off his own son’s birth certificate.

Although the system seemed stacked against him, Goldman never gave up. Finally, with the help of Smith, the New Jersey congressman who accompanied Goldman to Brazil, father and son were reunited for a visit on Monday.

“After all this time I got to see him, walk over to him and hug him and tell him how much I love him and how much I miss him and how joyful it was to be with him,” Goldman said.

‘It was beautiful’
He had no idea if Sean would really remember him and how he would greet him, Goldman said.

“I was expecting the worst. And when our arms locked, it wasn’t that way at all. It was beautiful,” he told Vieira, fighting back tears the entire time he spoke.

Sean asked his dad why it took so long to visit him. “That was very painful,” Goldman said. “I saw the anguish on his face.”

What to tell the boy? Goldman was understandably reluctant to tell Sean how his mother first left him and then refused to let him see Sean.

“I didn’t want to hurt him by telling him the absolute truth, so I just said that the courts were making things very difficult,” Goldman said. “I said, ‘Sean, I’ve been here many, many times to try to be with you. The last time I was here I stayed for 10 days and I couldn’t be with you.’ ”

Smith told The Associated Press that Goldman shot baskets and went swimming with Sean during Monday’s visit. Goldman was scheduled to see his son again on Tuesday.

Vieira asked what plans he had for today’s visit.

‘It’s going to happen’

In a later interview with TODAY correspondent Amy Robach, NBC senior legal analyst Susan Filan said that Goldman should eventually regain custody of his son, whose room in Goldman’s Tinton Falls, N.J., home remains as it was the day he left for Brazil with his mother more than four years ago. Filan said that international law and treaties between the United States and Brazil are unequivocal in affirming Goldman’s parental rights.

“You can’t take a kid from one country and hide him another country and say it’s OK,” Filan said. “There’s no question this case should have been decided in a New Jersey court.”

In happier times: David Goldman with his son, Sean, and his late wife Bruna.

Filan said she’s looked at the facts from every angle and can conceive of no legal justification or explanation for how the Brazilian courts have acted. According to every law, she said, the man who married Goldman’s wife “has no legal rights to this child whatsoever.” 

She added that the change of administrations in Washington and the personal involvement of Rep. Smith have clearly helped Goldman press his case. Public attention given the case should embarrass the Brazilian government into bowing to the dictates of the law, she said.

“Once one government accuses another government of being in violation of a treaty, it’s embarrassing,” she said.

Filan cautioned that it may still take time for Sean to finally come home to live with his father.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as quick as everybody wants, but I think ultimately it’s going to happen,” she said.

Links to The Today Show’s videos:
Today Video Interview #1
Today Video Interview #2

Stories like this that remind me how lucky I am. I am so grateful for my family.

And remember, you are not alone…

Join Daddy Brain on the Radio!

Join me today @ 5pm (CST) on Wisconsin Public Radio, for an hour-long discussion on giving your kids one of the greatest gifts of all. It doesn’t cost a dime, but it lasts a lifetime. What is it? Their own voice. 

You can listen in from anywhere in the world by clicking here and adding Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network to your iTunes, Windows Media Player or RealPlayer. It takes about 30 seconds to download the station. Then, just double click the icon on your desktop to automatically add to your playlist.

The show gives listeners opportunity to call in, be heard and be part of the conversation. Just dial (800) 486-8655.

If you’re local to Wisconsin, you can also listen in on any of the following stations:

– WHA-AM 970 Madison
– WERN-FM 88.7 Madison
– KUWS-FM 91.3 Superior
– WHRM-FM 90.9 Wausau
– WHAD-FM 90.7 Delafield/Milwaukee
– WPNE-FM 89.3 Green Bay
– WLSU-FM 88.9 La Crosse

I hope you get a chance to tune in!

And remember, you are not alone…

No Small Consequence: Our Children’s Future

Years ago, it was common practice for parents to physically reprimand their children when they “misbehaved.” Spanking, hitting and far worse occured with regularity, and seemed to be the norm.

Although there is still a percentage of the world that hits their kids (which I don’t agree with), there is an increasing percentage of parents who do not discipline their kids at all (which I do not agree with). 

So if we want to help our children learn, but we don’t want to use violence to “teach them,” what’s a dad to do? What other ways of discipline are there?

Yelling? Nope. Been there, done that. It sucked…
Click here for research and details as to why yelling at our kids is an inferior form of discipline. As a matter of fact, it can permenantly damage their brains!

What we can do is offer consequences. Large or small, consequences can be handed out with the calmest of voices, without any physical abuse. I’ve found that as long as I follow through with whatever consequence I offer, it is incredibly effective. It also helps my kids learn to be responsible for their actions.

If we don’t teach our kids to act in acceptable ways through some type of discipline, what kind of adults will they grow up to be? And if we spank or beat the crap out of them, well, what are we really teaching them?

I see too many parents letting their kids do whatever the hell they want. The kids run the show. Until recently, I often found myself in the role of the typical pushover dad   making idle threats about consequences I never followed through on. Saying things like, “stop it… stop it or there’s no more TV for the rest of the day… I said stop it or there’s no more TV!” Of course, I never turned off the television and the behavior I was trying to stop continued until I would yell.

Not how I wanted to handle things.

Frustrated, I wrote two posts: How to Retrain t he Reactive Brain, Part 1 & Part 2, and in the process discovered that offering & following through on consequences seemed like the most effective, least harmful form of discipline for me to practice.

Last week my wife and I received a letter from my son Max’s (4.5 years old) teachers. He’s been acting out in preschool, yelling at them when they tell him to come to circle time. Max has also taken to raising his voice at us at home.

We do not allow him to raise his voice at us. We use consequences, coupled with discussion (when things calm down), to help him modify his behavior. Of course, yelling at his teachers is unacceptable too, so we let him know there will (and have already been) consequences for this negative behavior.

But it’s a fine line, because I want to procure Max’s independence. I want him to grow up believing in himself, that his opinion matters. Because it does. On the other hand, he needs to learn that yelling is NOT the way to express himself.

But I can’t put it all on Max. I am partially (possibly to a large degree) to blame for his behavior. Although I am constantly working on not yelling (see Stop Yelling Daddy! Part 1 & Part 2), both my boys have seen and heard me do yell. Like it or not, I’ve set a poor example.

We need to treat our kids with respect if we’d like them to be respectful people. We need to listen to them if we expect them to learn how to listen. We need to guide them in ways that do not damage them or riddle them with baggage that they may wind up carrying around through adulthood.

We’ve got to walk a tightrope, giving them space to shape themselves while shaping their space so it’s a positive environment.

And remember, you are not alone…

How to Retrain the Reactive Brain, Part 2

In part one of this series, I wrote about how being yelled at as a boy has affected how my brain processes information  causing me to react a certain way during stressful situations with my own kids. 

In short, sometimes I yell. 

Since being yelled at physically damages kids brains (see Stop Yelling Daddy, Part 2), my goal has been to find more productive, less damaging alternatives to deal with my boys when one (or both) of them refuses to listen, has a tantrum, starts bossing me around, or is exhibiting some other type of undesirable behavior.

But my brain is hardwired to react a certain way (in part because I was yelled at as a kid), so it has not been easy.

My goal is to retrain my brain  to turn it off autopilot. Here’s an update about what I’ve been doing, and discovering, the past two weeks…

(1) Breathing.
I know this sounds ridiculous, but when the kids start acting out I forget to breathe. I have found this is the catalyst to losing my cool. I have had to force myself to take a moment and breathe before I react. I’ve been taking a step back from the culprit, and turning slightly away. This gives me a moment to think.

(2) Use Consequences Instead of Yelling.
This has been a major breakthrough for me. I do feel that sometimes I’m lacking compassion as I offer up a consequence when the kids are not listening. I do not like the feeling of being an authoritarian, but how else can I teach the boys when they’re acting out? Consequences certainly feel (and work) better than yelling. And hitting is just out of the question.

There needs to be some type of negative consequence.

Following through has been the key. I saw a positive change in Max, 4, right away. His refusing to go to bed disappeared once he realized I was serious about no Speed Racer cartoons the next day. Literally overnight, he became more cooperative. 

Unfortunately my son Joss, 2, seems unfazed by any of this. Luckily he does respond to redirection. 

Positive consequences.
The flip side of this is that there needs to be “positive consequences” when the boys do listen, when they are being good kids. Whether we simply thank them, hug them, give them a special surprise like their favorite dinner or a new toy  acknowledging the positive is essential.

The idea is not to make the boys feel bad about themselves. The idea is to help them learn.

What worries me is that my sons are stopping an unwanted behavior because of the repercussions, not because they understand why the behavior is undesirable. Yes, they’re learning to be more accountable for their actions. But I prefer that they also learn WHY they are being punished  I want to go beyond the consequence.

They need to learn that the consequence is a result of a behavior that was negative. They also need to understand why the behavior is considered negative to begin with.

Often, once things settle down we have a brief discussion to help them understand. When we talk, I try to be calm, clear and compassionate.

Never call your child “bad.”
I try very hard not to direct the word “bad” towards my boys. When I talk to them, they need to know bad behavior does not make them bad. The behavior itself is what is bad, not them. We used to call Joss a “bad boy,” when he misbehaved until we realized this was attaching the word “bad” to him instead of what he was doing. 

Is he bad? Or is his behavior bad?

This needs to be clear to all involved, otherwise we’re perpetuating a poor self image, which will produce more “bad” behavior. We want to help our kids be true to themselves, not disable them with negative baggage.

(3) Letting go of the need for control.
It is sometimes difficult for me to separate my need to control from my need to be a compassionate father & teacher. Sometimes, my kids just need to be heard. Sometimes I need to let them have a minute to be upset. Emotions are part of life and I need to respect that.

If they’re out of control, a consequence may be the short-term answer to make them stop. But I need to do a better job in being understanding and compassionate BEFORE things get out of control.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related links:
Stop Yelling Daddy, Part 1
Stop Yelling Daddy, Part 2
An Interview with Mark Brady, Part 1
An Interview with Mark Brady, Part 2
An Interview with Mark Brady, Part 3

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