I read this blog post by Sally Clarkson recently, and was so blessed and encouraged by it: http://www.itakejoy.com/first-time-obedience-really/. I love that she is an experienced mom who calls for us to be tender and loving and gracious with our children. I also love it that she has the full support of her husband.
My husband and I were talking about how wonderful it is to be able to parent our son in a non-adversarial, non-punitive way. We were laughing because our little guy has a real stubborn streak. I cannot imagine the awful battles of will that we would have to go through to "force" our son to obey us. Since we are on his team, we do not dread those times when we have to follow through with what we say. Here is an example: Little man was sitting at the table eating crackers beside his dad. He began to play with the crackers, breaking them into pieces. Suddenly, on a whim, he threw the pieces on the floor. "Uh-oh," said my husband, "we have to clean those up. When we make messes, we have to clean them up." My son's reply? "No! I don't want to. That makes me sad!" "Well," continued my husband, "I know it makes you sad, but we have to clean up messes when we make them. Would you like some help?" Little man at this point dug in his heals, refusing to budge from his chair. I walked over to him, picked him up out of his chair, and sat down with him on the floor beside the cracker pieces. I reiterated what my hubby had said about cleaning up our messes. At this point, little man threw a fit. I rubbed his back and held him. The fit lasted only a few seconds, and then little man sat up, and cheerfully began picking up all the pieces, handing them to his daddy, happy to comply. In the process of us helping Aydon to do what we said, none of us lost our dignity. We had no regrets as parents, because we did not lash out punitively at our son, neither did we back down. Aydon was able to decide to comply; he was not forced or backed into a corner (though he did have no choice, we were right there beside him, supporting him the whole way).
I cannot help but imagine this same incident if we were parenting "with the rod." I am quite certain that little man would do anything but comply if he felt that he was being forced to do something, or else. I cannot imagine the heartache and regret that we would feel after hitting him, harder and harder to try to force compliance. And in the process of trying to force little man to "obey" us, we would be provoking him to anger, something that fathers (and mothers) are commanded not to do in scripture.
Words cannot express how thankful I am for the multitude of ways in which God led us away from punitive parenting. It might take a little extra time to "help" little man comply with our requests, but it is worth more than gold to be able to remain on his team, to treat him with grace.