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Dangerously Impressionable

As you may already know, we have chosen not to spank Little L. While we do believe in the importance of discipline, we have oft maintained that corporal punishment is simply not the best and most effective way for us to "train up a child in the way that (s)he should go."

That naughty penguin

Anyway, while watching Pingu (a claymation penguin) on Netflix, we (Little L, Hubbs and I) came across an episode where Pingu refuses to eat dinner, launches food at his mom, and rocks in his chair, which results in the family dinner being splattered all over the floor. His mom gets justifiably angry with him and spanks him. Then, when he turns to his dad for comfort in the form of a hug, his dad denies it because Pingu had misbehaved. The little penguin is so distraught that he runs away from home. What eventually happens is that he is gone a long time, and his parents get worried and go out looking for him. When they find him (hiding inside a little hole in the ice), they are so relieved and feel so badly that they cuddle him up, bring him home, and prepare all sorts of warm goodies for him to eat.

Little L watched the episode with us, so we felt the need to explain the spanking that she had witnessed. We told her that Pingu's mommy was angry because he had misbehaved, and that she spanked him (or hit him on the bottom) to help him learn that it was not okay to behave like that. We also reassured her that while she would definitely face consequences if she behaved like Pingu, we would not spank her for such undesired behavior. We discussed how Pingu might have felt, and how his mommy and daddy possibly felt.

It has been a few weeks since we have watched that particular episode. However, much to my dismay, guess who has recently started reenacting those scenes with her stuffies? Including the spanking. Especially the spanking.

Not a disciplinary moment
I am so, so bothered by this. We are not a violent family, and Little L is not an aggressive, physical child. We don't watch this kind of stuff on TV (we really don't even watch TV unless it's something with Little L, on Netflix Kids). With the exception of this Pingu episode, Little L has also never been exposed to any kind of violent behaviour on any of her media (unless you include the "bad bunny habits" in the book Nobunny's Perfect). So why, of all the behaviours and plots and story examples that she has been exposed to, would she select this particular one to act out? And on multiple occasions, no less.

This definitely reminds me of just how impressionable our children are. Things that they witness, things that they hear, things that they read - you never know which parts will "stick" and what they might pick up on. This reinforces the importance for us to model what we want Little L to emulate, and to be extremely judicious with what we expose her to. It is also absolutely essential that we are aware of the kind of content she is consuming, and that we can discuss these things with her, even at the tender age of 3. The way that she forms her worldview depends largely on how we frame her experiences and understandings at this early point in her learning and development, and I would hate for her to get the message that certain behaviours were "okay" simply because she saw it on a cartoon once.

I realize that maybe she is working through her understanding of discipline and sin. Maybe she is working through her own "big feelings" or frustration or anger. Hopefully this is just a phase and will pass. Hopefully she doesn't generalize the spanking behaviour and start hitting other kids or adults.

But let our lesson be yours as well! Our babies are very impressionable, and it's up to us to help form positive lasting impressions. Let's be watchful gate-keepers and above reproach in our own lives, lest the worst of our behaviours becomes the norm for our littles.

Copying Mommy "baking" things in the oven



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