Rebekah on the Challenges of Parenting as an AK
Margaret Irons, January 27, 2021: Hi, Rebekah - This is Margaret Irons, former Geftakys Assembly. I am working on the Assembly Kids section of the GA website and came across your posts in 2008 on the old Assemblyboard.com about the challenges of parenting as a former AK. They are very articulate and insightful. I wonder if I might have your permission to convert them to an article. I can send you a draft if you like. I hope things are going well for you.
Rebekah, February 2, 2021: Hi, Margaret, I remember you and your family! I’m not sure what I wrote or when I wrote it. I’m open to you using it. I’d love to see what you have in mind. I was so damaged from my childhood in the Assembly and I got married so young. I told some of my story back then on the AssemblyBoard. Now my son is nineteen and my twin girls are sixteen. My marriage was a continuation of the abuse I had as a child. I got divorced seven and a half years ago and have been on an intense journey of healing and hope. I’m so grateful that I am where I am at now.
Margaret, August 14, 2021: I'm so glad to hear you are doing well, Rebekah! Here is the draft of what you wrote about parenting. Feel free to make changes. Being an AK was perilous. I am in the process of getting some articles about it on the GA website. I think many people still live with damages and don't know why. Here is the draft of what you wrote back in April, 2008 on the thread, “What role should shame play in raising kids?"
I have so many thoughts on this topic, it is such a big deal to me. I am an Assembly kid and now have my own kids. I have a six-almost-seven year-old son, and twin daughters that are three. My thoughts are often consumed by child development and child rearing theories.
I was young, twenty-one when my son was born, and I knew that I was never going to spank my children or treat them the way Assembly kids were treated. The damage done to me was too immense, I could never subjugate a child to such discipline.
What I didn't realize was how there would be times when you just naturally would fall back on the way you were raised. These times did come and it has tested me. I have had to work hard to educate myself in new ways. I have taken child development courses at college, I have gone to workshops, read numerous books, and am part of a cooperative preschool that has a child development therapist work with the parents twice a month. I try very hard to learn new ways of doing things so that my children will grow up in a healthy home.
As parents we are our children's first experience with God. We demonstrate God to them. God doesn't shame me, He loves me and gently restores me. When I need to change a bad habit or a fear etc. in my own life, shaming or a "loving" spank (spanking was always done out of love of course without regard to the damage it was causing) has never helped me overcome. If this doesn't help me ,why would I ever do this to someone else, especially a child?
I have learned that when I work on healing and forgiving myself it is then that I have the most to give to my children. It is then that I have peace and can help my child through whatever problem he is struggling with.
So here is an example of a struggle that I just recently went through trying to balance my immediate reaction, based on how I was raised, with changing what was not working. It has been ingrained in me that public school is a horrible place that doesn't honor God and is immoral. So I was homeschooling my son because we couldn't afford private school. This worked for kindergarten, but halfway through first grade we were struggling.
My son didn't want to do his work, and my twin girls were requiring an incredible amount of attention. I was having flashbacks of myself being home schooled and all the tears and swats I endured just to make it through a day.
I realized it wasn't working and knew I needed this to change, but what choices did I have? It took me four months to finally get to the point where I knew I needed to put my son in public school.
The adjustment was very hard for both of us. He began acting out every time he came home from school. My first reaction was to be very stern with him and let him know that these behaviors were unacceptable and inappropriate. I even thought maybe I should spank him to let him know how bad he was for doing this.
I have learned to not respond to these thoughts. I spoke with a friend who is a marriage and family therapist, and re-read some parts from the book "How We Love" by Milan and Kay Yerkavich. I decided to try a new plan. When my son was in a calm moment I talked with him about how hard this transition was for him and that we all can have overwhelming feelings. Together we made a plan for the next time one of these angry outbursts came up.
Sure enough it did. He had decided when angry he would take a break by himself. We drew pictures in a book to help, but these weren't the most effective. What helped him most was a nice warm bath and a hot towel.
We made a chart in several-hour increments; if he could manage his anger for a segment, he got a star. If he could manage his anger for more of the day than not, we allowed him to do something special. After a month’s time this is no longer necessary. He was able to work through his emotions in a loving and supportive environment.
What if I had decided to follow through with my doubts, and spank and shame him? I believe he would have then found some way to cover up his emotions and hold them inside even if on the outside he was conforming.
I prefer to deal with the emotions now and help him grow into a healthy person than to have him shamed or paddled into perfection. This is all I will write for now. I know this hasn't been responded to in a long time, but just reading about the topic stirred up some emotions and I needed a chance to express.
Brian Tucker's response to Rebekah's post in 2008 is here.
Rebekah: Wow! This is amazing to read because of the journey my son and I have gone through since then. All of those things that I was learning and did, I continued to do.
My son struggled with my ex’s addiction and abuse. I have continued to communicate, have love, create boundaries and hold him accountable. I also continued to work on myself and healing. This has given my son and me a relationship that has been of incredible benefit as he has continued to deal with his own issues. He is now building his own relationship with God. It’s amazing.
My son’s struggles brought me back to God. I have been able to create a new relationship with this God that is very different from the God of my childhood.
After my divorce I did two years of trauma therapy. I mostly focused on my marriage and the abuse I went through. I started to go over the child abuse but I had to take a break because it was so intense. I’ve been in Al-Anon for two and a half years now, which has helped me with relationships, trust and God.
Margaret: Thank you, Rebekah, for sharing some of your journey. Many other AKs facing the same parenting challenge of how to do it differently from what they grew up with. It's just so helpful to know that others are dealing with similar struggles and you're not alone.