16.2.12

controversial question: discipline & spanking

OK people. We're in a stage of parenting where we're trying to make some solid decisions about some controversial issues. I'm genuinely curious about your thoughts regarding this so please feel free to share them. I haven't made up my own mind on the matters yet, and promise not to judge any comments/opinions made here.

We've tackled children & nudity, now onto discipline & spanking...
Lily's definitely entering that stage that some like to call "the terrible twos". She's still 6 months away, but she is a lot more defiant (and independent, which isn't necessarily a bad thing) than ever before, and we think it's only a taste of things to come. 

She's a bit slow on the uptake when we ask her to sit in the bath (the girl LOVES to stand...yes in the cold air instead of the warm bath) and sit in her rocking chair. These are two really major areas for disobedience for her right now. They seem trivial, but they're important to us for two reasons: they're rules in place for her safety (standing/walking in the bath can and has lead to wipe outs, and standing on a rocking chair is...well...obviously dangerous) and they're rules she understands and consistently disobeys.

I hesitated to write the bath example, because yesterday she only had to be told around 5 times to sit, whereas normally it's more like 30+, but I'm not sure it's because she's learning and obeying, but more so because she was tired and in a good mood.

So far, my method has been to give her a time out (60 seconds for a "minor offense" like not listening and 2 minutes for a "major offense" like hitting Oli or Brad and I), which worked at the beginning, but her independent spirit has now made her perfectly happy in a time out. She always finds something to play with in the bathroom that contains zero toys... so it's not so effective anymore. And from the get go, we've used a stern, even voice when rebuking Lily, which also doesn't seem to do much.

I should also note that as the day progresses and she becomes more tired for her 6pm bedtime, she becomes more disobedient. I don't think I've ever given a time out before 3pm. And I probably give the most between 4pm-5pm.

Which begs the questions: what forms of discipline are effective for 18 month olds? or 2 year olds? do your kids have a "difficult hour(s)" like Lily does around 4pm? do you give greater grace during the "difficult hour(s)? what do you do with your kids? what do you plan to do with your kids? what was the case when you were growing up?

Here's where it gets tricky. I'm not opposed to spanking, especially in the two mentioned cases (disobedience involving danger to the child and consistent, repeated disobedience), but for a couple of reasons I don't think we'll use the method. 

Firstly, I don't know how hard to spank. When Lily would consistently throw food off her highchair, I took the suggestion of many parents and tapped/slapped her hands. I thought I was doing it hard enough, but Lily didn't flinch. And she's not good at ignoring pain. So I tried harder. Still nothing. Then it occurred to me: I'm certain I'm tapping/slapping hard, but do I just continue until I get the desired results? That seems like a sordid slippery slope. I don't trust myself to spank/tap/slap at the appropriate level of intensity or strength.

But secondly, and most importantly, we don't want to start a practice with Lily and Oli that we can't continue with our adopted child(ren). And you absolutely can't use spanking as a form of discipline with adopted children. Whether the child has been subjected to physical abuse or not, part of the adoption process in Quebec is signing and swearing that you will not discipline with spanking. Based on the history of violence that many children have who are adopted, I support this rule 100%. But it does make disciplining my first two children rather difficult. I don't want to be inconsistent with standards and discipline, and I don't want to get comfortable with one method, only to be back at square one in a couple of years, looking for another.

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

22 comments:

  1. I don't have experience yet as a Mom, but it's so interesting for me to read about the different "personalities" of small children. Lily sounds like she's a lot of fun, and that independent spirit will come in handy when she's older!!

    I think for you, it sounds like the decision is "already made", because of your unique circumstance. I think you're right about disciplining both your adopted and biological children in the same way (if Lily gets spanked but her adopted sister doesn't it could also lead to an unnecessary division between them).

    Personally, I think we will probably spank when they're little. But, I don't know because I don't know the personality of my children yet, and perhaps it just won't work with them.

    Also, I think you're right to be concerned with the amount of pressure/strength that goes behind a spank. I have only ever been spanked when my parent was angry and at their "wits end". Those types of spanks are almost ALWAYS way too hard -- and memorable for the rest of the child's life. For this reason I am also hesitant about spanking.

    Good question and hoping you get lots of good discussion about it on here!

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  2. You should put dry rice on a corner, and then have her stay on her knees on it for a whole half hour would be my suggestion ...

    Ok no seriously, when I was young I had spanking and timeouts, but I don't remember when it all started. I do remember however, that it was always my father doing the spanking. I think this is a good thing, and it should also adress your first objection to spanking; maybe it is the father's role to do the spanking ?

    Also, you seem to be saying that you put Lily in the bathroom for the timeouts. Maybe try putting her in a corner with absolutely nothing to do or play with ? ANd if she seems to find it ''fun'' and is happy in her timeout, why not try without a fixed time limit, but rather when you feel she is ready to behave and come out of timeout ?

    I dunno, just throwing things out there. It is kind of an interesting topic hence why I'm posting a comment.

    God Bless,
    Sabin

    PS Brad told me we could drop by at ANY TIME :P So tell him to always be ready cause me and my 2 housemates are sure to go visit soon (But we'll call first obviously :) )

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    1. Merci Sabin!

      The corner idea is a good one, I might try that today (if I need to). The bathroom was nice for a while because she couldn't get out. I'm assuming she'll just leave the corner and that will be a whole other trial. But worth trying for sure!

      I'm with you - I think the father should do the majority of the discipling. But at a young age, Lily won't remember what she was being spanked for if we wait until Brad gets home from work, 6+ hours later... SO during the day I have to be the one. When he's home though, he is definitely a part of it.

      Please come visit us! We would love it! My friends are here from Ontario this weekend, but any time is good :)

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  3. This is an interesting topic and one I'm not conclusive on either Em. We haven't spanked Matthew, although both of us were spanked as children and it was always with an explanation why (my parents used the 3 warnings and on the 3rd you knew what was coming). I also think spanking is Biblical... you know... spare the rod...

    But Ryan and I read a book called, "Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles" by Mary Kurcinka, which is really about emotional coaching. I loved this book and highly recommend it! It helped me think through our standards as parents and how we model those standards to our kids. It also convicted me on the whole, "If I don't want to teach Matthew to hit others, why would I hit him?" When he's older he'll understand what a spank is for, but at this age he learns more through monkey see monkey do.

    The book talks about how toddlers struggle to control themselves and how you have to help them, to come alongside them and equip them to be obedient. Often naming what emotions they may be feeling and directing them to express those emotions appropriately. It encourages parents to walk in their shoes, something I wasn't doing before, which totally helped me be less frustrated with him and helps me understand his behaviour.

    Ps. M totally struggles the most between 4-5pm too. It's at the end of the day just before dinner, which I'm often preparing in front of him - torture for him! M gets irritable when he's hungry, just like his dad! So I find a snack at 4pm helped him big time. I make this snack a veggie or fruit (not cookie) and I don't find it ruins his appetite - that boy can eat! These days I need a snack at 3:30pm/4pm too so we have it together :) If dinners leftovers, I go outside with Matthew for a walk between 4-5pm. And boy I'm always thankful when Ryan get's home from work!

    Pps. The other day I found Matthew ripping the leaves off of the plant in the dining room. He knows he's not allowed to do this but he was looking for attention/bored. It was a cry for help: he's got so much energy he needed to go outside and run around. Anyways, I got down on his level, took his hand in mine, and said in a firm voice, "we do not rip the leaves off the plant." ...Oh how he laughed and laughed! Doesn't it drive you nuts when you're disciplining them and they laugh? Does anyone else's kid do this? I think I may have when I was a child - how irritating! Instead of getting angry (like I normally feel when he laughs at discipline), I switched tones to one for sympathy for the plant, "Hey Matthew, when you rip the leaves off of the plant it injures the plant and it cannot get the nutrients it needs to live. You really hurt the plant. That's why we don't rip leaves off the plant." And I showed him how you cannot put the leaves back on. Well, I tell you, he got all sad, and hasn't further injured said plant since.

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  4. Great suggestions Ash. I can't wait to buy and read that book!

    The only problem is, Lily's dinner is at 4:30pm, so a snack at 4pm might not work for us. I think in her case it's tiredness. She only takes one nap for 1.5 hours now and while I know she probably needs at least another 30 minutes if not more, it's all she'll take :(

    I try to put myself in her shoes in those cases, because I get moody when I'm tired too. It's more the disobedience that seems blatant... the standing on the chair and in the bath after we tell her constantly. We threaten to end bath time early if she won't stop, she stands again, and so bath time is over, but it doesn't seem to register as a consequence. Next day, same bath, same story.

    Sigh!

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    1. I hear you on the tiredness = moody. Me too. And a snack 1/2 hour before dinner seems silly.

      Matthew used to have a problem standing in the bath. Then one day he slipped and knocked his head... ouch. We told him that's why we don't stand in the tub, because it's dangerous. He hasn't done it since. Sometimes it looks like he's about to so I put him back down into sitting postion, but I think he learns from experiencing things for himself. What can I say? A tactile learner?

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    2. great that he's learning from doing!
      Lily has fallen a few times... still lovin' the stand.
      though yesterdays bath gave me hope and today she was in her rocking chair for a while and NEVER stood!
      progress? luck? who knows, but I was happy.

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  5. My parents used spanking on some of us (me and my 3 sisters). This could actually tie in to the fact that you are going to have adopted kids, too. My parents noted that we all responded differently to different forms of discipline, so we weren't all disciplined the same way. As the oldest, it was hard to see my sisters getting treated differently (sometimes I thought it was unjust), but in retrospect, why spank or give any other kind of discipline that is clearly a waste of time and that the child is not responding to? It is important to find something that works- something that the child understands, doesn't like, and will cause them to not be a "repeat offender". My parents tried their best to relate the discipline with the offense (i.e. if we lied or talked back to our parents, because that was using our mouths, we were to get soap in our mouth. I learned quickly on that one! (liquid soap is the worst:P). When we were older sometimes we had to write essays about how what we did was wrong and why we won't do it again. Sometimes we had to copy a related Bible verses 100 times over. Time outs where there was nothing we could play with were good at a younger age. Sit them on a chair anywhere and not let them move. Sometimes facing a wall is better. I know that not all of this applies to your age, but this is what I can say about discipline from my experience.

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    1. thanks for your comment Mad. I'm sure you have lots to teach me. I don't have many friends who were brought up in homes with 4 kids, though it's what we are hoping for. So hearing about how life was as a family of 6 is a great learning experience for me :) Plus your parents seem very fair and faithful, so I'm sure I'd have lots to learn from them too.

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  6. Hey Em,

    So I don't have kids yet, but I have some observations of what my brother and sister-in-law do. They have a 15 month old who has a fun, but VERY strong personality. From about the age of 10 months she would intentionally defy them. (They would tell her not to do something, repeatedly. They would then move her away from whatever she was supposed to avoid. She would then stare right at them, walk over and then touch whatever she was to stay away from.) When they saw that simple time outs didnt' work for her they started to spank her gently. They would first warn her sternly, then they would spank her (on the hand or bum) and then sometimes follow it with some time in her crib. They have been consistent in that and now usually all they need to do is warn her sternly because she knows if she doesn't listen then the spanking will come.

    Both my brother and I were spanked as kids and I don't think it happened beyond the age of 7, simply because all my parents needed to do was give us "the look" and we knew that a consequence would come if our behaviour didn't change.

    Jay Adams has an interesting bit on spanking in his book Christian Living in the Home. He talks about how spanking is quick, so the issue is addressed and the relationship is restored quickly instead of kids having to sit in guilt until they can be restored to the parent. I'm not saying I agree or disagree with him, but I thought it was an interesting point.

    I am curious about the adopted children though. I am wondering why people can't spank adopted children. I'm not saying I disagree or anything, I'm just curious as to why that is. Is it a legal rule or a good idea because of a potential past or what? Adoption is something that God has really been putting on my heart so I'm curious as to how discipline properly when it comes to adoption. Thoughts? (I'm learning SO MUCH about adoption from you!)
    :)

    Emily Wright

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    1. hi Em, cool how you're thinking about adoption! love hearing that deep down in my soul :)

      As far as I know, it's not just a Quebec rule but basically across the board. The sad facts are, many kids have been physically (and otherwise) abused and spanking would absolutely be traumatic after that. Furthermore, it's hard for social workers to be 100% sure about a child's past, even if they were removed from their home for specific reasons that they know of. As a result, to cover all bases I'm guessing, you can't spank any adopted child.

      They make you sign something, so we couldn't go against that in good conscience

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    2. I'm late responding to this, but wanted to reply to Emily W's questions about why you can't spank children who are adopted. A lot has to do with how the child would respond to spanking.

      A child who is adopted comes with the invisible special need of a broken heart. Separation from a birth mother, no matter what the age, creates chaos and trauma and impacts the brain of a child. Many children can end up feeling worthless, unwelcome in the world. This is expressed at a surprisingly young age, and you may see behaviours that push a new caregiver away. Spanking or other kinds of discipline can reinforce to the child that he/she is "bad" or unlovable.

      In the case of children who are learning how to have a loving, reciprocal relationship with an adoptive (or foster) parent, spanking, yelling or other kinds of discipline can be very scary and trigger a child's brain into flight or fight response. It becomes cyclical - for example: child acts out in some way; parent yells; child then acts aggressively; parent gets more frustrated and angry; child now continues in the cycle of feeling unloveable. In order to break the cycle and bring healing to the child's broken heart so that a healthy relationship can be formed, a new way of parenting needs to take place.

      With children who are adopted, we have found some of these strategies helpful AND healing:
      - do-overs (once they are old enough)
      - humour (diffusing the situation)
      - playfulness
      - compassion
      - structure
      - providing predictable transitions

      I didn't believe these things would work, but with putting into practice a new way of parenting these last 2+ years we have seen amazing healing take place in our kids' hearts!

      For resources along those lines, check out The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis or her website for a short video series called "gifts and insights":
      http://empoweredtoconnect.org/insights-gifts-video-series/

      Mary Catherine

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  7. Hey friend! So im not a huge fan of spanking, but will do it as a last resort. I really do think it all depends on the child. For some children, timeout just doesn't work, for others, like Coral, she hates it. We always try to be quick with dicipining her, such as, she gets one warning, if she doesn't obey, she gets a time out. When she was Lilly's age she was always out in the corner. The first time we put her in it she obviously left it, and she got a spank for leaving, never had a problem after that until recently. Now she needs to be put in her room for time out. So for her, time out works, and now she is at the point where all we have to do is threaten time out and she listens. But, lily might need more then a time out in the corner for her to listen.

    I think if your quick to discipline ALWAYS (which I know is sometimes so hard to do when you have been doing it allll day and your exhausted) and your consistent, lily will catch on that you mean business. Also, I think that if your going to chose to spank her, you really need to take the time to do it. If coral gets a spank, we always explain to her why she is getting a spank before we do it (this also give us a few seconds for us to calm down if we are frustrated with her so we don't end up just spanking her out of anger). And then of course after we spank her we give lots of hugs and kisses and tell her that we love her , and then most of the time pray with her. It is hard because you have to think to the future and how you will discipline your adopted children, but lily might only need a few good taps on the bum for her to listen?

    Laura Hodgson

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    1. agree on the 'ALWAYS' part for sure. consistency, in whatever method is often the key, so I've read.

      We always say "no standing in the bath" or "please sit" to Lily, even though it's annoying for us to be so repetitive. and you know? we're slowly seeing obedience :)

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  8. I don't have fully formulated thoughts on this yet but I know I'd better get them quickly because the twins are not far behind Miss Lil!

    I will say I have tried the hand slap as it related to food throwing as well (that is the area I have most been at my wits' end with our kids) and I have had a similar experience with uncertainty. For S it only seems to confuse and upset and for M she laughs as though it is a game - and I'm not comfortable taking it further with her at only 15 months.

    Right now not knowing exactly what they understand and not being able to ask them and have them tell me is making me take it slow.

    So no useful info here yet, except to say I too have bath-standers and food-throwers. And we don't own a rocking chair but Miss M has threatened to launch herself off the couch on more than one occasion. :)

    OH but the whole point I came here to make... I knew about the no spanking for adoptive children but I totally NEVER connected it to how I parent now because of course at the time were originally had this conversation in our home we thought we might not have bio kids at all. Thanks for bringing this up, that totally confirms for me that I too do not want to go down a road I can't be consistent with in the future.

    Much to think about...

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    1. Lily laughs too. SO annoying. for me, I know that she understands "No" because she often listens unless it's something she so badly wants to do (for whatever reason, it's standing when she shouldn't, lol). So it's easy to know, ok, she's disobeying me right now, I need to do something. But when she was 15 months I can't remember if she was at this place yet...

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  9. I tried to post 2 times before, and it stopped me although I do enjoy getting to read the new insights that get added with each time I try, so maybe its for the best and hopefully this on works!

    We are still forming our discipline strategies. Most discipline books make me cringe because I hate the idea people have that this issue is black or white. Each child is different and just because one strategy works like gold for one it may be awful for another, so nothing is set in stone or the best strategy! you have to find what works for the kid and the family! I dont think I can spank, I dont like the idea of hitting if I want to teach not to, but I can't 100% say we will never need to go that route, but for now that will not be the route we take. The tough part is that before 2 kids are learning something new all the time and although we know they understand, they could be understanding differently than we think or testing simply to understand what rules and boundaries really mean, maybe not just to go against you. Like mom said not to stand and rock on my chair, but I think its fun, so what will happen if I still try it? This is a hard stage for sure!

    For safety issues we say no sternly, and if she doesn't listen I forcefully sit her down or hold her hand and explain why. She doesn't like it, sometimes it turns into a game, but so far it works and she gets the picture. Hannah is pretty sensitive though so empathy works well with her so far too! We are also big on the praise for doing the right thing and showing her other options so she learns the right thing to do and isn't just stuck on testing us! Its so cute to see them learn and clap when they know they are doing good things!

    This is a crazy journey this parenthood thing! Thanks for posting and keep us updated as you continue to learn how things work for your little ones and you guys! Hope Lily gets the message soon that you guys really just want to keep her safe and she's better off listening to you!

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    1. love your humility in saying "can't say we'll never do that". Before I had kids I spoke in such absolutes.... now I know better haha!
      unfortunately in our case, we need to say "never" with spanking because we'll be ethically obligated, having signed and sworn that we won't, but I do think it depends on the situation/stage in life/child.

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  10. Oh and as for cranky times! Hannah is totally cranky from 4-5 as well! She's tired and bored, especially for the days when it's bad weather and we haven't been out of the house at all (we no longer can drive anywhere either since our transit strike Matt always has the car). The thing is that I'm bored and cranky sometimes and ready for the day to end/Matt to get home too, so I can't really blame her! I realized that I need to give her something fun to look forward to and distract her from being tired and ready for the day to be done. So sometimes she helps cook. I have changed our meals to either really easy things she can help with, or crockpot I do earlier in the day or something I can do when Matt gets home. But sometimes that means Hannah stirring a pot of rice on the floor to "get it ready" while I chop veggies or her passing me things from the fridge, but I find she loves being a part of the food prep if at all possible! If not food prep than usually I go either with a crafty activity or we go downstairs for a change of scenery and on the really bad days we watch a youtube clips or movie (and only if she picks it out because she's not big on watching things). Since I discovered the art of doing something different and fun Hannah has been so much better! I can only imagine how it is trying to juggle a baby in with food prep and a toddler, so it may not be possible to do much more than you do, but hopefully thats helpful!

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    1. sounds like you guys get a lot done in a day! thats so nice, almost enviable. Lily only leaves the house, probably twice a week. sad I know, but with Oli's depending schedule and the challenges in me leaving with both of them, it's all we can swing right now. I often wonder what I would do with Lily if Oli weren't around. Now that she's mobile and doesn't nap much, the city would be our oyster ;)

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  11. I tried to comment a few days ago but I was on my phone & I see that the post didn't show up so I'll try again.

    We are also in the process of working out what we think about discipline. I took our some books from the library and a lot of what they said are similar to things that Ashley brought up.

    Both books emphasized the importance of communicating clearly & accurately with toddlers because it helps them learn and understand. For example, they suggest saying "Dirty!" instead of "No!" when they are about to touch the toilet is more clear. I have been trying this strategy and I find its a great use of my brain in terms of thinking of the most clear & sometimes creative way of communicating without yelling "no" or "don't" or "stop"!

    The book also said that at this age, they can copy but don't fully understand the full impact of words. I know that Sebby knows how to use the word "no" but does not understand the seriousness of it and he often just grins when he hears it or says it himself. As a result, at least for now, I am choosing to use it very infrequently because he has started to get to the point where he repeats EVERYTHING we say. The other day, I accidentally said, "No, no no" when he was going towards the toilet. He turned around & said "No, no, no", grinning. In fact, he is also saying "Noooooo" (in a cute Scottish accent) a lot these days. For example, when other kids touch his toys he now says, "Noooo" & tries to take them back. I think this is because he has a 3 year old friend who does the same thing to him so he has picked that up from her.

    Anyways, I think he is older & understands better, I will probably use the word "no" more but I don't think that it is helpful for us at this stage.

    THe book suggests that positive reinforcement is a great strategy for younger toddlers because it focuses on the kinds of behavours that you want to see from them. They will tend to make a big deal over whatever you make a big deal over.

    I have also read that the "time out" works best closer to age 3 because they can't fully grasp the concept...to give them some distance from their actions & it is a time to reflect on what they did. Its effectiveness is also dependent on personality.

    In terms of spanking, I'm not a big fan because I don't think it communicates a good message, especially at an age like Sebby's where he copies without understanding the implications of what he is doing. I don't want to send a message that hitting is OK. We were spanked occasionally by my dad. I do remember that it was really embarrasing for me & I hated it. Some of my brothers had different reactions, they would make more of a joke out of it. I can't remember my mom ever spanking and I think they stopped spanking altogether after us first few kids. My parents made some major changes to their approach to discipline as they grew as parents. I think they made some real positive improvements...with 12, there's room for lots of practice & improvement. Lucky Anna, she has some stellar parents! Me too, I love 'em!

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  12. Hey Em,
    What a great topic! I recently read an article called 10 alternatives to punishment and it helped me to decide that I don't want to spank. For the reasons you mentioned above, especially the slippery slope one. And because I don't want to inflict physical pain to teach a lesson on a little one who has such innocent and absolute trush in me!! Benji is 20 months and we are trying to teach him not to hit and have been since he was a year old! I really believe that using hitting (spanking) to teach him not to hit, is NOT the answer! So I won't be spanking. We're doing quick, consistent time outs and I'm noticing that as he gets older, the time outs need to be a bit more removed from the action so that he really is being punished a little bit. Can't wait until he gets older and able to reason because the article above suggested negotiating and leading your child to make the best decision by offering choices. NOBODY likes being told what to do. Not kids. Not adults! Well we're learning and loving along the way just like you!!! Many Blessings to you and yours as you follow the Lord's leading!!
    xoxo

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