Raise your hand if you’ve ever spanked a child:
I read something this morning resonated with my view on parenting.
Most parents feel angry when they spank. An angry person is determined to assert control in a situation, and doing something physical feels like it will bring some relief. So spanking a child may make a parent feel temporarily righteous, back in control, or vindicated. . .
Parents have to steel themselves emotionally in order to follow through with a spanking. We have to harden our hearts. Or, perhaps more often, a challenging situation that we’ve been trying hard to deal with finally sends us into emotional badlands; where love can’t be felt. And there, we feel that our child has driven us to spank—it’s their fault, not ours, that our hand hit them. Read the full article here
Studies have shown repeatedly that spanking teaches fear and increases what is generally considered bad behavior in a child and depression as an adult. More on those studies can be found in the full article I quoted from if you’re interested or doubtful.
Someone here is reading this and thinking “I was spanked as a child and I’m okay”.
Are you sure? Do you think you are the perfect form of yourself? Had your parents *not* spanked you, do you think your life and emotional reactions to difficult situations would be different?
I can think of a few instances as a teen where I would certainly have handled things differently had it not been for the fear of what my parents would do. I was so worried about physical punishment for one thing that happened that my parents and I both missed out on what should have been an important discussion about something that had happened in my life. And I never did get the opportunity to talk to them about it because the fear of physical punishment was so strong.
I don’t ever want my children to be afraid to talk to me. EVER.
But wait—I was spanked and consequently feared punishment and yet I also have confessed that I do spank my child.
I don’t consider myself a “normal spanker”. And I know that the time will come when I don’t spank at all. I discovered a long time ago that when I spank my child in the “heat of the moment” that I have lost control of my own emotions.
And I HATE losing control of myself.
In my opinion, spanking a child in the heat of the moment is no different than that same child hitting someone else when they get mad–except that I’m an adult and should *know better*. But that just makes it worse, right?
To demonstrate how spanking generally works in my family, I’ll share an incident that happened this afternoon.
Every parent knows that silence in the presence of multiple toddlers always means trouble. I was met with said silence while feeding the 10 month old. A quick turn of my head and simultaneous recognition of the sound of chalk on the door had me jumping up with lightening speed. My natural inclination was to yell and yes, smack my child on her behind so hard she cried.
That is not what I did.
Instead I more-than-firmly (just short of yelling) told the oldest toddler to go sit on the mat in the playroom, the youngest (who did not appear to have been involved in anyway) to go find a ball, and my own child—middle in age—to sit on the steps and fold her arms. As I did this I grabbed a washcloth and scrubbed as much of the chalk off the door as possible.
The scrubbing was MY time to gain control and make sure I didn’t flip a lid over something as harmless as sidewalk chalk. I knew from past experience that the reddish chalk wasn’t going to come off entirely and I was right. The door will have to be painted before we sell the house but it was going to have to be painted anyways because of the green chalk from a few months ago.
Once the chalk was [mostly] gone I sat on a chair and called the oldest over to me. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: ______, why did you color on the door?
Me: Are you allowed to color on your walls at home?
Him: No. [looks off towards my daughter who is squirming on the stairs]
Me: [addressing my daughter]_____, hold still and fold your arms. [turning back to the boy] You need to apologize and tell me you won’t color on the walls again.
Him: I sorry—[turning his attention to the stairs again]
Me: [placing my fingers on his chin and redirecting his gaze] Look at me, ______. Try again.
Him: I sorry I cowored on the walls.
Him: I won’t do it again.
Me: Now go in and go potty and then start picking up toys. [turning towards my daughter] Come here.
[she sulks over]
Me: Why did you color on my walls?
Her: [shrugging] I don’t know.
Me: Are you allowed to color on the walls?
Her: Uh uh [shaking her head slowly]
Me: Where is it okay to color with the sidewalk chalk?
Me: Are we outside?
Her: No, we INside.
Me: You need to apologize and tell me you won’t color on the walls again.
She apologizes, but I have to hold her chin to get her to look me in the eyes when she apologizes and tells me she won’t draw on the walls again. It takes several tries for her to get it right.
Me: You know better than to color on the walls so you’re going to get a spanking.
At this point I gently turn her around and give her behind a firm but definitely not painful spank. It’s enough to make her step forward but not enough to hurt. Teammates smack each other’s butts after a nice play harder than I spanked her.
Me: I love you, _____. Thank you for apologizing. Now go help the boys pick up the playroom. It’s almost time for the mommies to come.
It’s worth noting that throughout the short conversations with the children I keep a calm, matter of fact tone. I’m not yelling but I’m not being sweet, either. Also, I try very very hard to never say, “I love you but you can’t [blah blah] anymore.” The word “but” negates the statement of love. It leaves proverbial strings attached to my love and that simply isn’t the message I want sent to my kids.
I hope that my two year old understands that she’s not being spanked because I’m mad at her but because it is a consequence of doing something she knows is wrong. Spanking is one of the consequences she has, but it’s certainly not the one we use all the time. Sometimes we take away her Kindle privileges and sometimes it’s an extended time out. On the rare occasion that she has a complete melt down we send her to her room until she’s ready to calm down.
Those complete meltdowns are rare—especially for a child who is considered to be in her “Terrible Twos”.
My other daughter is six years old. It has been so long since I spanked her that I can’t remember when it was. This actually makes me very happy!!
The older daughter is not the type of child to color on walls. She did get into my make-up once but that was to put it on her face, which maked total sense since I’d never told her she couldn’t play with it. Instead, most of the discipline issues we have with our oldest has to do with her listening to direct instructions.
The phrase, “If I had a dollar for every time I told you to put your shoes and backpack away I’d be rich!” comes to mind.
Unless I look her straight in the eye or stand over her, she doesn’t do what she’s told to do. It’s highly annoying. Looking her straight in the eye while talking to her 100% of the time is impossible; I have 5 other children to keep an eye on, too!
When she does need discipline, I’ve decided that I really like having her write about what went wrong. She has to tell me why she did something and what she should have done differently. Sometimes she looks at me with puppy dog eyes, silently begging me to tell her what to write, but I remind her that it’s not my feelings she’s writing about. When she gets really stuck trying to find the words I let her draw a picture or two or three until she can get her point across. Asking her what the pictures are about always results her ability to verbalize what I had hoped she’d be able to write so the end result is the same.
She misspells about 20% of what she writes, but hey, she’s SIX.
For more minor things she’s simply sent to her room until I’m ready to talk to her about where her behavior went off track.
This six year old used to throw 45 minute (or more!) tantrums—constant kicking and screaming—and my way of dealing with the tantrum was to ker-plunk her on her bed and shut the door behind me, telling her she could come out when she was calm. It took over an hour the first couple of times (she was 3) but over time she learned to calm down faster. Her bedroom is now her refuge; the place she goes to regain control over her emotions and calm down.
And while she is in her room, I can maintain my calm, too. It really is a win-win for the both of us.
So do I spank my kids? Yes, but not often and not when I’m losing my temper. (Unless I’m having a really bad day and then I feel like the scum of the earth and end up doing all the apologizing).