I posted this to Twitter yesterday morning:
On a day like today, Chickie should consider herself very lucky I don't do corporal punishment.
As I write this blog post in the early afternoon, I can calmly admit it has been a pretty good day. But when you're in the middle of a bad 15 minutes, it feels like a bad day! When I typed the Tweet above, Chickie was in her room for an extended time out, due to some garden-variety, four-year-old defiance. If I was a spanking mom, it might have been time to give her one.
So...why don't I spank my kids?
I was occasionally spanked as a child. I remember my parents calmly telling me why I was going to be spanked. Before the paddle ever hit my (clothed) backside, I was crying! After the spanking, they told me they loved me. I don't ever remember bruises or welts, and I don't ever remember them spanking me in anger. I knew they loved me before, during, and after the discipline. I think some parents can spank some kids without causing psychological harm, and I think my parents struck that balance with me.
But there's a crucial phrase in the paragraph above: "I don't ever remember them spanking me in anger." The primary reason I don't spank my kids is because I know I don't always have control over my temper, and I think if I allow myself to spank when I am calm, at some point I'll probably also spank in anger. It's very important to me that I don't teach my kids that the appropriate way to release anger is through hitting. I want to be aware of my weaknesses, so I've made a decision in advance that will hopefully prevent a big mistake in the future.
I have other reasons I don't love the concept of spanking, but the reason above would be enough, even if it stood alone.
So because I don't spank, I must be a permissive parent who lets my kids run wild, disrespecting me at every turn, right?
Not quite. I probably won't ever find the perfect balance between structure and freedom in my home, but I do try to be firm, consistent, and gracious. I expect my kids to do what I tell them to do. If they disagree, I expect them to discuss it with me kindly, not defiantly. I expect them to treat me and others with respect, unless someone is trying to hurt them.
I utilize positive reinforcement such as praise, and negative reinforcement such as time outs, or taking privileges away. My discipline methods vary from kid to kid, and situation to situation, but I try to be clear in advance about what I expect and what the consequences will be for either a good choice, or a bad one. I am not always as consistent as I should be, but I try to be consistent enough that they know I'm serious and that they trust I will follow through.
When it comes down to it, I think it's important that we give our kids boundaries, with plenty of room within those boundaries to be themselves. I think it's also important that, no matter what discipline methods we choose, we treat our kids with respect and patience.
I'm still working on that "patience" thing. There are times I blow my top (and a lot more times I simply snap at the kids in obvious frustration.) I have to apologize frequently, but I'm learning the power of calm parenting. As they learn and grow, I do too.
I have one final thought, this one specifically for Christian parents. There are various verses in the Old Testament that speak of using a "rod" for discipline. Articles and books have been written by those who believe these verses mean Christian parents should utilize spanking. Other articles have been written (such as this one) against spanking, giving alternate interpretations for what using a "rod" might mean.
Here's how I see it. The New Testament focuses more on the "spirit of the law" than the "letter of the law." Even if the Old Testament "rod" verses are speaking of corporal punishment, I believe that I can follow the "spirit of the law" by giving my children appropriate boundaries and non-physical consequences.
Despite what my Tweet said yesterday, I don't think at this age Chickie really ponders Mommy's discipline style! But I hope in 20 years when she and Zoodle are young adults, we'll all look back on these years and feel good about the things they learned, and how they learned them.