Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spanking (why I don't)

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.


Unknown said...

A tend to have a temper as well. My son feeds off my emotions so much, so when he is doing something naughty and I get upset it only makes him behave worse. So spanking really doesn't have a place for us either.

Lara said...

Good post! I use a lot of the Love and Logic principles by Jim Fay. It focuses more heavily on helping children develop responsibility by letting them make decisions appropriate for their age. Natural consequences are a big part of it. It's very positive and actually fun to implement.

Chigger Hill Cottage said...

I spanked (was of old school) and am not proud that sometimes I spanked in anger. That, however, is how my parents delt with me (on a harsher scale I might add). Sometimes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I am older now and understand so much more. My 16yr old didn't get spanked hardly at all, compared to my now 30,28, & 23 yr old. My kids tell me I'm mellow with age. I believe I'm more educated! The key, I believe, is what you mentioned; being disciplined ourselves. There has to be consequences for bad behavior, and while I DO still believe in spankings, it would have to be for a VERY serious incident, such as deliberately hurting another child. I'm sure that's what your parents' philosophy was, after reading your post! I also believe the "rod" in the Bible referred to "gently prodding". If you'll read about how sheep were treated,they weren't beaten, they were GENTLY prodded and LED to where they needed to go. JMHO

Call Me Cate said...

That reasoning makes perfect sense to me. Sometimes, we need to completely banish a thing from our life in order to be sure we won't use it improperly in our less-rational moments.

I was spanked, among other punishments. I never found it to be a great deterrent. And the only thing spanking in anger seems to do is distract the child from the bad behavior by causing them pain. Maybe I'll feel differently if I ever have kids of my own but at this point, that doesn't seem like the most effective option.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I really admire your bravery for being so honest about your temper. I think all moms really have that same thing in common... our kids know how to push our buttons in ways we'd never imagined! I definitely have a shorter temper with my kids than I ever dreamed I would.

I'm not a spanker. I swore up and down that I would never spank my kids. I will even admit to looking down on people who did spank. And then my daughter turned 3 1/2 and I didn't know what to do with her anymore. And I did try spanking. And there is a part of me that is still ashamed. And there is a part of me that knows there were at least 2 occassions were the spanking was done completely right (calm) and was the most effective tool I had at that moment. Doesn't mean that I'm not committed to not spanking now. Because I am back to my iron willed, won't spank stance. But I'm also a little more understanding of the... feeling of desperation and frustration that can lead to spanking.

Amanda said...

Beth I was definitely never going to be a spanker because in my home growing up it was used as an excuse for abuse. Lots of scars run deep. My SIL reccomended a book by Tedd Tripp called "Shepherding A Child's Heart" and it has opened my eyes about spanking. It's very similar to what you're parents did with you, but it also emphasises the importance of getting to the heart. Helping your children to understand their sin and why they need dicipline and forgiveness from God. Even Brayden understands when he sins. Check it out.

Annelie said...

Great post!
I admire your awareness of your temper, and the conscious decision to prevent it from affecting your children. Also, the adaptation of your discipline methods to each kid & situation, while letting them know the consequences of their choices in advance is also something I want to do with my own (future) children. To teach your children that others deserve respect, by showing them respect in the first place, is something that I think is so important. And your purposeful, deliberate parenting certainly does that.

I don't yet have any children of my own, but I grew up in the complete absence of good parenting, but was frequently on the reviving end of anger, threats, verbal abuse & violence unrelated to my actions or choices. I grew up with no rules, no proper consequences, no respect, love, logic, constancy or deliberate purpose. However, unbeknown to them, I learned a lot from my parents, but all of it was by seeing what I didn't want to be. I got lucky. I am independent, free thinking, I have trust in myself and my decisions because I have had to rely on myself for as long as I can remember. These are all good qualities. I could have turned out very differently. However, there are obviously better ways to prepare your children for successful adulthood than by being the anti-role model.

Since I don't want to be "another apple falling close the tree" I am very interested in parenting techniques, both the do's & the do not's, in order to figure out what kind of parent I would like to be. In regards to spanking, I was never spanked, just beaten, but I do not believe that I would have reacted well to it even if it would have been implemented properly. However, my husband was spanked, in the same disciplined, calm and deliberate way you describe from your own upbringing and he believes it was beneficial to him. We go back and forth, and are still undecided on the subject. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. It has given me plenty of food for thought.

All my life I have chosen to not be a product of my parents poor decisions. I would like my own children to not have to do that. Thanks again for a great post.

*Monica said...

I loved this post although I am a rare spanker. My children are disciplined in many other ways before spanking. It is reserved for incredibly bad behavior. I will say that I have felt guilty at times afterwards, but I am secure in the fact that my children have never felt abused or mistreated.

Mellodee said...

Unfortunately some kids really know how to push the envelope! When dealing with one of this type, just remember to do the best you can and be able to forgive yourself if they push you too far and you overreact! An "I'm sorry" with a hug and a discussion later on will help both you and the child! Actually, it sounds like you are doing just fine! :)

marissa said...

If I was a writer (like you Beth) I could have written this exact post. Nicely said!

2cats said...

I'm with you Beth 100% of hte way. My son never had a single spanking. I just would tolerate it. I too was afraid that I might get carried away with my anger.
We used creative discipline. We often had him help (as he got older) in the decision making process of this.

Jennifer said...

Hi C Beth! I found your blog via Hillary (amazing mother of Russell & Camille) and have visited your blog regularly since. Thank you so much for even touching the topic of spanking. I feel like spanking is almost a 'dirty little secret' but in the rare times that we do it, it absolutely hurts us more than it hurts her.

My mother was born and raised in Korea where corporal punsihment was quite a common thing and my American born father hated the idea of it. However, I have such a great love and appreciation for them both and dare not judge their methods of discipline.

In the liberal area that I live in, I do not ever tell anyone that I might spank but at the same time, I wonder why it's such a secret.

I love my children dearly, absolutely adore them but sometimes time-outs and such are not enough.

I have never hurt my children nor are they scared of me and I don't judge other mothers for their disciplinary choices and I hope they don't judge mine.

I completely understand the choice not to spank and live by it 95% of the time!

But thank you for even providing a forum for the 'spank or not' debate :)

LEstes65 said...

Well said, my friend. I have the same issue. My temper will always be one of my biggest wrestling points. I was spanked as a child. When it happened out of anger, it was very frightening. And those times still stick in my head. My temper is bad enough without adding the possibility of me wielding fists or "rods" or hands or whatever.

I do, however, believe that some parent/kid combinations need corporal punishment. I really do think I was a kid that required spanking while my sister responded to discussion and logic. My kids respond to my raised voice, death-stare, and consequences of various type. If they didn't? I'd have to find a way to balance my temper with corporal punishment. They're just lucky God made them so good. HA!

Megan Fletcher said...

Thanks for the insight into you and your parenting Beth.

Like another commenter, we have read Tedd Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart and tend to follow the principles he talks about. We want to be more concerned with the heart our children so we try to make the consequences secondary to the matter of the heart. But, it's hard. I have anger issues and God has been dealing with me on them for many years but especially through parenting. I'd have to say that I've had to work through them more because we do believe in spanking. I've had to admit my issue and really talk about it (with my husband and others) instead of just avoiding it.

I want to constantly be evaluating what I do as a parent and why I do it, so thanks for bringing up the topic and inviting others to comment.