The Great Spank Out (SpankOut Day USA 2011)

Happy Spank Out Day! Thank you for helping to spread the word that there are gentler alternatives to spanking! And thank you to Zoie at TouchstoneZ for alerting me to this event!

From Becoming the Parent You Want to Be by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser:

So even though spanking may work in the short run, it teaches children things that we may not really want them to learn in the long run—to be afraid of their parents, to distrust themselves, to look to the outside for what would be the wise decision in every situation. Perhaps most critically, spanking teaches children that it’s okay to hit and it’s okay to be hit. [emphasis in the original]

I was spanked as a child. And I turned out okay. But I still don’t spank my kids.

The basic thing I learned about spanking from my own family experience and from discussing it with other parents is that for the kids it works on, it’s more than you need, and for the kids it doesn’t work on, there’s not much point.

My dad could reduce me to tears with a harsh look or a stern tone of voice. The spanking was beyond what was necessary to correct my behavior. My brother had a wooden spoon with his name on it that my mom kept handy because she spanked him so often that she had more than once broken blood vessels in her hand. Spanking didn’t work for my brother, so my parents kept on trying it. Spanking worked better than necessary on me, so my parents kept on doing it.

The conclusion I came to was that my parents were doing the best they could with the only tool in their tool box.

When I became a parent, I wanted more options. I knew I didn’t want to spank my children because it wasn’t the type of relationship I wanted with them.

What I didn’t bank on was the intensity of emotion that accompanied the active defiance my child showed as she went from age three to age four. I was so tired and confused and frustrated (and pregnant). And I was so angry that I couldn’t make my child mind me. I didn’t want spanking to be part of my tool box, but I didn’t know how to make what was in there work for us.

It was during this time that I realized that the only time spanking seemed like a viable option was when I was overcome by rage. Even if spanking could be a good long-term solution to behavior problems (an idea I rejected with my logical mind), I emphatically did not want to parent based on my most out-of-control mindset. In those moments that hitting my child seemed like a reasonable path, I took it as a sign that I needed to step back and get help.

Reading gentle parenting books (see my bibliography for more titles), seeking support from like-minded parents, and seeking professional help from therapists who shared (or at least respected) my more crunchy parenting choices (nursing past toddlerhood and homeschooling, among others) all helped to reduce that feeling that I was alone in the dark trying to parent without a map.

Something else that helped was keeping in mind the long-term goals of my family. In the long run, I want my children to trust their father and me. I want my role as parent to be one of gentle guidance not coercive control. I want my children’s family life to mirror the kind of relationships they have as adults. Do I want my children to think that a loving relationship involves hitting or being hit? Not remotely. So why would I bring that element into our family?

Parenting is hard. And it’s wonderful. There is not ever one thing that’s going to make it easy all of the time or make you as a parent feel competent for any extended period of time. We all do the best with what we have. For me, if what I have isn’t helping me parent in the way I want to, isn’t allowing me to be my Best Self, I need to find other tools to help me.

Please stop by and leave some comment love on some of these posts for Spank Out Day 2011:

10 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing. Your words so often hit so close to home for me. They give light to thinks I haven’t quite articulated yet, and for that I am grateful! The help is so crucial. I find this type of parenting so challenging and I have the support of resources like you mentioned. I can’t imagine going it alone.

    Like

    • CJ · May 6, 2011

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Jamie. Going it alone would certainly be even more challenging.

      Like

  2. Dacia · May 2, 2011

    Like I have said before, I do not have children. If I am lucky enough one day to have children I would hope to be the type of parent that you are and will definitely be coming back to your blog to find the books you have read and possibly hit you up, no pun intended, for some advice.

    Like

  3. Kelly · May 1, 2011

    I really enjoyed your post – there is so much awesome truth in it!

    I definitely feel blessed to have the opportunity to find more tools for my toolbox through support, community and greater research opportunities (yay for the internet!).

    I haven’t reached the stage of toddlerhood yet with my little one but posts like this help me feel so much more prepared – thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Like

  4. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ · April 30, 2011

    Thank you for taking part in Spank Out Day!

    This is so powerful to me, CJ. I also ran into that rage when my oldest hit 3. I didn’t know what to do with rage. I was terrified of it. So, it consumed me. It definitely contributed to the PPD and the belief that I needed to get away from my kids because I thought I’d damage them in some way. I felt my hand twitch a few times to smack and that was enough to have me call my husband in tears a few times to ask him to take over for me so I could get away.

    Now, it’s a big ole’ duh! that I didn’t take a break earlier when I felt burnt out. Also, I’m not (very) afraid of rage anymore because I know I can separate myself from it and not turn into the uncontrolled berserker I feared.

    I know that all parents love their children and try to do the best with the tools they have. How different would my ability to find help, find research, find other parents without the internet have affected my parenting and PPD recovery? Immensely. I may have been a parent who spanked. I definitely would have been a parent full of self-loathing even if I never lifted a hand. I know parents don’t all hit from that place, but if I had ever hit, it would have been from a place of self-loathing.

    Like

  5. teresa · April 30, 2011

    It really is about tools, isn’t it?
    I love what you say here.
    And thanks for adding my link. I’m going to do the same on mine.
    Take Care.

    Like

  6. Dulce de leche · April 30, 2011

    Thank you so much! I am linking to your post. 🙂

    Like

  7. Kelly · April 30, 2011

    Thank you so much for your thoughts here, for participating in The Great Spank Out, and for your comments on the otehr post.

    Your commentary regarding age 3 / 4 is apt. I think a lot of AP parents move into other shows of force, once their kid gets old enough to show enough agency they can be really inconvenient. This is why AP sites are flooded with people saying one shouldn’t spank a small child… but why non-punitive parenting doesn’t seem to get a lot of support! I don’t know though, really. I think about it a lot!

    Thanks also for sharing your own history. This is a very straightforward piece and I appreciate what you’ve said!

    Like

    • CJ · April 30, 2011

      Yes, when my daughter hit that 3-4 age, all of the smugness I’d developed during the “terrible twos” dissolved. Of course, non-punitive parenting isn’t glamorous or dramatic. You couldn’t base a nanny TV show around it. It takes too long and too much connection to implement and maintain to make it viable as a topic for a TV program.

      Posting on the SpankOut has been more rewarding than I expected. I like participating in this conversation.

      Like

  8. Pingback: Spank Out Day « TouchstoneZ

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