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: