What I know for sure: when I was a child, spanking didn’t motivate, inspire, or fear me into any behavior or decision that my parents wanted for me in the moment.
It actually made me angry, frustrated and humiliated. It often sparked a sense of revenge in my mind. I also found it very ironic, even as a small child, when my parents would say, “It’s not ok to hit anyone, especially in anger.” (They said this after I beat the crap out of the boy that teased me year after year about being fat.) And yet on occasions when I was disciplined with spanking or slapping, it was always as an outlet for their anger. My parents were responding to my behavior with anger – exactly what they told me NOT to do.
Children are literal. They can’t make sense of mixed messages. Here are a few questions children have asked me over the years:
- “Why can my mom hit me when she is mad, but I get in trouble when I hit my brother because I am mad?”
- “How come my dad got in trouble with the policeman for hitting his friend, but not when he hits me? ”
- “Why do I have to say sorry to my friend for hitting him when my parents never say sorry to me?”
- “Why is it ok for my parents to hit me, but my mom gets mad if my grandparents do it?”
As an educator and caregiver, it was never an option (morally or legally) to spank – ok let’s call a spade a spade – hit a child. I had to find clever, inventive ways to get the desired response from the children I worked with. I know, beyond any doubt, that is not only possible, but also probable, to get further with a child by leaving spanking out of the equation.
With that being said, I was raised deep in the heart of Texas where an ongoing motto is, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” I am not interested in changing your values or morals. I am interested in offering you another way that feels better as a parent and as a child.
Here’s one for you…
So my child and I are in disagreement and it escalates to the famous one liner that sends me to into a rage in a matter of seconds:
“I hate you!”
I instantly flash to the time when I uttered those words to my mom 30 years ago. I was “schooled” with a slap across the face. I knew that my mother loved me. I knew I had pushed her to a place beyond words. It wasn’t the slap that made me question my choice of words: it was the look in mom’s face. Her face told a thousand stories all starting with, “How could you…?”
Now it’s my turn. I immediately know that I want to handle this in a way that honors myself first, and my child.
Even if I have reached a point of rage, I have the presence of mind to stop and ask myself, “Am I in an angry, frustrated, or in an annoyed space right now?” When I answer “Yes!!!!” to this question, I know in my heart it is not the right time to address my child. I take this as a sign to remove myself physically from the space we are sharing and put myself in a space (usually a bathroom) where I can reflect on who I am and who I want to be as a parent. And most of all I take this time to remember the great things that my child brings to my life. My goal here is to view my own child with love, and not anger. When I feel good again (sometimes this takes minutes, sometimes hours), I come back to my child. When I am ready, I take the time to address the situation in a better state.
I know my parents did not find pleasure in spanking me, they didn’t even feel that it was the “right thing to do in the moment.” They just were frustrated or mad with my behavior and felt pushed into a corner with nowhere to go. They didn’t have the tools and techniques to do anything different. I know that I have grown over time and am now equipped with the information I need to be the parent I want to be. I have never met a parent that wants to hit their child. They just don’t know what else to do. Every time I practice walking away and disengaging when I am angry, I get to come back and be the parent I want to be.