Spanking, however, is different. I actually believe spanking to be wrong.
And yet I’ve held off on writing about spanking because I didn’t want to piss you off. See, if BlogHer readers represented this country, 65% of you reading this right now would approve of spanking.
It’s difficult being in the minority for something like this.
There’s also a misconception that people who don’t agree with spanking must be permissive. We’re modern day parenting wusses who oblige our kids too much. Yet that’s so far from the truth. I’m neither permissive nor a wuss when it comes to disciplining my kids.
But I also don’t spank.
Much has been said about the effects of spanking on kids. I won’t go into that. It’s easy for us to say we were spanked as children and are now fine, and vice versa. That debate can go on and on from both sides. Let’s just agree that we’re all fine, whether we were spanked or not.Why then do I disagree with spanking?
Spanking is reactive. And that reaction usually reflects the parents’ fears and anger rather than the desire to protect, correct or otherwise teach our kids. Spanking hardly comes from a place of self-control where parents have taken a step back. In most cases, parents taking a step back usually means they won’t resort to spanking and instead turn to other means of discipline (more on just how to do that later).
Spanking is short-term. Spanking seems to solve the problem: If a child is wildly misbehaving, then spanking can make her quiet. Yet this is a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Spanking doesn’t provide the opportunity for both parent and child to learn from the situation. It’s a quick fix, a cop out. Speaking of which…
Spanking isn’t a learning opportunity. Other methods of discipline offer a kid the chance to reflect on his actions and how to make better decisions in the future. He’ll better learn right from wrong on his own initiative instead of from fear of repercussions. He’ll learn how to regulate his behavior and control his emotions, whether through distraction, calming himself down, spending time alone, or labeling his emotions.
Spanking doesn’t let kids own up to their mistakes. Kids will obey because parents say so. They may not understand why their misbehavior was wrong, only that it warranted a spanking.
Spanking shouldn’t be a last resort. Parents sometimes say they reserve spanking as a last resort, for really inappropriate behavior. Yet considering how reactive spanking is, I’m not surprised it’s used as a last resort. Most parents spank when a child does something pretty bad because those are the behaviors serious enough to elicit an extreme reaction. You wouldn’t spank over spilled milk because spilled milk doesn’t draw a strong reaction as touching a hot oven. In the end, spanking happens because of our (re)actions instead of our kids’.
Spanking is disrespectful. I mean, come on. You’re using physical force to teach a lesson, regardless of how soft or hard you swat at their hand or bottom.Instead, consider the alternatives to spanking:
- Take a break. Before resorting to spanking, step back and give yourself a time-out. Whenever I’ve felt the pull to spank my kids, I’d walk away a few times to keep myself from going ballistic in front of them. Take two minutes and go to your room, breathe, beat a pillow if you have to.
- Enforce (and follow through with) natural consequences. “Punishment” is most effective when natural consequences follow your child’s misbehavior. Rather than spank, enforce something that must happen because he misbehaved. Did he throw a tantrum and wreak havoc with his toys? Place those toys away because he has now lost the privilege of playing with them for a week.
- Say no firmly. We forget how powerful this method can be. Get down to your child’s eye level, pull on your serious face (I’m sure this will come naturally in light of his misbehavior), and in a low, firm voice, correct his misbehavior.
- Draw your child in. Instead of a time-out, have a time-in. Engage with your child on why he misbehaved. Anger and threats hardly help my son calm down, nor do they teach him any useful lessons. I help him calm down and discuss his misbehavior by drawing him in, physically and emotionally.
- Conversely, ignore your child. About to snap? It’s totally okay to ignore your kid for a few minutes and tune her out. You’re human and are incapable of shielding yourself from the strong pull of your emotions. Wait for her (and yourself) to regain composure, even if you have to place her in a room or walk away.
- Have age-appropriate expectations. Sometimes I forget my kids are still kids. Silly, I know, but when you’ve had 30+ years to hone life skills such as regulating your emotions or making controlled decisions, it’s easy to assume our kids should too. But they’re kids, and wanting to make a beeline to the car is an impulse they have that we don’t. They’re living in the moment—we’re thinking of safety and danger. Instead, hold tight to your child’s hands when crossing the street. Many spanking-instigated episodes could be prevented when we remember their developmental stages and ages.
- Was it your fault? You just noticed your son got his hands on the kitchen knife. A few seconds late and he could have easily sliced his fingers, sending you to the emergency room. You’re filled with fear and frustration all jumbled together and are ready to spank. But take a step back: Why was the knife there? It’s unlikely your son climbed onto the kitchen stool, unlocked the safety latches and grabbed the knife on his own. No, you probably left it there within his easy reach. Teach him a lesson on safety, but sometimes we’re the ones that could use a reminder too.
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? But that’s the point. Spanking is a one-time deal that maybe resolves the issues that moment (I say maybe because I know my kids wouldn’t obey if they were spanked; they’d just freak out more).
Taking the time to understand our kids and using the opportunity to teach instead of spank is much more effective in the long run. You’ll help raise kids who can think for themselves, make calculated decisions with your guidance, and can hopefully understand not only that they shouldn’t misbehave, but also why.
I’m scared to ask, but here you go: What do you think of spanking? What are your reasons for doing so or not doing so? Have you found them effective? What other ways can parents discipline without spanking? Let us know in the comments.
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