Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thoughts on spanking

Back when I was a youngster I used to think that if I ever had kids I would probably use spanking as a form of discipline. What the heck, I thought. Most of the kids I babysat for were spanked every so often. In fact, the father of one little boy I sat for a few times gave me permission to spank if need be.

Sit back and think about that for a minute. I'm trying to wrap my brain around the idea of telling a 15 year old "Yeah, go ahead and hit my kid if you think he deserves it". Can you imagine? Not ever in my wildest dreams or my very worst nightmare would I ever say something like that. (For the record, I was a really good sitter. All the kids I watched really liked me and no, I never spanked any of them.)

Anyway, as I grew older I started to rethink this whole spanking thing. I knew that I had been spanked a few times as a kid (I don't remember it, I've just been told that) and that didn't sit right with me. (Again, for the record, my parents now think spaking is wrong and would probably rip me a new one if I ever dared to spank one of their grandbabies.) I didn't like the idea of parents hurting their own children even if it was done with the best of intentions.

When Jesse and I were dating we talked about this and he said that he thought spanking was ok. I informed him that I would never have kids with someone who spanked. He came to see things my way.

Jump forward to when Joseph was 2 and a half and he had developed a love affair with the knobs on the stove. This worried me to no end. I tried everything to get him to stop playing with those knobs. I scolded, I pleaded, I offered distractions, I raised my voice, I tried to block his access to them. Nothing worked. Then one day I thought "What if I slapped his hand the next time he reached for the stove? It's not really spanking and it would be for his own good. I would be keeping him safe!"

So I had a plan. The next time Joseph went after the stove knobs I picked him up and moved him away. I told him firmly that he could not play with the knobs. He went right back to them and reached his little hand up. With a pit in my stomach I "slapped" his hand. (Now again, for the record, I really hardly even tapped him. I have since given him countless playful slaps on the behind that have been harder than that little hand slap.)

I watched his face and waited for his reaction. You know, if he had cried I think I would have been ok. If he had cried I could have said to myself "Now he gets it. I didn't want to do it but now he's learned that touching the stove is dangerous."

But he didn't cry.

He just looked really suprised. And that killed me. All I could think was "Oh my god! What have I done? This little boy trusts me to keep him safe and not to hurt him and I just broke that trust! I hurt my little boy! How could I do that? What kind of a horrible mother am I?"

I was sick to my stomach about the whole incident. Such a reaction on my part probably wasn't logical since Joseph seemed to forget the whole thing in about two seconds (and yes, he reached for the stove again) but all I knew was that I knew 100% for sure that I would never hit another child ever again.

I'm not a pefect mom. I get angry. Sometimes probably angrier than I should. My kids sometimes do things that leave me thinking "Well what in the hell do I do now?" I get confused and I get frustrated. But I've never again hit one of my babies. And I never will.

Hitting is a bottom line for me. I can accept lots of parenting differences but I can't accept the idea that spanking is ok. I don't care if it's done out of love. I don't care if it's done out of anger. I've said it .before and I'll say it again: It's wrong to hit your children. Bottom line.

I'm curious what other people's bottom lines are. Is there anything that you think is outside the bounds of "parenting differences"? Or do you think there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to raising kids?


Anonymous said...

Okay, the computer ate my last comment, so here goes again.

I really liked reading your thoughts on spanking and it was very well written.

I don't have kids and don't have plans to have any, but I don't think I would spank.

I too was told at the ripe old age of 15 that I could spank the kids I babysat for. Just for the record, I did not spank them. Looking back now, it seems so ludicrous. I can't imagine if I did have kids that I would ever tell anyone else, much less a teenager that they could spank my kids.

Sticky Keys said...

I wasn't spanked as a child I was WHOOPED! I'm talking shoes, belts, switches and extension chords. That kind of spanking is a bit extreme (just a tad, heh), but I do believe in spanking.

Using the knob incident as an example, I would rather my kid get hurt a little bit by me then get permanently burned messing with the oven. If it's done right and thought out and not done with anger it can be a very effective tool.

You just have to make sure it's not damaging. That said different strokes and all that. If you can't stomach doing it then the impact isn't going to come through. There are other ways to teach and discipline, I'm sure you'll find a healthy balance.

melody said...

Well, I have 3 sons by adoption who were beaten, broken and/or otherwise abused. No, I don't spank them.

Very well written post.

Summer said...

I completely agree with you. I just cannot grasp how hitting your child could be anything other than hitting your child. despite what many say the only lesson I see in that is "I'm bigger and if you don't do what I say I'll hurt you". And that is no lesson I want my children learning. I was spanked as a child. I don't remember why, I don't even remember the physical spanking. But I remember the feelings of guilt and shame that came from them. I didn't stop my action because I learned it was wrong, I stopped my action because I knew that if I didn't they would hit me again. It wasn't abuse, they didn't use anything but their hands, they didn't leave marks or strike in anger. But that still left a negative impression that i never want to pass on to my children.

Does Spanking Equal Discipline?

Ben said...

Man I can't even squash bugs. I certainly couldn't hit a little person that popped out of my wifes vagina.

If I was married.

shyestviolet said...

I, too, do not squish bugs. However, I can vividly remember the two times I was spanked as a child (just two firm swats, really), and it wasn't so much the spanking that embedded the message in my head, as the frame of mind I remember my father being in. if he was that angry, I must've been doing something wrong. so I didn't do it again.

I don't know yet how I feel about spanking, but I appreciate your frank discussion of it, as always :)

who did you have do elle's photos, btw? am looking for a place to take my goddaughter to surprise her father for father's day. and yours turned out so wonderfully.

Maggie said...

I think you have to use the form of discipline that works with your child. I think you have to find what motivates your child. For example - if you do *this bad thing* then you lose privledges, or you get spanked, or you get a timeout...or if you don't do *this bad thing* then you get extra playtime, or a cookie, or a gold star or whatever. Spanking should be a last resort, and should definately not be used as the primary means of discipline, in my opinion. We haven't gotten to that point with our son but when we do we'll treat him with the same care and respect that we hope he will have for others.