Hands Are For Loving (source)
FYI: I don't expect everyone to agree with me but I do expect people to be respectful of my beliefs and feel free to challenge them in an intelligent and peaceful way. Any disrespectful comments will not be posted.
This is such a controversial topic that I generally avoid getting into it with people, but as this is my space I am going to jump right in. The other day my neighbor Jake was getting fired up about spanking as a form of discipline. He is struggling with his 7-year old daughter's difficult adjustment to school this year and her attitude that she brings home. He is understandably frustrated and, while he has never resorted to spanking his daughter in the past, he is seriously considering it. Having been raised by parents who occasionally used spanking as a punishment, and having not been damaged by it himself, he sees no problem in occasionally using this form of discipline when nothing else seems to work. Sound familiar?
I don't profess to be an expert in parenting but I do have very strong beliefs about certain things, such as discipline. I also have an easy child and obviously don't understand the struggles of other parents who have children that have sensory, communication, and other emotional issues that make parenting more difficult. Nor do I believe that parents who spank their children love them less than I love my own daughter. I know that most parents are doing the best they know how.
In my last post I shared some of my views on respect and gentle parenting which comes down to this statement: We chose to treat our daughter as we would like to be treated ourselves, but with understanding that due to her age and lack of experience we must necessarily step in to gently guide her. I do not like to be spanked, hit, yelled at, lectured, or put in a corner to "think about what I have done wrong" so I certainly wouldn't do it to my daughter. At Ravenna's age of two none of those things are developmentally appropriate anyway, since she cannot understand logical consequences. All she can understand from those forms of discipline is that she is having love/parental presence removed which will either create fear or greater resistance in the future. I want my child to obey me because she respects me and feels validated. When she is having a hard time because of something I have done such as keeping her out during her nap time, I should not be surprised when she tantrums in the grocery store and certainly not punish her for my bad timing.
One of the biggest reasons I feel so turned off by spanking is about me, though. I do not want, for any reason, to cause intentional pain to my child because I could not control myself. I have often heard parents defending spanking say "Spanking is O.K. if you do it while you are in control." Every time I can remember being spanked as a child I very vividly recall my father biting his tongue, which he only ever did when he was angry. I have seen parents in public spanking that are furious, scared, or just plain irritated, but never calm. If I am not in control when it comes to my daughter I remove myself from the situation when it is safe to walk away, and when it is not safe, such as in a public location I get out of the situation as quickly as possible. This is one way that we practice positive discipline.
One of the eight principles of the attachment parenting philosophy, Positive Discipline:
"...helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone's dignity intact."
Teaching by example and with respect is how I try to parent and I believe that will lead to respect and obedience from my child. In Unconditional Parenting, by educator Alfie Kohn, the author asserts that in his many years of research,
“…the kids who do what they’re told are likely to be those whose parents don’t rely on power and instead have developed a warm and secure relationship with them. They have parents who treat them with respect, minimize the use of control, and make a point of offering reasons and explanation for what they ask.”
So, dear reader, with all that said you may still completely disagree with me, and that is fine by me. You may also be feeling overwhelmed by the thought of changing the way you parent. If you want to change, it may seem impossible given that your current style of parenting is so deeply entrenched in how you were raised, how others may have counseled you to discipline as a young parent, and the very basic fact that change is hard, particularly where children are concerned. As parents strive to do their best, to be better than their parents were, and for those of us who are Christians, try to model our parenting after our Savior's example, we can overcome many of the barriers that keep us from living peacefully with our children. It takes research, effort, making mistakes and time, but you can do it!