Monday, September 13, 2010

Controversial Monday: The Dreaded "S" Word

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!


  1. I think I'm really going to enjoy reading this blog... I think I had an "ah hah!" moment when reading this post. My daughter is almost 4, and when I send her to timeout, she bursts into tears and says "oh, you don't love me anymore!" So I think I need to look into this "Positive discipline". I do however believe that every child is different. This method may not work for everyone, but in my daughters case, I think it would be beneficial.

  2. Honestly, I see no good in spanking, and yet... I have spanked Carter (on the hand and on the bum). I really AM ashamed of it, and everytime I do it, I feel horribly guilty. You've given me a new resolve to never do it again. I mean, that's usually what I set out thinking I will do, but then he pushes me to my breaking point, when nothing else seems to be getting through to him.... So here is my promise: I will not spank anymore!


  3. I LOVE your heart Carrie :) You are such a good mom! <3

    I don't all together agree with you.... but I don't all together disagree with you either :) Time has taught me that sharing child rearing techniques online can be tricky... and i'd rather have these talks in person where they can be hashed out. but that isn't always available.

    IMO there is often a conception on both sides of the spanking vs non spanking arguement - both sides think the other do it out of ignorance and don't know a better way. I have friend who both spank and ones which don't and I have seen that attitude from them both. as a person in the middle i honestly am not terribly concerned with the spanking issue so much as I am the love issue. If one loves their children and God dearly then their desire to do right by their individual children will lead them to the right decisions for them. I don't think there is one way to parent on any given. being a parent is all abut adapting to the needs of the child and the needs of the circumstance.

    I personally am a HUGE fan of time outs for my older kids (not my baby!). Having a child with SPD if I didn't give her (or myself on occasion) a time out it would results in her hurting someone, herself or something in our house. in a perfect world I could walk her up the stairs, hold her while she cries, brush her hair or of her eyes and tell her how much I love her. In real life She usually is ragingly out of control and overstimulated so she needs to be left alone to calm down until she's ready to talk. I go to my corner and calm down so I don't say or do something I regret in the heat of the moment (b/c a tantrumming 6 yr old is a lot more emotionally taxing than a tantrumming 2 yr old) and then I go back and we talk... sometimes it results in a punishment, sometimes she just owes and apology, and sometimes it's nobody's fault she was just overstimulated and needed to calm down for a while and then she will want to be with people again. *shrug* every situation is different.

    But the point is that if I let the behavior continue it would effect other people - not just me. and i have a responsibility to all my children... and including my daughter with SPD so that she can regain her composure and learn self control little by little. Time outs are the thing that works best for this child in this circumstance so we do it. for some child in some scenario and simple disapproving look would have the power to stop a bad behaviour. for some it might be other means. but letting bad/harmful/hurtful behaviour for a child go is obviously not good for anyone. Age is of course a factor too! I would never stick my 16 month old in time out or lecture him. and i would be much quicker to overlook a tantrum or grumpy attitude. But I still wouldn't allow purposefully harm - if he wouldn't stop hitting his sister on the head there would be some form of consequence to make him see that what he was doing hurt and mom means business when I say "no". you only hold a child responsible for what they are able to control.

    I don't know personally what it's like to be the mother of a 2 yr old rather calm and easy going little girl anymore than I know what it's like to be the mother of a 16 yr old boy with raging hormones!. so I can't really say what I would do if I was their mother... I just gotta do the best I can for the kids I have ;) I adapt as I need to.

    That was amazingly long winded, but like I said, it's not something I feel that can be touched on lightly b/c it's a broad topic with many tangents!

    (p.s. your comments wont like me put in my current blog address so I'm stuck here under my old food blog.. oh well!)

  4. I love this post. Thank you, carrie. I for one, believe it is very wrong for anyone to hit anyone (and always have to roll my eyes when people say spanking isn't hitting - really??). I think we will have a more peaceful society when children are raised with less violence. There is a mature and gentle solution to every behavior problem, and if we practice control and guide our children with gentleness, they will develop more effective and compassionate problem solving skills, themselves.