Sticks And Stones

June 23, 2009

I have spanked my daughter. There, I said it.

I have spanked my daughter – just once, and for as good a reason as I think is possible to imagine for spanking – and I hated myself for doing it. But even though I hated myself for doing it, and even though I hope that I never do it again, I can’t quite bring myself to be outraged at another parent – no, not even Kate Gosselin – for doing it. Not because I think that spanking’s right, or even okay, but because disciplining children is a hard and complicated thing and one that – I don’t think – we can presume to understand well enough to judge from across the garden fence or down the grocery aisle or through the TV screen. If it’s not your kid, not your situation, odds are that you can’t fully understand the reasoning that might have gone into the bum-paddle that you witnessed. And if you can’t know, you can’t really judge. At least, I think you can’t. I’m still working this out.*

My parents were spankers. They always insisted that they hated doing it, that it hurt them more than it hurt us, and I always fully believed them. I still do. I never felt abused or harmed. I never doubted that they loved me. I never doubted their gentleness. Spanking was a punishment that was delivered upon my sister and I when we breached certain familial rules, like not acting in any way that might bring harm to ourselves or to each other. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, we knew well in advance what was coming. It never came as a surprise, and it was never meted out in the heat of anger. I can barely remember the spankings, now, only that they happened. I can, however, remember with perfect, uncomfortable clarity how it felt – in the years after we were too old for spanking and so were disciplined formally with groundings and informally with guilt – to be made to feel guilty. Guilt carried a greater and more lasting sting than the spankings. I can still feel that guilt – the burning cheeks, the hot tears, the sinking feeling in my stomach as my mother or father told me that I had disappointed them, that they were disappointed in me – in an immediate, visceral way. I have forgotten the spankings. I have not forgotten the guilt.

So I worry more, as a parent, about whether the modes of discipline that I use with my daughter are stinging her soul than I do about whether they’re stinging her bottom. I worry about whether the words that I choose or the tone of my voice or the look on my face are impressing fear or shame upon her. I worry about whether I am making her feel too badly. I worry that I don’t know how badly is too badly. I don’t worry so much about spanking.

Which, yes: it is easy for me to not worry about spanking, because I do not, as a rule, spank. But I have thought about spanking. I have been tempted on well more than one occasion to spank. The one time that I did spank I was – my own parents’ good example notwithstanding – so appalled at myself that I cried and vowed never to do it again, and that has been an easy vow to keep. But I have cried harder on the few occasions that I have made Emilia cry because the words that I used or the tone of my voice made her feel more terribly than was – perhaps? I don’t know – warranted by her crimes. I have felt worse about certain other parenting decisions, certain discipline decisions especially, than I did about the spanking.

I don’t believe in – as if it were something that one could or could not ‘believe in’ – hitting. I don’t believe in doing things that cause children harm, that visit unnecessary hurt upon them, that create a climate of fear. But there are things, I believe, that can cause more harm, visit more hurt, create more fear than spanking. And I worry about these things. Avoiding spanking is – with the exception of that one incident where, my god, my god, she very nearly caused serious harm to herself and to her baby brother – easy: you just keep your hands to yourself. Choosing the right words, the right tone, the right facial expressions – containing your anger, your fear, your frustration and wrapping it, tightly, in a perfectly balanced, perfectly contained disciplinary package – is much, much harder. I do my best – I do my very, very best – but even in my measured moments, I worry: have I impressed too much guilt upon her? Have I hurt her feelings unnecessarily? Have I made her doubt my love for her?

That day outside the grocery store, a few months back, when I pulled her away from the stroller and her brother and brought my hand to her bottom, that was a bad parenting moment for me. If you had seen it, you might have thought so, too. But I do not think that it was my worst moment – not for now, not even for the future – and the complicatedness of that fact – and of the facts that I do not always discipline perfectly, that I was doing the best that I could under the circumstances, that even in doing my best, I failed, and knew it, but also knew that I could have failed worse – was not something that you could have seen.

Which is why if I ever see you or Kate Gosselin or anyone spanking their child, I will not – unless it seems obviously abusive, and no, I’m not even one hundred percent what that means, which is why these things, these messy, messy things involving judgment are just so, you know, messy* – say a word. I can not say a word, because I am not without that kind of sin, and because I am not even certain that that sin is the worst of its kind.

*Beyond messy. I have judgmental thoughts, all the time. We all do. The question is knowing whether or when to say something. We shouldn’t turn away when someone is abusing a child, right? But what if one person’s ‘paddle on the bum’  is another person’s physical abuse? We should not pass judgment on other parents’ parenting – we haven’t walked in their shoes, we don’t know their story, it’s not our business – but does that mean anything goes? That we turn a blind eye in all cases? That we never speak of the questionable cases? But what is a questionable case, anyway?

This is – these questions are – about so much more than spanking. It requires far more words than I have here. Far more head and heart space than I have to devote here. So I have to – again – leave it for another time. But feel free to share your thoughts. Perhaps they’ll help me to clarify my own thinking.

Follow-up questions (because the discussion has gotten interesting):

A commenter below says that she would have called the police and pressed charges if she’d seen me swat my daughter’s bottom. Which I think is extreme, but it raises an interesting question: how do we balance fairness in judging other parents with protecting children and determining what is right and wrong in parenting? Should state tell us how to parent? Should other parents? Do some parents NEED to be told how to parent? Does the need to guide some parents trump freedom of other parents to parent how they choose? How do we decide whether, when or how to intervene?


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    { 111 comments }

    Judy June 22, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I’m old enough to be your mom, and I spanked my children. It was what you did. That’s how you got the point across. Several warnings, but if you continue to ignore them, your bottom is going to be warmed. I’m not so sure it’s not still the best way.

    It’s a far cry from a quick paddling to child abuse. I don’t believe in using belts or wooden spoons or switches or any of the various things others I know have used. Just some quick swats with the hand on the butt, and a hug afterward.

    Certainly my kids were – and are – better behaved than later generations. Kids have no fear/respect because they know that if Mom or Dad swats them on the bottom, they can call whatever agency is in charge in your part of the country, and Mom or Dad will be in trouble. It’s a bad thing when kids have the upper hand over parents.

    Oddly, on one website that I saw reporting on the Kate Gosselin paddling episode, they had a poll for the readers to give their opinions. And 82% favored spanking.

    sarah June 22, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I agree that it’s so hard to understand another parent’s situation unless you are witnessing a pattern of behavior and not just one incident.

    But I disagree w/ the commenter who said that kids who were spanked are better behaved than kids who aren’t (or that her kids, who were spanked, are better than later generations). My child understands what consequences are and that they are concrete and consistent, and what behaviors will merit consequences, but I’ve never spanked him.

    Like you, I don’t plan to spank as discipline, I don’t believe in it as an effective discipline method, and I’d love to say “never never never”. But I’ve been a mom long enough now to know that you just never know.

    Nibblet's Mommy June 22, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I’m with you. It’s not that I thing a spanking is the only way to discipline, but I do believe that there will be times when I will have to bring out the big guns to discipline my child. There are some things that a ‘time out’ will just not be good enough for.

    I was a child who got spanked, I also got a healthy respect for the fact that what my parents said was law. I learned to respect authority because I knew that if word got back to my mom and dad there would be hell to pay.

    We have children now who believe that it is okay to hit a teacher, okay to break the law, okay to be disrespectful. I firmly believe that this comes from parents being afraid to discipline their children out of fear that they will be reported for abusing them.

    mandy June 22, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Respectfully disagree. My experience in teaching has been the exact opposite…the children who lash out with violence toward other students and teachers have parents and grandparents who discipline them by spanking, whooping and hitting. I’ve had parents tell me that I can and should take their child into the bathroom and hit them instead of calling home. This? Is why I don’t use spanking for my own kids. But if either one of them were to, say, run in the street? Or do something else dangerous? A quick swat would not be out of the question.

    Nibblet's Mommy June 22, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    The danger situations are the exact situations I mean. My parents never spanked when a lecture or grounding got the point across. I hope to never be in a situation where a spanking is necessary, but I am not silly, kids will be kids and there is most likely a spanking somewhere in my son’s future.

    I should also say that you are absolutely correct about the quick swat. That is what I mean when I say spanking.

    Bella June 23, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I’m a developmental psychologist and my main expertise is in the development of aggression and violence in children. One of the best predictors of childhood aggression, anger and “delinquency” is having been spanked/hit/physically disciplined as a child. Interestingly, these results are consistent across 100s of studies, but there are racial differences in outcomes. I don’t want to muddy the waters right now and get into those racial differences, but I DID want to say that the empirical research does not support the claim that spanking leads to better behaved children with better emotion-regulation capacities.

    Lisa June 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I was spanked and turned out just fine and most of the past generations were spanked (and they too turned out just fine). Spanking becomes “against the rules” and now we have kids who don’t respect authority. Hmmm, I wonder which works better.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Its A Blu World =-.

    Nibblet's Mommy June 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Bella,
    I can understand what you are saying, but I find it difficult to believe that we are talking about the same things in regards to spanking.

    To me spanking consists of a swat or two when the situation is dangerous and the child will not listen to repeated warnings of danger. A swat with an open hand, over clothes, and never while yelling abuses at the child.

    I believe that the empirical evidence you refer to suggests that repeated acts of violence, not spanking but beating a child, does result in a violent socially disconnected adult more often than not. I do not condone beating a child, and I apologize if it sounded as though I did. It was certainly not my intent.

    I’m really impressed by the civility with which people are disagreeing with each other on this issue.

    mandy June 24, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Late (back in the) game, but I think you’re right, Bella, your situation and thoughts are probably much different then what I experienced. I’m glad your point of reference is better than mine!

    LD June 25, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    I was also spanked, and I still remember the moment that I just stopped caring. My dad raised his hand to hit me and I said, “go ahead.” So what do you do then– when the big guns fail?

    Karianna June 22, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    I’ve definitely learned that unless you’ve truly walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you’ll never know the complexities of what adds up to whatever experience is being criticized.

    So yes – I don’t point a finger (or TRY not to) at people whose parenting styles are different than mine, and I shudder when non-parents attempt to give me advice about my children.

    I’ve spanked my children before – certainly not my favorite mode of punishment, and before becoming a parent may have seen as more than a last resort. But I’ve learned that a swat can have its place.

    I’ve seen parents go completely out-of-control, and yet I’ve been the one completely frazzled in public before, too (and instead of helping, people hurrumph about how terrible a mother I am, or how my children are brats.)

    None of us are perfect. And yet those who preach about the “what you SHOULD have done” seem to believe they are. I’m sick of being told I don’t try hard enough for my son, or that my son is a terrible person. Most of us are doing the best we can – and judgments just make it that much more difficult to cope.

    zchamu June 22, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    No criticism over here, lady. While I hope to avoid spanking, I’m not removing anything permanently from my parenting toolbox for fear I will have to eat my words someday.

    I was spanked, and while I certainly wasn’t traumatized by it I also don’t think I learned a whole lot from it. I think my parents used spanking as a crutch when they didn’t know what else to do. Not particularly effective.

    Miss Behavin June 22, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Funny! I wrote about this same thing today.

    I have, on occasion, swatted my kids. But, I prefer alternate methods of discipline to spanking.

    In my opinion, spanking is the easy way out for parents who don’t want to spend the time working WITH their kids from the time they are old enough to understand that look, tone of voice, etc… If the expectation is set from day one, it’s really not that difficult to enforce the rules with a “hands off” policy.

    But, I have seen some kids who just plain don’t listen. They lack respect and have no fear of punishment in any capacity.

    I don’t have the right answer. I only know what works for me. And, I guess, it’s up to each parent – each family, to find out what works for them.
    .-= Miss Behavin´s last blog ..Spanking Mad =-.

    Lisa June 23, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Exactly! What works for them. I have a daughter that it doesn’t matter what you do, she will not mind. Spanking is the only thing that works. My son — you look at him with “the look” and that’s all you need.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Its A Blu World =-.

    One Shoe Off June 22, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    I’m currently struggling with how much/what kind of discipline is enough/appropriate. I naively believed before my daughter was born that I knew exactly what kinds of disciplinary measures we would employ. Not surprisingly, having a real-life 2 1/2 year old in the house poses all kinds of complicated scenarios I could never have dreamed up before becoming a mom.

    My parents spanked me, and we did spank our daughter for a short while, but MY guilt about HER guilt was too much for me to bear. I, too, worry about making her afraid, or otherwise causing her emotional and psychological grief that’s excessive or unnecessary. And I find that I sometimes need to apologize to her for my reactions to her misbehavior. My hope is that through my apologies, she’ll learn that Mama isn’t perfect, and that I love her deeply enough to admit when I’ve erred in my relationship with her. My best friend also pointed out to me that even in my anger, frustration, and discipline, my daughter will learn that regardless of how she behaves, Mama will always and totally love her. It sounds really good, and I hope she learns these lessons; it is, however, still very difficult to navigate as a parent.

    Thanks for sharing you thoughts. It’s reassuring to know I’m not the only who agonizes over these concerns.

    Theresa June 22, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    My girls are 17, 15 and 10 (twins) and I’ve never spanked them. That said, I don’t dare sit in judgement of someone who has, or does.

    I will admit that once, when watching an out-of-control mom beating her little girl’s fanny so hard she had to hold her arm to keep her from falling over, I walked over to her at the frozen pizzas and stopped it by saying, “excuse me, I just need to get a pizza…and I think the store manager is watching you.”

    Spankings do not = abuse, but a loss of control when corporal punishment is dished out can.

    Jill June 22, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    I don’t spank. Not because I’ve never been tempted in the heat of a moment, but because I don’t think it works. It is *my opinion* that hitting begets hitting and I wouldn’t want my child to be that kid that everyone avoids. Even more importantly, I think my kids have a distinct ability to understand when I teach them about why not to do a certain behaviour. I’m not judging you because in a particular moment on a particular day after a particular sequence of events, I could never say never. But that mom who’s constantly berating her child in the parking lot and barking orders his way? Her, I’m judging.

    Mrs. CPA June 22, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I don’t talk about this on my own blog because my mother reads it, but I was spanked quickly, often and out of anger. Often that spanking was done with whatever object was handy – a hairbrush, a coat hanger, or a hand. I remember those spanking vividly.

    Or the slap when I touched someone’s face and they told my mother I slapped her when I really didn’t. She knew I didn’t slap her and when my mother told that person to hit me back and she wouldn’t, my mother did it for her. The quick snap of her hand against my face was too much.

    I’m not talking abuse here, this is just what people did in the 80′s to their children. I went over to someone’s house or the babysitters and before my mother left she would always tell the person that if I didn’t act right, they could spank me. She had no problem doing it to other people’s children either, even after I was grown.

    I have never hit my children, but I find that my first reaction to a difficult situation is wanting to hit. And I have to hold myself back. When Hudson won’t listen or hits me or is out of control, I want to spank him. I think this is because I was hit. That’s the legacy of spanking.

    I try not to judge those those that spank, but it’s hard because it left such a lasting impression on me, I have a hard time knowing that a child is being spanked.

    I knew someone in college who was a total nut job but she did one thing that I wish I had the courage to do – if she saw someone spanking a child, she would just go up to them and quietly ask if she could help. If she could give the parent a minute to calm down. Sometimes she knew the situation was too far gone, but she would say, “Don’t hit children.” and hopefully it would cause the person to pause for a moment. Often she got cussed out.

    Where I live, people still spank on a regular basis, I think. One time, on my way home, I saw a woman in her front yard, her son held up by one arm, wearing nothing other than his underwear and she was wearing him out. I laid on the horn. It was all I could do not to stop the car and tell her to stop. And give the boy a hug and a Popsicle.

    Maybe this isn’t completely the same thing as what happens at your house. But that’s how the punishment was dealt out during my childhood, and it still stings me. I’m 30 years old.

    Kath June 22, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    “…I’m not talking abuse here, this is just what people did in the 80’s to their children…”

    I disagree. I was raised in the 70s and neither of my sisters or I were spanked. Ever. My mom was raised in the 40s and she and her brothers were also never spanked. And according to family lore, her mother (who was raised in the ‘teens) was never spanked either. And so on, and so on.

    And we are all (if we do say so ourselves) fine, upstanding, law-abiding and authority-respecting folk, who grew up happy and sound, finished school and now have happy, well-behaved children ourselves.

    I do not spank, because I believe it’s unnecessary, but I also try my damndest not to judge other parents – especially the likes of Kate Gosselin who is so unmercifully in the public eye and trying to raise eight – EIGHT! children, mostly alone.

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I think it depends on your own parents’ upbringing, too. Both my parents endured physical discipline of a pretty extreme sort, and were determined to not do the same thing to my sister and I. But all of their peers spanked, so ‘not doing the same thing’ didn’t mean ‘not spanking’, it meant not spanking in anger, not spanking with objects, etc.

    So I don’t know if spanking is just what people did in the seventies, but it was what was done in my parents’ circle of peers, and it was, to them, far more liberal and gentle than what their parents meted out to them.

    Nicole June 22, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I think, generally, if you can answer “Did the punishment fit the crime?” affirmatively, then its okay. I’m not entirely sure what the situation was, but if the spanking was a lesser version of what might have happened, then its okay.

    I was spanked. That was the default punishment until I was 5 or so. Dad never used more than his fingertips, but it scared the bejeezus out of me (and the fallout from that is another matter entirely). He stopped when, after a spanking, I asked him, “Do you feel better now, Daddy?”

    The point is, I wasn’t taking the spanking as discipline for my infraction, but as an outlet for what I perceived to be anger on his part. And that is when spanking as discipline fails: unless there is a connection drawn between the infraction and the discipline by the recipient, it fails.

    At least, that’s what Psych 101 and 102 and my Psych degree from Google University say.

    Annie June 22, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    So well written. I haven’t spanked yet, and the tentative plan is not to do it at all, but this line of thinking has been challenged lately. My almost 3 year old son has repeatedly and purposely been rough with his 8 month baby sister, as an attention getting measure. So I focus on the kind of attention he might be needing, but I’ll tell you what, I’m at the end of my rope. It’s dangerous and I’m failing to do something right here. So what I want to know is, did it work? Did Emilia get the point in a way that was more direct than any other punishment would have afforded? Because if it did get that point across pretty sternly, then maybe it was a one time deal, and an effective one, no less. I’d love to know what you think about this. Beautifully and bravely written post, may I add. :)

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Yes, Emilia did get the point in that particular moment. Her behavior stopped right then and there – and this was after I’d been grappling and cajoling and threatening and counting and trying everything in my tool box until she – mid-fit – just about pushed baby in stroller in front of a car. And that was that – hand went to bum, and she stopped.

    I think that’s what my grandfather would have called ‘knocking some sense to her’ – which is just the most horrible spin on it – but it DID stop her. And I HAD to stop her.

    (As a note – we were in public, so not in reach of any naughty chairs, and we were unable to just up and leave – we were waiting for my husband to pick us up.)

    Tina June 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I think this may actually have warranted hand-to-bum discipline. Time-out for *dangerous* (hers or anyone else’s) isn’t heavy enough. At least it wouldn’t be in this house… where he goes to time-out singing and having just a great old time. Which is fine in cases where he just wasn’t listening, or doing something after being told not to. But real danger.. it needs a bigger consequence, so they understand it could have been WORSE. Good lord, so much worse…

    Maria June 22, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I’m so tired of seeing the Kate Spank sensationalized.

    Thank you for posting this.
    .-= Maria´s last blog ..the view from a bridge, after midnight =-.

    Her Bad Mother June 22, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    I know, I know. I was actually more weirded out by the water thing, which is another story entirely, but, yeah.

    Cassie June 22, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I don’t know if I will spank my kids, I haven’t had to worry about it yet. But I do know that my grandmother used to make me and my sister pick our own switches off the branch, and hit us if we did something to deserve it. We learned our lessons, we never felt like we were being abused, we never resorted to violence for any reason once we got older, etc. We’re fine. I just don’t think it is that big of a deal.

    Motherhood Uncensored June 22, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    I’ve handled my kids in a not so gentle way, and yelled a few more times than I’d like to own.

    If you were to compare apples and oranges, I’m pretty sure both induce as much guilt (maybe more) than the swat on the bum.

    I felt terrible.

    But honestly, I can get behind (heh) the loss of impulse by a frazzled parent, with a kid running across the street, or whatever then I can about folks that calculate out the spanking. Because if you’re calculating it out, then why not choose another option?

    There are plenty of effective ways to discipline your kids, and while there will always be the one or three or whatever people that say “I spank my child out of love and not anger” I’m pretty sure that if I was feeling love towards my kid, I wouldn’t be drawn to hitting them. If you can analyze why you do it that much, then why do it?

    Of course, if you’re into the whole “fear the parent” thing, then it makes sense, but while I’m pretty firm in my belief that my job is not to be my kid’s bff, I also believe that hitting doesn’t foster the kind of relationship I want. They get that I’m the boss without me having to bend them over my knee to prove it.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting June 22, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Very well said. Especially the last paragraph.

    Bella June 23, 2009 at 11:47 am

    TOTALLY agree with EVERYTHING MU just said. In fact, I was trying to post exactly these ideas and couldn’t get them out coherently enough. I can TOTALLY get the idea of losing it after a very stressful interaction with your kid, especially if it’s also a physically dangerous one. I totally get how swatting a kid impulsively happens. I’ve done it and was horrified at how easy it was.

    But spanking as a parenting strategy is difficult for me to ever get behind. I get why it’s used, I get the intergenerational legacy of it, I get how my parents thought they were doing more good than harm. I know my mom felt bad about it afterwards. But it was traumatizing. And, to tell you the truth, I think the “cold, calculated, warning” version of spanking is worst sometimes than the one that comes out of pure anger. Because as another commenter alluded to with her experience (“do you feel better now dad?”), at least the kid can rationalize the parent’s physical harm by saying “she was just mad and got out of control; she doesn’t really hate me.” But when it’s the kind of spanking that you’re told “go into your room and your father is coming in there to deliver the spanking for the bad thing you did.” THAT seems to be even more harmful because now this kid is sitting in fear of the person that’s supposed to love him more than anyone, and realizing that this person who is in total control is CHOOSING, willingly, to hit him. And to shame him into submission. For many people I know, all that this kind of calculated spanking did was foster a shit-load of anger and resentment.

    Also, I just simply can’t understand the logic of hitting a child in order to teach him/her NEVER to hit another child/your sibling/your parent. The mixed signals makes no sense to me.

    Having said all this, I really appreciated this post because it grapples with such an important issue: the guilt and shame we induce in our kids, no matter the method. And how harmful is that guilt and shaming process, no matter the means? I know that I have shamed my kid into crying after I yelled at him. THAT felt wrong, over the top, like I failed. I felt like I had to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better plan for the next time something similar happened. I have timed MYSELF out too many times that I can remember because I know than I was going to do something I’d regret.

    BUT! BUT! I also think that guilt is a very appropriate tool for socializing our children and guiding the development of their empathy. If one of my sons smacks his brother, I DO highlight how badly he hurt him, how awful he made his brother feel, how much his brother will now want to avoid playing with him. And I ALMOST always think this is the right way to go. Until one of my boys’ faces scrunches in horror and shame, his head bends down, his tears start falling, and he crumbles to the ground wailing. Yeah, he got my message… but was it worth it? I struggle with it almost daily.

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I’m ll over the map on the guilt thing – on the one hand, kids SHOULD learn appropriate guilt. On the other, guilt was such TREMENDOUS force in my own upbringing, such that pleasing people/not disappointing people became almost pathological for me. I still struggle with it. Letting people down – or feeling like I have – can sent me into a right anxiety spiral. It has been, in the past, almost emotionally disabling.

    Bella June 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Yup, that’s my struggle too. This coming from a person who is pathologically fearful of confrontation, who is also numb with the fear of letting others’ down (I STILL worry what my mother thinks of this or that that I’ve done), and whose behaviour is 85% motivated by some underlying guilt.

    Redneck Mommy June 22, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I am not a spanker. My husband, however, has spanked. I always preferred to put the fear of Gawd in them.

    I think, perhaps, as a victim of violence myself, as a child who was known to go to school with black eyes and bruised necks thanks to a father’s throttling, I’ve always tried to avoid that punishment.

    But looking back at it now, the deeper scars, the ones that still bleed are the ones my mother meted out, they are the ones that made me feel shamed and unloved.

    I am very careful to walk that line not to make my children ever feel that way.

    But man, I am good at the mommy guilt. And grounding. And my current favorite? Clipping the lawn (all 20 acres of it) with a pair of scissors. You’d be surprised how much patience that teaches two rowdy preteens. Heh.

    As for other parents, I am too busy trying to keep my kids in line to worry about everyone else’s discipline measures. Perhaps that is selfish, but half the time it feels like my nose is just barely above the water, you know?

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I know.

    And if we had twenty acres and Emilia could manage a mower, I’d be exploiting that FOR REALS.

    (Interesting note: Kyle was never spanked, and yet of the two of us he is more supportive of the idea of spanking, whereas I, a childhood spankee, am pretty opposed. Huh. Something for me to think about.)

    Marinka June 22, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    With everything that is in me, I despise spanking and I’ve never spanked my kids. To me, it’s a parenting cop-out and I realize that I’m quite judgmental my err..judgment. I don’t approach parents who spank and lecture them, but I don’t think it helps any to deny that I do think about those parents a bit differently.

    When my son was about four years old, he and I were at his friends house, the friend made some transgression, and the babysitter called the mother, took him to another room and spanked him. It was absolutely surreal to me. It made me not want to have my son to their house. Not because I was afraid that they would spank my son but because I felt like I did not understand what they were made of.

    I am not prepared to say that my no-spanking way is the only way, but it is the only way for me. And I don’t have particularly “easy” kids, either. I could never justify the message that spanking sends and I am not convinced that it is not usually done in anger. At least that’s when I am most tempted to spank.

    Not about the psychic injury as opposed to the physical one. I’ve read many articles, blog posts, internet arguments that words can hurt as much as a spanking, and even more, and I absolutely agree. But why is hurtfulness the only alternative? I certainly don’t think that as parents we should forgo spanking and devote ourselves to verbal abuse instead. Both can be emotionally hurtful and from being spanked as a child, it is the psychic wounds that I remember more than the physical pain.

    That being said, none of us is a perfect parent and most of us have made decisions, either snap or thought out that we regret. I certainly don’t think that spanking is exempt from that.
    .-= Marinka´s last blog ..Hatemongering 2-for-1 Special! =-.

    Liz June 22, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I was spanked as a kid, and it was often done in anger, or with a belt, especially by my father. I don’t feel traumatized by it, I think my parents (all parents) did the best they knew how to do at the time. One of my sisters does feel some lasting effects of being spanked and has started therapy in part to deal with it. One of my other sisters prides herself on never spanking her kids, declares herself to be a better parent than ours were…but I’ve seen her yell at her kids and have seen them practically wilt from it, and I’m not convinced she’s doing a better job as a parent just because she doesn’t spank. I don’t think it’s as black and white as spanking=bad and non-spanking=good, but I don’t know exactly what the answer is either.
    .-= Liz´s last blog ..Weekly Reading List 6-21-09 =-.

    Kris June 22, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I couldn’t disagree more. I wish spanking was against the law. Sorry. I just don’t see how hitting your child could ever solve anything. What lesson is that teaching?
    Say what you will about emotional scarring from guilt and words – but I’d rather my kids feel sad about my “disappointment” then be afraid of pain inflicted by their own mother. I never, ever want them to know a mother that is willing to hurt them. The entire world is out there ready to hurt us as we grow up – our Mom and Dad should be the people we can count on to shelter and protect us.
    My husband was spanked as a child, and I feel he has some anger management issues as a result. He’s been in some fights over the years, and I feel that it’s because he had been taught to act out physically when upset. He knows how I feel about spanking and he agrees entirely. If his parents ever watch my kids for more than a few hours I will be sure they know that if they lay a hand on my kids I will never speak with them again.
    You are obviously entitled to your own opinion, but a really hope that you never feel you have to spank them again. Thanks for having the courage to share this.
    .-= Kris´s last blog ..Alarming =-.

    Her Bad Mother June 22, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Well, my opinion is that spanking is entirely undesirable. For me. And I DO hope that I never spank them again. But I do, too, forgive myself for spanking my daughter in a situation where she had put herself and her baby brother at serious risk of harm and was uncontrollable. Another parent might insist that there’s always another option. There didn’t seem to be one, for me, in that terrible moment. But I still regret it.

    Kris June 23, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I guess it did sound like I was judging you – and it’s not what I meant to do. I know how it feels to be at your wits end and feel like you have no options. I understand how impossible it can be in the worst moments and the terror that you must have felt in that moment in the parking lot. I wasn’t there and I don’t know 100% how I would react. I just really hope that I would find another way. I may disagree, and it would make me very sad to see a small child being hit/spanked, but I’m not saying that my choices are the only ones. You have to do what you feel is right. But what I feel is right is to never, ever hit my kids.
    I worry when mom’s who do spank (like Kate Gosslin) tell the world that it’s okay – that many many parents out there will say “Amen!” and proceed to beat their children. There are a lot of crazy people out there – and I don’t trust all of them to make the right choices. I feel that if we outlawed spanking all together then there would be no gray areas – maybe a few less children would be hurt.
    I’m sorry if it came across as judgement. I can be fairly opinionated when the mood strikes me…
    .-= Kris´s last blog ..Alarming =-.

    mrschattypants June 22, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I don’t have a problem with spanking. I use it after enough verbal warnings have been issued and ignored. I have three children and really have only spanked them a handful of times. Total. Ususally, they respond to the verbal warnings or other punishments. The few times I have spanked have been clear eye-openers and the behavior is not generally repeated. The whole Kate Gosselin blow-up is ridiculous. The media is making Kate Gosselin their sacrificial lamb to boost their ratings. Whatever. It is the right of the parent to choose how to discipline their children. You included. End of story.

    The Tutugirl June 22, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    THANK YOU. I’m not a mother, but I am a child who was spanked like maybe twice. And I remembered it, and it kept me from doing things like messing with the stove, running in the street, etc. I didn’t understand the abstraction of the stove, the street being dangerous. I DID understand that not doing what mom or dad told me to came with a not fun consequence. (And yes, from what I recall, it was being afraid, not the actual spanking that left an impression.)
    .-= The Tutugirl´s last blog ..Yay weekends! =-.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting June 22, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I struggle with this.

    I know at least 3 people that I consider to be wonderful parents that have spanked their children (you are one of them, by the way). All of them have said that they regret it and that they recognize it isn’t the best way to discipline their child. We all have horribly difficult parenting moments and I think there is a tendency to do what was done to us…it is just what comes naturally. It is hard to change those patterns. I don’t judge that at all.

    What gets me riled up is people saying that spanking is the best form of discipline. That children that are not spanked are out of control. That children “deserve” spankings. I don’t think there is any situation that calls for physical violence against a child. None. Period.

    I don’t judge individual acts of spanking. But I do judge attitudes about spanking.

    LD June 25, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Amen to that.

    homeslice June 22, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    such a tough subject. i’ve been in lots of arguments on the subject. i have chosen not to spank, though my parents were spankers and i don’t feel it harmed me. i just don’t like to do it and i feel like there are better ways . . . the one time i did do it, i hated it. i think it’s too easy, personally, for things to get out of hand. my mom turned from spanking to hitting, and that was really not okay. i think other parents with better control of their anger can do spankings calmly; i just don’t feel like i’m one of them.

    Emma June 22, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    I haven’t spanked. But I have grabbed him (my oldest, whom you have met) by the neck or by the arm a little too hard…and I hate it. I hate that my anger takes me there. But these kids, they test, and test, and it’s the easy thing right, when your rage is searing? It’s not thoughtful, it’s not considering the antecedent, it’s not clever. It’s easy.

    God damn this parenting thing is so hard.

    I don’t want to get that angry, so I try and not get that angry. It doesn’t happen very often. But if he hurts his little brother, if he does something that I have to at least in the moment genuinely consider BAD, then I have to go to something, and when it’s something awful (like a grab or yelling in his face – god I sound so damn horrible), I really feel like shit after. And I’m sure he does too.

    Sigh.
    .-= Emma´s last blog ..Fit-in 15 =-.

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I know – it’s so hard to talk about this stuff openly without, it seems, sounding EVIL. But that’s precisely why I think it’s important – so important – to talk about.

    Julie @ The Mom Slant June 22, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    I am not a spanker. Neither is Kyle.

    We both were spanked. I was slapped in anger. Yes, it hurt.

    What hurt more – what still hurts if I let myself think about it – were the words. It’s easy for me to refrain from spanking; it’s hard not to repeat the awful words that were drummed into my own head.

    But because I don’t want my children to hurt thirty years after the fact, I bite down hard. And I apologize profusely when I fail.

    Karen Sugarpants June 23, 2009 at 7:16 am

    We’re not spankers either. I did, however, slap a 1 year old Dylan’s hand when he kept going back to an electrical outlet. The way that kid was focused on electrocuting himself, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
    I was raised in a house where spanking was determined by whatever man my mother was with at the time. Sometimes that meant nothing, or soap in the mouth, or full on beatings. She herself only raised her hand to me when I got older.
    Like Julie, I stop myself from the words – the yelling – the hurtful remarks. I don’t want to be anything like my mother was and I think I sometimes over-compensate that way, over think things, especially discipline. I will often send my kids to their room to ‘think about things,’ when really, I too am thinking about how to handle a situation. I’m so very afraid to screw up.

    red pen mama June 23, 2009 at 8:14 am

    I’ve been struggling with this issue as well. I have spanked (I was spanked as a child), but lately I have chosen to not use it as a discipline. It’s difficult.

    I’ve discovered that counting really works for my kids. A sternly delivered “1, 2, …” gives them the chance to choose a different (or the correct) behavior. I think it has worked because I’ve been consistent with the follow-up punishment (time out or TV off or leaving and going home). They know I mean it.

    But, yeah, I don’t judge. You never know to what limits a parent has already been pushed. I’ve never witnessed an all-out case of abuse — often it’s the other end, a parent who cajoles or threatens, but doesn’t follow-up.

    Great post, and great comments.

    ciao,
    rpm
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Meatless Monday: Stirfry =-.

    nic @mybottlesup June 23, 2009 at 8:20 am

    my parents spanked me… once. actually my dad did the deed. i’ll never forget it. he now can’t recall doing it. but i know it happened.

    do i judge him because of it? no. i can honestly say no. jackson is only 14 months old and i’m learning discipline styles… and will continue to learn.

    i have a feeling that every parent consciously or subconsciously fears leaving invisible scars on their child through the way they discipline.

    it’s funny that you post this now because i posted yesterday about receiving judgments from other mothers… not necessarily regarding discipline styles, but just be being “too rigid” and “structured” of a mother. i’m wondering now, after reading your post, if the way that i mother my son will lead to a structured/rigid discipline style.

    i guess only time will tell… your last two paragraphs really gave me a lot to think about because i’m dealing with the repercussions of those who took it upon themselves to verbalize their judgments to me.

    well written… very candid and open.
    .-= nic @mybottlesup´s last blog ..Don’t hate. Just don’t. =-.

    Out-Numbered June 23, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I choose my battles very carefully. I’m a big fan of the guilt. It’s a rite of passage passed down from generation to generation. If there was no guilt, than there would be no need for therapy and if there was no need for therapy, than what would all the out of work therapists do? Damn. Now that would make me feel guilty. Ok, I’ll stick to spanking…

    Rhonda June 23, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I was hit and spanked and so were my siblings and I think that it was very bad for our self-esteem and led to a real fear of authority and speaking up for ourselves that lasts to this day. I don’t spank my kids but I do yell and scream at them sometimes — I don’t see that as a better alternative to spanking; I see it as the legacy of all that rage from my own upbringing. It’s all bad, but I am trying to make it better, so my kids don’t feel so angry with their own children. Also, I disagree with the people who say that “it is the right of the parent to choose how to discipline their children” — thankfully, it’s not. There are laws to try and delineate what is socially appropriate and what is abuse.

    Michelle June 23, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Funny, but I’ve been thinking about discipline as well lately… I don’t watch J&K, but I do have very strong feelings about spanking. As PhD wrote above, I don’t so much judge an individual act of swatting a child on the bum, but I do judge a parent who uses spanking on a regular basis because they can’t be bothered to teach instead of punish.
    We all lose it at one point or another. I’m sure that I will yell at my child out of fear or horror at some point, but the thing is, the parents I admire try to be better than their baser instincts. They act rather than react. I would never judge someone for reacting in the fear of the moment, we’re all human. But choosing that option as a deliberate and habitual course of action? I can’t help it. I think there’s a better way.
    Then again, my attitude is that discipline isn’t about punishment. It’s about teaching (the root of the word). When I think about what spanking or yelling teaches our children… it’s not something I want my daughter to learn.

    Alicia D June 23, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I am totally and completely 100% behind your mindset. All the questions, answers, going round and round. I don’t “believe” in hitting and I have spanked, sparingly. I find that when you are a good behavior manager in general, the need to spank is minimal. And when used, it is effective. I was spanked a few times as a child and I’m pretty normal and my parents are wonderful people. Theres a difference bt. using spanking all the time, and having a few “moments”. I wont ever feel good when i spank or shout it off the rooftops… i always feel guilty and question myself afterwards. but, i dont judge anyone who does it (only myself) and i cant say I personally would never do it again. its such a complex issue, and highly personal to each family and situation.

    you are very honest in writing this post, which is what we as mothers need. HONEST dialogue, not sugar-coated bullshit. Thanks :)

    Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com June 23, 2009 at 11:23 am

    The spanking was a very rare disciplinary tool in my childhood home, but it was a very common disciplinary tool in my husband’s. And there was a significant difference – the spankings in my home were two or three light swats performed with an open hand by my father, a man who hated to do so and used it as a means of communicating a grave misdeed as opposed to causing harm of any sort (except to our pride, I suppose), and the spankings in my husband’s home were performed by a man who drove the belt home in the same location, over and over, so that my husband remembers not only fetching the belt (a greater insult to his pride than anything I endured) but also has physical scars from the spankings.

    I would say that in this case we have two examples of VERY DIFFERENT types of spanking. The spanking in my household is something that I will use on my children if the need arises, if there is a grave enough reason, and though I may hate it, I think it gets the point across. I knew my dad didn’t want to hurt me. I knew he wouldn’t. There was nothing abusive about his spankings, nothing violent. It was just a more effective way of telling me that what I had done was inexcusable or could have caused harm, and I guarantee that I never repeated those behaviors.

    The spanking in my husband’s home was done in anger, in the heat of the moment, with the intention of humiliating and hurting the child. He felt disciplined, and rightly so, but he also felt betrayed and afraid.

    I disagree that spanking is inherently wrong or that it is a slippery slope. I wholeheartedly trust that my father would never have gone beyond where he did with his spankings. I think that spanking – and whether or not it is effective discipline or violent abuse – depends completely on the manner in which it is meted out and the personality of the child who is on the receiving end. A more violent punishment like what my husband experienced would have been wrong for me, but a lighter punishment worked on his sister but not on him. In the end, we both turned out alright and both understand that our parents tailored their punishments to our specific disciplinary needs (and, to some extent, deeds). I do think, though, that maybe his father should have stopped short of leaving physical scars, that he teetered dangerously close to crossing over the line and that maybe he even did cross over a time or two.

    Spanking is a complicated topic and something that an outsider can rarely fully understand, if ever. Will I spank my children? Maybe. But then again, maybe other means of discipline will be better for them and us. Who knows?

    Well done writing a post about something that we probably shouldn’t judge.
    .-= Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com´s last blog ..Now I know. =-.

    red pen mama June 23, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Sarah,

    Great comment.

    I was occasionally spanked (as I mentioned above), as were my siblings. But my father, who was “spanked” along the lines that your husband was, was reluctant to spank. He felt that he had been abused as a child, and he didn’t want to abuse his children. He felt that spanking was a fine line to walk.

    I feel the same way.

    Again, this is such a fantastic comment. Just felt the need to say that.

    ciao,
    rpm
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Bad Habits =-.

    T June 23, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I was spanked as a child, but I was also abused, and let me tell you that the spanking’s on the behind are *not* what I have a problem with 20 years later.

    I do not intend to spank my own daughter, because I feel like as a former victim of abuse that spanking is a dangerous gateway (given that abused children are more likely to abuse their own children) but I don’t judge others for choosing to do so with their own kids. It’s just not for me.

    Now, smacking your child across the face, pushing them down a flight of stairs, forcing them to stand in the corner for 8 hours- that I have a problem with, because I know how those things feel, and though the punishment ends, the pain never goes away.

    But spankings? Yep- some kids need ‘em. I did.

    kristy June 23, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Two things:

    1. Can we get off the crazy train for one second? This “previous generations were spanked and they were fine / this generation isn’t spanked and are totally ill-behaved” is insane. Spanking – or lack thereof – cannot be the sole reason entire generations of kids behave one way or another. There are only about a billion other factors at play, then and now.

    2. For such a heated topic, there’s a lot of respectful, thoughtful and helpful discussion here, too. That’s awesome.

    Kaye June 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I was spanked as a child, sometimes with a belt and it didn’t scar me for life. I spanked my son a handful of times when it seemed warranted, although never with a belt. I do not believe that my hand on his jeans-covered bottom caused him serious physical harm, but it definitely got his attention. He is now a well-adjusted, happy 19 year old, proud to be serving the the US Air Force.

    What I DO feel guilty about is the time when I received news of a death in the family and, while I was still on the phone discussing it and crying hysterically, my son kept asking me what was wrong. I finally SCREAMED at him to leave me alone. I will never forget the hurt in his eyes nor the guilt I felt (and still feel when I think about it) when he ran to his bedroom, got into bed and pulled the blanket over his head and cried. No spanking ever put that look of betrayal and hurt on his face. I apologized profusely to him and tried to explain why I had behaved that way and it never happened again. But it still bothers me to this day. Sometimes there are worse things than a swat on the bottom.

    Cherie: Pregnancy Writer June 23, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I’m also a therapist with a specialization in child development. I know the results of all of the studies and I generally agree that spanking isn’t the way to go. But every child is different and every child responds differently to different forms of discipline. I do believe that in some circumstances, a swat on the bum will get through to a child when nothing else will. I just think that it is important that is why you are doing it. I do not believe that someone should ever hit a child out of anger.

    Helen June 23, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I think the myth that a good swat will stop any truly terrible behavior is responsible for a lot of problems. After all, if you swat the child and it doesn’t work, and you’ve been told over and over that spanking is What Actually Works, then the logical thing to do is … hit harder. You can see where that ends up.

    I did use to swat my kids on the hand for dangerous behavior, and they just got madder and more inclined to rebel. It plain did not work.

    kgirl June 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    After having watched my own mother physically lash out in anger towards my (much) younger brother over and over, it’s not hard for me not to spank my own kids.

    But I felt the serious urge, just once, and it scared the shit out me.

    Scott June 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Like you, I vowed never to be a spanker. So far so good, but then again, The Rozzle is only about to turn 2, so there are LOTS of years left.

    I *SO* totally understand about the guilt, though. Several months ago Roz was going through her familiar routine of tossing on the floor the food she didn’t want to eat. Miss Tessmacher and I had JUST. CLEANED. and I’d about had it; Roz was being kind of a pill that day anyway, and the food just put me over the top. I shouted, not as loudly as I could have, but certainly loud enough to get her attention. The trembling lip, the big fat tears that built in her eyes…the acute AWARENESS that she’d done something wrong, was enough to make me feel like a pile of poo. She will never remember the incident, has indeed already forgotten it; I, on the other hand, will always remember that moment when the voice she trusted so much to be kind and loving, instead lashed out in a harmful way.

    With patience and luck: NEVER AGAIN.

    marymac June 23, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    i applaud your honesty. I was spanked and came out ok. I have four kids and reserve ‘spanking’ which is more usually like the quick butt-swat up the steps maybe a few times each in their lives. Doing it more than that would decrease its effectiveness. Also: blog-to-blog advice: ignore the haters.

    Lesley June 23, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Oh, this is such a sensitive topic for me. I was spanked as a child & actually preferred it to grounding and other punishments. Spanking was quick and done, while grounding and guilt just tortured me. Now, as a mom to a 2 year old, I am tortured. I am halfway through a Psych masters program and completely agree with the research that spanking is not effective, BUT… I have struggled with the knee jerk reaction to swat my son’s bottom. And, when he pulls my hair in anger or kicks me, spanking is my first instinct.

    My new tactic is just breathing and backing away slowly (me) and giving a time out to my son for about 90 seconds, which actually is more effective at getting my child to calm down. I realized after a particularly frustrating few weeks this past winter that my 2 year old son’s tantrums and own behavior is bringing out the frustrated 4 or 5 year old in me! I almost felt like I was the older sister again battling with my younger brother. For me, I felt a lot better when I realized that I was reacting as a frustrated child and not disciplining in a rational way as an adult, which I’d prefer.

    That being said, I really cannot judge any anyone else, when I don’t feel like instincts in the moment aren’t always great.

    Bette June 23, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post and I agree with all you said. Recently, I witnessed a child being threatened with a spanking. The look of fear on her face broke my heart. The child was sent out of the room and not spanked. I did tell her mother that I understood that sometimes a spanking may be in order, but, was so glad it didn’t happen in front of me. Since, I’m old enough to be this little girl’s grandmother, they just laughed and said I was a softy.

    K June 24, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I was never spanked as a child, my husband was never spanked and we have not and will not ever spank our children. I think it’s a much tougher thing to not spank when you were raised in a spanking household. I more than respect those who try to do things differently rather than use the old “it worked on me” excuse without trying something else first.

    I guess I’ve never understood the notion that it’s a crime to hit another adult but yet you can whack a child and call it “discipline.”

    Alexicographer June 24, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Hmmm. A researcher by the name of Jennifer Lansford whose work I learned about through my own work (not directly related to her topic, but of interest to me as a human and a mom) has found, basically, that the effect of physical discipline (e.g. spanking) depends considerably on cultural context and whether it’s considered to be an appropriate way to discipline children (within a given culture or community) or not.

    If you went to PubMed and searched on the following phrases, you’d pull up abstracts for a couple of the more relevant articles she’s co-authored:
    –Physical discipline and children’s adjustment
    –Ethnic differences externalizing physical discipline

    Not saying, don't wanna. June 24, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    My husband was spanked twice by his mother, and he remembers it. She knew that with him, all that she had to do was just tell him, explain, etc. My parents believed in spanking, often with belts or switches, outright belittling, shaming us and giving us no time for explanation. We weren’t allowed choices, what daddy said went, and we had better jump to. My brother and I were a couple of creepy little robot children. I still talk to my parents. They have a lot to do with WHY I struggle with my two year old- I remember how I was- and though I don’t like it, it is awfully hard for me to not expect the obedience that they had with us, their children. It doesn’t help that even though they don’t beat the crap out of my niece, they do expect and receive the same level of obedience from her. My little one isn’t going to be like that, it isn’t in her nature- I couldn’t get those results without abuse. I can’t, I won’t- but I dance those same lines due to how I was raised and I could enjoy my kid better if I lived FAR FAR AWAY from my parents- especially my dad, the guy that constantly congratulates himself on raising two kids who are unbroken and unharmed and managed not to sin too hugely in his eyes (no jail time, married before kids, blah blah blah) My all time question about parenting is “Are the kids okay BECAUSE of what you did, or IN SPITE of it?”

    notaspanker June 24, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Spanking, whether it is done by you or by Kate Gosselin is never ok. You lost your temper and hit a child, not just any child, your own child. That cannot be justified as far as I am concerned. I know that I will get bashed but this is not a debate to me. How is it ok for you to hit your kids, and people will come here and tell you it is ok?

    Her Bad Mother June 24, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    I didn’t lose my temper and spank in anger. I spanked her because she was out of control and had put herself and her brother at serious, serious immediate risk and I needed to stop her and get a message across. I’m not happy about it. I hate that it happened. But I also forgive myself for it, and recognize that there are many nuances between modes of discipline, and that spanking is not always the worst of all evils.

    Notaspanker June 25, 2009 at 8:13 am

    I have read your blog for awhile now, and I by no means think that you are some sort of monster or abuser of your children. But I cannot condone the fact that you as an adult hit your child for any reason. If I had seen this I would have called the police and you would have been charged. It is antisocial, unacceptable, and illegal behaviour.

    I am sure that you “got a message across”, and the message was, “I am much bigger than you and I can exert my will over you physically and do not forget it”

    Her Bad Mother June 25, 2009 at 9:12 am

    A parent bringing their hand to their child’s bottom is not, actually, illegal. Not anywhere that I can think of. So you would have a hard time bringing charges. Spanking is not illegal. It might be entirely unacceptable to you, but it is not a parenting choice that you can choose for others.

    Honestly, I find this kind of reasoning disturbing. You would seriously seek to bring charges against another parent (one who is obviously NOT abusive) for making choices that you wouldn’t make in a situation that you probably know nothing or little about? Just because you think even a swat on the bottom in a dangerous situation is wrong? Isn’t that extreme?

    I actually do think that there are some situations – a preschooler pushing her baby brother’s stroller into a traffic area in a fit would be an example – where parent do need to – are OBLIGATED to – the send the message that they ARE able to to and sometimes SHOULD exert their will physically over their children, to prevent said children, who do not always respond to reasoning or warning, from bringing harm to themselves or others.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting June 25, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    It isn’t illegal in Canada, but it is illegal in many other countries. They are listed here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home

    Aurelia June 25, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Not reading the rest of the comments, just saying, that if you ever did see someone abusing a child, you’d know, without question and you would call 911 and intervene. A beating is not something you would ever mix up with a spanking. The fact that you can even question it tells me that you have never been abused or witnessed real abuse yet. (A good thing–be grateful.)

    I still say that all of you are average normal moms, who yes, might spank once or twice, or screw up the clothes or feed the kid pizza for breakfast, but so what?

    That’s not abuse, and those assholes who keep calling normal moms abusers for a spank or a stain on a shirt are diminishing real abuse, which is incredibly destructive for the victims. As for questioning and judging other people’s parenting? It’s happened for all eternity, and you will do it too someday, likely when you do see someone being obviously abusive. Just keep it for the extreme cases, and not for normal ones.

    Jozet at Halushki June 25, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Actually, I think that this is part of the problem. A lot of people who comment here might agree on “swat” versus “spank” versus “beating”, but that’s not true over a larger sampling of people.

    I saw a mom smack her year-old baby with a hairbrush, and when I gave a shocked look, another woman asked me if I was one of those parents who didn’t “believe in spanking.” I’m sure both of those moms thought themselves to be otherwise good parents who knew the difference between loving discipline and abuse.

    The point I’m making? I’m not sure…only that beyond the self-selecting database of people who choose to read Catherine’s blog, definitions aren’t as obvious or agreed upon by all people. People don’t always know abuse when they see it, and some people see abuse – or even cross the line into abusive themselves – and can’t see it. Self-reporting is tricky. Which is all to say, I suppose, that there are limitations in this debate when it comes to anecdote (my own included.)

    Stone Fox June 25, 2009 at 2:20 am

    I have and probably will again spank my child. Every child and every discipline situation is different. Spanking (and by that I mean two or three hard open handed swats on the backside) is just another tool; when I need to get dangerous behaviour to stop notnowbutrightnow before someone gets hurt, I will use it, and I won’t feel bad about it. I would rather have a child alive 20 years from now to ask me why I spanked him than to watch my child get run over because less physical methods failed to impress upon him the grave seriousness of running in a parking lot.

    I have also spanked out of anger. I am not proud of it, but I won’t waste time feeling guilty about it. Feeling guilty does nothing but distract me from recognizing I made a mistake and figuring out where I went wrong and what I’m going to do different next time. Guilt is a HUGE waste of time and energy.

    In my opinion, humiliation and shaming are FAR worse than a smack on the ass. It might not be physical, but getting in your kid’s face and calling him down leaves scars you can’t see.

    Heidi June 25, 2009 at 4:53 am

    I was spanked, hell I was beat like crazy and abused in so many diffrent ways. I have been to a “shrink” and they have all said I am one of the most well adjusted adults they have ever met and would have no idea the trama I had been through. I would spank as a last resort and I applaud any parent who knows the diffrence between spanking and beating. It is a line that you do not cross.

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