Parents In Glass Houses

June 21, 2011

A couple of years ago, I wrote about spanking. I wrote a few posts, actually, and one magazine article, because I’d spanked my own child, and admitted it, and the ensuing uproar from outraged observers demanded its own commentary. And then the commentary kind of got out of hand – the topic was, after all, spanking – and I decided to just stop talking about it, and, indeed, I thought that I’d never write about spanking again. But then the issue of spanking hit the interwebs again yesterday, with this story about a mother who lost custody of her kids after spanking her daughter, and I feel kind of driven, against my better judgment, to comment.

The arguments in response to the story skewed in two opposing directions: there was the argument that spanking is okay, because, hey, we were spanked, and we turned out fine, and then there was the argument that spanking is never, ever okay, no way, no how, and any parent who does it should have their parenting license taken away. I’m not comfortable with either of these arguments. I’m also not comfortable admitting to that, which is, really, the thing that I want to talk about. That is, why is this all so hard to talk about?

I deplore spanking as a matter of practice, but I’ve also spanked my daughter – just once, in the incident that I discuss below – and although I regret it, I don’t think that I was a terrible parent for doing so. Which is to say, my position on this matter is complicated, and spanking is an issue that does not – in the context of its consideration as a subject of public discourse – admit much complication. If you’re a thoughtful, considerate parent, goes the dominant argument, you would never spank your child. Well, I did spank my child. I’m still not happy about it, but I still don’t want you to judge me for it. As I said, it’s complicated.

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 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 actions. 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?

It might be said that what I did 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, represented 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 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 cannot 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.

When I wrote that post, I intentionally declined to describe in detail the circumstances that led me to spank Emilia. That, I thought, would have defeated the purpose of my argument. I wasn’t looking for absolution, or reassurance that what I’d done was okay. I wasn’t pleading my case, hoping to convince anyone that, sometimes, spanking is acceptable. I was arguing, rather, for greater care in exercising judgment. If you’d seen me spank Emilia, you might not have known the circumstances that led to that spank. Which is precisely the point: if you don’t know, shouldn’t you reserve judgment?

In follow-up discussions to that post, however, I described the incident in fuller detail:

We — she and I and her little brother — were leaving a grocery store. She’d been throwing a fit and making a scene and I was doing the best I could to manage her under extremely trying circumstances. As we neared the sidewalk, she pulled away and grabbed the stroller with her brother in it and yanked it toward the street, shrieking in that manic way that is the hallmark of fit-throwing three-year-olds everywhere. There was no time for reasoning or arguing or cajoling. There was no time for shouting or bargaining or threatening. I had to stop her, and I had to do it immediately. So I grabbed her and I pulled her, struggling and shrieking, back to me and I spanked her.  It was the kind of spank that well-meaning parents refer to as a “swat on the bottom.” It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t repeated and it was only meant to startle her out of her fit and to make clear that what she was doing – what she was refusing to stop doing – was dangerous and wrong. It worked. I didn’t like it, but it worked. She stopped and blinked and her lower lip quivered and I said, “Honey, I need you to stop,” and I explained why I’d done what I did. To this day I don’t know what I could have done differently.

I felt compelled to clarify what happened, because some of the responses to the original post were of the you are a terrible mother and your children should be taken away from you variety. One commenter said that she would have called the police and sought to press charges if she’d seen me swat my daughter’s bottom. “Really?” I replied in a comment. “You wouldn’t have considered the situation? You wouldn’t have just come over and seen if I needed help?” “No,” she stated. “Calling the police would have been how I helped. How I helped your kids.” For her, the issue was black and white. A spanking under any circumstances, any at all, is grounds for revocation of one’s parenting license. No room for consideration of circumstances, no room for mistakes in judgment, no room for any assessment other than this one: BAD PARENT.

I disagree with her, obviously. I am, as I said in the original post and in posts that followed and in every interview that I’ve ever done in which someone has asked me about my position on spanking, not a proponent of spanking as a disciplinary measure. I do not spank my children; that one incident was the one incident, and it’s never been repeated (the circumstances, too, thankfully, have never been repeated.) I am against spanking. But still: I am made uncomfortable by absolute judgments about spanking. Really uncomfortable. Not just because I am made uncomfortable by absolute judgments about most things – nothing good ever comes of moral absolutism – but because I think that they obscure any discussion about how truly difficult, how soul-wrenchingly challenging, is the whole matter of disciplining our children (ask me how terrible I feel when I yell at my children, which I do, which is a whole other topic. Ask me, too, how judgey I get about the practice of strapping children into ‘naughty chairs’, or putting them in isolation, or just making them cry in general.)

At the same time, however, the case of spanking and judgments about spanking raise interesting questions about the nature of judgment and the difficulty of moderating judgment: how do we balance fairness in judging other parents with protecting children, and in determining what is right and wrong in parenting? How do we decide whether, when or how to intervene in someone else’s parenting? Where’s the line – and how fine is this line – between looking out for the best interests of children and becoming self-appointed enforcers of parental law?

We are, all of us, imperfect parents, and it’s tempting to just pull out the Matthew 7.1 and insist that we none of us judge, lest we all be judged – so tempting, because doesn’t that sentiment capture something important about parenting discourse in the 21st century, which is, it seems, all about judging each other relentlessly? – but to do so would just be to muddy the conversation further. We cannot resist judging, nor, arguably, should we. Moral relativism is no more useful than is moral absolutism. So what do we do with all this? How do we talk about all this? How do we parent, and talk about parenting, when we all of us live in glass houses, and when we none of us want to put down our stones?

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    Eliza June 21, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I always wonder when one of those “i’d call the police” people comes along if their parents spanked them. Mine did, not often but they did. I dont remember each incident but i do remember a few and i believe that i deserved it at those times. Maybe some those against spanking were spanked just a little too often?
    I know it doesnt really matter too much why they are that way but i agree with you, its a hard balance. I definitely dont want to be a judge but wouldnt any of us take measures to protect a child we felt was being harmed? and isnt that still technically judging?

    A non hitter June 23, 2011 at 3:08 am

    Here is a great line from “Driving to Kalifornia” Juliette Lewis and Brad Pitt: “…and he hardly ever hits me; unless I deserve it”.

    Really? It is possible for a person (or a pet) to deserve to be hit? Can you help me to understand that. What happens when my three year old hits out at me or his little brother in frustration and I say “we don’t hit”. How am I going to teach that to him if I hit. Can you explain that to me. I doubt my neuro typical three year old has the ability to understand different rules for different situations on that one. I think he is just goint to learn bigger beings get their way. Cower against bigger beings and oppress against smaller weaker beings (when bigger being is not around to see).

    vegas710 June 25, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    @A non hitter,
    I would suggest that there are many things that are for grownups only and children know this. I would say that anger is the biggest difference when it comes to your question (spanking should never be done in anger). However, you are talking in extremes. Hitting out of anger is not the same thing as a swat on the bottom (something I don’t do but don’t believe is abusive). The whole hitting vs spanking argument would hold more water if kids were running around swatting bottoms when they got angry but most parents will tell you that hasn’t been an issue.

    Penbleth June 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I think spanking has to be a last resort and is not the same as beating the life out of the child but sometimes perhaps it isn’t the worst thing someone could do. As I’ve got older I like the idea of spanking a child less. I think as common practise changes we see that there are other ways of discipling a child. And we remember that discipline means to teach, not to punish. And yes, there are times a child needs to be punished and there are other ways to do that too, much more effective ways sometimes. I just fear those who are totally prescriptive. Then I fear that attitude anyway.

    A non hitter June 23, 2011 at 3:15 am


    “And we remember that discipline means to teach, not to punish” This is an accurate statement.

    And, we can only hope that one generation improves on the previous. We have better access to information and the concept of self-reflectance in the year 2011.

    Renee June 21, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I’ve also spanked my daughter – just once – in somewhat similar circumstances. She was completely out of control and was becoming a danger to herself and others. I really, really wish I hadn’t had to do it, but honestly, if the situation were repeated, I would do the same thing. And, you know what, it helped. She’s never had that particular kind of a fit again. The commenter who said she would call the police is really a very special kind of idiot. Frankly, I would sooner call the police on Tiger Mom, who never let her daughters have play dates and kept her youngest sitting at a piano for hours even though she had to pee. That is true cruelty. I’d also sooner call the police on parents that bring their (approximately) 5 and 3 year old children to see a 10:20 pm showing of Hangover II (which I recently witnessed). Far more harmful than a measured – and deserved – spanking. Spanking as a form of discipline is not something I support, nor do I think it is necessarily effective when used regularly. However, certain circumstances call for a spank. I, too, was spanked infrequently as a child. There is only one incident that I remember, when I was really getting just a bit too old to be spanked. My parents realized they were wrong to do it and apologized to me. It never happened again. I think we need to be a bit more fogi

    Her Bad Mother June 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    @Renee, yeah, Tiger Mom is an interesting case here, because some of her disciplinary techniques were, arguably, more extreme than spanking (not allowing her daughter to pee, calling her children names, burning their toys). And as I suggested, I personally have trouble with other kinds of discipline. All of which is to say, it’s hard to talk about discipline, because discipline is by its very nature negative. Is there any style of discipline that doesn’t leave a bad taste in our mouths?

    Notaspanker June 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    @Her Bad Mother, So speaking of judgement I have now been called a “special kind of idiot” and also ” insane” in these comments. Just saying…and for clarification, I really do not think you are a bad mother I think you struggle the same way that the rest of us do. Regarding the spanking incident, I stand my ground, if I saw someon spanking their child I would call the police. I would call the police and let them decide if the child was safe or not, and let them determine the situation. If the situation was nothing more than what you described then there would be no problem. I think we are all accountable to protect each other and if that means calling the police when I see a child getting ” spanked” that is what I would do, and I do not mind standing in judgement for all of you.

    Kristen June 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    @Notaspanker, I think most adults know that spanking is not illegal, and that corporal punishment is only legally deemed as abusive if it leaves welts or bruises. I think you probably also know that a public swat would not fall under this category. So it seems like your choice to call the police would only be effective in a) wasting the time of law enforcement and DCFS personnel, and b) fulfilling some personal self-righteous need for drama. Let’s not pretend you’re doing it for the children.

    Notaspanker June 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    @Kristen, Hi Kristin, regardless of my motives and my perception of the situation it is my right and my judgement call. And the accusation of the need for drama is inaccurate, what I would do would be the least dramatic course of action. There are many more people who would actually personally intervene in the situation, that seems far more dramatic doesn’t it? At any rate I think it is laughable that so many people get so self righteous that they think it is ok to come on here and call me an “idiot”, “crazy” and “insane”. I believe in what I believe and also my right to defend it, I did not realize that there was no room for discourse.

    vegas710 June 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    You said, “regardless of my motives and my perception of the situation it is my right and my judgement call”

    You actually do not have the right to call the cops anytime you see something you don’t like. If you call the police because you see someone swat a child on the backside, you may find yourself explaining those motives and perceptions to a judge.

    Her Bad Mother June 22, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    @Notaspanker, I really don’t support anyone calling anyone else ‘crazy’ or ‘idiot’ here, and I’m sorry that any of the discussion has gone in that direction. For my part, as I’ve said, I disagree with your position, but I do think that there are some important points that come out of that position – I think that we’d most of us agree that there’s a point at which we *would* intervene… it’s just a question of where that point is, and how we discuss our differing perspectives on where that point is.

    Notaspanker June 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    @Her Bad Mother, Thank you, and in all fairness I do know that you are not the kind of person who encourages name calling. For me, there really is no grey area on this issue, like I have said before I do not think hitting anyone in any situation is ok. And before I am further judged, no my parents did not spank me, I work in the mental health field, I have two children, a nice husband, friends, and overall I am just an ordinary average mom. For most issues I am handily able to identify the middle ground, but this is not one of those for me. For the record, clearly I do not think this one situation makes you a bad person, or any less of a mother, I think it was a mistake and it does seem like you would agree that it is a mistake. That is it, and that is all. I stated my case to your original post because that is what I thought you wanted, a conversation about the issue. But the comments to this second posting have gone a bit overboard, and I am really shocked by how strongly I am being judged for saying that I think any kind of hitting is wrong!

    vegas710 June 25, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    @Notaspanker, I still don’t understand why you would call the police when you know that there is nothing illegal taking place. You know you could actually be prosecuted for that? I’m trying to understand here, what would be the point?

    Sarah Denley June 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    @Her Bad Mother, I hate that the word “discipline” has such a negative connotation. Obviously it involves punishment, but as someone already pointed out it doesn’t equate to just that. I have a degree in education and in my classes we learned that to discipline means “to teach” and comes from the same origins as the word disciple. I’m not trying to argue semantics or say this isn’t a hard discussion (it is!), I’m just saying that I think the teaching, corrective part of discipline is the part that doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth and is something that I HOPE I’m doing more than the punitive part. There are times when I really enjoy trying to explain the “whys” of how I expect her to behave but there are not times when I enjoy sending her to time out. That’s a lie, there has been an occasion where I have sort of enjoyed the peace of it. THAT probably makes me a bad mother.

    I’ve really chased a rabbit trail and I’m pretty sure your question was meant to be rhetorical but I do think it’s an interesting concept and something I never thought about until we talked about it in class. I always considered discipline and punishment one and the same and it kind of revolutionized my thinking.

    Tabatha June 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I have a son who is developmentally delayed — he’s 2 and a half, doesn’t have language, but does have severe anger management issues, which means a lot of tantrums, almost always in public.

    I’ve hardened myself to these tantrums and the stares that accompany them from other parents in the vicinity. You know, those “wow, that child’s out of control” stares that elicit the most epic of judgement of my parenting skills. Probably doesn’t help that I’m young, and also have a 10 month old with me. I know what I look like. And I know it’s not who I am.

    My son gets violent in his tantrums — biting, pinching, hitting, screaming at the top of his lungs, etc — and I’ve had to fully restrain him in public before he hurts himself or someone else, well, other than me. And people stare at me like I’m the most terrible parent for holding him down or right up to me, using both hands and a leg to restrain him while I coo at my children that it’s okay, this too shall pass and we can carry on with our day.

    To look at him, he doesn’t look challenged. So that means I normally get two kinds of responses from people — that I need to discipline him to teach him a lesson (I assume this means corporal punishment on a regular basis? I grew up with that sans the love and kindness and explanation — I was just beat with a paddle, often without reason) or that somehow I’m not setting a good example or our home life must be rough because obviously he learned this behaviour from me/us. Every great once in a while a kind soul approaches me and commiserates, but usually in the moment even that’s inconvenient.

    So while I feel like there should be some attention paid to the treatment of children when it comes to punishment, I also know that there’s no way to know the full story by just looking from the outside. I was emotionally and physically abused as a child, and nothing was ever done. My son has a bevy of specialists helping him deal with his multitude of issues and we try so hard every day to let both our kids know how loved they are, but I’m judged a bad parent nearly every time I leave the house with him.

    Nothing is as it seems. And I applaud you for bringing that up in parenting, where so often such things are not discussed.

    Karianna June 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    @Tabatha, Yup, I had similar experiences when my oldest son was younger. The moments when I needed the most help were exactly the moments that people wanted to judge me the most. And in his case, a physical reaction could literally jar him out of the situation, thereby solving the problem. It is complicated, and even more complicated when people don’t know the backstory (especially when they believe diagnoses are “excuses”) – which is why I wish people would react with compassion rather than judgement.

    Her Bad Mother June 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    @Tabatha, such an excellent point. parents of children with developmental delays or sensory processing disorders or other such issues face special challenges with this stuff – and, often, greater scrutiny. all the more reason for sensitivity.

    hayley June 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I know I’ve spanked (swat on the butt, to clarify) my child for much less than the incident you’re speaking about. After I spanked my child, I hated it. Spanking sometimes is a human response to an incident that is escalating without control–I agree. Though it’s a very strange thing to be teaching your child “we don’t hit” and then spank them. I really wrestled with this and decided that spanking just doesn’t work for us. Of course, a swat on the ass never really hurt anyone – did it? And maybe Lori Gottlieb (Atlantic Monthly author who wrote about kids with easy home lives growing up depressed) would say we *should* be spanking. Great topic.

    Her Bad Mother June 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    @hayley, there was a piece last year that cited some study that asserted that moderate spanking was good for children (there’s a link in the post above to a post that I wrote about that article – it’s hyperlinked from the line ‘I’m against spanking’) – I wrote at the time that I’d still be disinclined to spank, even if someone proved that it would help my kid get into Harvard. Useful to compare Tiger Mom here ;)

    hayley June 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    @Her Bad Mother, Brown, yes. Harvard, not as much. (Kidding.) Thank you for the link. Also, just out of curiosity, I wonder what people think about slaps on the wrist or the hand. Is that considered spanking? Also, what I’m getting from the posts is that there is a delineation between abuse (like ste who posted below me, e.g. “severely spanked”) and swats.

    Her Bad Mother June 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    @hayley, some people don’t make any distinction – hitting is hitting is hitting, whether it’s a swat or a paddle or a smack or a slap or worse – and these are the people who think that there’s no circumstance under which it’s okay to use corporal punishment. I can see the point there, to some extent, but I think it pushes it to an extreme.

    ste June 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I was a spanked child. Severely spanked. My spankings were a result, yes, of my behavior but the severity and trauma that resulted was from my father’s lack of ability to manage and take responsibility of his own anger. Sometimes it still scares me.

    There are moments in my own parenting, overcome by emotions and a desperation to get my point across, that I can see why parents spank. Thankfully for me, I have not yet because it would bring up too many old wounds for me that I am trying very hard to heal.

    I have spent time in meetings at a mother’s group in my town that is lead by conservative women. Sometimes I enjoy it (or more so I like the free coffee that someone else makes for me), other times I struggle to not want to scream for people to realize there are so many areas of gray. One such moment was when the ‘mentor mom’ was giving a presentation on spanking. In a nutshell, it’s necessary when the child has deliberately disobeyed and that you shouldn’t use your hand, but a paddle. Months later I am still lacking the right words to explain why that makes me cringe.

    Thank you for your wise words and feelings on how disciplining a child is very difficult and that it is far from black and white.

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    @ste, oh, wow. I would cringe too. thanks so much for your thoughtful words here.

    the grumbles June 21, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I was spanked occasionally as a child when I did something particularly horrendous. I don’t have any stand-out memories of it really, and I totally agree with you that the guilt tactics my parents used later were far more painful and long-lasting.

    Even though my own spanking experience wasn’t traumatic I’m not really interested in spanking my own child. It just doesn’t feel right to me. How can I tell him it’s not ok to hit, ever, when Mom and Dad hit him? Does not compute. There are times when it’s a matter of danger (like your situation) where obviously strong measures need to be taken to deter them from, you know, DYING. Maybe that means spanking. For me I hope it doesn’t but I can’t rule it out 10000% in a time of desperate need.

    All that said, I try not to judge other parents out in public dealing with a tantrum. We’ve all been there. It would be better pass on a “been there” smile or offer a helping hand than to jump down their throat about abuse. Unless, of course, it is abuse. Which is a whole other monster. And this is exactly why it’s so complicated to talk about.

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    @the grumbles, exactly. this IS why it’s so complicated – we have to allow each other the freedom to make mistakes (and even to make controversial choices, within reason) but we also want to be responsible about looking out for each other, and for the weakest members of our community.

    Issa June 21, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I fear for the people who think the world is just black and white. Or maybe I fear for their kids.

    I was spanked exactly twice during my childhood. I spanked my oldest exactly once. Just like you, it was a scary situation she was about to put herself into and honestly it was the thing that made her stop. It’s not how I do things, but I don’t regret it.

    I’ve seen people swat their kids in public and never thought twice about it. You can’t judge anyone else’s parenting ways, unless you are in their shoes. I have also twice called the police on people. But that? Was for actual physical abuse.

    I’m not a fan of spankings. I don’t think you’re really teaching a thing. In the heat of a scary moment, it can make a point. But besides that? Eh. I don’t know.

    red pen mama June 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Here is what I am struck by: “I explained why I’d done what I did.”

    To spank or not to spank: generally against, but I’m not calling the cops for a swat on the bum in public. I’m not a spanker, but my husband is, and we’ve argued about it.

    What I don’t do at this point though is reason or explain things (overly) to my kids. That’s the part of the story that I’m really curious about — and I don’t mean to sound like an a$$ about it, I’m genuinely curious. I mean, “You can’t run in the street, you’ll get hurt” is one thing but, “Honey, I had to swat you on the bum because your behavior is out of control, and you could have hurt yourself or your brother….” That seems like a lot of commentary for a 3-year-old.

    I don’t negotiate with my kids, although I am not above a good solid bribe, er, um REWARD, to get them to a) behave in public and/or b) sleep in their own beds. Generally, what I say goes, and there are consequences to bad choices for the 4- and 6-year-old (loss of TV, loss of night-time treat are the two biggies). Again, no spanking, although sometimes my 4yo does need to be restrained, physically. I don’t even want to know how that looks to an outsider.

    So, yeah, I’m sorry you’re revisting this, and I’m not judging, I’m just curious. Sorry if it sounds otherwise.

    Her Bad Mother June 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    @red pen mama, it wasn’t a lot of commentary. I just said that I hadn’t wanted to do that, but that I’d needed her to stop.

    But even if it had been a lot of commentary for a three year old (it’s worth noting, though, that Emilia was a very bright three year old), it still felt important to explain. Both to keep me on the side of self-reflection, and to let her know that I wrestled with it. It was something that my parents always, always did when they spanked us – they expressed and explained their regret, and I believed them, and it’s a big part of why I to this day think of them as the gentlest of parents, despite the fact that they on occasion paddled my rear-end.

    But that’s over-thinking it. I think that I mostly needed to just say it out loud, for me.

    red pen mama June 22, 2011 at 8:47 am

    @Her Bad Mother, It is true that Emilia has always struck me as very bright. :)

    Thanks for answering. I was really curious. I know that with my older daughter, explaining WHY her father or I choose to do things is very effective for her (although we probably didn’t do it so much when she was 3; she’s 6 now). She is curious about so many things, including motivation (although she probably wouldn’t use that word).

    My younger daughter, you could explain things until you are blue in the face, she doesn’t give a rat’s patoutie. O my gosh I love her irrepressible spirit, but she’s *exhausting*.

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    @red pen mama, don’t even get me started on irrepressibly spirited children being exhausting. DON’T EVEN.

    Sharon June 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    I think any black and white judgments leave me feeling uncomfortable. So often we are looking at the outcome of a situation we weren’t privy to. It’s like reading the last chapter of a book and trying to figure out what happened in the previous 300 pages. Many times when I have seen a parent who’s dealing with a child who’s having a tantrum or clearly having a difficult time, I try to give them an understanding look or an offer of help. But also, I have my bad days where I have been dealing with my unruly children and look the other way without any offers or kind words, then I feel guilty and sad. Kindness, understanding and empathy goes a long way.

    Some Mother June 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Interesting discussion, difficult to have frankly even with close friends…. I wonder about spanking one child but not another…. I have one friend who admitted she spanked her second born daughter but not her firstborn son. I also have (long story) spanked my second born daughter but not my firstborn daughter. I wonder about that…. why? anyone else? and what will happen with my baby son…. I’d like to think I won’t spank any of them again…. Hopefully they’re all still young enough they’ll never remember (though, I will never forget, sigh).

    In this case of the woman sentenced for spanking, there were bruises or red welts on the child… that warranted medical intervention…. I might term that a beating… (am I starting a controversy?! or maybe this has already been commented on…)

    Kim June 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    A very interesting discussion and an issue I have thought about as I ponder when and if I will have a child. There is a tremendous difference between one swat on the behind and a full on beating. Beatings are child abuse. Swats are NOT and necessary in situations like yours. I have to say that I feel like I am somewhat of an expert on this subect because I was a child abuse victim. My mother used any weapon at her disposal in violent fits of rage. You had to snap your daughter out of a tantrum in a dangerous situation. For those who say “I would have called the cops”, get a clue. Try to figure out what a real abuse victim looks like. Like the 5 year old boy in New York who was beaten to death by his mother for breaking the T.V. Where were the judgment mongers for him?

    Christina D. June 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    “How do we parent, and talk about parenting, when we all of us live in glass houses, and when we none of us want to put down our stones?”

    I believe we must strive to accept that people are trying to do their best under incredibly trying, emotional, scary circumstances and that we seek to have compassion for them, especially when we see them struggling. We all know what it’s like in that moment when the child is screaming and your heart is pounding, and you just want the world to stop so that you can think clearly for a moment and get your wits about you. But the world won’t stop and you must take action that both honors who you are as a person and respects the child while still providing the guidance they need in the moment.

    So, we breathe. Count to 10. Remember that we are all flawed and trying so hard to do well.

    I also believe we must commit to fully having our feelings and taking responsibility for them while simultaneously looking at what’s behind our reactions. Much of the time it has to do with our fears of looking bad or being unpopular or being ostracized from the group. But that can get hidden in the moment and we lose sight of the fact that we’re all just big children seeking the acceptance of our peers(parents).

    When you see a parent doing something you disapprove of, resist the urge to react or dismiss them as a horrible person and, instead, breathe. Check your body. See where the tension rests. Notice how your gut feels. Let yourself hear the story that your body is trying to tell you. Is what they’re doing reminding you of that time your mother slapped you? Or that time your dad shamed you? Something worse? Something completely unrelated?

    Watching other people be parents triggers our body’s memories and unhealed childhood wounds. If we can give space to those hurts and allow ourselves to experience them, give them the audience they obviously crave, then we can begin to heal ourselves. And one another.

    Please remember we’re all trying so hard to do well.

    Heather Meyers June 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I was spanked some, and all I really remember about it is being scared a lot when they got angry. If there is no mark, it becomes harder to prove, blah, blah, blah. I have spanked my daughter, more times than you and for far lesser reasons. In those moments of stress we turn to the model we were given as children. I did explain to my daughter at three that I was sorry I spanked her, that I knew it was confusing for me to tell her it is never okay to hit someone when I’ve spanked her, and I told her that sometimes I did it because it was done to me and it was what I knew. She responds very well to explanations.
    Dr. Phil said once that he believes that children have the right to not be hit. I believe in the end spanking falls under the giant umbrella of the meaning of the word, hit. Having said that, I remember his words, not to judge, but to remind myself why I don’t want to spank. The other reason I don’t like to spank, is because I have seen the look in her eyes after, and I remember that feeling and I just love her too much to keep doing it.
    As for other people, well, everyone is on their own journey and sometimes they take their kids on that journey with them, and most often, no one does anything about it. It sucks, but it is. I definitely would not call the police on someone for swatting their child on the behind. We are not, as a society, to a point where we are able to call that a crime, because there would be too many people in jail. I do believe that everything you do to try and make your child’s childhood better than your own, will result in making their lives better, and perhaps allow them to be even better parents than you were.

    joy June 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    The people who say they’d call the police for a spank in public ought to educate themselves a bit about the trauma inflicted upon children when they are taken from their parents and placed in foster care, often bouncing from foster home to foster home while their parents fight their way through the system to get their kids back. Except in cases of extreme abuse (which you’re not going to see at the grocery store, generally speaking), removing kids from the home is almost always worse for them than staying with their parents, however imperfect those parents may be.

    anymommy June 22, 2011 at 11:52 am

    @joy, brilliant, succinctly stated and based – it sounds like – on actual experience with the system. Thank you. I applaud this comment.

    Kristen June 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    @anymommy, Agreed!

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    @joy, perfectly said. perfectly. thank you.

    Julie Marsh June 21, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    I’m reminded of a fellow swim team mom who deals with her young daughters in a way that makes me wince.

    Or it did, until my daughter went missing before one of her events at the last meet, and when she did appear, I screeched, “Goddammit CJ, WHERE have you BEEN?!”

    Naturally, this happened in front of the other mother, who gaped at me. Defensively, I offered this: “She’s mine, so I can talk to her like that.”

    (Yeah. I know.)

    I still don’t like what she does, but I have to admit that I don’t like what I did either.

    Her Bad Mother June 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    @Julie Marsh, don’t even get me started on the yelling.

    cate June 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm


    my 3 oldest kids were spanked when needed… all 3 now mature functioning adults.

    the 5 youngest rarely spanked are vicious brats….

    ’nuff said?

    a June 21, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I have seen some questionable parenting decisions, but I’ve been pretty well able to work out in just a few seconds of observation why those choices were made. Some of it “they don’t know any better” and some of it is “that’s just their way, and the children will absorb that way, and it’s a little sad, but they’re not bad people” and some of it is “I wish people wouldn’t try to rationalize with a 2 year old.”

    I’ve made some questionable parenting decisions, and I’m usually able to figure out where they come from. I just wish I could get myself out of the rut of yelling when I’m repeatedly ignored. I even learned in grade school how becoming more quiet is more effective when dealing with the unruly child. I just can’t seem to reliably apply that knowledge in life.

    So from my perspective, I don’t want to judge. I want to observe. I want to make a determination in my limited observation about whether the child in question is in danger. If the answer is no, then I go about my business. And I hope I have the sensitivity to ask moms like Tabatha if there’s anything I can do to help.

    Once upon a time, my daughter (who was 3) threw a fit in the grocery store. She threw her coat on the floor. She ran away from me. All I needed was a gallon of milk, and I wasn’t leaving without it. I could have placated her, but that would not have been a good solution to this tantrum. So I ended up carrying her under my arm like a football while I bought my (or, uh, her) milk. And all the people in the store gave me sympathetic looks. I was expecting disapproval – for bringing the rotten brat out in public, or for not making it so she wouldn’t cry or scream. Sometimes people surprise me.

    Colleen June 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Brilliantly said.

    I’ve also spanked my daughter once. I felt miserable afterwards. And, unlike your incident… spanking my daughter didn’t seem to phase her in the least. It only succeeded in breaking my heart.

    I do also think I feel worse while having to discipline in other ways. It’s a fine line knowing when you’ve done what you should for the best… and when you’ve gone too far.

    jessica June 21, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    my daughter is almost three and has been spanked a few times. I didn’t like doing it, but I don’t hate myself for it and I’m sure as hell not abusive. I truly felt that was my only option left at the time. lets face it, there’s only so much explaining and bargaining you can do with a two and a half year old when they’re throwing a paramount fit. it’s our job to keep them safe and teach them boundaries. you’d be in a much worse situation if you’d let her push your other son into the street.

    Laura June 27, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    @jessica, This is it right here — exactly right. Bravo.

    Sarah June 22, 2011 at 1:09 am

    This. “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 have spanked my daughter twice and I hated how I felt afterward. After that I never did it again. Honestly though I feel a hundred times worse about last week. I laid on the guilt trip of a lifetime and made my little girl cry out of shame. It was so so much worse. I would never encourage spanking but I can’t honestly say I have any right to judge others- especially out of the context of the situation they are in. And I really am more worried (about my own struggle) with the mental damage of guilt and shame over time that can end up much more affecting than a swat on the butt.

    suzie June 22, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Yeah, I have a story or two like that, too. From reading yours, with the stroller, and knowing mine, I think we both could have stopped short of the swat, and the scenes would have played out the same. We would have gotten our kids’ attention, and things would have been fine. Of course we shouldn’t be losing custody over these things, and no one should be calling the police. And, of course, our kids aren’t traumatized. Mine are 13 and 15 and recently said, “oh, you never hit us when we were little.” They don’t remember.

    Ami June 22, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I agree that we cannot, nor should not, eliminate the judging that goes on in our daily routines. I do wish however that we could combine a little bit of empathy and grace with that judging. That way while we make an instant snap judgement we would also take a moment to evaluate the best and kindest course of action to help and encourage one another.

    Kate Hayes June 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I just have to say that one part about this discussion totally freaks me out – the part about the woman who commented on your post saying that she would have pressed charges if she had seen you swat your daughter’s bottom. WHAAAA??? That is INSANE. KNOWING what she knew – having had the chance to read your blog, even read your posts about that particular incident (minor though it was) expressing your regret, and obviously knowing that you are a GOOD PARENT – she still thought it would have been better to get the police involved had she been there. What kind of crazy person thinks that it would be better for any child to be taken away from a loving home and forced into an inept and overloaded foster care system over a SWAT on the bottom? Just the fact that there are people like that “out there” terrifies me. How in the world has our society gone from accepting spanking as a natural (and even Biblical) form of discipline since the beginning of time – to condemning a mother for swatting a child during an utter meltdown – over the course of one generation? It just boggles my mind.

    Kristen June 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I had almost the same situation that you described with Emilia with my four-year-old yesterday. We were crossing a busy street and he refused to hold my hand. When I pressed the issue he started running away from me – into the flow of traffic. I swatted his hand and explained why. I felt fine doing that . . . but I didn’t feel fine for the next hour as I wondered if anyone around was going to call the cops on me. I’m really not a fan of corporal punishment but I do believe it’s gone to far when people are living in fear of legal action for a public swat or spank.

    Meredith June 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Great post(s). Thanks for asking important questions, as I think that is so much more important than finger pointing.
    I haven’t spanked my kids, but I get where you were coming from that day. I have witnessed the swat on the bottom (and been on receiving end of more than a few growing up!), and have never felt I needed to call the police.
    My eldest son has a talent for tantrums, and is best described as a “spirited” child. Which is a nice way of saying he’s a freakin handful. Despite his tendency to volume and occasional violence, he is so sensitive that I know if we smacked him he would lose it. If he had a different temperament, the swat might work, but I have always suspected it wouldn’t, so I haven’t bothered. Have I been tempted? Oh, yes.
    Given all the judgement you received for your original post, I have to share that the piece of advice/judgement/bullying I receive most often in public with my children is how they ought to be spanked. Or beaten within an inch of their lives. Or smacked with belts, or any other physical punishments the elderly people of the world suffered in their youth, and wish to share with me. I suspect that the old lady who snapped at me when my son was fifteen months old: “That baby needs a good spanking” would be the first to call the cops on me if I’d actually done it.
    Ok, I need to stop because if I don’t break up some sibling rivalry here, my neighbours WILL call CAS on account of all the screaming between my boys.
    A great topic. So much to say. Wish I had time for more.

    Val June 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    The other interesting issue here to me is simply that Mom’s today live in fear of someone calling the police on them. Whether it’s for spanking or ‘free range parenting’ it seems that the minority group of folks who don’t blink before making a CPS call in shades of grey moments have the rest of us terrified. Just last week a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was *afraid* she was going to “lose it” with her 2 year old. She then had another ‘friend’ essentially threaten to call CPS about the issue.

    Sometimes I feel like I have fear in equal amounts about “being a bad Mom” and “someone being able to spin to a CPS worker that I’m a bad Mom.”

    The judgement factor is agonizing and terrifying and debilitating, but when you add on the stories we hear from the fringes–like this one–about children being taken away for instances that, at face value, don’t look black and white to most of us… I think it just muddies our parenting culture and makes everything that much more terrifying.

    Marian June 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

    This is, as always, an interesting subject, and I wonder what the comments would be if it was a nanny, or teacher, revealing she hit.

    I was a nanny: 12 hour days, alone, two kids, temper tantrums, running toward the street, moments scaring the living daylights out of me, potty training, grocery shopping, doctor appointments, ear infections, croup, etc. etc.

    I did not hit, though I was raised with spanking–the “wrong” kind, i.e., in anger, surprise attack–because I had to find another way to manage.

    There were times I wanted to hit, and even had a dream where I swung my hand, out of fear, onto the bottom of a child who was running toward the street, but the children were not my own … Natalie Merchant song about the parent thinking they have a right to hit their child because it is their own … .

    Raising other people’s children, I learned to manage my fear, exhaustion, anger, impatience and stress by closing my mouth; silently putting the child in the car seat, in the other room, back in their chair and waiting out the storm in me.

    I discovered, in my silence, the manner in which I wanted to be remembered by these children when they grew up: not scary, not loud, not painful.

    Unfortunately, this took years and years, so I also had used what I had learned: the guilt, and, yes, this shatters me remembering the look on the child’s face. I got better and better as the years went on (I worked for a number of families), but, oh, how I wish I had never made a single mistake.

    But, finally, I began to read the books that preschool teachers would learn from: Teachers used to be able to hit, but that became illegal. Yet, they were still human, so how did they manage?

    I began to glean as much as I could from preschool teachers, and the higher grades, as the children grew, and found myself doing less off-the-cuff child-rearing and more informed guidance.

    I do not judge those who hit or have hit, because I understand.

    I do believe books on child development (Piaget, Leach etc.) removed the question of will I or won’t I spank, because I understand the behavior and its origins, so I feel, and am, more in control of the situation.

    I realized, in my silence, I was equally uncomfortable with my loss of self-control, as I was with the child, and knowledge was the answer.

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    @Marian, such a thoughtful, interesting, illuminating comment. Thank you.

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    @Marian… having thought about it for a few minutes… if it were my nanny/babysitter/daycare provider, and some that I trusted – someone whose judgment I had every confidence in – then I would not be tremendously upset if they gave my child a swat on the bottom under the circumstances that I described above. I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I would understand, and I would rather them make the split-second call that I did than hesitate to try to figure out the best way to reason her out of her fit.

    Again, I wouldn’t be happy with it, but I’m generally not happy with discipline in general, and I can see myself being unhappy with a whole variety of other measures – restraint (this happened once, at the hands of someone whose judgment I thereafter called into question), isolation and shaming being among the big ones.

    Such a fascinating question.

    Marian June 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    @Her Bad Mother, I bloomed in the company of parents who trusted me, and I feel for parents who have to put their trust in people to tend their children–it is difficult.

    In reply to your response, something to consider; what if your nanny came to you each month saying she had reason to spank your children?

    I imagine you would ask that she find a different way of managing, which is what I did with the child development books.

    As your nanny, my sentence describing how I managed Emilia taking the stroller toward the street would read: “I grabbed her and pulled her, struggling and shrieking, back to me.”

    I know me, and I know the spank would have simply been my releasing anger, and I would be angry at myself for wanting a peaceful moment, rather than what it was.

    I have a temper; I frustrate easily, so I am in constant anger management, I guess it would be called. This is why I do not judge, but find, for myself, ways to not go where I hate to go: hitting or yelling at someone.

    Don’t get me started on the yelling …

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    @Marian, if it were a regular thing, then absolutely not. My benchmark here is myself – if it’s not something that I would do, then I don’t want someone else doing it. I know my children, and I know that their behaviour is not such to warrant regular spanking, even if I condoned spanking as a regular practice, which I don’t.

    But I also know that on at least one occasion, at least one of my children has gone dangerously batshit, and that *my* judgment call was to swat her bum to snap her out of it – not out of anger, but out of horror and fear and being at a loss as to how to stop her. So if a trusted caregiver came to me, once, and said that she had to pull Emilia back to her, struggling and screaming, I would feel sympathetic to the caregiver. If it happened again, I would begin to feel skeptical – those kinds of circumstances are unusual, and once they’ve happened, you can learn from them, and find ways to avoid them.

    Again, it’s mostly about looking at it from all sides. I want to be – and I’d want a caregiver to be – able to find all those ways around discipline that you talk about, and I work towards that. But I’m also always aware that it’s not always black and white.

    I think that you sound like a wonderful caregiver. Would that we could all find someone as self-reflective and obviously caring as you :)

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    @Marian, ugh, I mean, ‘absolutely, I would ask that she find a different way of managing.’

    Marian June 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    @Her Bad Mother, Yes, I knew you meant that.

    It has been years, since I was a nanny, but this post made it fresh.

    Parenting is hard.

    You were/are so courageous to write this post, and the people who were so honest here really opened up my thinking.


    Alexicographer June 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    You know, I’m a non-spanker for all the right reasons (summed up: we don’t want to teach children that they should behave a particular way because of the threat of physical violence), and then I had a kid and — guess what? No, no, I’m not going to confess that I have become a spanker but what I have realized is that I *routinely* do things to my son that would constitute assault if I did them to an adult. I require him to stay in the house. I require him to leave the house (my mother did have to point out to my father that if he did these things to her — and he tried — she could press assault charges against him. I know of what I speak). I used to scoop him up and place him into bed (crib) more-or-less against his will (at bedtime). I removed a tick from his scrotum that required that two adults physically restrain him — this was two in addition to me — to get him to hold still enough to remove said tick, poor soul (my son, not the tick).

    This has led me to believe that it’s a huge grey area. Sure, I can defend/explain all of the above in a way that’s distinct from how I might explain spanking (though given a choice between a spanking and tweezers near the scrotum I think I know what many males would choose), or at least, I could to someone capable of understanding the explanation (at 4, now, my son probably could at least in broad outline, but there were times when I did some of these things that he was too young to grasp the explanation). The simple truth is that kids are different from adults, though they become adults and we need to nurture that process. I’m not convinced that spanking is a good or appropriate tool for doing so, but neither am I convinced that there is a bright line between it and half a dozen other things that many of us do — and accept — routinely and that fall on a range from essential (tick removal) to important (keep kid in, or out, of house, as appropriate) to convenient (plop tired toddler in crib, allow to fall asleep peacefully playing with stuffed toys despite initial objection to non-consensual relocation).

    All of which is a complicated way of saying that I think it’s a lot more complicated than we want to acknowledge.

    Her Bad Mother June 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    @Alexicographer, THIS. SO MUCH THIS.

    You are totally, totally right that there are SO many things that many parents do that would, if practiced upon adults, be considered assault, or at least a very invasive violation of their rights. Restraining children, isolating children, picking children up against their will and putting them in a cell-like crib. Letting them cry themselves frantic. And as someone pointed out above – consider Tiger Mom, withholding bathroom privileges and burning toys and name-calling.

    And I personally think that shame and guilt can be as damaging, if not more damaging, than corporal discipline. Ugh. It’s so hard to know what to do. We’re going to fuck them up no matter what, is what it feels like.

    And god, tweezers near scrotum. UGH UGH UGH. I cringed, and I don’t even have a scrotum.

    Jomama June 23, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you for this. I am the mother of an 18 month old, and so I am just entering the arena of discipline. Thank you for not having the answers about what is truly the right and wrong ways to discipline. It was comforting to me, as there are times, many times, when I have no idea whether I’m doing the right thing. It seems everyone forgot to tell me that willfulness and emotional explosions can happen this early!
    My parents never spanked, but boy oh boy did they guilt, and that has stuck with me my whole life. I guess all I can do is guide my child with the most love and the least harm that I can, and I hope I can do so with little need for swats on the bum and guilt trips. But I need to accept the fact that they will happen.
    But I am so very curious, what are your feelings on the subject of naughty chairs?

    Elizabeth @ Table for Five June 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    When my oldest was about two, we were on the front porch when he saw a friend across the street and before I knew it, he had jumped up and was running full tilt across the lawn, obviously intending to cross the street to get to his friend. I sprang up and started running, yelling “Ryan, stop! STOP!” but he kept going. I caught up with him at the sidewalk, grabbed him by the arm, and with my other hand, swatted his (diaper and jeans covered) butt. It had my intended effect – stopped him in his tracks before he ran at full speed right into the street. He was startled, but definitely not hurt, and after a hug, I told him our family rule – when Mommy or Daddy tell you to do something, you DO IT.

    I have never given any of my kids the kind of spanking I used to get – stretched out over one of my parent’s laps, laying there, just waiting for it to start and stop. I have, however, swatted their bottoms, and it was definitely not abuse of any kind.

    However, I will confess that if I was in public and saw someone swat a kid’s butt, it would upset me, just on principle. I wouldn’t call the police though, unless there was obvious physical harm taking place.

    Allison Zapata June 24, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I, too, have spanked (swatted) my kid ONE TIME. It was a time he ran away from me and straight into a busy street. I, pregnant, was chasing him, screaming, telling him to stop. He did not listen. Straight into the street he went. Thankfully, it was an early Sunday morning and the street, normally very busy, was empty at the time. When I reached him, STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET, I yelled at him and he LAUGHED AT ME. He thought it was a game, thought it was all so funny. It was then I gave him one little swat on his ass! Because, I would rather him get a swat from me once, then get hit by a car.

    I hated doing it, but I don’t regret it. I am normally of the “let’s respect our children as we respect other adults and talk it out” variety. Use your words, not your hands, but this time, shock value was needed.

    I’m not a spanker, but I spanked. And anyone who wants to judge me for that better be the perfect parent, b/c I love my child fiercely and am a damn good mom, spanking and all.

    Great post.

    Allison Zapata June 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    *than get hit by a car….not then. heh.

    Marian June 28, 2011 at 10:02 am

    @Allison Zapata, What a hilarious spelling error–so easily the meaning changes drastically.

    The most fabulous thing about your post and the original post is putting on the table all of the judging. Parenting is Hard. And even most teachers will cringe at how they were early in their careers, and how they matured and got better as they had more experience.

    Most parents only get the first round, and, truly, do their best. Experience teaches, not books, but putting the books to practice.

    You sound like a fabulous mother because you are funny and confident: the kid was swatted, then hit by a car–sounds like he survived.

    The main thing, you are conscientious, a lovely word, which, I think, describes so many of the people/parents here. Conscience: “the sense of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one’s own conduct, intention, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good (Webster’s).

    Jenny F. Scientist July 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    My mother tells me she spanked me exactly once: I was about two, and I ran into the street. It seems that running into traffic is practically everyone’s breaking point (with good reason).

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