Friday, May 14, 2010


This week's topic is discipline, and in case I didn't alienate enough people with my hippie food snobbery, I'm gonna go for broke.

I have decided to not spank Charlotte. I say "I" because this decision, while one that will be respected and adhered to by Chris, was mine alone. Chris is pro-spanking, and until recently, I was, too.

Now, let me get this out of the way: I don't think spanking is child abuse (unless it is, in fact, child abuse), but your run-of-the-mill swat on the butt or average spanking is not something I'm going to be reporting to authorities or anything. I will also say that I know plenty of kids who were/are spanked who are amazingly well-behaved and have loving relationships with their parents. I will FURTHER say that there are perhaps children for whom spanking works better than alternate forms of discipline.

But, I have a few fundamental problems with spanking. The first being the whole (perhaps too obvious) "do as I say, not as I do" conundrum. I know, I know. Children have to know that there are different rules for adults sometimes, but something as basic as "Keep your hands to yourself" seems to me like a rule that should be universal. I just can't imagine disciplining Lotte for hitting by...hitting her. Maybe that's not how it's done. I suppose there could be myriad consequences in a parent's arsenal, and hitting is just one, reserved for special circumstances.

I don't know. All I know is that the few times I've tried to stop Charlotte from touching something she shouldn't by smacking her hand, it didn't work. She didn't even seem to notice. So, what? I need to hit her harder to make her notice? That's not something I'm willing to do.

Furthermore, I feel that whenever I have an urge to spank her, it always seems to come from an angry place. Like, I got down to her level, looked her square in the eye, told her "No" in a stern voice, removed her from the situation eleventy billion times, and now I want to smack her. But, I don't. Because that just isn't okay with me, and frankly, that feeling makes me uncomfortable.

Creepier still, perhaps is the very calm and calculated way in which people summon their children to them for a spanking or inform them that one will occur at a later time, like when they get home. So, I guess there's just no win for me in this method.

Does this mean I'm doomed to have an unruly and disrespectful child? I don't think so. Right now there's only so much she can understand, but she does get the concept of consequences. She knows that certain behavior gets her desired or undesired responses. She knows that if she stops whining and grunting and reaching for the banana and says "Das?" (her version of please) she will get that fruit, which for her is like manna from Heaven. She knows that if I ask her to hand me something, and she doesn't, I will take it from her. And she knows that I will ignore her when she proceeds to have a meltdown about it. And what she doesn't know, she'll learn, and her consequences will evolve as her behavior does.

I'm not saying what I (and again I say "I" as Chris has yet to tell her no. Yeah, the guy who wants to spank her can't even utter a simple response in the negative, so maybe he's all talk.) am doing is perfect or right or best or that it will work for your child or even that it will work for MY child in the long run. But, it's what feels right and best to me, whereas spanking does not.

Feel free to disagree with me. In fact, I would love to see a dialogue here on the subject. I'm not claiming to have done extensive research (or any research at all) on the psychological effects of spanking or not. Again, I'm just following my instincts, and I'm curious to know what everyone's thoughts are on the matter. In other words, please don't hate me, but, do, please, tell me I'm wrong if you think that's the case.

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  1. Spanking is such a tricky thing, man. You know that I'm pro-spanking. Not pro-kick-a-kid's-ass or anything like that, but if there is no response to any other punishment, then a swipe on the butt is in order.

    Of course, different things work for different kids. Spanking isn't the end all be all of disciplining a child, just like time-outs aren't, either.

    I say do whatever works, as long as you're not going to damage your kid in the long-run. Therapy bills are a bitch.

  2. Yeah, back when I was doing yard duty at my school, time-outs were the preferred method of discipline. For some kids, they worked great. They were DEVASTATED about sitting there and missing out on play, and they were embarrassed, too.

    But, some kids were like, "So, I just sit here for five minutes, and then I can get up and wreak havoc again? Score!" So, for those kids, a loss of other privileges or a call home worked better.

    So, I agree that time-outs are not the godsend some people say they are. And, like you say, neither are spankings. I'm not ready to agree that a swipe on the butt is ever necessary, but for some kids, a spanking does wonders. But, it's all about knowing your kid. I've seen people employ no other method than spanking, and it's completely ineffectual, whereas if they had taken away a video game or been consistent in other ways, they might have had different results.

    So, basically, yeah, whatever works. Agreed.

  3. I do believe that there are better alternatives to spanking speaking from a psychological perspective. For instance, parent's are encouraged to reinforce good behavior and ignore bad behavior (no matter how hard it may be). Of course, this is only the very brief description.

    However, from a personally perspective, I have been smacked on the butt only a handful of times by my mother. It was enough to startle me and end the undesired behavior. On the other hand, I have seen many children laugh at their parents for spanking them. So I agree, it depends on the child.

    Considering I am not a mother, yet, I currently take the anti-spanking stance. I know I will need to revisit this discussion after I have a small, crying tornado terrorizing my house. I do, however, appreciate this discussion as I mentally prepare for my future children.

    P.S. As of right now... No client has been referred to me, because of the psychological damages of spanking, haha. We shall see....

  4. LOL, well you let me know if you do get that referral!

    Thanks so much for weighing in, especially since you do have that psychological point of view.

    I know what you mean about kids laughing at their parents when they get spanked. In that case you'd think a parent would reevaluate the spanking and come up with something else, but most of the time they just keep right on spanking.

  5. I was spanked as a child, maybe 4 times over the course of my childhood, all for very major infractions (ones that put other kids in danger for example), which has lead to my belief that spanking is to be used for BIG things, not for everyday discipline. I also think that there's an age range that spanking might be effective--I would think Charlotte's too young for a spanking anyway. But my kid's not there yet, so I reserve the right to reverse my stance on this all at a future time. I do also think there are much worse punishments than a spanking done "correctly" (my mother in law was...we'll say creative in disciplining my husband as a child. I won't be employing any of her more interesting punishments.)

    I don't believe that not spanking will automatically lead to a wild child, any more than I believe that spanking automatically creates a well behaved one--I think the big key is MINDFUL discipline, which it sounds like you're thinking of.

  6. Ginger- I agree that there are worse punishments than spanking. I've heard of some doosies. I also agree about the mindful discipline. I think that's probably more important than anything.

  7. Great point about being mindful, I'm discovering that any discipline that comes from frustration isn't effective. I need to be calm to calm the situation; that's not rocket science but, hey, I'm not perfect.

    I completely agree with your conundrum about "disciplining for hitting by hitting." I just feel like they don't have the capacity to understand why the rules are different. (I know plenty of rules have to be different but this is a hard one for me.)

    Having said all that, we all have to do what works. Time outs aren't a miracle cure, counting to three isn't either, spanking isn't either. At least not for everyone.