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I am very aware the topic of spanking can be a controversial one. However, the reason I’m even writing about the topic of spanking is because of how many times I’ve sat in a group of moms and heard them ask a lot of questions about spanking.
Will spanking my kids hurt our relationship?
How many times should I spank about ___________ (some problem they are having)?
Is it normal to spank my child several times in one day?
Can I discipline my child without spanking?
Is spanking the only way to get obedience from my child?
Which kind of bad behavior warrants spanking?
I have heard all these questions, and more. And often there are several mamas present and none really seem all that sure about the answer to the question. Or if one mama has a pretty solid opinion, it is often not shared by the majority.
So this has led me to believe that many moms are wondering about how to best discipline their child. And many have been taught that spanking is the answer. However, I have seen that many moms are questioning this.
We were a spanking family upon the birth of our first child. She was a very mild kiddo and didn’t require all that much in the way of discipline. Once our second child was born and was several months old, we noticed we were spanking more. I believe this occured for two main reasons:
- The girls had conflicts amongst themselves and when one child wronged the other, we stepped in and tried to correct bad behavior.
- We had two kids to deal with and were living in new circumstances (an international move, learning an new language). The effects of this on us meant we had a little less patience and were under more stress.
When we had less patience, we spanked more often. I’m not saying this is the case for every parent. But, in our case, it seemed true.
It wasn’t working
What I found was that spanking was not having the desired effect. This was espectially true with our first child. She has always been a mature child. She has also always been determined. Quite honestly, a spanking did not deter her from something she was intent on doing. So, as the spankings were increasing but not changing her behavior, I began to doubt the validity of the practice.
And it wasn’t NOT working because we weren’t doing it ‘right.’ We did everything we heard you were supposed to do…spank, discuss, reconcile, hug. It didn’t work.
Doubt intensified for me when I found myself spanking one child for hurting another child. I couldn’t get over hurting someone as a consequence for them hurting someone else. I couldn’t find a way to have a logical discussion about it with them after spanking.
As I became increasingly conflicted over this, my husband was willing to make an agreement that until we could come up with a plan that we were both comfortable with regarding spanking, we wouldn’t spank.
6 years later, here we are, a 99% spank free home. I say 99% because over the last 6 years, there have been a couple cases in which we resorted to spanking after we had tried everything else we could think of over a long period of time. And these rare spankings are discussed between my husband and I before they are an option. We have a very strong ‘checks and balances’ in place here, which is useful for keeping ourselves from spanking out of emotion or anger. But even as I write this, I cringe at the thought of spanking my child for anything and I regret I have allowed even the 1%. I’m a highly empathetic person and it just gets to me!
Are we perfect parents? Hell, no. Not even close. But I am so very thankful we err on the side of caution when it comes to physical discipline.
So, is there another way?
Is there a way to teach, grow and raise our children without spanking them as our primary way to discipline?
Yes, there is!
If you are wondering if moving towards a spank-free home would be good for your family, read on!
There are a lot of families who choose not to spank. In fact, over 60 countries in the world have banned spanking (and any other form corporal punishment) as a way to discipline children. And more say they are committed to growing that statistic in the years to come. (source)
Other articles you may enjoy:
Breaking our connection
Many studies and much research has been done on this topic and you can find information that supports either side, really. However, one researcher’s words found at CNN:Health about the evidence that has lead the majority of experts to believe that spanking is harmful to children really stood out to me:
” One plausible explanation [of why exeperts believe spanking is harmful] is that spanking disrupts the emotional bond between caregiver and child.” (Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, Univeristy of Michigan)
This is 100% why I have increasingly felt uncomfortable with spanking. I found that spanking my children disconnected me from them. I could see it in their eyes, in their body language. They felt betrayed. They did not believe I was doing it out of love no matter how many times I tried to tell them that it was.
Staying connected to the heart of my children is, by leaps and bounds, my highest priority in parenting. When I am connected to my child’s heart, everything else falls into place. Not perfectly, however. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m looking for connection. Sometimes it’s messy and we don’t get it right. But if we seek connection through it all, I count it a success.
(I believe this is what is going to carry us through to having great relationships through teenage and adult years, also! Cause I don’t want these kids for just 18 years. I’m pretty excited about knowing them deeply my entire life.)
I will also take a moment to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology both adamantly agree that spanking does more harm than good. (Source)
So, if we don’t spank, what do we do?
I have been asked this. If you don’t spank your child, are they well behaved?
Well yes, m’am, they are!
In fact, I have had MANY compliments on the behavior of my children. They have been recognized for being extraordinarily kind, always willing to share, thoughtful of their siblings and others and are generally enjoyable people to be around.
I’m not pretending they don’t have MANY moments of less than stellar behavior, though. They are just kids and act as such. However, I do believe our decision to correct and teach through methods other than spanking have contributed to some of their really positive qualities.
We use natural consequences
A lot of natural consequences. Instead of a random punishment, we do our best to connect the consequence we are doling out to the misbehavior we want to correct.
Here are two real life examples from the last 48 hours at our house:
Toddler not listening gets a time out
We were at the pool at our YMCA and my toddler was doing something that I was sure was going to lead to a bad fall on a slippery floor. I said, “No, thank you. I think you will get hurt if you keep doing that” She smiled at me and did it again. When she disobeyed, I took her out of the situation, with some kicking and screaming. I sat her on my lap, to which she flailed a bit. After waiting just a few seconds until she calmed down, I turned her to me so we could look each other in the eyes. I explained to her that she was going to have a time out because she had chosen not to listen to me. I asked her if she understood and she nodded she did. So, she sat on my lap while I carried on my conversation with a friend and watched my other kids. She sat there for several minutes and then said, “Sorry, mommy. Can I go?” I confirmed she understood she was not to continue the dangerous behavior and told her ‘thank you’ for apologizing.
How we do time outs
For our time outs, I don’t usually require kids to spend a certain amount of time in a time out. When I do, I match the number of minutes with their age for kids 4 and under. My more common practice is to allow kids to stay in the time out for as long as they need to in order to come have a discussion with me and with whomever they had a problem with. I use time outs as a reset button, really. It works really well for us.
No matter if you agree or disagree with exactly how we do timeouts, you can use the basic ideas to build a system of correction using time outs that works for your family.
Young kiddo doesn’t complete a request
As I unloaded groceries, which is usually the kids’s job, I asked my kids to instead clean out the van of their toys and paper garbage they seem to accumulate unbeknownst to me. They grumbled a bit but got to work.
As I unloaded, I saw that one child had wandered off to play in the yard while the others had continued and finished the job. I asked the disobedient child to go wait for me on the couch. After I was done unloading groceries (which gave me time to think about what I wanted to do and caused her to miss play time), I spoke with the waiting kid. I explained that she had left her siblings to finish the job she should have been part of, which meant she didn’t act as a helpful part of our team. As a result, before she could go join the other kids playing, she needed to do some cleaning to help the family. She had to do a couple jobs that were longer than the original job and she had to do it alone instead of with other kids. She accepted her jobs and she fully understood she had been disobedient AND she had not been a great team player.
How to find another way
If you are considering getting off the spanking bus, just be encouraged that it takes time. You won’t magically know everything to do all at once. It’s a process. At least for me it was.
What are they trying to say?
I think one of things you have to start doing is paying attention to what your child is trying to communicate. I had a friend tell me that she was feel really frustrated with her son’s lack of obedience over getting his shoes on before leaving the house even though he had previously not struggled to follow this instruction. She had resorted to spanking him when he didn’t follow directions.
I asked her a question: Why is your son suddenly refusing to put his shoes on?
My friend was often trying to get her baby ready to get out the door at the same time she was expecting her son to go put his shoes on. So, his reason to refuse? He wanted his mom’s attention. He saw her taking care of the baby and wanted a little of that for himself. So often, there is a very understandable reason like this behind a behavior that is frustrating us!
Find an answer that makes both parties happy
My suggested solution: ask your son to get his shoes and bring them over to where you are getting the baby ready. From there, if he sits down next to baby, it will be very easy to help him with his shoes. He gets some attention, you spend an extra 30 seconds….no one melts down. He may even be willing to do the shoes himself once he is next to you. You can chat with him, thank him for his obedience and celebrate when he does it.
It takes a little more time
Honestly, choosing to correct and teach my children in this way takes a bit more time and effort than when I was willing to spank. Instead of threatening to spank or choosing to do it, I have to take the time to think through the situation.
Why is my child acting like this? What need are they trying to express?
What do I expect from him/her and why isn’t he/she meeting that expectation? Do I need the adjustment or do they? Maybe both of us do.
Can I come up with a solution where my child learns, I show them love and respect and they grow in responsibility?
Is there something here that I need to address that is a larger than this one behavior in front of me?
It works for us!
When it comes down to it, you have to go with what works for your family. I’m sure I do some things as a mom that seem a little (or a lot) cray cray to some other mamas. But I think that’s the beauty of it all. We were each given our specific child to be the specific mama they need. Our hearts were made for them and theirs for ours. It’s a very beautiful and magical thing. I don’t take it for granted that I get to shepard these small hearts. My goal will always be to raise them in such a way that I show them the respect and dignity they deserve as humans while teaching them to be responsible, kind and loving to those in their lives. Around here, I just don’t see how I can accomplish that with spanking.
My goodness, mama. Doesn’t the wonder of it just strike you sometimes? I had no idea what motherhood would be like. I’m so grateful for it. I’m so grateful for my kids and for what they teach me. My goal is to do this thing whole mom thing well.
For me, that means not spanking. We have found other successful ways to teach them and equip them while staying connected to their hearts. I hope this helps you process how you want to teach your children while staying connected to their hearts! You are doing a great job!