Thursday, January 20, 2011

Can't Touch This

Much like the generation before mine, and the one before that, and so on and so on back to the beginning of time, I shake my head when I look at the next crop of kids. I am pretty sure that there was a morning many, many years ago when a cave woman looked at a kid playing in the dirt and said, ‘Ug, we no have rock to play with when me kid’. That’s just the way it is. Technology advances, and money keeps getting made, people live longer and are healthier and then all of a sudden there are holographs and instant food machines and I finally have a teleporter. We struggle a little less with each baby boom, and while this is a good thing, it’s also a bad thing. It’s part of what is keeping kids inside, contributing to not only an epidemic of obesity but an alarming lack of vitamin D (as if rickets are back!). It’s part of what is giving your average kid that obnoxious entitled attitude, a complacency and laziness born of no farm chores at 5 am, hot Totino’s Pizza Bites for snack, and a cozy car ride with a personal DVD-player.

The other part of the problem is this issue with parents thinking they’re hurting their kids’ feelings by disciplining them, by enforcing boundaries and encouraging respect. Good manners and common courtesy are a rarity nowadays. All these things are hard, and take work. They upset the child, which upsets you. It makes life a lot less fun. But they also guarantee a happier, healthier child, just like small amounts of sunlight and exercise and a strictly enforced bedtime routine.

Just like everything else with parenting, there are lots of differing opinions on what ‘appropriate’ disciplining is. For some, this means time out or lots and lots of counting. For many of my friends, it was wooden spoons on their backsides when they were kids. Personally, I think there is a happy medium. I know that the threat of counting works for some people, but it drives me crazy. I’ve seen it overused and used ineffectively way too often. Smacking a kid with a spoon is abusive, to me, especially when you get pissed because you break your spoon and so you make your kid go get ANOTHER spoon and you smack ‘em even harder (no, seriously, true story! People are crazy).

In case you hadn’t caught on yet, since I was dancing around this topic quite a bit (bought it a drink, told it that I liked its dress, talked about the weather), this post is about spanking. I’m a bit of a spanker. If you are horrified and need to leave right now, I understand. I know there are people who are totally, utterly opposed to physical punishment of a child in any form, and just like many other parenting decisions that I may not follow, I support that. I am aware that many places have begun arresting people who spank children, especially in public. And let me say upfront, I do not agree that ‘what goes on in someone’s home should stay behind closed doors’.

Before you freak out more, please allow me to share my self-imposed spanking rules. Bottom only, over the pants, one smack, never in anger. Why? Because it’s not about hurting the child, so I’m not waling away on a bare tush. I’m not kicking or knocking her in the head. I am in control, so there is no chance of things getting out of hand. A spanking is a last resort, an everything-else-has-failed. Threats, bribes, time out, counting, you name it. A spanking says THIS IS SERIOUS. It says I am The Boss. I worry that a lot of parents today don’t like to say that, for whatever reason. You can say it without spanking, you just have to find a way to do it that works for you and your child. If your child is laughing and running away from you, they are not getting the message. Jelly has been spanked probably 5 times at most in her life, so don’t think I’m waking up and spanking her every morning to start the day.


Last weekend we were playing, and she got a strange look on her face, and said, ‘Now, Mama, I am going to give you spankins’!’. She proceeded to hit me several times, with an angry scowl. I was quite startled. ‘Was I naughty? Why do I get spankings?’ I asked her. ‘You need ‘em!’ she replied, continuing to smack me. The violence was surprising. Even though this wasn’t what I was doing, this was how it was perceived. So somewhere, some analyst or specialist was right. I have never seen any sort of demonstration of violent play before, so I’m not sure if it’s an age/emotional maturity thing that’s starting to happen now or what. It did definitely make me stop and think about it though. I really try to reserve spanking for major issues, for example, touching the stove or running out into the street. Something that requires, as my father loves to say, a Significant Emotional Experience.

Discipline is similar to successful potty training in that it requires hurting a child’s feelings to really get the message across. They have to feel a little bit of shame and embarrassment in order to correct and adjust their behavior. Some kids do this better than others. Some kids never learn to do it at all. As a parent, the last think you want to do is intentionally make the light of your life unhappy. Media venues taunt us with ‘proof’ of emotional scarring every day; it’s just another one of the zillion things you can accidentally do right or wrong that shapes your child for better or worse. Will I give Jellybean an extra chance next time before I raise my hand? Absolutely. But will I give her a swat if I think it will help her to learn respect, self-control, and ultimately, self-discipline? Absolutely.


DannieA said...

I like your style...I'm not a spanker but some things I just don't tolerate, I don't care if my little one is only 17 months hitting mom, grandma or grandpa....second warning is the two finger slap/ works.

Second is not to touch the stove....that is just a no no.

I'm pretty easy going for the most part, but I *hope* my little one knows I mean business.

anyways I think some people go overboard with spanking one way or the other, but you're right that we are in that 'entitlement' 'don't say no to your kids' age.

MommieV said...

I'm torn on this. The educational research says that even mild spanking can lower IQ. It depends on how the child perceives it, which is somewhat beyond a parent's control.

However, what good is a high IQ if your kid gets squished in the street. Street and hot stove are situations that require a step up in one's discipline repertoire.

Yes to significant emotional event and embarassment being tools. No to shaming, that feels too far. Avoid if possible, and I've been able to do that to date.

Other than that, I haven't figured the rest out.

I remember being wailed on with a wooden spoon with a hole in it. I remember being deliberately defiant and a real pain in the ass in the moment. My mother doesn't remember the episode at all.

I was going to start this comment with "you SPANK? OMG there's no WAY I'm going on vacay with you now" but then I thought maybe you'd think I was serious. It's hard to mock in print, sometimes. So I saved it for the end, bracketed with enough explanation to allow it to lose its humor.

Rich said...

Even though on the surface your method seems humane, it is not and you are running the risk of damaging your child's trust in you, which is precious and must be guarded at all times.

The debate between professionals about corporal punishment is over and now child advocates around the world are working to educate people about the harm that this thinking causes. The goal now is to end physical punishment of children everywhere. That includes the home as well. There are far more humane and effective ways to discipline children that actually work. Physical punishment does not work and risks making children aggressive and even harder to manage, Not to mention, it is just plain cruel.

How Children Really React to Control

There are excellent resources for parents on this web site. I know you are open to this message. so good luck.

Jellybean Mama said...

I knew this would be an extremely controversial topic when I thought about it, when I wrote it, and when I hit the 'Post' button. I would also argue that breastfeeding until a child leaves for college is abusive, but alas, I am alone in that, it seems.
Rich, I look at that website link and I see cruelty and pain, which I am not about. You argue against control, but I would disagree a teensy bit. The parent SHOULD have the control.
MommieV - I totally thought that. I was afraid of freaking you out. But I figured you'd been reading long enough you had a pretty good grip on who I was.

Genkicat said...

Nice, gutsy post JM!

I haven't had to face this yet. I was spanked as a child - and i don't think it harmed me, scarred me, lowered my IQ, or broke any trust I had in my Mom. In fact, usually I knew I had screwed up somehow (although I do recall thinking I hadn't and she was way off kilter on a couple of occassions). But I do think there were other ways to accomplish what my Mom thought she was accomplishing without it. And I think we have more information now and more resources at our disposal than our parents did.

So, I fall on the no spanking side of this - with the caveat that I'm just not there yet with having to make the decision. I plan to teach that we don't solve problems with violence. And I think I am the one that needs to show that as an example.

Good luck - and I love, love, love your honesty on the subject.

Genkicat said...

Oh - And I'm totally with you on the breastfeeding until your child is in college is abusive thing. So that makes two of us.

DannieA said...

oh FWIW I'm sure you'll appreciate my first comment I said "I like your style"

Keep in mind coming from a family and mom that believes in spanking, but believes more in consistency and the "right" way to spank, I was only really spanked 3 times. So really I do believe in my heart of hearts that consistency is more vital than the method and method should never be a wallup or something done with a "pick your switch from the tree outside" like my mom endured...but I don't condemn parents that spank as something for very very important.

Haven't read the educational research about lowering IQ points, however, I do think that if a kid is constantly spanked/hit obviously they will be more worried about NOT getting hit than receiving general knowledge information...which is where we get most of our IQ from anyways (on top of what we are born with)

PDXer To Be said...

I agree with your dads Significant Emotional Experience theory - I was the kid who would take candy from strangers and if I didn't have supervision and corrections I would of ended up on a milk carton. My dad would scare the s out of us by getting the belt but he never had a reason to use it (the scare/threat) was enough.

ps - you crack me up! Cave Woman talk was hilarious. Have you been reading Clan of The Cave Bear again?

chris said...

I was against the spanking thing.. then I thought spanking Mr. G. was really the only option left .. and he laughed his ass of. The second time, same response. I guess that just doesn't work on him. He's a tough little cookie though.