Recent Posts

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The S Word: Spanking

I have been a "fan" of the "Circle of Moms" page on FaceBook for a few months now. I don't check it frequently unless something interesting comes up on my home page, and yesterday the issue of 'alternatives to smacking' came up.

This one got my attention like a slap across the face (pun intended). Smacking? To me, that is not really the same as spanking. I've explained to my son the difference, to me, between hitting and spanking: one you do as a result of a fight or to be mean, the other you get when you have misbehaved. He seemed to understand this with no problem. I will say it right up front: I spank my kids. Not every day, and not for every little thing. But when it's warranted, they get spanked.

One mom on the chat that followed boldly told everyone she thought that spanking was a result of lazy parenting. That sort of stuck in my craw for the next 24 hours as I thought about her words. To automatically assume everyone who spanks is lazy is downright ridiculous. Nor can we say that people who don't spank aren't disciplining their children. They're just choosing to do so in a different way. I mean, that would be like someone saying of a formula-feeding mom, "Oh, you're just a lazy parent because you don't breastfeed." Can you imagine the scene after that one? (Probably, because I'm sure we've all been in the midst of that debate before.)

Whenever the subject comes up, I make the point that all kids are different - some do not need to be spanked, some do. It depends on the child, on the parent, and on the situation itself. There's only so much talking, reasoning and cajoling you can do with a defiant, headstrong 3-year-old who thinks she owns the world and is taking names. (Perhaps some of the people who are the most against spanking are the ones who never had a kid like this.)

I can use a couple of examples just from the people I'm close friends with. Granted, you can't really compare - because, again, every kid is different and so are we, vastly, as parents. There's the couple whose kids would routinely be rude to other adults, talk back to their parents and even openly hit them in front of others. I was horrified, as were my children, looking on with perplexed expressions on their faces.

Then there's the couple who don't spank and don't really need to, because their children would never dream of doing something so forward as causing an ounce of trouble of out fear. Irrational fear. Of everything. Although it is with a slight smile that I now know the youngest, another Fellow Princess Who Sometimes Think the World Revolves Around Her, is a bit of a screaming handful in public places. I am always interested to see how mom handles such incidents, but never do because they retreat to the depths of their house before anyone can so much as glimpse an altercation.

And there's the couple who placate their young daughters with toys, candy, whatever it takes to avoid a meltdown. I have rarely heard mom raise her voice to them, and she doesn't have to, because there is usually some gooey treat or new toy waiting on the horizon. I asked her one time what she would do when they turn 16 and want a car/pony/large sums of cash, and she said she didn't know, but knew she had created a monster. At least she is willing to admit it.

But, I realize, I can't really compare these children to my own. They are all different: unique personalities, situations, and age ranges. I think the dynamics of birth order and gender have a lot to do with it, too. So when someone says parents who spank are 'lazy parents,' it really cheeses me off, because my kids aren't the same as your kids. And I'm not the same parent as you. And probably few of our situations and family dynamics are the same. Since those things are all different, why shouldn't our approach to discipline?

For us, I know the spanking formula sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. I think it's an evolving thing, dependent upon their age and the situation. I am hoping we can move past it, because really, it's not like I enjoy it. But again, when you've reached the end of that invisible rope and nothing else is working, a spank might be just the thing.

In the meantime, I've unsubscribed myself from Circle of Moms and will now search for the "Moms Who Feel Spanking is Sometimes Necessary" group instead.


Heather Griffith Brewer said...

My uncle told me once that spanking should be used in situations where the lesson needs to be learned right then and there. Your kid runs into the road, you spank's a loud wake-up call that gets their attention and alerts them to the severity of the situation. For the most part I agree with this belief, but I also agree 100% with the opinion that each child/situation/parent is vastly different. What works for me may not work for you, and just because someone's kid acts up doesn't mean that their parents suck. Too many variables...
BTW I gave you an award on my blog. I really enjoy reading your blog and all your thoughts. (although I have been MIA from the computer lately!)

The Deranged Housewife said...

Heather, I'm flattered! Thank you so much. :) Sometimes you wonder if anyone's reading, and it's sometimes hard to get a feel for your audience. :>

Sometimes I wish we had not gone down the road of spanking, and then I wonder if things would be different if we hadn't. I now have the experiences of my oldest two and will apply that to my youngest, who is another headstrong little boy, even at a year old. :D In the end, as long as our kids know that we really did the best we knew how to do, and love them very much, that that's the most important thing.

gretchen said...

This was really interesting. I have never spanked my son. But truly? That's because he's never needed spanking. He's a particularly respectful boy who sort of self-punishes. I mean, he completely beats himself up when he does something wrong. If anything, I end up spending a lot of time telling him it's all okay. However, I have known quite a few kids who I truly believe just needed a good, thoughtfully given whack. Because nothing would get their attention, and no punishment meant anything to them any more.

The Deranged Housewife said...

Someone on the forum that I mentioned also said that kids who are spanked 'hit.' I think this is crap also, because my son never hit until he went to preschool and learned from others. Also, I think it's a natural reaction when a child feels threatened by another child as a means to defend their territory, themselves, or whatever. It's not like as a result of being spanked my children went around hitting people.

Gretchen, how do you deal with your child's guilt? That can be just as difficult. Some kids do take things very seriously, and it can be just as hard to know how to handle that, too.

Heather Griffith Brewer said...

You're welcome. I totally understand wondering if people read, and then wondering if they get it. Which is why I get giddy stupid when I find blogs that I LOVE to read.
As far as the other issue, I think too often people confuse spanking with abuse. I can literally count on one hand how many times I have spanked my kids. Believe me though, there are many days that I ponder turning my 16 yo 6'2" son over my knee (I'm 5'5" go visual on that!)
I think it's good to remember that children behave in a less inhibited manner and are therefore more prone to tantrums, hitting, crying...often behaviors that have ZERO to do with discipline at home. And kids are emotional terrorists who know how to manipulate their parents based on what they know they can get away with. My nephew is a nightmare with his mom, but is an angel with me, and I know my kids pull crap with me that they would never dream of doing with other people.
Seriously though, how many times have you wanted to sit down in the middle of a crowded store and cry? It's our job to recognize what behaviors are true problems vs. the result of being tired or hungry, and realize when a punishment is being effective or not.

The Deranged Housewife said...

LOL Yeah, like when we were in church tonight and my daughter (3 1/2, mind you) started screaming at me. Thank goodness everyone was singing loudly. I took her upstairs to the nursery, but really, she is too big to be there because it's only for babies. I'm not even sure what to do at this point. *sigh* I have some ideas, but I'm not sure if they'll work. Crayons lose their magic way too soon, I'm afraid. LOL

Michelle & Trevor said...

I just found your blog from atyourcervix, and I am so grateful for this post! I've always viewed spanking as an attention-getter, not really the consequence itself. I've only had to spank my son a few times, but I know that when I do I'm certainly not patting as firmly as I do when I pat his bum to put him to bed. But he still yells out when I do it because he understands the reprimand in it. Thanks for an excellent post!

Kendra said...

I know this is an old post but came across it. I love how you present spanking and explain that not all kids need it. My son is a child for whom spaking..with discretion is very effective. He is not a violent child and is in fact very sensetive to others but he plays hard and when disipline is required it is usually running in the street, trying to cook in the kitchen ...on the gas stove jumping the fence and leaving the yard while playing.
My daughter is a sweet but spirited child ( was the that a nice way to say it LOL)SHe on the other hand loathes getting in trouble. She is adventurous adn outgoing but if it against mommies rules she will almost never do it. On few occaisions have i ever had to spank her and it is an earth shattering event when it does happen. She honestly couldbe one of those never needs a spanking kids. When I realized how different my kids were I was surprised but have adjusted discipline accordingly.