Monday, June 25, 2007

My Thoughts on Spanking

I can’t believe what just I read in this article, that a father felt called by God (four times) to make wooden spanking paddles and give them away. He gives them away for free but charges $5.75 for shipping. They are two feet long and pretty wide!!

If you read the article you will learn of anti-spanking advocate, homeschool mother Susan Lawrence and the volunteer work through her campaign "Stop the Rod" she has been doing to get various spanking implements off the market. Hooray! I would like to thank Susan Lawrence for her work.

For the record I am against spanking and always have been.

I believe that the word discipline means “to teach”. My goal is to teach my children right from wrong. I believe in teaching children how to think for themselves and to do the right thing under their own guidance. I don’t believe in keeping a child dependent on the parent and having the parent just direct them and yell at them to do this or not do that. I want my children to know the reason why not to do something or why something should be done that certain way and so on.

I was raised with spanking as a punishment and with yelling as a normal way of being “talked” to (or should I say “talked at”). I was raised with the idea where the parent keeps the kid scared of the consequence for doing wrong and having fear as the motivator. I disagree with the philosophies that I was raised on and I don’t think they work. I therefore chose a very different path for my own parenting journey.

I am not a perfect parent by any means but I am trying my best to do what is right and best. I am trying to find the right balance between being an authority figure, a parent (not a friend), having rules and limits, and being kind, being a good listener, allowing my children to voice their opinion (respectfully) and to let them feel their emotions and to express them. Doing all that is not an easy task. Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever done. Believe me on some days I ask myself why don’t I go back to work and get paid and do work that is less emotionally tiring?

My favorite parenting “expert” is William Sears M.D. and his wife Martha Sears R.N. A close second goes to Barbara Coloroso and Nancy Samalin. I tend to favor the Sears’ for babies on through older children. For specific parenting challenges and practical advice I have found the wisdom of Coloroso and Samalain very helpful.

I spent seven years as a La Leche League Leader volunteering my time to help mothers and babies breastfeed and also with parenting encouragement and support of older children as well. I am very much in support of “loving guidance” which is the parenting/discipline philosophy term that La Leche League uses.

The accusations that I have read on the blogosphere about me (in the past) that align me as a parent in the spanking sector are completely false. The accusers who said that don’t know me or my children. They also cannot point to any thing that I have ever written on my blog about my parenting beliefs or methods that would give my readers any idea that I am in the spanking camp.

If you feel you need more information on what we do, here is a list:

Time-out’s: okay when for cool-down, starting at age three or four

Natural Consequence: in favor, do these.

Loss of privilege: one warning given, then taken away on next offense (on same day), example: loss of TV viewing for the day

Parent yelling at child: hate it, try not to do it. It happens sometimes. Not done as a normal course of action or intentionally.

Other communication information: explain why something is not good, tell the reason behind it, show the logic and the reason, and make them realize in our family we don’t do things “just because” I’m the parent. I don’t make up stupid rules just to have some power over my children (by the way). Identify the underlying emotion, discuss it, then give the consequence---they don’t get out of consequences just by stating their case and making a “plea”.

Spanking Alternatives
There are many alternatives to spanking. As I said I was spanked as a child and I don’t feel it worked. I have horrible memories of spanking and see no good that came out of it. If you feel you don’t know alternatives to spanking please read a parenting book such as “The Discipline Book” by William Sears (covers ages birth through age 10). Dr. Sears also has a book for Christian parents, if you feel you need Bible quotes mixed with the parenting advice and if you wan an explanation of how he interprets “sparing the rod’. If you need more ideas, especially for kids aged seven through teens, read Barbara Coloroso’s books.

Final Thoughts
Anyway this idea of the two-foot long wooden spanking implement just makes me sick and I was so moved by reading the article that I chose to sit and blog this. So there you have it, those are my thoughts on “punishment”.

Also, this book "Love and Anger" is great because it drives home a major issue about parents handling their own anger and how it is our responsibility as parents to control and manage our own emotions and to do the right thing with our children. Acting out of our own anger is not right and much damage can be done when we do things out of anger (yelling or saying certain not good things included).

Here is the Dr. Sears book about Christian parenting which holds to "spanking is not advised" philosophy.

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Shawna said...

I do believe in spanking, but my feelings have changed over the many years I have parented.

I do feel spanking is something that should not take place with toddlers nor infants and again there comes an age in which a spanking is more humiliation than anything, and therefore I feel spanking a teen is wrong.

To me "spanking draws the line clearly and without arguement for younger children," as so eloquently put in For The Children's Sake about Charlotte Mason.

And honestly, spanking tends to be a last resort for us or if a situsation calls for immediate lines being drawn without arguement.

However, a paddle just is so wrong to me and I have read so many books that say a paddle is better than the hand. I just know as a child my grandmother's paddle terrified me and I hated that paddle--literally felt hate in the pit of my stomach...even though I was never spanked with it. My father had a unique view on spanking: when you spank a child, you teach him/her that it is ok for him/her to be hit.

Maybe my feeling and thoughts are contradictory, but that is as best as I can put it into words. And I respect the parent who is able to parent without any spanking.

Stu said...

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beta mum said...

I came across this religious-inspired paddle-making nutter a month or so ago.
I'd never heard of a paddle before then.
It looks like a cricket bat, it's barbaric to consider hitting a child with it.
I was smacked, it made me furious and rebellious. I don't generally smack my children, although I've tapped their hands a few times when I've lost it.
I reckon using a "paddle" would be illegal in Britain.

Mel said...

Christine, I'm assuming you are a Christian from other things I'v read on your blog. You haven't mentioned (in this particular blog,maybe elsewhere?) what the Bible says about discipline, the rod etc. and how you interpret that. God's Word is really the expert opinion.
Respectfully, Melanie

christinemm said...

To answer Melanie,
I was raised in a Godless home where my parents used authoritative parenting in the style very much similar to what some Christian parents do or what some "strict parents" do. So my first impressions of how to parent came from what was done to me. I have many memories of being yelled at and the 'bad tone of voice'. I have many spanking memories using a wooden board on bare skin. Back then I never, ever understood how inflicting pain on me or my brother, adult to child was somehow being 'instructional' or 'guiding us'. Our home lacked talk, really, of right vs. wrong or what could have been done differently. It lacked what I would consider real 'parenting'. We also were physically hit in other ways such as slapping, grabbing, shoving, pushing, and rarely, punched. (I just read an old diary from when I was 9 years old and it included that shocking supressed memory.)

Oddly in the teen years my parents swung the pendulum to the other side and they were permissive and gave us too much freedom andnot enough guidance. Although my brother and I did 'typical mainstream' things that teens do I sure hope my own kids don't do those things. If my parents had more open eyes and open hearts they might have realized what was going on and given us some guidance, but they didn't---and we were left to guide ourselves. One other thing is that I'd classify my experience as also being "disconnected" from my parents and also I was "peer dependent". I also had little respect for my parents and public school taught me that I was smarter than they were and that the school teachers were superior to them intellectually.

I came to Christianity in the 'born again' definition less than a year ago. Most of my parenting experience was done without using the Bible as a reference. As I said Dr. Sears was who I looked to in the beginning for guidance. And I read Dr. Sears' book on Christian parenting afer reading what Gary Ezzo wrote. Back right before my oldest was born a Christian family we know highly recommended the Babywise books by Ezzo. I read the first two and was horrified to say the least. It was after that that I went in search of another option and found "The Baby Book" by Dr. Sears and later the book he wrote for Christian parents as I was curious about how Sears' ideas would compare to the Bible and to the 'rod' reference.

So regarding the Bible it is all in the interpretion of what a rod is used for and what the role of a shephard is. I liked how Dr. Sears wrote that a shephard doesn't use a rod to beat the sheep with. He didn't stand and harm the sheep with pain go get them to follow the herd and to go where he wanted them to go. The rod is used to guide and to point them about where they need to go to stay with the flock.

Secondly my own reading of what Jesus says about how we are to treat others I feel is in direct conflict with the idea of routinely using pain on young children in order to 'teach them' or 'punish them', whether a spanking is done in anger or not in anger, I can't see Jesus saying that is how we are to treat each other let alone our children.

I also don't feel that Jesus or the Bible advocates using pain on others such as men hitting women in relationships or in marriage. I feel that is abuse. I have an issue with adults dominating children with pain measures when adults doing that to each other is wrong and also illegal in the USA. How can we adults hit children then tell them when they grow up to not do that to their friends or loved ones except it is okay if it is their child? It just makes no sense to me.

Other opinions of mine are-- that I want to raise children who are non-violent in the sense that when they are upset or angry with another person they use words and their mind to come up with good communication. I don't want them immediately going to physical infliction of pain in order to express that they feel the other has done something wrong. For example I don't want my boys hitting each other when angry. I don't want my boys hitting their girlfriends or wives or bosses.

People and children are not sheep or animals, the Bible makes it clear that we are not on their level, and even today's scientists agree that we have different brains that can think and process and we just operate on another mental level. So we as humans, I feel can learn from words and discussion and other non-pain-inflicting consequences such as those I listed in my blog post (natural consequences being one, loss of privilege being another).

When I was a child I was not a stupid idiot who needed to feel pain as a punishment for doing something wrong. I already knew it in my mind that I was wrong. The pain and the humiliation didn't teach me one thing except to lose respect for the parent who was spanking me, and the other who condoned it. I felt hate and anger from my parents through that action which was a new, different layer of emotion on top of whatever thing was done (i.e. not stopping bickering with my brother or whatever it was). I actually felt hatred from my parents toward me. I also never felt forgiveness from either parent for anything.

I simply cannot relate to parents who feel that the pain feeling part of a spanking is necessary to teach the child something. I don't at all understand it when I read that the spanking/hitting part is done with love. Or that first the family prays together then they do it, as if the praying somethow makes the child understand or accept that they are about to be hurt, I don't get it.

Children need love and GUIDANCE. They need good parenting and to be taught how to think and how to make right decisions. They need to be taught how to calm down when they are angry and how to communicate the issue to resolve it with the other person. They need to be taught how to think on their own and how to be brave enough to stand apart from their peers to make the right decision if the others are possibly making a bad decision.

I feel that many parents go right to the pain infliction of children and skip by the teaching part of parenting. I also feel that some parents are lazy parents who don't take the time to teach their kids and instead show their anger when they do this or that thing they were never guided about or that they use yelling or shaming or humiliation when really, the poor child was never taught.

I have two children who are my own proof that my way of parenting with what is called attachment parenting methods are turning out great. They have learned a lot about how to act and how to be and it was all accomplished without spanking or other pain infliction measures. They also respect me as an authority, I am not the type of parent who is "the buddy" or "the friend".

My children are not perfect by any means but compared to what I see in some friends and relatives of mine or what I read about in some parenting books, magazines or newspaper columns, or see on Nanny 911 or SuperNanny TV shows, we are doing JUST GREAT.

I am confident that all children can learn right from wrong and lots of other things with parenting methods not connected in to recieving pain. And I am sad if a parent goes right to the pain infliction but doesn't do the actual teaching part which is all intellectual and using words.

One more thing when I read spankers say that to use the hand for loving and hugging and an implement for doing a spanking is the right thing to do is illogial and really dumb. A child feels the pain no matter what it is and I fear (as it was done to me) that using an implement can easily lead to the spanking being way too hard and much more painful than what it is supposed to be 'teaching'. Also the child hates the feeling of being inferior and unworthy to deserve being physically pained by the parent that they love, the parent they are 'stuck with' anyway--they are trapped really, and can't get away. Being the recipient of pain from a parent also teaches a child they are unworthy and inferior, can erode self-esteem, be humiliating to them and all kinds of other bad stuff that they will have to work out later in life.

Mountaineer said...

I can remember twice when I spanked my daughter, both times were knee-jerk reactions. Both times were immediately followed by apologies and extra cuddles. We both learned better ways of handling ourselves and reacting to each other from those times.

OTOH, I remember dealing with a biting issue with my son. I tried every possible method to handle it, nothing worked, mostly because he was only about a year and a half old, and biting was a knee-jerk reaction. One day, he bit me particularly painfully. I reacted by biting him back. Not hard, I didn't leave so much as a bite mark. Followed it by pointing out that it hurt. Being on the receiving end was what it took for him to learn that biting it unacceptable and that was the last time he ever bit anyone. Some would say that he was too young for that, but the fact that the issue was resolved in that moment speaks volumes.

Point being: I agree that spanking and other methods of physical punishment typically are very harmful. However, used rarely, can make an impact that other methods don't.

Jess said...

I certainly don't agree with all of your sentiments, but I appreciate you taking the time to lay them out.

It is interesting and understandable to me that those people who are the most ardent anti-spanking advocates are those who were, in blunt terms, abused as children under the guise of spanking.

I, on the other hand, am one who to this day thinks that I wasn't spanked enough. I was strong-willed and slick-tongued and able to talk my way out of almost anything. I was obstinate (sp?) and rude, selfish and critical of others... I spoke rudely to my parents and was able to get away with it. I still have trouble respecting them, and they are godly, respect-worthy people, who I love and am grateful for.

Spanking CAN be done in love, and just as the Lord disciplines, and sometimes even wounds those that He loves, and just as a shepherd guides and protects as well as swatting and slapping those that He is leading, it is possible, and even wise (in my estimation) for parents to judiciously discipline their children, sometimes even in a way that causes a discernable "ouch", in order to avoid and hopefully avert greater harm and pain in the future.

Thank you again for laying out your thoughts for us. I appreciate hearing from people like yourself- it certainly makes me think through why I do things the way I do, and causes me to evaluate my methods and motivations in order to seek even greater self-restraint, God-leading, and more careful child-rearing (even if in my case, that will continue to mean an occasional spanking for my wayward but wonderful children).

Jess @ Making Home

Jagatguru Khalsa said...

I'm thinking that what is needed is for parents that use corporal punishment, and would like to consider alternatives, to have an online support group to discuss their individual situations with parents that use alternatives.
Would you be open to participating?