Sunday, February 6, 2011

The real pain of spanking

Special note to all readers.  Please be sensitive to the fact that attachment parenting and gentle discipline don't come easily or naturally to many parents.  Often it is our research to find a better way that leads to this type of parenting.  It is realy hard for me to openly discuse the following topic, but I feel it's important to share my experience with other parents that are going through the same struggles.

Before I had kids, I had always known I would use spankings as a tool to teach my kids.  After all, I was spanked and so was my husband and we both turned out to be responsible, we adjusted adults.  I had read articles where people said spanking was abuse and it was damaging to the child, but obviously these people were reading way to much into it.  I had never felt unloved because my parents spanked me, in fact, I knew they spanked me because they loved me and wanted me to learn right from wrong.  So these articles were easily dismissed as another opinion I just didn’t share.

So sure enough, when my first child was a toddler and kept getting into things he knew he wasn’t supposed to, he got a gentle tap on the hand and a stern “no” to teach him not to touch it any more.  As he got bigger, there seemed to be more and more reasons that he needed to be spanked.  He started climbing on tables and refused to get down when asked, at which point I would remove him myself and give him a swat on the diaper for not listening.

In the beginning, he only got a spanking once in a while, but it became more and more frequent as he got older.  Before I knew it, it seemed like he got a swat on the diaper at least once a day, and some days, he would get several.  I started noticing that his days seemed to get rougher once he had gotten that first spanking.  It was as if he was angry for being spanked and would start acting out by intentionally not listening and doing things he knew he wasn’t supposed to.

This was the point in which I decided spanking not only didn’t work, but that it was actually making things worse.  So I started reading to try and find out what I was doing wrong.  Luckily, I was able to find some books that quickly set me straight about spanking.  It was easy to see how spanking would cause fear and resentment in the child, something I was not interested in doing, but that I could already see was happening.  Now that I had my own child, it was easy for me to be convinced that spankings would only damage our relationship.

One of the books that really helped me was Discipline Without Distress by Judy Arnall.  This book really helped me see the difference between discipline and punishment.  You can discipline your child effectively without needing to punish them at all.

I consider myself very lucky.  My son was the only reason I started questioning whether spanking was right or not.  If he had been more submissive in regards to being punished, I may have never changed my views.  It was his anger and resentment, the real pain of spanking, that was what finally convinced me that spanking was wrong.  If he hadn’t had such a strong emotional reaction to spanking and had just kept right on acting like his normal self, I may have never seen how it was affecting him.  For that I am so grateful.

I wish I had been one of those lucky people who deeply believed spanking was wrong from day one.  I wish I could say that I never laid a hand on my child in anger and frustration, but I can’t and that is something that is painful to admit.  I still struggle to not spank my children, something which I am now deeply bothered by.  I wish I could say that my now strong belief and resolve not to spank could override that urge, but it hasn’t.  I feel like that is my default as a parent, my instinct is to spank when I don’t know what else to do in a particular situation.  I can only hope that I am breaking that cycle now, and that hopefully someday, my children will not have to fight that same urge with their children.

And as someone who knows the shame of being a reformed spanker, I ask all those that belong to that group of lucky parents that never have, please be open minded and inclusive of people like me.  Try not to pass judgment on the alcoholic for ever picking up that first drink and instead reach out and support them to never take another one.  Being part of a community that accepts and supports you is important for parents that are still struggling to learn what gentle discipline and attachment parenting means to them.  I wouldn’t be the mother I am today if it weren’t for a lot of other strong, amazing mothers giving me strength and inspiration to keep going.

Do you or have you struggled with spanking?  Do you consider yourself a reformed spanker and want to share your story?  I feel it is really important to share our experiences with other parents that may be going through the same thing you have.  If you would like to share, please e-mail me at parentingredefined at gmail .com and I will be happy to post your experiences anonymously.

Other Articles:

Dr. Sears - Spanking

Psychology Today, Dr. Michael Ungar - Spanking Makes Kids More Aggressive: The Research is Clear

Spanking Causes More Harm as Children Get Older

Dr. Phil - Spanking Research
               Three Questions to Ask Before Spanking
               To Spank or Not to Spank?