Written by Crystal Mackey Free
Originally published on her blog I’ll Eat You Up I Love You So on August 9, 2011
I know, I know, we’re all disappointed by the lack of creative title but this particular post is written to forsake artistry for honesty, cleverness for clarity and I intend to be as straight forward as the title suggests. (Now to see if my intentions prove themselves truthful).
I don’t hit my kids and when I say that I mean I do not: spank, swat, switch, tap, pop, smack or otherwise raise a hand nor any other instrument with the intention to cause them the sensation of physical pain.
(Now immediately I’m going to head off the objection that people who spank their children are not intending to cause them physical pain, but to correct behavior. The act of spanking is an attempt to correct behavior through the motivation of avoiding the repetition of physical pain.
That is what it is.
If you can not resolve yourself to this plain, technical fact of the matter you and I have something in common. The fact that I can not reconcile myself to hurt my children purposefully, even a little bit, is a main reason I don’t favor this form of parenting.)
My main reason, aside from the one addressed above is: hypocrisy.
Every single day, from the day they gain control of their limbs until they day that they fully grasp the concept I remind my boys, “We don’t hit.” or “Be gentle.” In my opinion the “Do as I say and not as I do” method of teaching is ineffective. Children model their behavior after the adults they see around them – it’s the reason why my two year old likes to sweep for example. Smacking Jimmy for whacking Suzy in the back of the head is only going to teach him that hitting another kid will get him hit- it doesn’t teach him that hitting is not okay.
Which of course comes to another point: hitting is not okay.
If I, for example, broke my husband’s laptop and he popped me a good one for doing so….what would you think of him? Would you consider it just punishment for the crime? Would you say he was just “teaching me a lesson”? Or would you advise I get a restraining order and remove myself and the children from our home?
Why is it a crime when one adult hits another, but it is not only permissible, but encouraged and expected for an adult to hit someone much smaller and weaker than themselves – a person who depends on that adult for literally everything?
If you wouldn’t hit your spouse or your mother for making a mess, why would you hit your child?
This is not to say I have never wanted to spank my kids.
OH MY GOODNESS, I can not think of anyone who has made me as on edge, angry, scared, or frazzled as my children have at times. They have ran toward traffic, bitten me, screamed in my ears for hours on end before. My oldest, J had a terrible toddlerhood which segued into a pugnacious pre-schooler phase. (If you have ever wondered why there is an almost 6 year gap between our two children you just got your answer).
However, generally when I want to spank it is out of anger or desperation. Either I am mad and I just want to hit someone OR I can’t think of anything else to do. Neither of these reactions are the kid’s fault.
I’m mad – so I need to have a time out, count to ten, control myself, perhaps remind myself that I am grown and have the capability of thinking things through as opposed to acting on impulse.
I’m desperate – I need to reconsider my options. No matter what hitting is never my only option. Ever. I have so many tools at my disposal. I have a firm voice, I have a chair, I can explain why my kid should not do something, I can hold them so they can not do it. When my own ideas dry up I have friends, I have family, I have books, I have the internet. Google “gentle discipline”, I did and I found a host of amazing articles, advice, message boards.
In short, if I feel like I have to spank my kids, I am not trying hard enough.
Now I know what some people might be thinking, “My parents spanked and I turned out fine.”
Guess what? My parents switched me when I broke the rules.
Did it keep me from hitting my sisters? Skipping school? Making fun of people? Getting into fights?
Did it make me a better person? More honest? More giving? More caring? Smarter?
Nah, it just made me learn to avoid getting caught.
It taught me to fear my parents’ reactions. It taught me to confide in them less. It taught me stealth and how to pass off a convincing lie.
Life and books and looking inward eventually taught me all of those good things about being a better human, but my parents’ lives (and my siblings for that matter) would’ve been a lot easier had I trusted my parents more. I loved (and continue to love) them intensely. I trusted them to care for me and be there if I truly needed them, but more than anything I feared their reactions. Not enough to avoid wrong doing, only enough to avoid getting caught.
To sum up: spanking is easy in the short term, hard in the long run.
You run the risk of gaining your child’s fear and losing their trust.
By hitting your child, you normalize hitting. When something is normal, acceptable and recommended the behavior is more likely to be passed on.
But the best thing is that if you spank, you can stop.
You can change tactics and boom-it’s over. Each day is a new day or as the man says, “The past is gone, Hoss.”
It is hard not to fall back on what you were taught as a child about raising kids. I am doing some hard work now so that my kids will have an easier time if I have some grandchildren who go through unfortunate phases of turd-ism. I can only hope that while massaging an arm with a perfect circlet of tiny teeth marks my son will be saying, “We bite our carrot, not our Daddy.”
Now, I will get off my soapbox so I can make some spinach and artichoke dip.
(Disclaimer: Please don’t get all up in arms about me “telling people how to raise their kids”. There is an entire industry of television, books, radio programs, professionals and laypeople devoted to telling us ALL how to “raise our kids”. Thankfully we only have to take the advice of those that make sense for us and our family.)
*Re-posted from the now private blog The Breeder Files, originally penned by me on September 26, 2010