The great debate, should I spank my child or not, is back in the news. Yahoo Parenting published an article (against spanking) that is making the rounds. I found it interesting and informative if you are looking for motivation to refrain from spanking your kids most of the time. I also found it interesting that the article ended with, “It’s OK to spank once in awhile…”
My personal opinion is that there is always a better option than spanking. The argument that occasional swats are OK, just doesn’t fly for me. There is always a discipline response that will teach your child to behavior better AND build their self-esteem at the same time. Deciding To Spare the Rod is a personal choice that each parent needs to make.
That being said, I also think that it’s not reasonable to tell parents not to spank their kids without offering them options of what to do instead, like our article “9 Things To Do Instead of Spanking”.
I would like to share with you my personal story of deciding not to use spanking with my kids. Twenty-three years ago I was in a battered woman’s shelter with my 3 kids, then aged 6, 2 & 9 months. This shelter is where I had my first parenting class. A woman would teach us about boundaries, setting limits, feelings…it was all very enlightening to me. There was also a shelter rule — No Spanking! I was a little miffed. Why should I not be able to discipline my kids as I see fit? In hindsight, the irony of being in a shelter for violence, yet using violence to discipline my children, was not lost on me. So I shared with Abby, one of the shelter workers that I trusted, my concerns at being able to follow this rule. She said, “Debbie, if you feel you need to spank one of your kids, come get me, or call me, and we’ll discuss your options and then you can decide what to do”. So the next few days, I was seeking Abby constantly. “This is what he’s doing, and I KNOW I need to spank him now!” I would plead. She would talk me off the cliff, we would discuss what he was doing, and why he was doing it. She would help me see another way to respond, and it was always BRILLIANT, something that corrected his misbehavior and built his self-esteem, and made be feel really good as a parent.
Within a couple weeks, I was calling on Abby less and less, trusting myself more and more, and my kids were responding better and better to my discipline. I had a HUGE epiphany:
“No matter what the kids are doing, there is ALWAYS a better way to respond than spanking. Discipline that fixes the misbehavior, yet teaches them the right thing to do for the right reasons, that doesn’t break their spirit, and makes me feel GREAT as a parent!”
This AHA has stayed with me for the past 23 years as a huge passion for conveying to others my excitement and enlightenment about discipline and punishment. But I have never forgotten the fear, the uncertainty, of not knowing what to do instead. If I let go of spanking, what will I do? This is a valid fear and one reason I do the work I do. It’s not fair to tell parents not to spank without providing the WHAT TO DO INSTEAD, which is my life’s work, and so much of what I teach in my classes. In my classes, all parents have my cell phone number. I am available 24-7 to help “talk a parent down off the cliff” if they are willing to call me before they spank and let me see if I can help them come up with a better solution. It’s the least I can do, to give back the kindness offered to me by Abby, all those years ago. And it’s a joy and an honor to help.
I look forward to you sharing your opinions, insights, and stories about your decision whether to spank or not.