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Monday, October 1, 2012

One of THOSE topics

I stopped at 7-11 not long ago to grab a soda.  As I approached the counter, the two people behind it were having a discussion about an unruly child who had just left the store with his mother.  From their comments, it was clear that neither of them was actually a parent, however they had all the answers, and “if I ever have kids, they’ll NEVER behave that way”.  I placed my soda on the counter, and one of the employees began speaking to me about the subject.  He told me that he had no issue with “whipping little asses” to keep them in line, and that he had done so to his niece and nephew on several occasions.  I had a very quick internal dialogue, and though my blood pressure was rapidly rising, decided to leave it alone.

Spanking is one of those issues that have the potential to incite a heated discussion.  People feel very passionately about it, and I am no different.  So, what I’m about to write is my opinion only.  ß There’s the disclaimer!

My husband and I do not, nor will we ever spank our children.  There are a lot of reasons behind that decision.  That said, we do believe children should be disciplined, and you’ll never see me giggling and saying, “isn’t that cute?” while my child misbehaves.  We set clear boundaries and expectations, and we follow through with (good and bad) consequences.  It has worked pretty well thus far with our three year-old, and we are consistently complimented on her behavior.

One of the biggest reasons I do not believe in spanking is that I want my children to always associate my hands with love and gentle touches.  I want them to know that their parents are always home base.  There are enough uncertainties in the world, I want them to be sure my hands and arms are a safe place.

Another reason is that I firmly believe parents should do their best to model the behavior we expect from our children.  Every child goes through a phase when their verbal skills are insufficient to express their emotions.  During this stage, it’s pretty common for a child to resort to hitting, biting, kicking, etc. to express the emotions they do not understand and have difficulty communicating.  Of course that is not acceptable behavior, and as parents it is our responsibility to teach our children other ways to resolve conflict or express feelings.  I think it awfully hypocritical to tell my children not to resort to violence, while using spanking as a method of discipline.

I also believe that spanking instills fear.  I do not want my children to fear me.  I want them to respect me, and the decisions I make.  I believe that a child who respects his/her parents will come to them when the big things happen later in life.  This is why I do my best to explain my decisions, and how I came to them.  If I can help my children understand why I tell them to do the things I tell them to do, when something comes up in the future that is too large for them to grasp, they’ll trust that there is a valid reason.  If my kids grow up acting (or not acting) in a certain way simply because they fear me, the lessons are not learned.

In addition, I feel there is a very fine line to walk if you choose to spank your child, before it becomes abuse.  Emotions are usually heightened in those situations where spankings are likely to occur.  Parents may be angry, scared or hurt, and laying hands on a child in that moment could easily get out of control.  “Hard enough to send a message without leaving a mark” is a very grey area.  What might not hurt a full-grown adult could feel terrible to a small child.

I believe that it is my job to help build self-respect and self-esteem in my children.  I think spanking is counter-productive here.  I really think it is humiliating to a child to be spanked.  Each time spanked is a little notch in self-esteem, telling a child they’re worth just a little less.  It makes no sense to me to willingly do that to my child.

Lastly, each day I do my best to protect my children from harm.  I do what I can to prevent them from being hurt, though I realize I cannot protect them from everything.  Why, if I put so much effort into protecting them, would I use my own hands to inflict pain?  As I said before, I do believe that discipline is important; I just don’t believe spanking is necessary to accomplish it. 

Once more for the record, this is just my opinion.  Every household and family operates differently, I’m just sharing how and why ours does…

And to that man working at 7-11: if I ever heard you laid a hand on one of MY children, you wouldn’t like me very much!

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