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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Arguments against spanking

I am not a corporal punishment kind of person. In theory I prefer to discipline with love. And logic. Kind of along the lines of the "Love and Logic" philosophy.

I didn't always feel this way. But after waiting nearly a decade for a baby, meeting him, watching him grow, and loving him more every day, I changed my mind. I just always want him to always know that I love him. Even when he screws up. In my experience, spanking does not convey that message. (And in fact conveys just the opposite!)

In practice I am not perfect and in the heat of the moment, I have slapped my kids a few times. But I always apologized afterwards and explained that it was not OK fo me to hit them just because I was angry or hurt. (Now if I could get better about avoiding the raised voice emotional reaction as well, which is probably just as damaging as a raised hand. But breaking out of the mold you were raised in, when raising your own children, can be a very hard job. Please pray for me on this front!)

Really, I don't even like the "time-out" concept so much any more. Except maybe Mamaebeth's version which I read about a few days ago. I used to use time-outs with Sammy, until I read Holly Pierlot's thoughts on instead preventing the behavior before it gets to the point of needing a time-out. I think what struck me the most, was the idea that I am the first and biggest model of God's love to my children, and God doesn't treat me this way.

Anyway, the reason for the post... I wanted to share an article I ran across today at Catholic Parenting that really reinforced my own thoughts/conclusions/revelations on the spanking topic. And gave me a few new reasons not to.

Did your parents use corporal punishment with you as a child? If so, was it effective in preventing misbehavior in the future? What effect did it have on your relationship with them? Or on your self-concept? Do you use corporal punishment with your kids? Why or why not? For those of you that do, are you able to keep emotion out of the spanking? Like the principal used to, and my parents never once did. (Not that I ever did anything to get spanked by the principal... But when he did paddle a kid, he was always so calm and collected about it. You knew it was 100% a punishment and not a partial punishment, partial revenge for making him angry.)


Marie said...


I did not receive corporal punishment, and really received almost no discipline of any sort. I was quiet, very withdrawn really, probably depressed. I did start out to spank "by the book," literally because parenting books and even social workers said it was acceptable. But the first time I purposefully spanked ds, the look on his face (like "how could you do this?") told me this was just wrong. Believe me, it wasn't from the physical pain but the violated trust. The only times I have resorted to swatting have been from frustration, but since then I've always apologized as doing something wrong. This sounds really scary (and really, it is) but I can see that if I were to use spanking to vent my anger sometimes I could not logically stop until dc were really, really hurt. So to me it is a no-brainer: hitting children is always wrong.

I also stopped time outs, punishment style, after reading Alfie Kohn's book. Once I sat down with dd when she was really upset, but it was more so she could get a grip, and not to punish her for behavior.

Sometimes I truly don't know what "currency" to use to change ds's behavior. But I think it is more important for me to really think about him and his needs rather than just resort to some stock response every time something happens that irritates me. Getting irritated is probably 85% my problem.

Mommy to Ander and Wife to Box said...

Great topic. I don't use corporal punishment and never will. It's easier for me to be absolute about that than most people, because I represent abused children. And most of their parents aren't bad people. They truly aren't. They start off with mild corporal punishment and get annoyed one day...and then I'm representing their children, who are in foster care at this point. Obviously, there are bad people who actually beat their kids. But honestly, most people just overreact ONCE. I don't want to ever do that, so we live in a no spanking household.

I do use timeouts. We try to be calm and methodical about it, and only to use it when Ander directly disobeys and, usually, only when he is hurting someone.

I've got to say that Ander just looks relieved when he gets a timeout. It's almost like he's thinking, "wow, Mommy, thanks. I just couldn't stop." And he's a loving and happy child, so I don't worry about it at all. He needs to step away - from us and the situation. And so do I. So it works well. I'm all about timeouts, mostly because I see how positive it is for Ander. He certainly doesn't always listen to us, and isn't mindlessly obedient. He just needs the break.

Mamaebeth said...

I was not spanked. My mom occasionally swatted at us in the car when we were acting up but that was rarely. We grew up with "we don't hit people". i know my mom was spanked and i am grateful she broke away from that.

i remember one time i was at day camp and we were lining up for something and a lady came by and swatted my on my bottom cause i was (unintentionally) standing slightly out of line; i was still in line but i think i was bored and probably swaying back and forth on my feet a little. i was so shocked that i think i even got an adrenaline rush. i remember thinking, "why didn't she just tell me to scoot over?"

Mathochist said...

Thanks for your responses. Marie, I get irritated too easily, too. And I think you're right, it is all about what they need, rather than controlling how they act. I don't remember where I heard it, but I really like the phrase (and remind myself often) "a child who feels right will act right."

MTAAWTB, I really appreciate your professional perspective on the topuc. And I'm glad time-outs work for you and Ander.

Mamaebeth, my intention is to raise my kids the way you were - "We don't hit people." And thanks for sharing the camp story.