Friday, March 18, 2011

Spanking: Abuse or discipline?

The other day, my Dad, (my son's "Poppa") asked me if we ever spanked my baby.  He wasn't asking in a nosy or accusing sort of way; just genuinely curious.

It had been prompted by my son's attempt to disobey me by climbing up the stairs by himself.  When I picked him up off the stairs and sat him back down on the floor, he threw what, for him, counts as a tantrum:  He arches his back, gives a little yell, and we lay him down on the floor.  He lays there, I ignore him and walk away, and 9 times out of 10, instead of continuing to cry, he realizes it just isn't working, and gets up and follows me.

After watching this procedure, my not quite 3-year-old niece came up to me.  "Is he going to get a spanking?"  "No, honey," I told her.  "It's over now.  See?  He's already over there playing with the toys now.  Do you wanna go play with him?"

This is what prompted my son's grandfather to ask if we ever had, or ever did spank him.  And, on the rare occassion, we do.  There's just certain guidelines we follow.

Spanking is immediate.  Spanking a small child after they've forgotten what they've done is as useless as rubbing a dog's nose in its crap.  If you spank a toddler, it has to be right when they're doing whatever action it is you're trying to correct.  This is especially true for when they're doing anything that has the potential to be dangerous, whether to themself or others.

You never punish emotion.  Someone who would spank a baby for crying is too stupid to function.  I don't care who you are or how much I alienate anyone for saying this:  If you spank a child and use the expression, "I'll give you something to cry about", you need to be forcibly sterilized without anesthesia.

Spanking is a last resort.  There are so many things we can do that will usually stop the misbehavior before spanking even becomes an option.  We can tell him "no".  We can redirect his energy to an acceptable activity he enjoys.  A lot of times, he acts up when he's sleepy.  Sometimes a nap does the trick, or just a little bit of "quiet time" (like time-out) in his crib.  If we've told him no, used redirection, given him a time-out, and he still comes back and tries to do whatever it is he isn't supposed to, then we'll give him a little swat.

Spanking is not for the benefits of the parents.  I never have, and never will, lay a hand on my child in anger.  Spanking is a tool for his learning and benefit; it's never to make me feel better because I'm frustrated with him.  After a swat, I always open my arms to him for a hug and to tell him I love him, and that, while he may do things wrong, I don't think he's bad, and I'm not mad at him.

So, it's a bit ironic that, less than a week after my Dad asked me if we ever spank my son, I had to give him a spanking, just this morning.

A bit of backstory:  I'm having to take the day off work to stay home with my son today, who's feeling a little sick.  Anyone who's ever been around a sick baby knows they're cranky, and a lot less agreeable.  The other thing you need to know is, I keep my phone charger plugged in the same spot over our sink, and my son likes to go pick up my phone and pretend to talk on it.  I allow this, as he knows not to pull the charger cord out, and it's not hurting anything for him to play at talking on the phone.  (That, and when your child is freakishly tall, there's nowhere on the counter to put things where he can't reach them, so you have to teach him what's allowed and what's off-limits a little earlier than most kids.)

So we're hanging out on the floor, just finished reading a story, and he wanders over to my phone, where it's charging.  No big deal.  Except, in his sick and contrary mood, he pulls the charger cord out of the phone.

And sticks it right in his mouth.

"No!" I yell, jumping to my feet and sprinting to him.  I continue to yell no, and he continues to ignore me, happily munching away on a plugged-in electrical cord.  I get to him, simultaneously yanking the cord out of his mouth and popping his hip.

He immediately burst into tears, not from physical pain (I stung his leg when I slapped it, but didn't hit him with any real force), but from hurt feelings.  I sit down on the floor and tell him, "Mommy's not mad, but you have to know that can really hurt you.  Don't ever do that again.  I love you.  Can I have a hug?"  Though still crying, he not only gave me a big hug, but sat down and cuddled up in my lap.

In this situation, I feel like spanking was the appropriate choice.  There was no time or option for any other form of discipline.  And, though he's very young, I like to think my son understands that Mommy never spanks him because she wants to; it's because she has to.

I'm sure some people think any spanking at all is wrong, and that I'm a terrible "momster" for doing it.  I'm sure far more people think I'm a hippy wuss who doesn't discipline her kid.  I'm perfectly fine with people thinking either one.  I have a happy, healthy, generally well-behaved (better than most kids) son, so what other people think about how I raise him is really unimportant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Spanking (and any form of discipline) should be something you do for, not to, your child. I believe it's appropriate when other methods the timeout chair, for instance,don't work. On the flip side, too often have I seen a child popped because the parent is in a bad mood.

Post a Comment