Good kids sometimes express their needs in bad ways. They hit, they scream, they bite, they tattle, they whine and they simply don’t listen. It’s not personal, it’s developmental and it’s their way of communicating that they have a direct need – tattling (pay attention to me), hitting (I’m frustrated and I don’t know how to fix this), screaming (I’m attempting to tell you something, but I can’t or you aren’t listening to me). Our little information-seekers are extremely expressive in their young years and it’s oftentimes enough to drive a person mad. But it should never drive an adult to express their anger by hitting a child.
I’m against using physical force to get your way, just as we teach our children daily at the playground, and I’m not the only one. Spanking has become less and less popular in recent years. And not just because we’ve become less “Godly,” as I know there are religions that promote physical redirection in children, but because our society has become more ‘child focused’. This is a good thing.
When it comes to physical harm, why do the rights of our children lie with the parents? Every other human in our country is protected by certain laws that state that we have the right to walk down the street and not get hit – it would be considered abuse, battery, or domestic violence. But when we define it as ‘behavioral redirection’, all of a sudden it becomes okay.
It may be legal to spank your child in public, but be warned that you will be judged. Your comfort level with spanking is not likely to be reflected by those around you, and for good reason. Public shaming is hard for anyone to witness, and it’s the only behavior besides drug and alcohol use that I don’t defend when my son asks me what’s happening. I tell him the truth, that I don’t really know – that some people choose force over talking to their children about the issue at hand; that some people choose to follow the herd rather than their heart. But sadly, home is where spanking happens the most. Your child lives in your home, they should feel safe to make mistakes and have curiosities. Home is a sacred place for most of us and it should be for our children too.
Spanking your child frequently will eventually break their spirit. Children arrive on this earth with an unbounded energy. We often joke about harnessing it as we age, because it does dampen over time (although the happiest folks I know are still very youthful in spirit). Repetitively hitting a child, regardless if you warn them that it hurts you more than them, will lessen the light that shines from inside them. They will conform over time, that’s true. And if winning is the objective, you might feel as though you’ve won. But you risk losing something so wonderful at the same time. You’ll lose their trust, and you’ll break their spirit. I often hear people say “I was spanked and I turned out fine”. It never fails that the people saying this only lived one life like the rest of us. How do you know how fine you turned out with nothing to compare it to? (I also liken this to the “Our parents didn’t use car seats and we survived” argument. You may very well have, but many children did not. Likewise, many children who were the victims of spanking and abuse suffer because of it.)
By using your hand instead of your voice, you are missing a brilliant opportunity to teach your child a lesson, learn one yourself, and give them the love and support they deserve. This is the most important factor in peaceful approaches to parenting. If you look at your children and their behavior, you’ll find that most of the time, bad behavior is a plea for help – attention, love, acceptance, guidance. When we add a dramatic conversation stopper like spanking, they walk away wounded. They might develop a fear of their own parents so deep that they won’t confide in them their most intense feelings in an appropriate way. It’s a cyclical insanity and parents often blame the child (They just won’t talk to me!) when in fact, the parent creates the cycle in early childhood. If you want respect and trust, you have to give respect and trust. You can’t go back after the formative years have passed and say ‘I hit you because I thought it would help you’. Some things are repairable, but let’s face it, some aren’t.
Children mirror what they are taught. They are imitators and shadows. If they are physically harmed, even through spanking, they will repeat that behavior. When you send the message ‘don’t hit’ by hitting, you are confusing your child and everyone else around you. And you risk losing their trust and respect. And while some may feel that children fearing their parents is and effective way to parent, it’s my worst fear in life – that my son ever be afraid of me. If he fears me, he’s on his own at a young age to deal with this world from a lonely place. My job is to be by his side and raise him to be an ethical, loving person. The good news is, like all children, he was born that way. I just need to be there for him.
Do you have a “hands off” rule in your home?