There is so much online anymore about how we raise our kids and discipline them. Note, this might just make some of you angry, but oh well. There are plenty other blogs you can read that won’t.
Despite popularity and countless defenses of why one would physically punish kids, I will never be one to do it and I totally am sitting in judgement of those who do.
Let’s get real a second. We are living in a day and age where people can cherry pick the info they want and discard the rest as irrelevant. And so, for example, if you want to feel great about your contributions as a human, you might subscribe to the global warming theory, call people who don’t agree “science deniers”, and go about virtue signalling about how much you care about the environment. Or, you can go on your research about how vaccines cause autism. You can certainly find countless articles on Monsanto.
Some data is accurate. Some data is skewed to fit the narrative. Like anything, really. But when we talk about our issues with each other – we back up how we do things with the information we received based on our research. So if you don’t vaccinate your kids, it’s because you researched and found reasons not to. If you do or don’t buy into the global warming theories, it’s because you researched and found reasons to support your own theories.
But there is tons and tons of reasearch on physically punishing our children, and it’s all ignored by the folks who want to continue hitting their kids.
I was spanked as a child. I was also the recipient of abuse at times. Physical abuse doesn’t start out from a normal method of punishing. What happens in MOST cases is the parent starts out with a spanking and goes too far. Countless parents are arrested each year for seriously hurting and killing their children because it went too far- they never meant to hurt their kids. But you know, when the child won’t potty train and pees on the floor for the 30th time, no matter how many times you told them, things get escalated quickly.
As in my own experience, I recall being spanked by both parents. And the science behind these punsihments spoke true to me, when I actually am honest and admit it. Let me be clear and say – my parents had a small set of tools to use to manage their kids. They did not mean to be abusive. They weren’t awful people, and I do have plenty of great memories. I know people are loathe to say, yes, my parents abused me, because they don’t want to throw their parents under that bus. I don’t mean to either. But the events happened as they did and the outcomes were what they were, and the simple truth is, yes. They went overboard on more than one occasion. More than a couple.
Scientific studies have shown the effects on people from being spanked. From aggression to antisocial behavior, an increase in juvenille deliquency, and mental health issues, decades of research shows this to be the effect of spanking. And spanking is defined as a swat on the bottom using your hand. This is NOT even talking about abusive situations. That data says the above described detrimental outcomes increase with increased use of force and aggression.
Going on my own experiences, I know that when I was being punished, the effect that my parents THOUGHT it was having, actually was not occurring. I never thought I deserved it. I always thought they were horrible when they were punishing us. Even seeing my brothers get it affected me. It caused me to want to lie to avoid the trouble. When my parents instructed us to not lie and to be honest, I knew that honestly admitting to messing up meant getting spanked. So I worked harder to not get caught. I never once was sent to bed and thought about my actions and how I could have acted differently. I went to bed and sulked and actually would wish for different parents. I would, in my eight year old, Disney princess warped mind, imagine myself as a locked up princess, not unlike Cinderella, wishing for someone to come rescue me from the evil queen (who was my stepmother).
As I aged, I learned to lie better. As I aged, the punishments were more severe. Apparently you need to hit harder, the older the kids get. I began running away from home. I experimented with drugs (thankfully did not become addicted), I had sex way too early. I was looking for approval from many sources, and that got me in other trouble in my life. I did not feel confident in being accepted by my parents. I felt that they viewed me as bad, and that took all motivation away to try to be good. They backed up my belief with their physical punishments. “This hurts me more than you”, never rang true with me. They weren’t the ones reduced to humiliating tears and unable to sit down from being in pain.
Later, after running away from home constantly- because of fear of the continued treatment, I was sent to a group home to manage my behavior. Because you know, reinforcing that belief that I was bad. Now I was being punished for not wanting to be hit anymore. I was totally screwed up in my head and had years of counseling. The group home I was sent to was full of girls with major problems. And I was bullied quite a bit.
This did nothing for the bond between me and my parents. When I was old enough, I fought back. My stepmother and I had a very big physical fight because I just couldn’t take it anymore.
My father changed his tactics by stopping the hitting but the restrictions and shame-inducing consequences for things- ridiculous things like being 15 minutes late on curfew once- it became so bad that I moved out the day I turned 18. That very day.
And into the arms of a man who would hit me and demean, belittle and shame me. I was controlled even more. And being punished now wasn’t a spanking gone overboard, but punches to the back of the head.
This is exactly what the science says is the result of spanking. I mean, honestly. I am a total statistic. Textbook.
It’s hard to not spank my child sometimes because of how I was raised. Children act out. It’s what they do by their very nature. But adults want to control and force their kids to act a certain way and so they slap, swat, pop, spank, whup, their kids into submission. The child doesn’t do the right thing because of principle. But out of fear. And when my toddler is being a toddler and driving me nuts, sometimes I have to actually say out loud, I don’t believe in hitting children. That stops me. Because 18 years of being raised to hit first, talk later, it’s hard not to do just that.
But I don’t spank. I actually did once. During a diaper change, my then 18 month old daughter was kicking and fighting me. She kicked me square in the face, with my glasses on. Hurt so bad! And I just reacted. I slapped her leg. Not even that hard, but it was hard enough. I will never forget it. Her face contorted. Her brow crinkled and the shocked look changed to pain and she howled. I instantly felt awful. I picked her up and just apologized over and over. I didn’t mean it. I just reacted. She did not deserve to be hit. She deserved some patience because she’s only a toddler, for heavens sake.
I will never put that out of my mind. I will always recall how I made her feel. How it made me feel to be the sole cause of her pain in that moment. I remember it and then actively recall how I felt as a child to be so carelessly hit. And I do not use any force or shame when I am teaching her and disciplining. I do not want my daughter to be a statistic like me. I don’t want her to ever feel the way I was made to feel.
Recently, I had a very awkward conversation with my dad about this. He mentioned all the trouble kids are into now a days. And it’s because they took spanking out of school, he said. That’s why kids act so bad now. (Again, with the kids are just bad, thinking.) I reminded him that our overcrowded prisons are filled with people who were spanked as a child.
The memes I see on social media- how people survived multiple tools of abuse- shoes, hangers, switches, belts- they brag as if this is the reason they turned out so well. Ignoring their own pathologies, of course. Or memes how spanking your children ensures they won’t turn into jerks or entitled snowflakes. Because there aren’t jerks who were spanked? Only jerks weren’t spanked?
People want to hang onto their perceived rights to hit their kids- their right to discipline as they see fit. But since we only reserve that for the most vulnerable populations, in other words, women who are spanked are called victims of domestic violence and are protected by law, and animals are as well- both of whom can fight back, then in the name of discipline, what are we teaching our kids?
In particular, when spanking girls, at what age do you stop and then begin to teach her that hitting is wrong and boys and men should not hit them? How do you square hitting little girls, but then teach them it’s wrong to hit women?
Science is settled. And there’s no hitting in our house. We don’t yell and we don’t shame either. I want to teach my girl right from wrong for the principle. Not because she is afraid of us. And as a parent, I’m learning all about having patience with her as she grows and what normal behavior is. And not to punish her for normal behavior and feelings.
The world is a harsh place. I want to be a comfort and shelter to the proverbial storms for my kids. But I will destroy that if I make it unsafe for her. She will turn to others, like I did, who don’t care about her like I do, to get that comfort. Her life will be altered like mine was. And I will instead stand up for her. No fear. And our bond will not be broken.