Why I’m Not Cool with Spanking My Kids
When I was a kid, I lived in fear of being spanked. The ultimate punishment in my household was the dreaded book spank. On the race occasions my siblings and I did something epically wrong, my parents would look for the biggest, heaviest book they could find and pound it against our bottoms a few times with what felt like all their might.
When my own children were born, I vowed I would never spank them, and this summer they’ll turn 10 and 12, and to this day, I’ve kept that promise I made to myself.
Here’s what I’ve learned about spanking from my childhood experiences and from what I’ve witnessed other parents doing.
Spanking Didn’t Damage Me Long-Term
I don’t feel damaged. I don’t hold a grudge against my parents for their choice of punishment. I visit them frequently even now with a family of my own. I love them and they love me. I don’t resent them in any way, but I don’t agree with spanking.
I Don’t Want My Kids to Fear Me
I don’t want to rule my children by fear. I don’t want to rule them at all – I simply want to help shape them into better people and for them to eventually help make this world a better place. Hitting them doesn’t achieve either of those objectives.
When I was facing a book spanking in my younger days, I was filled with terror. I knew it was going to hurt, but as I got a little bit older, it didn’t hurt as much and I wasn’t as scared. So what’s left when you reach that stage? Should parents find better ways to hurt their kids? Should they start using belts? Where does it end?
We tell our children routinely that violence is never the answer. We tell them that when they have problems with their friends, and when they’re dealing with bullies. But when we have a problem, we do the opposite – we hit them. It’s irrational and reactive, which is the opposite of what a good punishment is.
Spanking Didn’t Make Me Behave
Even with the threat of a spanking looming over my head, I still misbehaved. I fought with my brothers and sisters, and argued with my parents when they didn’t understand why I was upset.
In a house full of children, I never felt like my parents were truly listening to me. Now that I’m a parent, I know that’s true. There’s no way they had the time to listen to all nine kids’ complaints – they wouldn’t have been able to get anything else done. Nine was a lot for two parents to handle, and I have a much lighter load only having two children.
There Must Be a Better Way
When deciding how to punish my children, I try to give my them what I never had and what I always wished for – someone to listen to me. Not just hear me talking, but someone who actually listened to why I was upset and why I did what I did. Because, even in my misguided youth, I had reasons, and even when they were faulty, they were still important to me.
At the end of the day, this world needs more understanding and a lot less violence. Violence begets violence, and I have always kept that in mind when other parents told me that kids these days are out of control now because they weren’t slapped or spanked when they were children.
Some of the children I know who were spanked from an early age for their punishments are some of the most aggressive and angry kids I’ve ever met. It’s not working for them. While it may temporarily stop the behavior in question, it doesn’t give them any coping tools to prevent that kind of behavior in the future.
Here’s What I Do Instead of Spanking
- When they were younger and my kids misbehaved or threw a fit, I would use time outs to get them to calm down and to let them know their behavior wasn’t acceptable. It wasn’t always easy, but it was effective.
- I didn’t angrily shove them in a corner, I did it calmly and explained the problem. That calm explanation is what’s missing from many parents who spank.
- When I was spanked and when I’ve seen other people spank their children, the one doing the hitting acts like they are doing it to their child to stop the bad behavior and to teach them a lesson. But rarely have I ever seen a parent calmly explain to their child what they did wrong and let them know they would be spanked as a result of their own actions. It becomes more about venting the parent’s own rage at their child, and less about actually stopping any future bad behavior.
- I’m not saying I don’t ever yell at my kids, because I do. Then I apologize to them for yelling and tell them that even adults need to work on their behavior.
- Letting them know that nobody is perfect takes an enormous burden off them. It lets them know that while their actions may have been bad, they aren’t. We’re more than our minute-to-minute decisions. We’re a sum of all our actions, and it’s never too late to start making better choices. We’re all a work in progress, not a finished project.
I’m proud to say my children have never been in trouble at school. Their teachers always tell me their behavior is great, and I always tell my kids how proud I am of how they act. While there is definitely room for improvement at home, such as fighting a little less, they’ve learned to be very forgiving of each other when they do something wrong.
I believe that the empathy and forgiveness they show to each other when they’ve done something wrong is a side benefit of the punishment methods we use. By talking to kids, instead of reactively hitting them, you open up valuable lines of communication.
Talking – more than superficial conversations, but deep, meaningful discourse – is the key to getting everyone to behave better, including both children and adults.
Read More: Better Options to Spanking