Disclaimer: This post represents my feelings only. It is not meant to serve as judgment of those who choose to use corporal punishment in a loving, restrained, and consistent manner. We all must decide how to discipline our children, and I have learned that judging others for their decisions is unproductive, unnecessary, and not at all loving. That being said, open discussion is encouraged in the comments section- I’d love to hear from both Gentle Discipline/Attachment Parenting mamas and those who practice corporal punishment (I’m sorry I’m not familiar with all the terms here).
I was raised by parents who did not (regularly, anyway) spank. I can count on one hand the number of times I was physically struck by my parents, and it was always by their hand on my bottom.
Brett, on the other hand, was (according to him, anyway) spanked much more regularly. Apparently the belt was an option, too.
So when Lucy became old enough that we needed to discuss discipline in more detail, we found ourselves somewhat divided. I am squarely in the “hands-and-other-objects-off” zone. Brett is in the “time-outs-don’t-work” and “I was spanked and I turned out great” arenas. After much discussion, Brett has finally agreed that our home will be spanking-free until Lucy is at least 3, or when we judge that she is capable of fully understanding what she is being punished for and why. Admittedly, I see this concession as a window of time in which to convert Brett to my way of thinking. However, there are times when I question my own convictions.
Like when Lucy throws food from her high chair. It drives me absolutely crazy! For months she was a dream- we could take her anywhere without making a huge mess. Then, out of the blue, she started throwing food. It began with her feeding the dogs, and now, even if they are kenneled or not around, she does it anyway- it’s become her way of telling me she’s done eating. What’s especially frustrating is that she KNOWS that sign for “all-done” and will do it. I truly don’t understand why she’d rather throw food than just tell me she’s done.
I did read a piece by Dr. Sears that addressed this type of behavior. According to him, children of this age love our reactions, and will continue to do a specific action to see ours. In other words, it’s not a case of “mommy told me not to, but I’m going to do it anyway;” he argues that children are not mentally capable of this. Rather, Lucy is thinking, “when I throw food, Mama makes a funny face and talks in a funny voice.” She actually enjoys seeing my frustration, because she is emotionally incapable of empathy at this point- she doesn’t understand that I am angry or sad. So, for the time being, I’m working on not giving her the reaction she’s looking for. I will walk away from the table and do the dishes. I’ll tell her in a quiet, regular tone to stop- making sure to keep my face composed and neutral. If it continues, I’ll ask her (and sign) if she’s “all-done,” and then remove her from the high chair.
But it’s so hard! I occasionally worry that I’m spoiling Lucy. I wonder if a smack of the hand would help her better understand what I’m trying to convey. I fear raising a child that doesn’t understand or respect boundaries, or that I cannot take out in public because she cannot behave properly. I fear being judged by other parents for not disciplining enough.
Then again, I worry about the implications of teaching my daughter that there is room for physical pain in a loving relationship. I’ve read studies indicating that little girls who are punished physically are more likely to experience abusive relationships. I also am concerned with teaching immediate obedience, mainly because I want my children to know that there are times when they should NOT obey an adult- namely when an adult asks to touch them inappropriately, or be touched inappropriately, or, in the case of a stranger, to get into a car with them. Finally, I worry that spanking sends the message that hitting, even when done with a greater goal in mind, is appropriate.
In just a few words, I want my children to behave out of a genuine desire to do the right thing, not out of fear of being reprimanded. And, believe me, I know that sounds like a lofty goal. To be honest, I’m still not exactly sure how we’ll get there. I know that I want my children to be compassionate and honest and trustworthy and to live lives that are solidly grounded in Christian moral values.
For the time being, I’ll keep reading, and talking to other moms and dads making the same sorts of decisions.
I’ll continue to speak respectfully to my daughter, to illustrate how I expect to be spoken to.
I’ll view this phase as an opportunity to work on my own character, particularly my patience.
And I’ll work on demonstrating the same grace towards my daughter that our Heavenly Father does to His.