In this day and age, there is a lot of controversy surrounding disciplining a child. Spanking has become socially unacceptable, and those who engage in physical discipline are forced to be tight lipped about it. Parents are told that spanking promotes violence, doesn’t promote better behavior and may psychologically scar their children. I am not a child psychologist, and I have not done any scientific research on the subject. What I do know is how I was raised, and how I’ve raised my children. I pay attention to cause and effect; it’s part of my personality. I also observe other families and their behavior and parenting philosophies.
My mother was a deeply religious person, and her beliefs dictated a large part of her personality because she wanted to do what was right by God. It was her belief that discipline, particularly spanking, was scriptural. The object of this article is not to debate religion, but I think it is important to point that out about my mother, because her personality was not such that she would retaliate out of anger. Of course, she got angry, like anyone else, but I never saw her lose control. She was a calm, quiet person with a mile long fuse. She did know how to wield a paddle, however. I got spankings regularly. I truly believe that it was difficult for her though. When we were sick, or hurt, she would baby us. I can remember being sick with a fever, and laying in her lap as she petted my head and played with my hair. It made me feel so much better. She was caring, loving and empathetic. Beyond having heard her tell me that she hated to spank my siblings or me, we could tell that she dreaded it by her behavior. Personally, I’m a little harder than she was. I don’t enjoy spanking my kids, by any means, but I’m not quite as compassionate as she was. I did learn a lot about the process and how to do it the right way from her, and incorporate it into how I raise my own children.
I believe that people who claim they have tried spanking their kids, and either saw the child’s behavior get worse, or not improve are simply doing it wrong. Those who claim that spanking their child has caused the child to become violent towards them, are spanking out of anger, or in retaliation. Violence, begets violence, therefore, you cannot make the discipline process a violent one. How can you make physical discipline non-violent? I realize it sounds like a contradiction of terms, but I promise you that if you were to ask my kids, they would tell you that there is nothing violent about getting a spanking. When my kids are being disciplined, they feel safe and loved. Of course they know what’s coming, and they’re not looking forward to it, but they are not afraid.
I am unlike my mother in another way. If she had a mile long fuse, mine is about an inch long. It’s a character flaw that I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to change. I yell and scream. When my kids push me over the edge, I can lose it sometimes. When that happens, I know better than to run for the paddle. It doesn’t matter how egregious the offense, I made a decision a long time ago that I would not spank my kids when I was angry. If I feel out of control, but don’t feel that I can let the kids get away with their behavior, I send them to their room and wait until I’ve calmed down.
Regardless of the offense, or my level of anger, the procedure is always the same. First, I tell them what’s coming, in simple terms. There are never surprise attacks. In fact, most of the time, I make them go get the paddle for me. It’s never pleasant. The crying starts immediately, and it may be the only time the kids actually move slowly. The intent is not to embarrass them however, so we will usually go into another room. Next, I make them lie across my lap and be absolutely still. That one can be tricky too, but it’s hard to hit a moving target, and I don’t want to catch an ankle if they start kicking. The number of licks is always the same as well. I think it’s important that they know exactly what to expect. I don’t hit hard either. There has to be a bit of a sting, but I believe that going through the process is more important than the pain itself. That being said, there has to be something for the child to dread. There has to be something to prevent them from acting out again in the future. It has to hurt, to some degree. Once the spanking is over, while they are crying, I pick them up and hold them, just like I would if they hurt themselves in an accident. This tells them that they will never be able to do anything to make me stop loving them. I also rub their butt, because it diminishes the pain. I don’t want it to go on any longer than it has to either. Once they have calmed down, I look at them in the face, and make them tell me exactly why they got a spanking. It should be crystal clear in their mind that they brought the punishment on themselves, and that spanking them was not a selfish act on my part. They need to know that it wasn’t retaliation, or because I was angry with them. I ask them to apologize to me, and then give them a giant hug, and tell them that I love them. I ask them to correct their behavior so that we don’t have to go through this again. Once we have finished, that’s it. I try not to bring it up again, unless they misbehave in the same way later on in the day.
Spanking should never be solely a threat. If you say it, you better mean it. Threats are meaningless if there is no follow through. I’m not saying you should never give them an opportunity to obey, but threat after threat will not accomplish anything. If your child doesn’t believe you will do it, they will not change their behavior, and they will lose respect for you and your authority. If you ever want a “stern talking to” to be effective, kids have to know that you will escalate if necessary. That means that kids need to be able to rely on you to do what you say you are going to do, whether in the realm of discipline or not.
Anger can go both ways. There are times that kids will become angry too. If you give your child a spanking, and he refuses to give you a hug after it, he needs another one. You have to win. You cannot allow him to stay angry because if you do, he will think he was right and therefore the discipline was unjust. If a spanking is unjust, it’s just violence. I know parents who have “tried” spanking, only to end up being hit by their kids because they either missed this point, or the spankings didn’t hurt. Either one of those mistakes will breed violence because all you are doing when you spank is hitting them, and that makes it okay for them to do it to you. You can expect the same result if you spank out of anger.
We rarely spank at our house. We rarely have need to anymore. We have 3 kids, and we might have a spanking in the house once or twice a month. If you follow my procedure, and if your motivation is pure, the kids will figure out that you’re not doing it to be mean, and that they control whether they get a spanking or not. We also don’t spank for any and every offense. Some things just don’t warrant it. If you use spanking as a foundation for discipline in your house however, you will find that a verbal correction goes a whole lot further without even having to mention spanking at all.
I don’t believe boredom is a form of punishment. In my opinion, time out’s make a child restless, and restless children become mischievous. Once you have let them out of time out, the have stored up a burst of energy, and have to find a direction to point it in. That being said, we do use time out occasionally. Time out in our house is being made to stand in a corner. They don’t store up energy in that way because they have to stand still, and cannot lean against the wall. The only reason I use time out is to break a pattern of behavior. If 2 of the kids are getting too rambunctious, and are bordering on a fight, time out is a good way to refocus them on something else, if they don’t respond to warnings.
Now comes the point in the article that I get to brag; not out of pride, but to illustrate why I think spankings are effective. My kids don’t “pitch a fit”. Ever. We never have a problem telling them no. They do not attract negative attention in restaurants or grocery stores. They don’t talk back. They don’t argue with us. They don’t whine and complain more than they should. They usually do what they’re told, when they’re told. Of course, there are exceptions (they are kids after all), but we can usually shut it down before it becomes a problem. We are constantly being complemented on their behavior, and when we are, we tell the kids about it. They are proud of themselves, and we’re proud of them.
I have known many families that don’t believe in physical discipline, and even the best of them struggle with their kids behavior more than they should have to. It’s not because we were blessed with “good kids”. That notion is ridiculous, and insulting. We have good kids, but it’s because we taught them to be good. They were certainly not born that way. You are not doing the kids any favors by not disciplining them. While they might turn out okay, the journey to okay will be a lot more difficult for them. If you do not discipline them at home, society will ultimately do it for you, and society doesn’t love them.