As my daughter forges her way through the terrible twos and is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged threenager, the issue of discipline is becoming more and more relevant in our household. I often wonder what it looks like in most homes. Time out? Revoking of privileges? Consequences?
Let me take a step back to clarify what I mean as far as spanking goes… A mission statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics defines spanking as “striking a child with an open hand on the buttocks or extremities with the intention of modifying behavior without causing physical injury.” As with most parenting styles and terms, I am sure you’d get a million different definitions from a million different people, so let’s just stick with this one for the sake of continuity.
During my childhood, I was spanked a handful of times. And in my parents’ defense, they were all for pretty darn good reasons. On one such occasion, I vividly recall being spanked when I was around six or seven years old for starting a fire in my garage with my neighbor. It was cold out, and we wanted to be warm. Obviously not the smartest decision I’ve ever made, but was it worthy of physical punishment?
Before I proceed, I want to highlight the fact that the few times I was spanked, it was never overly forceful and absolutely never more than a pop on my tushy with the palm of a hand. Nothing more than that. But my parents are from a different generation. Spanking was never frowned upon the way it is today. Now, there are studies that show children who are spanked are more susceptible to mental illness and could be faced with strong feelings of shame.
I don’t judge my parents for spanking me, and I honestly don’t judge those who choose to spank, as long as it is done within reason. But it just isn’t for me. I can’t possibly imagine intentionally hurting my child to punish her, or for any other reason. I feel strongly that there are other ways to get your point across. In my years as a classroom teacher, I definitely had to invoke appropriate consequences for misbehavior. Obviously, I was able to do so without laying a hand on the numerous children who walked through the door of my classroom. In fact, I found it more effective to lower my voice when reprimanding students, rather to raise it. And I also loved the strategy of having them come up with their own consequences.
Children, without a doubt, need to be taught right and wrong. Recently, my husband has been traveling quite a bit, which means it’s the toddler and me at home. In order to maintain my sanity, I’ve had to be a bit stricter than usual, which has led to the introduction of time out in our home. It seems to be working so far, so I’ll consider myself lucky for the time being. My daughter needs to know that there are consequences for her actions, and she needs to learn lessons the hard way sometimes.
However, in my home, learning something “the hard way” will never equate to spanking and physical punishment.