May 28, 2010

I’m not going to spank my kids. Period.

Here’s the thing – I was spanked. My siblings were spanked (more often than me because, let’s face it, I was close to perfection. 😉 Well, at least until about 14.) I only remember the once I mouthed off to my mother – I told her to shut up at the bright age of 10 – and she turned around from the stove with a wooden spoon in her hand and whacked me across the butt with it. I never did it again.

I don’t consider myself abused. In the least. I know that point as a human you reach when you have had it up to here with backtalk, defiance or rudeness. I know that at times, it’s just an instant reaction, a split second decision to bop that mouthy little turd on the butt, or head, or wherever.

As a teacher and a nanny, I had to learn to control my temper and to find ways of “creative discipline.” Obviously I could not, and didn’t want to (often), spank the children I had in my care. Can you imagine your child’s care provider saying, “Oh, little Jonny had a rough day. But we spanked him and he’s all better now.” The firestorm that would cause…

So I had to come up with ways of enforcing rules without really being in charge and sometimes knowing that the parents would undermine what I tried to teach the kids. I had to earn their respect for the children to obey me. After that, I had to understand what made them tick. How could I get them to listen to me, but when there was a need for discipline, what would make an impact?

Often it was natural consequences that took place. Suzy threw a rock at someone during recess, then Suzy stayed in at recess and wrote a apology note to that person. And hand delivered it.

With younger kids, it’s important that there is communication behind the discipline. Especially as a teacher, I would pull the kids aside after a time out, or during an argument with each other, and make them talk. To me, to each other. For some, it took a long time for them to open up. So at first, I would just talk. I’d explain about feelings and tried to get them to see how the other person would feel. Kids do respond to that, they are compassionate and do put themselves in other’s shoes if you can relate it to them.

I’m not one of those moms who’s going to let their kids “just be” and in turn I also let them smear mashed potatoes and gravy on restaurant walls because it’s “art.” Or the mom who rolls her eyes when my kid bonks another child on the head and says to their mom, “Oh, let them work it out – they’re 2 after all.” I’m also not going to be the mom who goes berserk when my child is called a name or isn’t invited to a classmates party.

I want my kids to be respectful, to be polite, to be aware of other people and their own surroundings. I want to be the mom who can pull her kid out of a playgroup and take him straight home if he’s being nasty to the others, but also have earned enough respect from them that my evil eye makes Bella put the mashed potatoes down in a hurry, before it gets to the wall. I want my children to open doors and notice when someone has their hands full and offer to help.

Is this possible without spanking? I think so. For me it was, in a classroom or house full of children that weren’t mine. Yes, there is a difference. I think it might be easier to discipline as a parent, because I can follow through. But it might also be harder, because I’m there 24-7. I don’t get to walk out the door at 6pm and think, “Good luck lady, you deal with them tonight.”

I guess we’ll see. I’ve changed my mind a lot as a parent already, but this is something I’m hoping I won’t on. How do you feel about it?

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