Before I had children I thought spanking, time-outs, and other forms of punishment were all necessary parenting tools. Children need to be kept in line, understand that undesired behavior has consequences, and I knew that I was spanked and I turned out OK. It had to be alright, right?
Even as the debate grew around the act of spanking, I sat on the fence. Although I could see the perspective of those who were against it and their claims that it harmed children both emotionally and physically, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the idea of eliminating it completely. After all, I don’t feel physically or emotionally scarred from my experience.
As my car was being serviced today, the elderly woman sitting next to me in the waiting room began telling me a story of a young boy who frequented the grocery store where she used to work.
She said that every time the boy was in the store he behaved horribly – kicking and screaming, temper tantrums, name calling. Both parents did nothing to stop it. Then one day the dad came in with the boy by himself. No mother. The boy began his antics. This time, his father scooped him up, took him out to the car, and gave him several spankings before continuing their grocery shopping. The boy never misbehaved in the store again. He went from being a total wreck to one of the most well behaved boys they had visiting the store.
The elderly lady went on to tell me that “kids these days” are disrespectful and misbehave because parents, caregivers, teachers aren’t allowed to touch them.
As I listened to her, I agreed that spanking had clearly knocked this young boy back in line. However, it really got me thinking about the end goal.
- Is it to have kids that behave properly, always following orders, and not putting up a fuss?
- Is it to have respectful children that behave well in public?
- Is it to avoid the temper tantrums, name calling, and otherwise disrespectful behavior?
- Whatever our desired end-goal, can we achieve a similar result using a different method?
This is what we know from the critics of spanking
Although spanking may result in immediate compliance, it does not result in long-term compliance and actually creates more aggressive behavior down the road. Spanking teaches kids to be afraid of their parents, to use violence as a means of problem solving, and to sneak around so they don’t get caught.
We’ve heard all of this before (and if you want to know more, here is a link to a great article referencing various studies that have been completed).
While you may have heard all of the negatives against spanking, you may be thinking what I’m thinking: I was spanked and I didn’t turn into a monster. I turned out just fine, thank you very much!
What if, instead of turning out fine you could have turned out better?
When children act out, even if it’s aggressive, it is for one reason only: the act of lashing out feels better than what they are currently experiencing. It feels better to hit than it does to have a toy taken away. It feels better to scream than it does to hold those big emotions in any longer. It feels better to bite than to be to feel threatened and powerless.
Spanking, time-outs, yelling, or any other form of punishment only addresses the resulting behavior. If compliance and obedience is the end-goal then these punishments may do just that. However, they do nothing to get to the root of the issue.
What if, instead of being taught to stifle your emotions you were guided through the process of first identifying the source of those tough feelings and then helped to understand and process those emotions?
What if, instead of being taught that your negative feelings are frowned upon you learned how to sit with those uncomfortable emotions and despite them, learned to accept and love yourself just as you are?
By leaning into the discomfort of these negative emotions we learn to deal with them in a positive manner that builds us up rather than tears us down.
There is darkness within each of us and that darkness is worthy of love and acknowledgement. It is just as much a part of us as the fun, happy side. We should not fear it, push it down, and pretend it doesn’t exist – which is what spanking teaches us. Those tough emotions are there to guide us.
They may be saying I don’t like to feel powerless, I need more sleep, I feel out of control, I don’t understand, I’m scared, I’m jealous, I’m worried.
If you get to the root of the problem and deal with it then you no longer have a problem. Far more effective than instilling fear.
While I am in no way justifying tantrums, verbal and physical abuse, they show up for a reason. Sometimes all it takes is the willingness to lean into the discomfort rather than run away.
Imagine knowing that we are good, despite what we do.
Imagine knowing our parents wouldn’t think any less of us if we aren’t always cooperative and happy.
Imagine having a child that would share their insecurities knowing that you love and accept them as they are.
I encourage you to bravely lean into the negative emotions – your child’s and your own.
When we shine a light in darkness, it doesn’t seem so dark and scary.