When I was five years old, I walked out of the entrance to the trailer park I lived in with my mom and dad. Without telling anybody, I decided to visit the Stop and Go convenient store, and I walked out onto the highway to get there. I wasn’t afraid. I just wanted to look at their comic books like every other time I went there with my parents.
That’s exactly what I did, inspecting each one carefully that I could reach on the shelf and then putting it back. When I found a comic I particularly liked, I asked a lady shopping at the end of the aisle if she would buy it for me. Surprisingly, she agreed and paid for it. She also gave me a ride home. I was oblivious to any potential danger. I really just wanted to read my book.
My panicked father was waiting in front of our trailer. I remember how he looked that day, furious and terrified, as he ordered me to my room. He took the comic book away from me, and it concerned me I might not get it back.
I stayed in my room a while, then ventured out to the living room where my father was still trying to calm himself down. I didn’t understand. I was fine and nothing bad happened to me. Why was he so upset?
When I asked him, he admitted how scared he was for my safety and how angry he was that I would walk away without telling him. I cried as he said he worried he would never see me again. The reality of what I’d done was hitting me full force, and the worst sense of remorse filled my tiny body. I told my dad I was sorry and meant it. He was still too frazzled to accept the apology but nodded his head that he heard me.
“I don’t get it,” I told him. “If I was so bad, why didn’t you spank me?”
“I wanted to,” he answered, “but I was so angry that I was afraid I would hurt you.”
Breaking The Cycle of Abuse
I didn’t realize it then, but it was a remarkable statement coming from a remarkable man. When my dad was young, spankings were the least of his problems. He was regularly beat with coat hangers and tight unrelenting fists by both his parents, who were more quick to lash out in rage than to hug him and tell him they loved him. When he was an adult, he walked away and never spoke to his family again.
My beloved father was breaking the cycle, not willing to raise his child to fear him and not causing her physical and emotional pain. It would have been easy for him to spank me that day, but he didn’t want me to grow up like he did feeling scared of people and alone in the world. He wanted to be the person I came to with my problems, someone who would guide me and listen to everything I had to say instead of striking out furiously if he didn’t agree.
The story stuck with me when I had my own kids. I refused to spank them, much to the dismay of my ex-husband. He thought it was the only way to make them listen, to pay for their mistakes and to respect their parents. I knew respect was something that had to be earned, not just an inalienable right because I gave birth to them.
It may be a controversial opinion, but I don’t believe in spanking. I think the more tools a mom or dad have at their disposal, the less spanking is necessary. I disciplined my kids with distraction when they were small and taking away privileges when they were older. Maybe that makes me sound like a pushover, but all three kids have turned out better than fine.
The How and Why of Spanking
I think it scares children to see out-of-control adults. I’ve been there before, but I think lashing out with your hand hitting a child’s backside is a pure form of out-of-control behavior. Kids need us to be stable because the world is so unstable for them so much of the time. We need to be their anchor, not part of the storm. I don’t want my kids to learn that they should hit when they’re angry, but if I spanked them I feel I’d be showing them it’s acceptable to lash out when they’re frustrated instead of trying to find a better solution.
I don’t want my children to see me as somebody to fear but as their safe place to run to when things get too hard. I also wouldn’t take advantage of someone much smaller than me and cause them physical pain because I’m mad at them. I’d much rather talk the situation through rather than knee-jerk into a spanking. Kids don’t learn where they went wrong that way.
My current husband and I have this debate all the time. His argument is that his parents spanked and slapped and beat him growing up on a regular basis and he turned out just fine. He says it even made him a better person.
I have to wonder if things would be different in our own house if none of that ever happened to him. Maybe he could offer a little advice for a solution when our daughter acts up instead of telling me I should hit her. Maybe he would calm down enough to consider another way to discipline her. Spanking is only one solution, and it’s a temporary one at that. It’s not going to fix the issue long term.
I know people who spank their kids, and I don’t judge them. We’re all trying to get through parenting the best way we know how. I simply follow my brave dad’s example and feel an obligation to break the cycle just like he did. It would cause me great distress to see one of my children hurt, even more so if I was the one who caused it.
There are many ways to discipline your kids, but only you know what’s right for your children. I would just ask people to look at all options instead of only one. Our children deserve that, and so do we in the quest for a happier family.