This post is written for inclusion in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries. All week, April 26-30, we will be featuring essays about non-punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.
I am a physical person. I’m the type who, if I feel comfortable with you, will touch your arm at points in our conversation. If we’re close, I might rub your leg if you’re crying, or even slap it if you say something funny in a gesture of appreciative glee. I have no trouble getting up and dancing if I’m in a good mood and the music is right. If you’re open to hugs I can be a very huggy person too. If my husband says something to purposely annoy me (in a joking way), I might try to kick his butt as he leaves the room. Or lightly punch or smack him in the arm. Wrestling is commonplace between us. I usually try to punch his arm while he tries to tickle me. He’s stronger so he usually wins. Afterwards we have a good laugh.
This is who I am.
In the same vein, because being physical comes naturally for me, when my kids misbehave, and my brain is fried, and I’m at the end of my rope, sometimes my natural reaction is to want to swat their bottoms.
I was spanked as a child. I even had wooden spoons broken over my bum. I recall some of the times I was spanked and remember feeling helpless, confused and scared. Yes, it was probably more commonplace back then. Dr. Spock was the parenting guru of my early years and he recommended it. The strap had only just been banned in schools and I remember my Grandparents lamenting the erasure of this discipline technique. My Grandma still advises me when my kids “misbehave” to give them “a good paddy-whack.”
Before we had kids, my husband and I agreed we would not spank our children. He has a son from a previous marriage who was never spanked, and all the years I’ve known him from age eight to sixteen he has been nothing but a kind, considerate, gentle, and loving boy.
When my first daughter was born she cried all. the. time. When she learned to speak she screamed. She still prefers to screech and whine and cry than use her words.
Those first two years were very hard, but not once did I ever think to spank her or put her in a crib to cry it out. Okay, once I tried to let her cry it out but that lasted about 20 minutes and I never did it again. People told me I had the patience of a saint. Some still say so. But once she reached the age of two my hand got twitchy. I found myself, my body, wanting to lash out at her.
In retrospect I wonder if weaning had something to do with it. When she cried as a baby I just “put a boob in her mouth” and she calmed down almost immediately. Although she didn’t wean until her third birthday, once she hit two or two and a half we were nursing much less during the day. Since I was pregnant, my milk was drying up too and she was nursing for comfort. I don’t know if this contributed to my having less patience, but it’s a thought. Anyway…
Times like these I’ve learned to give myself a time out. I literally have to leave the room. Leave her screaming and crying until I can pull myself together to talk to her again. And usually the short break helps her calm down too. She sees that she is hurting me and when we come together again we can both do so in love. We greet each other with a hug and kind, comforting words. Then I talk to her at eye level. I ask her if she knows what she did wrong. At five she can usually tell me. We come up with a solution together. There is praise and hugs. We part, both of us feeling better.
I have horrible guilt around my urges to hit my child. I used to wonder what happened to my saintly patience. Was it just a state of mind? Where did it go?
I have patience with all the other children I come into contact with. My daycare charges could pour a bucket of paint on my kitchen floor, shove one another into it, break my finest china and start biting each other’s legs and I’d hardly bat an eye. And yet my girls get to me. But I’ve stopped beating myself up over it. I’ve started looking at myself in more human terms. I’m not a saint. I’m a regular mom who values gentle discipline and practices it, but whose oldest daughter doesn’t respond positively to much of any kind of discipline and knows how to push my buttons. I have hard days sometimes.
It’s second nature to me to feel drawn to spanking because I was spanked. It’s how I was taught to discipline via what was modeled for me. I should actually feel quite good about myself because I know better and can prevent the unleashing of the mama beast within. But I often wonder, how do other moms deal with this?
Is spanking still so prevalent because most parents can’t restrain themselves? Because they can’t see any other way? Because hurting their children is just easier than the alternative? I know it’s hard. I get it. But I don’t want my kids to grow up remembering feeling confused, hurt, betrayed and/or helplessness like I did. I want my kids to grow up with a mom they can dance with when the music is right. Who will touch my arm when they speak to me, slap my knee in amusement and hug me without effort because hugs and kisses come second nature to who they are.
What are your thoughts on this subject? I’d love to hear them.
Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA. In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.
Are you a Gentle Parent? Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!
Links will become available on the specified day of the Carnival.
Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline
- Gentle Discipline 101 at The Parent Vortex
- The Power of Praise (hint: it’s not what you think) at Mighty Marce
- Golden Rule Parenting at Novel Mama
Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy (coming Tuesday, April 27)
- Choosing Joy at Raising My Boychick
- Making It Fun – The Power of Play at Schmoopy Baby
- Assuming the Best Intentions at Hobo Mama
Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank (coming Wednesday, April 28)
- 50′s Childhood – Guest Poster, Connie at Baby Dust Diaries
- I Have The Urge To Spank But I Choose Not To at Breastfeeding Moms Unite
- Mistakes at Breastfeeding Momma
- Undermining General Beliefs about Corporal Punishment at Authentic Parenting
- Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life
Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment (coming Thursday, April 29)
- A Tiny Word With a Powerful Impact at Little Green Blog
- Parenting a Toddler With Loving Guidance at Little Snowflakes
Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All (coming Friday, April 30)
- A Positive View on Tantrums at Edenwild
- The Terrible Two (and Two Parenting Strategies to Replace Them) a guest post by Code Name: Mama on Good Goog
- Gentle Parenting During Toddler Tantrums at Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense
- Gentle Parenting Ideas from a Toddler’s Perspective at Code Name: Mama
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