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Spanking: the five-fingered attitude adjustment method

August 24, 2014 The Wine Time Dad 0 Comments Category : , , , ,

The situation

She was standing there just slapping her arm with a look that said, "I'm hitting myself but it doesn't hurt. See? See? See?!?" I was not amused at her little test. Then, as if on cue, she lies on the ground, face down and affects a fake cry. Sympathy garnering at its finest.

I usually just walk away. Unless she really gets angry and becomes a potential danger to herself. Often, tripping over things or throwing herself at dangerous objects. Mission accomplished! The mini manipulator has made me feel sorry for her. I now have to pick her up to make sure she's alright. It's a constant reminder of who's actually in control.

Before this particular episode, she'd slapped me in the face, because I'd taken away a crayon that se was eating. Her immediate rage and violent outburst followed.

After the slap, she put on her "O face", surprising herself at smacking me. I shout and briefly entertain the thought of a spanking, but that's not my style. I look at her and repeat my mantra, "Hitting hurts," then under my breath, "you little shit." She slaps me again. I give her the evil eye, put her down and walk away. Which brings us back to where we started at the top.

My thought process on the situation

What parent doesn't consider corporal punishment, from time to time? Even for non-spankers, it crosses the mind. Instead, I point an admonishing finger in face, which is both confusing and comical to her, because she laughs.

Usually, I try to start with open dialogue, "Dearest child, why do you keep doing that? It's like you've been preprogrammed to do the opposite of everything I tell you. Just listen to me and you'll be better off. Why am I even talking to you? You hardly understand human speech."

As you can imagine, this dialogue has a low success rate but it gives me time to process my emotions. Also, I believe I'm killing two birds with one stone. Distraction being one bird and showering my pre-social toddler with language being the other. Language development is important.

However, when this tactic doesn't work and the mutual red mist starts to build, I reconsider. I could yell at her and then spank her. Not hard, mind you, just a swat. I'd be justified. Other parents, who aren't bad people, have spanked their kids for less. There are plenty of well adjusted kids running around who have been dealt with this way. They may even recall, fondly, the swats they got from their elders.

Yet, a brief recap of the last 25 minutes tells me that these options are my last resort, a response to a situation that I've caused. I've been ignoring her, and the behavior is a result of me not addressing her needs. At 20+ months old, her temper tantrums are not her fault, they're mine.

The only sensible thing to do is to stop what I'm doing, take stock of the situation, and try to re-direct her anger. This seems to burn off energy for both of us. After which, we can return to where we were before with renewed vigor. Even if my eggs are now over done.

No corporal punishment was needed.

Is this the best approach to dealing with temper tantrums and bad behavior? Hell if I know. Maybe some kids need to be smacked. And, maybe I'll revisit this topic as my daughter gets older and she acts with intention. But, for now, if I need to strike my child as a viable method of discipline, I'd want to meet some criteria first:
  • Is this spanking a direct result of your anger and frustration?
  • Is there something your child has been trying to communicate to you that you've been ignoring, or are they just pushing your buttons?
  • In pushing your buttons, is there some aspect of their care that you're neglecting?
  • Have you honestly exhausted all other methods of discipline?
  • Are you absolutely calm and in the right frame of mind to administer corporal punishment, i.e. not just hitting your child to relieve anger?
  • Will this method instruct or modify behavior in the long run, or is it just a means to an end, i.e. hitting a reset button (pun intended)?
  • In conjunction with the last one, is this a lesson or is this just punishment? 
If I answered negatively to all of these, then I suppose more aggressive discipline is called for.

In the meantime, I should clarify a few things.

First, my tot's not even two, which means no impulse control and barely understands reality. She also doesn't realize that hitting others causes pain. She'll learn, hopefully by repeated efforts of my good example, but hitting her isn't going to bring that eventual understanding to her.

You can't beat understanding into a child like you can fear.

Secondly, shouting doesn't establish control, it only increases the general chaos. And, since she lacks the necessary verbal skills to effectively communicate, a violent reaction on her part is really the only way she knows how to get her point across. As the adult, I believe it's my responsibility to be aware of this.

You could justify your actions in the spirit of discipline and "what works", decrying the accusation that you never hit your child out of anger, but you'd be lying. In reality, your child disobeyed, crossed the line, so you needed to make a point. There's no lesson, you're punishing them, and that's the point isn't it? You don't really need to teach them a lesson or engage their behavior, that open palm did the trick. No need to mess with what works.

One final thing

Now, before I let you go, I'll give you the opportunity to tell me to fuck off.

While I have read a little bit on this subject and I'm nebulously aware of some facts and studies on abuse, I can't quote figures off the top of my head, but neither do I give a shit. As you've probably guessed, my mind was made up long before I wrote this rambling blog post. Even after exploring a frequent episode like the one at the beginning, a pretty tame example, I've never raised my hand to my daughter. I won't even do it in the future when her transgressions are more escalated and premeditated. I just wanted to explore the process with you and let you know that I do understand the sentiment that pushes parents over the edge. Shit.. Kids drive you crazy but it's no reason to hit 'em.


Just a few caveats and an addendum:

Like I said, very little research was done before going on this diatribe, but it's not like I didn't read anything before stumbling down the long-winded stairs of verbosity. 

I did find this article to be pretty informative, which had further links to other materials I found useful. Especially this bullshit, here, and that codswallop there. 

Sadly, I didn't peruse the pro-spanking blogosphere, but maybe I will for a future post..

Also, I didn't cover any demographic. Like how corporal punishment is more often found in homes with parents of lower incomes and lesser education, which makes it statistically higher within the African American community. Surprisingly, another demographic that generally supports corporal punishment is fundamental Christians. There's got to be some interesting prosing one could do about a group of people that is generally against abortion but supports corporal punishment parenting. Of course, a true apologist would know that for the red herring it is. Either way, I avoid such polemics because I'm not a professional, I'm just a parent with computer and access to the internet. How's that for privilege?