I Am Going to Beat it Out of You!

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I had a question the other day, about reconciling your past with how you discipline your kids. Specifically, the question came from a woman whose parents were angry people who severely punished for minor infractions and now with her own children she can feel that anger building up inside of her. She struggles with the spank or not to spank question.

This is a complicated, multiple issue question.

My own parents loved to spank. With belts, spoons, cutting boards, hands, tree branches, whatever they could find. The avoidance of pain is a great motivator. For them, it was a useful tool.

My father also had a terrible temper. He threw a slide projector across the room because it jammed. He broke a coffee table down the middle because of…hell, I can’t remember why. It was always touch and go to see what mood dad was in when he got home from work, particularly if you had been marked for corporal punishment.

Just you wait until your father gets home!

My mother yelled. A lot. Granted, she was a stay at home mom with a passel of kids. She had reason to yell, probably. But in response, we yelled. We yelled at her, we yelled at each other.

Our house was full of anger. To this day, none of us really like each other much.

My last spanking from my father was at age thirteen, with a belt, because I gave my mother a sour look when I was told I could only have one donut at church. I was never allowed donuts. I loved donuts, all of that greasy, glazed goodness. Just one more! There were dozens left that no one was going to eat!

After that, punishments were more creative. At the end of my junior in high school I had to write 1,000 times “I will listen to my mother.” This was because a good male friend of mine gave me a hug. He had graduated that night and was heading to the Naval Academy. We weren’t dating. We were just friends. But it incensed my mother. It took me a week because the sentences had to be legible to count. At least it wasn’t spanking. After a spanking, I seethed with anger and hate for days. This… I realized that I wasn’t angry so much about it, even if it was outrageous. And it was effective. You can bet I never hugged a guy in front of my mother again. I hugged. Just not in front of her.

Then I became a parent.

I decided that I would not spank my own kids. I wanted to try to teach them out of love, hoping to help them understand grace as they grew up. That was my plan.

Yet, one day my son pushed all of my buttons. He would not stay in time out. He was defying me at every turn. Yelling at him was not working. So I spanked him. I was so angry, I wanted it to hurt. It felt good for a second as he started to cry.

Then, I was horrified. I was a monster.

I had become my parents.

There are a lot of things to be said about spanking. Research shows a higher level of anxiety and a lower IQ in kids that are spanked. Many pro-spanking people want to dispute these things. Meh.

Bottom line, I found that spanking for me was not out of love. It was out of anger. It did not help my kids. They were not safer or happier or kinder as a result. It did not help me. It only made me more angry.

So I don’t spank.

We have behavior charts. They earn stars for tasks and behaviors and can cash those in for prizes. We use time outs for bad behaviors. I work hard to publicly praise them when they do something right or demonstrate a good trait like sharing or kindness. I don’t yell. I get down at their eye level and talk to them calmly when it is serious.

This is not because I am a fantastic parent who has read tons of literature on the subject. Oh, no. Everything I learned about parenting I learned from the TV show Super Nanny. Don’t laugh. It was a brilliant show.

So far, they are turning out well, these kids. They are respectful… most of the time. They behave and follow directions… most of the time. They are kind… most of the time.

Of course, they are not teenagers yet. It will be many years before I release my masterpieces on the world (hence the Sistine Chapel picture…I snuck it on my phone when the official shushers weren’t looking since they don’t allow photography and I never learned to follow rules despite the spankings…those paintings are rife with delicious irony!). I still may have screwed them up irreparably before it is all said and done. There is certain to be some delicious irony concealed in those little brains, just waiting to burst forth to pay me back. Only time will tell!

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22 thoughts on “I Am Going to Beat it Out of You!

  1. My father gave me a hell of a spanking at 4.5 years old over something relatively trivial. He and my mother held that over me to make a good, biddable daughter until I was 13.5 and my father told me I wasn’t too old to put me over his knee and spank me. I looked him in the eye and told him that if he ever tried that again, I would walk out the house and not come back. Ever. He knew I meant what I said and never raised that threat to me again. I HATE spanking – how would we feel if a small person hit us – we’d be livid, but we – big people – think it’s okay to hit a small person who can’t defend themselves. It took me a long, long time to get over that control feature as a kid and even today I shake with anger when people say spanking/hitting a kid is okay. It’s NOT, it’s adult bullying.

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  2. I grew up with an abusive stepfather, he typically took his rage out of my fragile mother, but I was determined not to be like him. I chose not to spank my children as well. Like you, I had a moment of breakdown and spanked my son. It was not discipline, I was angry. I threw up afterwards and cried for days. To this day there is a lump in my throat when I recall the way I felt in that moment.

    My children are kind, compassionate, respectful . . . I’d like to take credit for at least some of that.

    I went through a yelling stage though, I had four young ones, two with developmental disabilities and I was overwhelmed. One day we were all yelling and I heard it for the first time. Again, I was sick.

    I don’t believe spanking is an effective tool in raising our children to become loving, independent, confident members of society. You can often tell which children live with corporal punishment and those who don’t.

    Now, I look at my children and they are amazing young adults who know I loved them and cared enough to discipline them rather than punish them, to use spanking moments as teaching moments.

    I wish more people could understand there is a difference between the two . . .

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  3. I see spanking as a valid tool. This will probably get me flamed, but there it is. Like all tools, it isn’t the only tool.

    We raised three children, and I don’t ever remember swatting our daughter. I remember vividly that each son was spanked exactly twice in eighteen years. Spanking is a tool.

    When older brother shoved little brother’s head in a culvert and sliced his cheek open, he was punished. It didn’t happen again, and neither did the punishment.

    Some things are life threatening, and when children don’t listen you have to drive the point home. Things like traffic, venomous snakes, or the creepy man who wants them to come inside for ice cream. Tell them first, of course, but in these circumstances they must listen. A spanking is a lot more kind than a visit to the ER or the cemetary.

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    • This is a valid point, but in your case you used it sparingly and not as a primary form of punishment. And probably not so much in anger as in fear… Fear for safety. So glad you commented!!!

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      • I was a wreck for days afterward, but I couldn’t tell them that. Afterward, when dad spoke the kids listened.

        I always preceded spanking with a verbal warning. They had to earn the corporal punishment.

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      • This may be too personal of a question but I am curious how you were disciplined. How was spanking handled for you growing up? Did you feel you had an angry home growing up or did you feel loved and cherished? I think in my own experience it was the anger component that made it so abhorrent and I see that in many of the other comments here.

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      • No problem at all. There were limited times that my parents tanned my hide. It wasn’t often, and (of course) I never agreed with it. I developed a healthy respect for the opinions of my parents.

        They are in their 80s today, and I speak with them weekly, even though we live in different states. We remain very close.

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      • I think it’s a combination of the whole. This goes along with other life lessons that cannot be learned via time out.

        Boys learn about having a big mouth by meeting someone on the playground after school. This is better learned at five than fifteen, because fifteen year olds can inflict serious damage.

        I’m not a believer in participation trophies either. We learn more from our losses and are driven to improve. As an adult, I can relate to my folder of rejection letters. I may have developed self improvement from little league baseball.

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      • Nope. I don’t like participation trophies, either. I want my kids to experience heart ache and loss now while I can help them through it, instead of creating fragile adults who fall apart at the slightest challenge to their self esteem. Thanks for letting me pick your brain!

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  4. My parents threatened to spank but rarely did. I used to swat my niece and nephews from time to time, but then I adopted my son. We had to agree to not spank him.

    I did once, though. And he deserved it. We were on vacation in Switzerland and he was being a complete beast. (He was 11). He was back talking and being rude to us for no real reason. We were on our hotel balcony looking at the Eigrr, when he started again. “Jacob,” I said, “if you speak to me like that again, I swear I will smack you.”

    Well what if I duck?” he said in the same exact tone.

    I smacked him. Once.

    He stopped speaking to me in that tone. Well, at least for the rest of the trip.

    He is now an. Adult and is a sweet young man.

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