The majority of the people I chat with on Twitter are parents like me, so I see a lot of tweets about how hard it is to care for these little monsters we call our kids. Most of the time I smile and nod knowingly as I read these tweets, but from time to time tweets cross my stream that I find a bit unsettling… mainly because they talk about using corporal punishment to discipline kids.
Corporal punishment can be found in both Heather’s and my family history. My Dad, for example, tells a story about going to the circus as a kid and buying a replica lion tamer whip as a souvenir. Upon getting the whip home it was promptly commandeered by his mother who would wave it in the air as a threat when my Dad and his siblings acted up, and, on occasion, smack them with it when they were really bad. After one such occasion my uncle Pete is said to have quipped, “You had to have got the whip, Tony? You couldn’t have just got a stuffed lion or something?”
For Heather’s Mom it wasn’t a whip but something found in the kitchen. “Bring me the pancake turner,” her grandmother would say when the kids got in trouble. Then, once she had the pancake turner in hand, she would proceed to flatten her grandkid’s behinds with it.
One generation later, corporal punishment was still being used in Heather’s and my family. All of our parents used spanking to discipline, but they used it more sparingly than their parents had. Heather’s Dad, upon reflecting on having done this, said “It wasn’t my kids failure as much as my own,” especially when it was done out of anger or frustration. I think that shows a lot of self-reflection on his part, and also that the times have changed a lot on this issue.
Don’t get me wrong… parenting is a very hard job, and kids quickly learn to push our buttons. Even Annie is already starting to do it! In these moments smacking your kid is one way to take control of the situation, but there are other ways, and those are the ones I am going to use.
For me, there are two main reasons for this:
- If you hit your kids to teach discipline, they are likely going to grow up to hit others instead of talking out their problems. And…
- Some of my clearest memories of my childhood are the times I got spanked or slapped, and I don’t want Annie’s clearest memory of me thirty years from now to be a time I raised a hand to her.
Where do you stand on this issue? Am I unfairly maligning corporal punishment as a parenting tool?