Monday, May 5, 2014

To spank or not to spank, that is the question

This past weekend, I received a compliment I've been waiting to hear for years. No, it wasn't on my shoes, clothes or "getting my body back" after baby.
As I was leaving a dinner party, filled with adults and kids, a lady walked up to me and said, "You have the most well behaved kids! They are so polite and have great manners; you're doing such a good job with them."
Similar to Lupita Nyong'o at the Academy Awards, I almost broke down and cried my way through an acceptance speech.
"I'd like to thank..."
But instead, with a sheepish grin, I mumbled together something like, "Oh thanks!"
I would love to say that I did this all without, as Gwyneth would say, "forcefully disciplining" my children. I would love to be a part of the chorus that believes spanking children is not the way to go and the only thing spanking does is create more aggressive, fearful children. But since I've used it on my own children, I won't.
Look, I don't believe that spanking should be the main form of punishment for a child. It shouldn't even be a go-to. What I will say is that I believe there is a right and a wrong way to discipline your children, no matter if you spank them or not.
When I was growing up, both of my parents spanked me. There was a difference, however, in the way that my mother and father carried out that punishment. Now, before I start ratting out both of my parents, I have love and respect for both of them. As an educated adult, I understand their belief that spanking would curb certain behaviors. With that said, my father was a military man. As the main enforcer of punishment, he was often reactionary, with the thought that any misbehavior would self-correct after a good swat.
My mother, on the other hand, took a different approach. She would rarely spank, but when she did, she would often stop the wrongdoing immediately and delay the punishment -- and I always wondered why. I now know the delay was so she could have time to calm down. Spankings with her usually occurred at night, after a long explanation for the reason, so that I fully understood its purpose.
It's not necessarily spankings, or timeouts, or whatever mode of discipline is new right now. What children really need is to be talked to, starting at an early age, even if they don't understand everything right away. Understanding why you are being punished goes a lot further than passing out the punishment.
I have since tried to model my own life with my children, like my mother did with me and my siblings. I'm not going to give future predictions, but judging by the world audience, so far it has worked.

This piece was originally featured on WTOP's Parenting page.
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