To Spank or Not to Spank….

I promised myself years ago that I would never spank my children. It seemed like such an easy thing–I hated being spanked, and I was positive there were other methods out there that would communicate discipline effectively.

And then, I became a mom.

As my oldest child grows, I admit, we’ve done the spanking routine. I can count the number of actual spankings on my fingers, and I’m not convinced I actually hurt him in any way, because rather than crying or saying “this hurts,” it actually calms him down and seems to, well, work.

And that is the inherent problem–it works. It works when nothing else does. See, my son has always struggled to control his emotions. He has been a very intense child from day one, and as he grew, my husband and I noticed that he has trouble controlling his emotions, both happy and sad ones. He feels everything at its peak–when he’s happy, he is the most exuberant child you will ever meet. And when he’s not, he will kick and scream, throw things, slam doors, growl, you name it. As a two year old, he would even hurt himself. We took him to a nationally known behavioral specialist in Washington, DC when he was two, and she said to do what worked for us. I admitted to her at that time that I had spanked him (only once then), and she said it was okay, that she knew we weren’t going to abuse him, and it was clear to her that we loved him–and after that, we actually managed to avoid spanking for a long time.

Now, however, he is very strong willed, and I get to the point where lately, I don’t know what else to do to keep things sane for both of us. We do time outs, we take away toys, we scold, we put him down for naps, and everything else you can imagine. On one hand, I think, if it works, it works, and I know I would never hurt him. On the other hand, I think, “Everyone at school says how wonderfully behaved he is and how sweet he can be, and they don’t seem to believe me when I say what he can be like at home. The problem MUST BE ME. And they don’t spank at school, and he’s a dream there.”

Thoughts? Advice? Please keep the judgment–on both sides of the issue–off of this space. I’m hoping to open up a discussion on such a controversial topic.


3 thoughts on “To Spank or Not to Spank….

  1. What a private, personal struggle this is–one we all face as parents, I think. Most won’t admit that they do because there is such cultural pressure to have perfect children and with minimal discipline. I find kids to be so different from one another. I have a child that BEGS to be spanked when put into the corner. Spanking, for that child, is quick & somewhat painless–but the corner is AGONY! I think that we must understand as a culture that parenting is always with the end-in-mind–just who you want your children to become one day…and if that contains words like “responsible” and “respectful” then we must understand the role of consequences.

    I would like to suggest an elimination diet if you haven’t tried one, though. We knew food colorings SERIOUSLY altered our kids behavior…but when 1 child was acting like he had food coloring when he hadn’t (he was growing consistently worse, violent, hyper)…we discovered through an elimination diet that it was CORN! When he gets corn, it all comes back. I was shocked to discover just how behavioral food allergies can be.

  2. When our son was 1 1/2 he ran and ran and ran. Fussy eater doesn’t come close to him. anger-closer to rage. Later he bit himself, slammed head on floor, etc. After several docs, among them a behavior specialist, one sent us to our Children’s Hospital for a total (16 specialists) workup which ended in a diagnosis of autism. He went from basically non-verbal at 3 to working in the community at 16. Don’t want to be alarmist, but it’s possible.

  3. Your struggle is something many of us with children have gone through. As other have pointed out…there is no one answer that takes care of it. I have four children and must admit that I am thankful that my wife and I had the pleasure of not going through what has come to be know as the “terrible 2’s”. Like yourself, spanking was not our primary means of getting our children’s attention, however it was used from time to time. Another very good one I used is “pinching”. Yes, it worked wonders because it was an simple act of takign part of my child’s skin and twisting it. They felt it, cried for a couple minutes (if not seconds) but knew they didn’t want another one. Most of our kids are now teenagers and we constantly are complimented on their behavior (even when we are not around them) because it is something that is now instilled in them. Verbal abuse and tantrums were something we didn’t tolerate nor did we participate in it. We showed them respect and encouragement while being fair but firm and it seemed to work wonders. I wish you well.

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