You're parenting wrong.
I parent wrong too. There are a lot of things I've done that have been detrimental to my son. Damage that is permanent. Things I can't undo. Because I wasn't fortunate enough to have somebody tell it like it is. You won't have that excuse.
Today is the day you make changes. Today is the day you come to grips with the evidence and some common sense and today you get honest. Really honest.
You will fail. You will screw up your kids. We all do. We all wing it. We all fall short of some parenting perfection that shames us into thinking we didn't deserve to reproduce to begin with. But this? This is something you CAN get right. These are the steps you can take today that will knock that shame sideways and offer you some reprieve from the gut wrenching guilt default of parenting.
You can do this. And if you don't, you are doing parenting wrong. And it will be deliberate. So suck it up like its the lime chaser on the cheap tequila you downed in college and fix this.
Stop hitting your kids.
You can call it discipline, rearing, training, spanking or any other sugar coated culturally palatable word you like. But stop it. It's not effective. It's not alright. It's not permitted. Not anymore. Not in your home. Because your child has rights. Rights you must respect. Rights you must defend. Rights you, as the parent, are responsible for.
No child deserves to be hit. Ever. And so many are. So many children are hit by parents that not striking them seems weird. It's a generational norm. A practice so primitive it can be traced to the ancients. The use of physical pain to control others into submission forced instant obedience and became the modern man's preference for conflict resolution*. Used legally on slaves, spouses and children, corporal punishment is considered just another tool in the toolbox to bring order to a home.
You were likely spanked by your parents. So was your best friend. Your boss, your spouse, your mechanic. Odds are, all were spanked. 90% of the adults you pass on the street were hit in their homes under the guise of discipline. You probably believe this is okay. 8 out of 10 people agree with you. Most people think it's completely appropriate to hit children and that is exactly what most parents do.
Parenting is stressful. It's really really hard to do. Lack of sleep, money, time, food - luxuries we grew accustomed to seem to vanish at the sight of kids. Sure, it's worth it, but that doesn't stop us from feeling the pressure. The overwhelming daunting burden of having another human being totally dependent on you. And stress can render our frontal lobe useless. Decisions that are easier often get put on the top of the list. So even if you believed you wouldn't ever lash out in anger or frustration, even if you thought you'd never spank, you do. You hit your kids.
Who do we hit? Babies. 6 month old infants are spanked. 6 months old. And then? 1 in 10 babies at 9 months are hit by their parents. We hit infants, toddlers, preschoolers. We hit children before they reach puberty and while they are teens. We hit them before they can speak.
I'm not exactly sure what a child who likely can't walk yet has done to merit the premeditated infliction of pain upon them, but I do know that infant is in rapid cognitive development and milestones include fear of strangers, mimicking behavior, clinging to what is familiar and generally getting the hang of sitting up straight. Not really a great poster child for trouble makers.
This is the age separation anxiety persists. The time in a child's life when they need constant reassurance that they are safe and secure. The age trust takes shape. When they lean on tables and crawl through doors to explore. When they venture into independence and risk the first "no". And we reward their coming of age with punishment. We put them in their place. What a shame.
Do you know what happens when you hit an infant? You hit them harder and more often as a toddler. Why? Because it doesn't work as discipline. It is only effective in eliminating behavior through fear - in that instant. In other words, it stops an action but offers no direction. If you utilize corporal punishment to achieve an outcome, you will have no choice but to use it again because the actions will repeat. And you will be more likely to fail at tempering any line you've drawn.
Do you know how hard you are hitting your child? You don't. You can't know. This is basics physics. The force you feel when the back of your hand hits your child's behind will be minimal to the force inflicted. It doesn't hurt you more than it hurts him. Not even close. If you spank your child in frustration, anger or annoyance, you will hit harder. In a situation where you are attempting to gain control of another, your dominance will be reflected in the strength you exert.
And what of the calm, collected "rod of discipline" so many parents implement? What follows is actual instruction on how to hit a child. Riddled with inconsistent contradictions, it is detailed guidance on the willful, deliberate, mindful act of intentionally harming your child with a household instrument:
"When you spank, use a wooden spoon or some other appropriately sized paddle and flick your wrist. That's all the force you need. It ought to hurt — an especially difficult goal for mothers to accept — and it's okay if it produces a few tears and sniffles. If it doesn't hurt, it isn't really discipline, and ultimately it isn't very loving because it will not be effective in modifying the child's behavior...You want to be calm, in control, and focused as you firmly spank your child, being very careful to respect his body."
Respect? Someone needs a dictionary. That's not an excerpt of the abuse laden book "To Train Up A Child". Although, it is certainly as horrifying. That came straight from Focus On The Family, a 501c3 generating millions in revenue through their reach to families. They are the words of a man named Chip Ingram, whose television broadcast has reached more than 34 million households in the U.S. alone. They proudly advise parents to purposefully draw tears as an act of love, acknowledging the cognitive dissonance a mother will experience in order to inflict the pain. Completely unnecessary pain.
This kind of authoritarian parenting stems from an archaic belief that respect is derived through fear. (It isn't). That shame culture works. (It doesn't). It comes from the idea that the role of the parent is one of power and control, where punitive punishments are used to threaten and intimate children into submission. Is this what you want for your family? Is that your goal? For your child to fear you? To what end?
There is a reason physical punishment is no longer tolerated as means to reign in others. It isn't used on adults in our justice system, military or place of business. Battery is a crime - unless it's done in our home. Children are the only citizens we are legally allowed to hit.
And it flies in the face of the recommendations and policies put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, The Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, The American Humane Association, The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, The American Public Health Association, The American Psychoanalytical Association, The National Association of School Psychologists, UNICEF and the United Nations.
These policy statements are in place because these organizations have studied the evidence. Corporal punishment does not work. And anyone, no matter how well intentioned, claiming the opposite has at best failed to see the research and at worse, deliberately denied the results to further indoctrinate their followers. Your pastor, your father, your sister, your best friend - it makes no difference who encourages you to spank, they are not working with facts. They are appealing to an argument from tradition. Parents spank because they were spanked. You believe you turned out okay, so you think it's necessary to hit your children. And then you wait and watch as they hit your grandchildren. It has to end.
Do you know what happens to your child when you hit them? Their brains get damaged. Cognitive development slows and anti social behavior increases. Evidence shows that hitting our children is ineffective, counter productive and harmful to their development and society as a whole. This is not a debate, it is a consensus in the scientific community. There is not one peer reviewed journal that endorses or advocates the use of corporal punishment on children. Not one*.
Studies you've seen advocating for corporal punishment are flawed in methodology, not peer reviewed and filled with fallacies. There are anecdotal articles, personal blogs, religious doctrines and fabricated facts all over the internet. And you can continue to use them to justify these actions.
Or you can make a difference and save a child from this barbaric custom. Your child. Today. You can vow to never again hit your kids. That's what Jordan did.
Jordan and I met on a Facebook discussion about spanking. He conceded to spanking his son only as a last measure and final extreme. The "nuclear option". So we talked and talked and shared our views and Jordan did what a lot of very smart people do: He read the research. He listened. He gauged his decision making on the very best options for his children. And he vowed never to spank his children again. Saying this:
So we exchanged info and that night I visited Jordan's Instagram account. And I cried. Hard. Because there on that site were images of a child that will never again feel the blow of his father's hand. He will never again have to wrestle with the wonder of how being hit by his parents makes any sense. I looked at the face of that little boy and wept. It was pure, unimaginable joy. My heart was full. Two children (and third to come) will never again be hit by their father. Let that sink in.
Now, I am by no means a perfect parent. None of us are. I battle every day with patterns I learned and habits to break. Some of it comes from the way I was raised, most of it can and has changed. In our home, we've struggled much with the raising of our voice. Times I've yelled to be heard. Which obviously doesn't work. So I reached out for support and learned techniques that keep me assertive without the screams. And it's working. (Wine helps. - I'm kidding).
The point is, we all fail our kids. And that's why it's so important that we help each other. That we work together to educate and eradicate what we, as a society, will no longer tolerate. For ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our communities.
I am confident the day will come when corporal punishment will be a distant memory, a blight in our history, a time we didn't know better. Laws will protect our children. We will live on globe where the norm has changed.
But you can start right away. Please. Please. Stop hitting your child. Today.
Resources to help you:
- Parenting Beyond Punishment: The No Spank Challenge & Quick Start & Resource Guide
- Dealing With Your Own Big Emotions About Spanking by Sheena Hill
- Aha Parenting Discipline Guide
- Positive Parenting Solutions: Free Quick Start Guide & 9 Things To Do Instead Of Spanking
- The Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children including case studies and results from nations that have banned the practice
- Demystifying The Defenses of Corporal Punishment, Straus. Excerpt on NoSpank
Additional Resources & Recommended Research:
- An evidenced based approach on the consequences of spanking from Parenting Science's Gwen Dewar
- A comprehensive look at decades of research on corporal punishment from Evolutionary Parenting, including citations and sources.
- Elizabeth Gershoff: Report on Physical Punishment in the United States; What Research Tells Us About Its Effects On Children.
- Murray Straus: Primordial Violence, A Definitive Case Against Spanking
- The Fallacies of Pro Spanking Science: A Point-by-Point Rebuttal to the Apologetics of Two Pediatricians by Tom Johnson
- An evaluation of the arguments regarding corporal punishment from Science Based Medicine's Clay Jones.
- James D Dwyer: Parental Entitlement and Corporal Punishment
*It is worth noting that other primates utilize diplomacy over punishment.
*Holden's study found parents strike their children without warning and most often from frustration or anger. He also found that parents under-report the number of times they spank.
*Those who cite Larzelere's skepticism and meta data analysis should note that Larzelere did not advocate corporal punishment and sought additional research. His analysis showed that physical and other punitive punishment did in fact correlate with poorer outcomes in children. In addition, the findings supported utilizing the mildest form of discipline possible and acknowledged parents may fail at selection. Responses to Larzelere can be found by Durrant and Christopher Dugan, M.A.
Thumbnail of LDG by StudioKMR - all rights reserved.