I Don’t Believe in Spanking

Posted on | January 20, 2012 | 16 Comments

Last night, I got frustrated with my son.  He wouldn’t go to sleep, wouldn’t stop talking, wouldn’t stop asking for “just one more hug, Momma.”  And there was basketball to be watched, and dishes to wash and floors to clean and a mound of laundry that needed sorting and washing and well, you get the picture.  I had things to do.  I had things I’d rather be doing than lying next to my very sleepy son and telling him for the fiftieth time that no, it was not time to get up.

But I laid there until he fell asleep, listening as his breathing slowed to a soft inhale and exhale of dreams… because that’s what I do.  I’m his mother. He’s my world.

This morning, I woke up when a small, two year old leg kicked me in the face.  He was still asleep, just trying to get closer to me, trying to worm his way just a tiny bit closer to the warmth on my side of the bed.  Because that’s what he does… he’s two.  I’m his world.

And not for the first time, I wondered what kind of person intentionally hurts a child.  I wondered, as I lifted his leg and tucked it back on his side of the bed, what it takes to believe that hitting your child is the right answer, the right solution, the right punishment.   I’m not a spanker.  I was never spanked when I was a child and I have a hard time believing that spanking is ever the proper solution to any problem. 

If you remember, I popped J on the leg last summer.  I wrote about it once.  I did it several times.  But you know what? I popped him because I was stressed and sad and tired.  I popped him because that was the easiest thing I could think of to do.  I popped his little leg because I didn’t have the energy to explain to him, again, that what he was doing was wrong.  And I think that’s what spanking boils down to.  I think that spanking is the easy way out, the quick solution, the “mute” button of parenting.  

It’s easy to lash out.

It’s easy to spank and pop and move on.

And you know what? Parenting is not supposed to be easy.

I do not believe it is possible to teach my child how to handle the problems that life will throw at him with dignity and grace if I resort to the easy way out when I am faced with a problem.  I do not believe that I can pop and spank and threaten violence towards my child and hope to raise anything other than a son who believes that when all else fails, resort to swinging punches.

It’s easy to pop him on his leg when he kicks me.  It’s hard to explain to him why kicking is wrong.

It’s easy to pop his hand when he takes a toy or hits a friend.  It’s hard to walk him through the right way to deal with his frustration and anger.

I don’t want to take the easy way out when it comes to parenting.  I don’t want my hands to do anything other than soothe and love and care for my son… I don’t want my hands to ever be a source of fear or a threat of punishment.

So as I lay there and moved J’s little leg again and again from my face or neck or the space between my arm and the bed, I reminded myself that this is what I do.  This is my most important job.  This is the person I never want to let down.  I cuddled him close and whispered to him that I love him, kissing the tip top of his curly head and praying, as I so often do, for more patience with him.  Because I don’t want to take the easy way out. 

This is the kind of parent I am to my child.  You can be whatever kind of parent you choose to be.  But as for me? I’m J’s mother. 

And he’s too important to me to take the easy way out.

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  • Anonymous

    For the record — I completely agree with you about not spanking. I don’t intend to do it ever, I don’t think it’s the best way to get through to a child.

    That being said, I don’t think parents who lightly spank their kids are doing so to cause physical pain to their children any more than people who adhere to time-outs are doing so to cause *emotional* pain. The point of any kind of discipline is to make them uncomfortable and unhappy so that they realize that doing the right thing is preferable in the future.

    My biggest concern with spanking is that it always have the potential to turn into something bigger and more physical. And I don’t want to entertain the idea that violence solves problems — although I was spanked as a kid and I never made that leap. So I don’t intend to go there — ever. But my daughter is super-emotional and a bit of a drama queen, so I think time-outs and taking away privileges will be effective for her [I hope, she’s just entering the terrible 2’s now]. But I know my kid isn’t every kid, and I hesitate to pass judgement too quickly.

    • Law Momma

      Agreed. I should have specified that my thoughts on “intentionally hurting a child” were separate from my thoughts on spanking. They just lead me to the spanking thoughts. You’re right, it’s not the same.

  • Steph

    Hmmm… I don’t know what to say about this because I have several friends who spank and I was raised with appropriate spanking and I don’t see it at all as an easy way out. The people I know who use it appropriately use it more often when their children are younger, as a way to get their child’s attention. My son is 15 months, and I have, on a few occasions, slapped his hand to get his attention when he was about to go into meltdown mode. It helped him focus his attention back on me, so I could show him what behavior was inappropriate. This being said… I think there’s an age when spanking just becomes hitting your kid because you’re frustrated. I don’t know if it will have much of a purpose in our household when my son and I can talk to each other and communicate… but until then, used appropriately, it is fine for me and for us. I respect your opinion that it’s not the right choice for you, however. I just would say that I don’t necessarily think it’s accurate to say that it’s the easy way out. I actually put a lot of thought into how to discipline my son at this age because it is hard to explain to a person who doesn’t understand you that what they’re doing is not acceptable. We also tried putting him in a “time-out” of sorts in his pack n’ play, but he didn’t understand and would continue to get so hysterical in there that the original miniscule problem was completely exacerbated. Getting his attention with a swat to the hand has proven very useful and really helped us re-focus his attention on positive behavior rather than negative.

  • kreeper611

    I do believe in spanking. I also think that some people don’t, and that is ok. But I don’t think spanking is taking the easy way out. The is a difference between spanking and abusing/beating your child. It isn’t a “quick fix.”

    But I could just as easily say that you’re taking the easy route by allowing your son to sleep with you. But that is your choice, and I’m not judging.

    • Lawmomma77

      Oh I’m DEFINITELY taking the easy way out by allowing him to sleep with me. It’s got to change… you’re right. :) But… not yet.

      • aim

        Sleeping with your kid isn’t an “easy way out”. It was something I chose to do until my children didn’t want to/need to. It was the way everyone in the house got the most sleep (so i guess, yes, thats easier). It was sweet and wonderful, and I still miss it a bit. Both of my kids were able and wanted to sleep alone by somewhere between 2 and 3, which was perfect. I imagine when you are a working mom, its also a reconnect time.

  • http://www.adayinmollywood.com molly

    Awww, well, you were going through a lot. It seems like when we lose our patience we often have outside things that are filling our minds making it almost impossible to make the right decision in disciplining!

    I don’t spank my children either. I just don’t want my hands to be anything other than loving. I want my children to know that I have control over my emotions. I think that is the best way to teach our children. They watch everything we do and if they constantly see us lashing out the wrong way, my guess is, they will too.

  • Wendy

    Chip Ingram does a great presentation on spanking, if anyone is interested. He is an advocate, but teaches parents how to do it correctly.

  • MaconMom

    Thank you so very much for writing this! I couldn’t agree more.

    There is no gray area for me.

    Hitting is hitting and that is the bottom line.

    I so appreciate your blog and how it gives me what I need to keep going and reminds me why I do it.

    Thanks!

    • MaconMom

      Let me preface this (a little late) by stating I worked in the field of abuse, neglect, foster care, fatality review board for many years. There is no gray area for me (too many faces pop in my head). No child should be hit..ever (or neglected, emotionally, or sexually abused)…back to the blog
      You meet one child who has experienced pain (yes, spanking hurts) at the hand, object in the hand of the person who is supposed to keep him/her safe and the gray area disappears. (for me and my heart anyway)

  • Anonymous

    I think you’re right in saying that the “easy” ways is spanking and moving on even though I do spank my children!

    For me, true discipline involves many facets and my son never gets a spanking without me also explaining why he is getting the punishment. We also only give a spanking for deliberate disobedience. There’s a huge difference between deliberate disobedience and childish antics. If he’s just being a child but it’s something we don’t want him to do then we explain why the behavior is not appropriate and redirect.

    Different things work for different kids. Time out does not work for our oldest and who knows what will work for our youngest!

  • beachmum

    As a teacher, I can tell you I deal first hand with the ‘result’ of parents who want to take the easy way out. Sure, parents get overwhelmed, stressed out and are often at their wit’s end. It’s not always easy to do the right thing. But I think you were spot on when you said that parenting is not supposed to be easy. Most of the kids I teach have been parented to expect to be catered to the minute they open their mouths (easier than actually taking the time to teach them manners, the concept of waiting or actually taking the time to have a ‘teachable moment’ to instill a shred of independence in them.
    As a teacher, I deal with kids who were parented by what we like to call the “Kmart syndrome”- you know, the one where a screaming child in the midst of a tantrum either a)gets the toy or b) gets the bejesus slapped out of them by the parent who thinks it’s the easiest and fastest way to get their kid to shut up.
    No, parenting is not easy. Not everyone has the golden answers, and every child is different and will respond to different methods of discipline.
    As a teacher I wish more parents would realize that children are not like puppies- all cute and cuddly when they’re little then a shit load of work as they grow up (if you want to bother). As a teacher I wish more parents would take time (it doesn’t take much) to pay attention to their kid’s needs. Most kids act out (past the toddler stage) because they need something. They act out usually as a cry for attention. Being a parent isn’t easy. period. Too bad they wouldn’t teach THAT in sex ed class.

  • BetsySeale

    Hitting teaches hitting. I think spanking is wrong. Another great post Karen.

  • Anonymous

    I agree. I can’t ever advocated hitting a child. Because that is what it is. Hitting a child.

  • Kitty B

    Love the post! I might need to get new friends, though. If I so much as breathed a single thought in this post I’d probably get mauled. :) Glad you go so much positive reponse to this brave and thoughtful article.

  • http://www.elatedexhaustion.com/ Julia

    Thank you for such a beautiful post! I do not believe in spanking wither. It is just common sense. How do you teach a child “we do not hit” by hitting them? Children learn by modeled behavior, and modeling violence, even in the guise of discipline, is not actually teaching. My thoughts on not spanking are very clear, and I am so glad to see it expressed here in such an eloquent way. Thank you for all of your thoughtful words!

  • Creative Commons License
    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
    Based on a work at http://www.law-momma.com.



  • I'm a divorced, single mom to a pre-schooler, a full-time attorney, and a semi-reluctant vegetarian. I work hard and when given the chance, I play hard... but I'm almost never given the chance.

    It's possible that I never outgrew 7th grade mentality, as I still laugh when anyone says anything that can be remotely construed as sexual. Let's face it, if you're not down with "That's what s/he said" at the end of almost any sentence, we're probably not going to get along all that well.

    I drink more than I should, I run more than I should, and I laugh as much as I can. So I'm pretty much winning at life.

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