The other day, I was sharing mommy war stories with a woman at my volunteer gig. Her son is also two, just a few months older than Pop Culture Toddler, and we were sharing the things we both love and hate about this age. Soon the discussion turned to our least favorite part about the terrible twos – the acts of defiance. The other mom told me that she was running out of discipline options, because neither positive reinforcement nor time-outs nor spanking were working, and before she could complete her thought, she blurted out, “Yes, I believe in spanking!”
This sentiment – feeling defensive about how she chooses to discipline her own child – is something with which I am familiar. More and more, parents who spank for some reason feel like they have to “justify” their actions. It’s not that we think we are wrong – no more so than any other parenting decision, anyway; it’s that many people who are anti-spanking have turned up the rhetoric so much that sometimes it feels as though the second you admit to being pro-spanking, people expect horns to grow out of your head.
I was spanked as a child, as most of my friends were. I am not afraid of my father (the parent who spanked me) nor do I hold any ill will towards him for spanking me. I appreciate and respect the fact that he spanked me. Every spanking I got, I deserved. Although my father’s punishment was in some ways a comedy anecdote [the classic black comedian line about parents/grandparents who punctuated each syllable of their talking-to with another hit of the belt], he never spanked me out of anger. In fact, I usually was warned hours beforehand that a spanking was coming. The psychological element of the spankings – the sheer anticipation of the spanking to come – was often worse than the spanking itself. But neither element was so harmful as to negatively affect my childhood or my adult life.
Regardless of what you feel about the effectiveness or usefulness of spanking or what kind of lessons it does or does not teach to your children, let’s get one thing clear: spanking is not abuse. I have friends who were abused, and I find it insulting and demeaning to the turmoil they suffered when people, caught in their own rhetoric, equate spanking to abuse. Yes, in the wrong hands, used in the wrong way, spanking can be abusive. A verbally abuse parent can make time-outs or even positive reinforcement abusive; that does not make the methods of discipline in and of themselves abusive. And really, that’s my problem with the anti-spanking movement.
Like so many of the Mommy Wars, people feel that in order to justify their own positions, they have to turn up the heat in vilifying the opposite. I am not saying that everyone who is anti-spanking is this way; but certainly some of the most vocal opposition I have seen against spanking goes to this extreme.
Personally, I don’t care how someone disciplines their child as long as it is well-thought, non-abusive and effective. It is truly none of my business.
For myself, I believe in tailoring the punishment to the child. We tried time-outs with Pop Culture Toddler. Unfortunately, like her mother, my child is showing early signs of ADD. One of the side effects of this is that she amuses herself in time-outs. It is utterly the most ineffective punishment for her. Positive reinforcement also only goes so far with her. Really, the most effective thing to date has been spanking. We do not spank often, but we do spank when necessary (or threaten to spank as needed). Fortunately, I do have enough authority that if I begin the countdown to “If you do/do not do x by the count of three, you’re going to get a spanking,” I rarely make it past two.
As Pop Culture Toddler gets older, we will (as my father did) modify her form of discipline to use what works on her. Likewise, with the next Pop Culture Baby, we will cycle through forms of correction until we determine what works for that child, and then modify accordingly for him or her as s/he gets older.
The bottom line is that this decision will be made by my husband and me alone; how we discipline our children is not up for a community vote. If you don’t like spankings or don’t feel they are effective, don’t do them; but like every other parenting decision out there, spare me (and others) your judgment. Just be happy that my child is content, bright and well-mannered.
Yes, I believe in spanking. So what?
Pop Culture Mom, as she is known to us, writes none other than the Pop Culture Mom blog, keeping us updated on Glee and all the pertinent info we need to get by at the water cooler but were just too darn tired to catch ourselves. You can get your fill too — just check her out at Pop Culture Mom, on Facebook, and Twitter.
In our new series of guest blogs, we invite other mommy bloggers to share their points of view on topics where Suzanne and Amanda happen to be on the same side. In this case, Suzanne can appreciate the careful consideration Pop Culture Mom gives to her version of spanking for discipline. She just doesn’t get the same results.