For what feels like the 1,000th time this week my
4-year-old daughter crossed her arms over her chest, pushed out her lower lip
and issued a defiant, "No!"
It might sound cute to someone not acquainted with the delicate
negotiations required to get a kid fed, brushed, dressed and ready for
preschool all before 8 a.m., but I can wholeheartedly assure
you that, after weeks of dealing with Violet's newfound delight in seeing just
how far she can push me until I break, it is anything but. Rage blooms
throughout my body, razoring easily through patience long since worn thin and
ultimately strangling the loftiest of motherly intentions.
Before we had children my husband and I agreed that ours
would be a no-spanking home. We both grew up under the reign of single moms who
didn’t hesitate to wield power or demand obedience by virtue of a raised hand
or wooden spoon. With distinct memories of what it's like to be on the business
end of an angry hand, both of us feel like spankings are not a weapon we'd like
to store in our parenting arsenal.
That doesn't mean the impulse doesn't thunderbolt through
our systems every now and again. There are times, like this morning, when I'm
left floundering for the appropriate response to my child and a swift smack on
the ass almost feels justified. Particularly when my most menacing "angry mom
voice" accompanied with "scary face" does nothing but inspire smirks. My brain
spins out of control and the urge to grab my daughter and swat her adorable behind
fills my entire being.
There are those who subscribe to the theory that kids need
a good spanking every now and again, but I just don't see it. How I can teach my daughter that violence is
never the answer if I use it as my own answer? The temptation to spank usually only strikes me when I've lost control
of a situation and am not in full possession of my best parenting faculties, which
I think we can all agree is pretty much the worst possible moment to issue a
When all parenting tools have failed me and my daughter is laughing at my efforts to bend her to my will; that is the second when the entirety of my parenting legacy hangs in the balance.
Those of us who were spanked have recalled those moments and the distinct emotions that color those memories of childhood. Mostly fear, right? And, if you were spanked at an older age, shame and then, eventually, anger eclipsed the fear.
Fear. Shame. Anger.
Three emotions I don't want my kids to feel and especially
don't want to be the cause of within the little hearts and minds I'm working so
hard to raise to be strong and happy.
It is in that moment after the yelling has done no good—before
I lose control and deliver a swat to the backside—that I come to the decision
that will define my motherhood, at least to me. Because, when all parenting
tools have failed me and my daughter is laughing at my efforts to bend her to
my will; that is the second when the
entirety of my parenting legacy hangs in the balance.
But, after years in the parenting trenches my response
almost comes naturally now. Almost. Using hands or wooden spoons or belts or
anything else to scare a child into behaving or as punishment for not behaving
isn't worth the damage done to the heart and the mind. There is no lesson being
taught there, no matter what you or I tell ourselves if we were to submit to the
impulse. It is never OK to hit another human being. Isn't that what we spend
half our time telling our children?
So the next time you find yourself in a rage—after the
yelling but before the spanking—remind yourself of the things you likely
remind you children of several times a week: Violence is never the answer, and
you just need to walk away.