Ah, That IS the Question!

To spank or not to spank… sigh. Once, before I had kids and knew everything about how and what I would do, I thought this was not even an option. End of discussion. Well. Tempis fugit, and here we are. Let’s discuss.

We’ve got some seriously difficult little boys right now- I don’t call them The Terrorists for no good reason. I’m not sold on spanking being a really, or even marginally, effective means of behavior change- but I would be lying if I said we have never done it. Now, when I say spank, I mean a swat on the bottom, not beating with wooden spoons, belts or any means of torture may have been status quo 50 years ago. A swat. With an open hand. But still…

What if the the spanking doesn’t work? Doesn’t correct the horrid behavior? The problem seems to be, what do you do then? You have played your ace, and your out of the game. And, I have read that you should be dispassionate when disciplining, and I don’t think I have ever been calm when I wanted to spank one of the boys… How do you do it? So are there situations that simply warrant a little bit of corporal punishment?

Here is what happened at our house today: We had a great day, so I can’t figure out what or where we turned left when we should have gone straight, but anyway… We went to the park, we had a picnic lunch, Jeffrey helped me cook dinner and we sang songs while we cooked, Eric read books and complained about our singing, and Abby slept in her bouncy seat on the counter, to be safe from Eric. After dinner the boys had a bath, got ready for bed and I read them three (three!) bedtime books. I’m feeling like I’ve got this one in the bag. Big Mistake.

As I am ushering the boys off to bed, at the same time as every night, Jeffrey starts to give me some grief, asking for more stories and griping about not wanting to go to bed. When I tell him no, he starts to pout and whine. He begins with the garbage about not loving me, wanting a new mommy, that I am not his mommy anymore, blah, blah, blah… I can totally let this roll off my back, but then Eric chimes in and starts to mimic Jeff, saying all the same yucky things. Now I am ticked. He had taught my two-year old to say crappy crap to me. They receive verbal warnings, first once, then twice, and three times- on the third, Jeffrey looses his favorite toy. It’s standard procedure here.

At this point, he is climbing the ladder to his bed, and reaches out and hits me. Here is where I loose it and swat him. Cool, now I have spanked my kid for hitting me! Give mom a prize!

Ultimately, it went downhill from there, and DH had to come in and take over. In our house, we are still old fashioned, and dad is the big-guns. Both boys ended up getting spankings. I feel like crap about it.

So when your kid is spewing really nasty stuff at you, teaching his younger brother to do the same and then hits you, what do you do? Perhaps if I were getting more sleep, not tired, didn’t have a new baby (definitely part of the problem) I might have come up with something more creative and effective… So, is it ever ok?

(I’ll tell you what makes me think it’s not: It is really hard to say your prayers after you’ve spanked your kid. Just a thought…)

16 thoughts on “Ah, That IS the Question!

  1. I spank. But haven’t in ever so long- nathan is almost 8. Corners worked great- still do. And when sassing- washing mouth out with soap. Never had to do that one- just the warning makes him ship up. I think punishments depend on the child. What works on my son does not work on my nephews- at all. You’ll do what’s best. Even if it’s a spanking here or there.

  2. This is the part of parenting that I really hate. I think it’s probably possible to say prayers with a clean conscience after spanking, but not if you lose your temper. I feel the same way about yelling at my kids. It shouldn’t happen, but it does, and I feel bad about it.

    We mostly do the time-out stool, one minute for year of age. But bedtime stuff doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the stool, since the whole point is they’re supposed to be in bed. For bedtime, I will give them one reminder about what they should be doing, but after that, I ground from TV for the next day. Usually works.

    For hateful stuff coming out of their mouths, I don’t know. Obviously they need to show respect for their parents and learn to appreciate what people do for them. So something needs to be done. I really think if they learn it’s okay to mouth off to parents, they’ll show the same pattern with teachers and other authority figures (disagreement is fine, but disrespect I see as a problem). I try to stay calm but firm with them and talk to them about why it isn’t acceptable behavior. Ok to be angry, not ok to be hurtful, etc.

  3. …and if you’re collecting Bad Moments In Parenting, here’s one:

    I was shuttling the kids home after Girl Scouts, it was dinner time, and the girls kept complaining about each other, their little brother, my driving, their dinner (which hadn’t happened yet and they didn’t even know what it was). My husband called my cell phone and I started to talk to him, but halfway through I couldn’t take the yelling in the back seat anymore, so I slammed on the brakes, turned around, and told them that 1) they were grounded from talking for the rest of the car ride, and 2) they had to smile for the rest of the ride or they would be going to bed hungry as soon as I got them home. My husband (still on the phone) was pretty freaked out by the forcing-to-smile thing and thought I’d lost my mind in a really scary way.

    I have never seen three kids smile so hard for so long in my life.

    And in my defense, by the end of the trip, they were giggling and pleasant, and I was looking in the rearview mirror and saying things like, “Oh! What adorable and happy children! They’re so sweet!” which made them giggle more.

  4. If a spanking gets the point across I see nothing wrong with it. The issue comes, as you said, when they start laughing at you and saying “that didn’t hurt.” — Like my neices, they only get punished with spankings — I think you have to reserve spankings for the worst possible offenses.

    At our house I try really hard to make the punishment fit the crime. Like if she throws a toy, she doesn’t get to play with that toy anymore. Now I don’t have to deal with mouthing off yet, she barely says 30 words. I like the washing out their mouth, but I’m not sure I could do it without gagging. Let me know if you find something that works.

  5. Oh, I LOVE the forcing to smile thing! That’s awesome! I’ve even heard that it causes endorphins to be released, or something, and smiling actually is a good way to help improve the mood, even when you don’t feel like smiling. I dont know if it’s true, but I love that whole thing. You WILL smile, and you WILL like it!

    As far as spanking goes, I don’t do it, well, I did it once 3 years ago, because I threatened to, and the behavior didn’t stop, mostly because I think my daughter didn’t know what a ‘spanking’ was, so she was opting for that over a timeout. Boy, did she change her tune after the spanking!

    Anyway, I don’t do it, simply because if I’m at the point where I am threatening to spank, I am not emotionally in control, and I can’t spank dispassionately, and I worry that I’ll end up hitting too hard or hitting just to vent my frustrations. So, I don’t spank. I don’t have a problem with people that do, though, unless, of course, it turns to abuse, which is obviously not the case here.

    I start throwing stuff, though, to vent my frustrations, and it freaks my kids out. My dog runs and hides if I throw anything. It’s not like I throw anything at anybody. I just like to throw stuff to hear the noise and again, at this point, I’m out of control, and throwing a plastic cup across the room is a better option for me than spanking, simply because I’m so out of control.

  6. My 6 year old daughter likes to say things like that several times a week. I tell her that it is her choice to think it and say it but I don’t have to listen. She has to do that in her room with the door shut. It does not usually last that long because no one is there to hear her complaints.

    I also have a 3 year old boy who I struggle controlling. I have been trying to give him two choices when he does something I don’t like. He seems to be responding better, I also got rid of the 3 times warning system, it did not work for him at all. When I give him two choices it is like this “Please stop kicking your sister or you will spend time sitting on your bed by yourself”. This way he chooses if he will be punished or not.

    I also do have some swat times that happen they are good for when I need his immediate attention. Don’t feel bad about swating, just try not to do it if your loosing control of your temper. Good luck!!

  7. Ah he hits you so you hit him back, that seems to be a problem. I was never spanked as a child, I don’t have any of my own yet, and like you I tell myself that I would never spank a child now. But when I do have kids, who knows? You have a great blog, I am glad I found it. Seems like you have been through a lot, keep up the great writing.

  8. I am sorry you are having to deal with this. My boy is hitting too.

    While it doesn’t make logical sense to hit them when they hit you, there are times when you need to SHOCK them to help them understand that their behaviour is unacceptable. We all have our own ways and know our kids the best. My daughter could be disciplined by a stern word and though we haven’t done it yet…I have a feeling I could spank my son until I was blue in the face and my son wouldn’t be affected at all. We put him in his crib in the dark and that is his worst punishment (he HATES being left out of the social scene).

    You are a great mom and this is just part of the deal, right?

  9. Oh this sounds sooooooo familiar.

    You’re right it is super hard to pray after spanking your child. I decided not to after that. We thought spanking was the last resort for ultimate behavior but we ended up insiting a bigger power struggle. This is what we do in a nut shell and it works. It was a rough, now I mean ROUGH, week getting this implemented and sticking with it but we are sooo grateful now. Our daughter is super stubborn and our son was just copying the poor behavior.

    1. one warning, that’s it. If they don’t correct their behavior it’s time out. Period. (this makes you feel crumby for the first week because you feel like… but it was only a little offense.. nope one warning period)

    2. Time out. We had trouble keeping the kids in the time outs so we bought the little strap booster seats that they couldn’t undo and strapped them in it. (is that bad?) We had some kicking, screaming and such but they were in time out a minute for every age of life. THEN, here’s the clincher, they had to appologize to the offended. If they hit they had to appologize to the person they hit AND give a hug. If they were sassy or disobedient they had to appologize to me or Kev. This part was hard but they had to stay in time out until they appologized in a nice tone of voice. Interestingly after a week we didn’t have to use the special seats anymore they were more than willing to sit on their own volition vs. being strapped in.

    3. consistancy. One day we had both children in time out for most of the day (quite literally the worst day of my life) but they didn’t misbehave for a week after that because they knew I was serious. I had had enough.

    4. Sit the kids down and tell them what was going to happen if certain behaviors occur.

    5. Bedtimes. I love bedtimes. We have a simple routine. dinner , bath, teeth brushing, 1 scripture story, 2 songs, prayers and bed. No ifs ands or buts about it. After working with 5 toddlers at the end of 11 hours I’m done. I can’t have them acting up at that time. So they have to stay in their room from then on. They don’t have the option of acting up because at that point I really don’t care. I don’t react to ANYTHING they do at that point. It’s just strait to bed. They want a reaction they don’t get one they just get to go to bed. I’m done they can deal with it. They hate that reaction bytheway. 🙂 which is essentially what I want that way the behavior stops.

    I’m sorry it’s so traumatic. Just remember you’re doing good. You had a great day which is saying a lot. It sounds like you are an awesome mother one which they are privelaged to have.

  10. I’m completely anti-spanking. And washing their mouths out? Whaaaa? Even the vinegar you mentioned the other day threw me for a loop.

    I would say I’ve been blessed with really easy kids, but I just remembered what my youngest was like as a toddler. Monster. Most people, when they describe difficult kids, describe about how my daughter was. My youngest son? Completely off the charts.

    These were my parenting guidelines when they were toddlers (if I can remember):

    Make as few rules as possible, and say “no” as seldom as you can.

    I always tried to be positive about things. If they’re doing something wrong, don’t say “Stop that” or “no,” tell them HOW TO DO IT RIGHT. Replace “Don’t hit your sister!” with “use gentle hands with your sister”–then gently, take their hand and make them softly stroke her (this can be tricky, but it is possible).

    When they’re saying mean things to you, don’t tell them to stop, or it’s bad, or whatever. Say you understand that they’re angry/tired/frustrated/whatever (use a gentle voice), but it is NOT OK to say mean things (use a stern voice). Encourage them instead to express their feeling appropriately. “Use nice words to tell me how you feel. Are you frustrated about going to bed early?” etc

    Tell them how their behavior makes you feel. Try especially to catch them doing things right. “That makes me so happy when you’re gentle with your sister.” “You asked for that so nicely, that makes me so proud of you.” “When you say mean things it makes me feel bad.”

  11. Sebastian is almost three, and I have given him a few tiny swats on the bum…but always felt horrid afterwards.
    We usually count to 5 (to give him time to change his mind and OBEY! hehehe), then, if he still doesn’t listen to what we are trying to tell him, he’ll do a 1 minute time out in his room.
    I often only get to the number 3.
    But, we shall see how things change once he gets a bit older!

  12. Thanks everyone for the encouragement and advice. Things get better, then worse, then better again. I have never seen such an obstinate, hard-headed kid as my oldest. Seriously off the charts. A friend with six kids said my first two were harder than all six of hers. Very validating. I think. Or sad.

    Allison- I hate it too- and I especially hate feeling in the dark about something so important and little someones I love so much. Thanks for sharing your Bad moment- How did you make them smile?? See, mine would refuse, then I would be back to square 1.

    Wiz- you’re totally right, if Im at the point where Im threatening a spanking, Im close to the edge, and its not a good place to be. Hence my plea for advice… Throwing stuff?! Yehaw! I like to throw eggs at the tree out back- saisfying breakage, but no harm done. Try it!

    Bek- Jeffrey is like Cubby- I don’t thing it really matters if we spank him- it just doesn’t work. If only I had some kryptonite…

    Nestle- those are some great suggestions, and I know you have a housefull during the day. One of the problems we have is them not staying in the time-out spot, so maybe your strap-seat is the answer. I know consistency is another hill I have to conquer…

    Susan- Im sorry I threw you for a loop- I never actually put vinegar in his mouth, but someone suggested it instead of soap, which I don’t like the idea of very much either. It just gives you an idea of how ragged and tired I am. We have tried all the things you suggested- the redirection, the gentleness, and the possitive reinforcement, with some success, occasionally.

    Maybe an amalgam of all these tips will bring harmony and peace to our home. Worth a try, anyway! Again, everyone, Frog legs, Trivial mom, GirlPurl (do you knit?)et all, I appreciate the input.

  13. I thought about this post all day yesterday. I’m about at the point where, as much as I have abhored the thought of spanking (for many of your reasons, including – teach not hitting by hitting? hmmm…, how to explain I’m the only one who can hit? (not to mention how to explain that hitting a child is ok?), and to me, it just shows a parent temporarily out of control) I’m getting to my wits end with Jacob, the toddler. Wits end. At least susan m’s “monster toddlers” turned into “easy children”. I’m seriously crossing my fingers I might get so lucky. If not, we’re in BIG trouble.

  14. Guilt is an interesting master… it makes us mothers tolerate things from our kids that we would NEVER tolerate from another human being.
    IN MY OPINION, I would rather swat a bum, then have my teenager doing this to me when they are 16 and bigger/stronger/taller than me.
    BELIEVE me when I say that I have seen it come to that. What you allow now will only get worse….

    I say–Keep doing what you are doing. Keep following through. Keep diciplining. Eventually they will realize that they won’t win.

    Pray a really lot… for the strength to look past the guilt part…. It was a tough one for me to overcome.

  15. Julie- good luck with your Jacob- wit’s end is not a happy place to be- I’ll let you know if I solve all the conundrums involved with this issue- ha!

    Lammy- thanks for the input- your family seems to be pretty well adjusted- You mentioned my exact fear- if I don’t curtail this type of acting out at four, I’ve got a bigger problem later when the issues are a lot more important…

  16. All I can say, Tracy, is totally been there, exactly done that. Still trying to figure something else out. Lemme know when you come up with something, ’cause I’ve got no clue.–>

Comments are closed.