I am not proud of this fact, but it is alive and well in my household. On average, one out of three of our kids will get a spanking from me every two months or so. (And usually, it’s the same kid, one of my five-year-old twin daughters to be specific). Is it an all-out battle, running around the house, screaming, cursing? No … nothing like that. It’s usually quick, a slight tap on the hands or a swat on a calf.
My daughter is someone who tests every limit imaginable. She will try anything five times (for good measure), usually at the ocean where she feels “free,” she says. She will look me in the eyes, know the spank is lurking, and do whatever it is she wanted anyway. Her behavior is totally to be expected for a five-year-old and my impatient, exhausted, “had enough” response is not. I get this.
We, as parents, have more stressors from being the sole teacher, friend, waitress, chef, and mom in the household while keeping everyone socially and emotionally healthy — our plates are full. Since the pandemic hit, for me, the spanking has not increased or decreased in my household, despite these stressors. But for thousands of households across the country like mine, the pandemic has opened up a whole new can of worms that maybe we weren’t ready to openly and honestly discuss before spanking.
In a recent article on CNN.com, it was found that among Millennials and GenXers, spanking has declined. I am not either of those: I am a 38-year-old Black mother, working full-time, raising three kids (one with Autism), and trying to keep my marriage together and my home from turning into a trash dump. I am tired.
Is this an excuse to spank my kid? Hell no! Do I remember getting spanked as a kid with a belt? Hell yes — with a switch (a small branch pulled from a tree in my yard). Parenting is hard. Parenting during a pandemic is even harder. The biggest question I am asking myself these days is how can I get more time away from my kids so I don’t blow up on them. I love them but, parents need a break sometimes.
I do believe that spanking or harsher types of discipline, like when belts or objects (also known as abuse) are used, there are greater social and emotional deficits for children that arise, like lower self-esteem, more aggressive behaviors from the child, academic issues, and so on. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concurs, citing research that says that spanking actually increases negative behavior in kids, including mental health issues, social issues, and aggressive behavior.
I am learning that what does work are time outs — for myself. When I feel the fire inside welling up, sometimes I call on God to take the wheel, and sometimes, I just need to stop and count to ten (like in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood). When I feel anxiety, or impatience, or motherly fear bubbling over, I change what we are doing, for my sanity and their safety. If I am feeling overwhelmed, and we are playing a game like Candyland and my kids are losing their marbles, we will stop the game and go outside. When my kids run away from me at the beach and generally don’t listen (I get fearful they will drown), we pack up and leave, a lesson they’ll likely take much more seriously than a spanking anyway.
The subject of spanking our kids is something my wife and I disagree on, namely because of how we were raised. I always got into trouble because (like my daughter) I was strong-willed and incredibly stubborn. My wife, on the other hand, was not. She was more like our other daughter — obedient, kind, toed the line. So, I got spanked as a child and my wife did not. It shows up in our household in sort of the same way; I think a spank now and again is warranted and my wife disagrees. It’s caused arguments between us and what we are both saying is correct — discipline is needed for negative behaviors. But my approach, while in the process of changing, has been different.
I don’t like myself when I spank my child. I want to stop spanking her. From what I’ve been taught, the only alternative to spanking is yelling (and who likes to live in a house of yellers?). So, I have work to do. I am not perfect, none of us are. We have our flaws. We have our baggage that we lug into our world as parents with us. We unpack it little by little, and one day, we will change. Maybe that day is today. But we also must be kind to ourselves as parents when we mess up.
I know my kids all know they are loved, safe, and live in a stable home with their moms. My kids test their limits, and push a little further with certain behaviors just like all kids. I know what I say to them matters and how we handle every situation matters. They know that we can talk about every situation and they know that consequences will come — both positive (like an extra 30 minutes of television) and negative (time out being a negative one). I am on mom duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and spanking has no place in our home. I am going to keep working on my own reactions, so that I can rely on better strategies in the future.
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