A Nurse Suggested That I 'Whoop' My Autistic Pre-Schooler

by Katie Cloyd
Originally Published: 
Little boy looking at camera
Katie Cloyd/Instagram

Last week, my son found a Gideon bible in the waiting room of my doctor’s office. He’s not quite four and doesn’t know how to read, but to him, it was the storybook from the opening credits of his favorite Winnie the Pooh movie.

We were the only people in the waiting room, so I let him play freely. While we waited, he walked around with his book. He told me short stories about Christopher Robin and his pals using their favorite catch phrases. He used different voices to say things like, “Oh, bother” and “Oh, d-d-d-dear,” in the style of Pooh and Piglet.

It was adorable, and he was loving it.

He was loving it so much, in fact, that when the nurse came to the door and called my name, he got very upset. He thought I was going to tell him to put the book back on the shelf. Instead of asking if he could bring the book with him as an almost four-year-old might typically do, he sat down where he was and started to shout, “My book! My book!”

There were already big, splashing tears on his sweet little face when I knelt down and said, “Hey, it’s okay. You can bring the book with you.”

He calmed down immediately. That’s all he wanted.

My little guy is autistic. He uses language to communicate, but he does it a little differently than most people expect him to when they see how big he is. Given a little time, Walker could have asked me if he could bring the book to the exam room. He’s working hard to communicate more clearly with words. It’s his preferred method, and it’s important to him, so we support him in his quest to master the spoken language.

But he needs extra time to get his point across, and in that waiting room, he knew he didn’t have it.

I handled the situation in seconds, but that didn’t stop the nurse from turning to him and saying, “You’re lucky she lets you act like that. My kids would’ve gotten whooped.”

Fucking excuse me?

Did you just tell my kid he’s lucky I don’t hit him? Right in front of my face?

By some miracle, I reined in my sass mouth and calmly said, “He doesn’t know what that means. We don’t hit our kids.”

The conversation ended there. I had so much more to say, but it wasn’t the time or the place.

But this is.

Settle in. I have thoughts.

First. Of. All: Stop hitting your kids.

Spanking is hitting, and it sucks. It’s the year of our Lord two thousand and twenty, people. We have the internet. You have access to thousands of experts, millions of parents, and billions of ideas. Do a little digging and find a better way to correct and teach your kids. It might take some trial and error, but you can do it.

And before you bother with the tired-ass arguments, let’s get them out of the way.

Yes, spanking is hitting.

No, not hitting doesn’t mean not using any form of discipline.

Kids who aren’t spanked are not destined to be wild brats who turn into entitled, law-breaking, laundry pod eating assholes.

You can run a tight ship without smacking your offspring. Give it a go.

ANYWAY, even if I was a spanker, was this really a “spankable offense?” I hope not.

I don’t understand what I was supposed to be punishing him for. He’s just a little boy. He got upset, so he shouted and cried for a few seconds. My kid happens to have autism, but that’s completely age-appropriate behavior even if he wasn’t autistic. Preschoolers have feelings that are way, way bigger than their ability to exhibit self-control. It’s our job as grown ups to meet them where they are with a lot of patience and a little grace. They’re not “bad”– they’re just little.

What would a “whooping” have taught him?

At best, it would have taught him nothing at all. At worst, it would have taught him that he can’t trust me to be on his side when he struggles. I’m not willing to break him like that.

Spanking Walker won’t change his autism, and it won’t make him any more mature. As his mom, it’s my job to walk next to him and show him healthy ways to navigate tough situations. It’s not my job to make sure his littleness and his autism never annoy anyone for a split second.

I don’t care if someone sees my child shout and cry and judges me for not “whooping his ass.” I don’t place much value on the way I look to nosy strangers. I am far more concerned with how my choices affect my son’s childhood. These years are shaping who he will become.

Go on ahead and judge me for not spanking him. Just know I’m judging you right back for the fact that you’d rather see my child cry because I hurt him than because he wants to carry a damn book with him for a few extra minutes.

And for not considering that he might have some special circumstances, like speech delay, that contribute to the way I handle his big feelings.

In the end, Walker took the book with him and “read” it while I spoke to the doctor. He left it in the exam room when we left, and he didn’t shed a single tear about it because I explained that it wasn’t ours. He understands and respects that. Allowing him to carry it for a few more minutes didn’t make him feel entitled to keep it. I didn’t have to steal a Gideon bible that day to appease my out-of-control child. That’s not how it works.

My kid happens to be autistic. That affects the way I respond to him in certain situations. It also affects the way he processes (and communicates) in certain situations.

But whether they are neurotypical or neurodiverse, no child deserves to be spanked, especially not for having feelings. That’s part of being a human, and that’s what they’re learning how to do. It’s our job to facilitate that, not break their spirit and trust with painful punishments.

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