I really wanted to blog yesterday in honor of Spank Out Day USA (which falls on April 30th every year) but alas life intervened. The Bean is still not feeling well and hubby had to be away most of the day, so she was my first priority.
As he’s here now to take care of her, I get the chance to set down some of my thoughts.
I also had the good fortune of being able to read through a bunch of other great posts before putting my own together, so hopefully this will be pretty inspired! (No chance to comment on them yet – it’s coming – I was reading while Bean was asleep and the keyboard sounds wake her up).
In some ways, this is a touchy subject in which I feel inhibited about expressing my feelings. I have a wonderful mother who frequently stops by to read this blog and I don’t want to hurt her in any way by what I write. I have friends who sincerely believe in the Biblical sanctioning of spanking as a form of discipline, and I don’t wish to offend in my advocacy or come across as arrogant or frustrating to anyone.
So please know that the spirit of my writing is of one who is on a learning journey, and trust that I am not calling ANYONE a bad parent or claiming to be the authority here. I’m simply sharing what I’m learning – what I am passionate about – and hopefully opening a fruitful (rather than negative or hurtful) conversation…
One of the posts that struck me most from yesterday’s reading was from Dulce de leche: Rotten Fruit.
I encourage you to read her post along with the others I’ll be listing at the end, but I wanted to address here some of the questions she asks at the beginning of her post from my own experience:
Think back to the times you were spanked. What do you remember? Are you able to remember specifics, or do you blank out on parts of it? Interestingly, most people that I talk to have a hard time remembering details. They only remember pieces. Some remember all the events leading up to a spanking, but their memories stop there. Others remember the spankings themselves, but not what they did to get spanked in the first place. Aside from the fact that memory issues are often associated with trauma, if you don’t remember why you got the spanking in the first place, how did it really help?
I was spanked as a child, by both my mom and dad, probably until I was around 10 years old (I remember the last occurrences of spanking being in California, and we moved there when I was 9).
With mom it was rare, usually with a wooden spoon, and probably ended when we were quite young. With dad it was more of a formal punishment. They bought a wooden paddle as a ‘joke’ on a cross country road trip once; it became the real tool of discipline from then on.
I remember a sense of terror – of lying across my parents bed – the wait being worse than the actual spanking. I remember my dad’s anger, and the ridiculous pain of the spanking itself. I remember the sympathy from my brother and sister and even my mom.
What I don’t remember is why I was being spanked. I wasn’t an unusually naughty child, so I’m sure it was for the regular transgressions of childhood – nothing out of the ordinary. One thing I was probably punished for was my room – I never kept it clean, and I know it was a source of endless trial to my parents (my dad in particular). And I will say it was quite the disaster!
In using the example of cleaning my room, I was: spanked, grounded, yelled at, lectured, not allowed to leave until it was clean. On one memorable day my dad made good on his threat to throw away everything that was on the floor of the room I shared with my sister.
By the time I left home…my room was generally still messy.
In college I was even fined for my messy room more than once (it was a small Christian school that I quite enjoyed in many ways, but they did have some oddly strict rules).
So I would say for about 18 years of my life I suffered punitive measures in regards to cleaning my room.
You’d think I probably would have learned my lesson now that I’m 30, right?
I ought to post a picture of what it looks like right now, but the husband would probably be too embarrassed. The point is, none of it worked. None of it motivated me to keep my room clean. I would say I’m generally more neat and tidy than I was as a teenager, but if my house is a disaster and I have other things on my radar that are more important, I just don’t care that much.
As for whatever else I was spanked for…I doubt the punishments changed much in me – especially as I can’t even remember what most of them were for. I’m sure they taught me to be obedient – I was certainly a ‘good kid’ for the most part. And fortunately fear and punishment were not our only teachers – my mom in particular was and is an amazing example of wonderful love to us and she taught us and raised us through that love.
I recall another blogger talking about how for her, spanking was overkill; for her brother, it didn’t work. But her parents kept using it as a disciplinary measure because it was the only tool in their discipline toolbox. I think for my parents it was a similar issue – it was what they knew; they didn’t have the internet or a whole bunch of other resources to learn anything different, and their lives were far from easy. I say all this to once again emphasize that I don’t think they were bad parents; I don’t blame them or point to them as the cause of all my problems.
I, too, thought I would spank my children – it was one of the many assumptions I held before I became a parent. It was what I grew up with. I understood it to be biblical teaching. I just didn’t think it was that bad.
But when I held my daughter in my arms, I couldn’t imagine hitting her (and I’m sorry if this offends anyone – in my opinion, no matter what you call it and no matter how lovingly you do it, the physical act of spanking is hitting). I found myself thinking, “Is this something I have to do if I love her? Is this what is Godly?”
But then I stumbled across this gorgeous post a few months ago from Dulce de Leche (can you tell I like this mama? ) – My Top 10 Parenting Scriptures – and it completely opened my eyes. That is who my God is! I get tears in my eyes even re-reading it now – that is the love He has for us and guides us to have for our children. And God doesn’t hit us when we veer from His ways or desires. In fact He pursues us like a lover!
I want to put special emphasis on this because it took me years before I understood (or came close to understanding) the LOVE of God. I knew that He loved me, but I didn’t feel it. It wasn’t real to me. And I remember this in particular because there was a lot of emphasis placed on knowing God’s love at the college I went to, and I remember it as being just about next to impossible for me to grasp. It still is at times – because much of Western Christianity places emphasis on God as punitive.
If I couldn’t understand that love as an adult – can I expect a child to understand it?
I want love to be the guide for my daughter above anything else. It doesn’t mean that she just gets to go wild and do whatever she wants to do – please don’t take that from my words. But I encourage you sincerely – if you believe spanking to be biblical, Dulce has many more beautiful and well researched posts on the subject that are worth checking out – please visit HERE to see more.
(I don’t generally like to get to ‘preachy’ in this blog, so I hope I’m not weirding anyone out. This is a topic, however, that is at the top of the list of ‘Christian beliefs’ when it comes to parenting, so I would feel insincere about leaving it out).
I owe a debt of gratitude to her and others who have taken the time to gently override my own assumptions. I’m thankful that I have this community to learn from. I believe God has led me to this mama and others like her to help me find a gentler way. And I honestly feel that even if God does mandate spanking (which I no longer believe) but if I am wrong – I do think He would want us to EXHAUST every other avenue of gentle discipline before turning to the solution of spanking or yelling or punishing or anger, because:
- “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” – Psalm 145:8
- “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19-20
- “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” – Proverbs 14:19
- “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1
- “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:26-27 31-32
If you know the Bible, you know that is just a small sampling of such verses. If you know me, you know that I am absolutely far from perfect at following them myself – I am the first to recognize that I often jump to anger before anything else. But it’s not what I want for my children, and I’m trying to do better.
I thank you for listening to my thoughts today and encourage you to comment if you have questions or concerns about what I’m writing (or if you agree too lol). Please simply keep comments respectful. I also want to add my thanks to Zoie at TouchstoneZ for bringing awareness to me about this day. Here are some of the posts I’ve been reading over the past few days for further reference:
- Dulce de Leche: Rotten Fruit
- TouchestoneZ: Spank Out Day
- Imperfect Happiness: The Great Spank Out
- Hobo Mama: Spank Out Day – Hitting Doesn’t Help
- Code Name: Mama: 101 Things to do Instead of Yelling or Spanking
- Hobo Mama: Arbitrary Discipline
- The Path Less Taken: Gentle Discipline – So What DO You Do?
- Hobo Mama: Spanking as Just Kinda Creepy
- Hybrid Rasta Mama: National Spank Out Day Part 1
- I am Totally *That* Mom: Spank Out Day USA
- Ask Dr. Sears: 10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child (this includes discussion on the Biblical advocacy of spanking)
- Code Name: Mama: A Corporal Punishment Fallacy
- Mom Grooves: Spank Out Day!
- Permission to Live: National Spank Out Day
- Permission to Live: Spanking Made me Into a Mean Mommy
- Bicultural Mom: Why I Hate Spanking
- Kelly.Hogaboom: Non-Punitive Parenting: A Starting Primer
- Littlemamamidwife: Natural Parenting Blog Party Comes to an End
- Strocel.com: Why I Don’t Spank
If you’ve posted on this topic yourself, please feel free to link in the comments section. Again, I welcome disagreement and discussion, but ask above all that everyone keeps it respectful and loving.
And now I’m finally signing off!