To spank or not to spank.
January 26, 2011

If you don’t spank, the mother asked me, then how do you discipline her?

I look at my daughter, stripped down to her diaper, playing in the sand.  Her skin is still soft, her fingers still chubby, her comprehension and communication still dodgy.  She is small and she is innocent.  I cannot imagine raising my hand against her.

This perspective is a reflection of how I was parented.  My parents did not believe in screaming at or reacting violently to a child’s misbehavior.  When I was a child, the punishment for acting up was not spanking.  The real punishment was the knowledge that my parents did not appreciate and might even have been disappointed by my behavior.

It’s no wonder that I cannot stomach the idea of spanking my own daughter.

And that is exactly what I find myself telling this woman beside me.  I tell her that I believe that discipline is another facet of teaching your child and that teaching is always best performed with a level head.  Some people can, with a level head, spank a child.  I cannot.  When I feel that my daughter has misbehaved, I say, I address the problem immediately if I feel that the environment (including my emotional state) are conducive to doing so and I address it later if I do not.  We all lose our cool sometimes.  What matters is what we do next.  And what I do is take a deep breath.  Thank the stars for a child who is alive and well.  Pile her into the carrier for a long walk.  Wash dishes.  Distract her by making animal sounds.  Pull out the crayons.  Take photographs of her beautiful smile and show them to her.  Play music and dance around the living room.  Lie down and nurse her until we both fall asleep.  Anything to calm down, refocus, and decide whether or not discipline is really an appropriate route.  Anything to get us laughing again, thinking about how much fun we have together, exhibiting behaviors that are always welcome.

But if you wait too long, she responds, doesn’t it tell her that you endorse her actions?  Isn’t disciplining ‘later’ ineffective?

I told her the truth: I do not know.  I do not think so…but I do not know.  She’s only one, so really, I DON’T KNOW SHIT.

The conversation ended there, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  More specifically, I’ve been thinking about what I believe about children, their memories and their understanding of their behaviors and the effects those behaviors may have on other people.  And I’ve been thinking about how I feel comfortable addressing child (mis)behavior, what I believe is (in)effective, where I believe the line between discipline and abuse is drawn, and whether or not I think that delayed discipline teaches a child that their actions were okay.

Now I wonder what you believe.  How were you disciplined as a child?  How did you, do you, or do you plan to discipline your child(ren)?  Do you spank?  Do you scream?  Do you always address misbehavior immediately?  Do you ever regret your discipline choices?  Have you ever felt that your choice of discipline was ineffective?


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  1. By Carlyn on January 26, 2011

    I was at times spanked as a child, it was rare I got time out a lot lol My husband was abused as a child we are both anti hitting, but I am very pro-time out, for things that warrant it, like hitting, taking things from someone with out asking. But i believe in giving warnings, explaining why they got time out, and lots of hugs afterward. time out works wonderfully for my nephew he is 14 months. He is very advanced and in the “hitting” stage when unhappy, he always gets a warning, and an explanation for his poor behavior, then given time out not for long not even a minute, then hugs and kisses and he “apologizes” he strokes your face as his “sorry” and we go about our business.

    Hitting is counter productive, it teaches fear, which you do not want from your child, your child should never fear you, but they should respect you and that needs to be taught at an early age. But being so young, its a fine line, they do need to know that there are consequences to their actions, but they need to understand and associate the action with the “punishment”, time out works, its proven, but sometimes a good firm “NO” works just as well, it depends on the situation. Bug (my nephew) is understanding now, that hitting is not ok, and he knows if he does he is going to go to his time out chair, he smacked me the other day, i asked if he wanted time out? he said “nooooo” i said then should you do that again? he said “noooo” I asked if he knew why, and he said “not nice”. crisis averted lol

    It works for him, he’s a sweet super loving boy and wants to please, a good strong NO will usually work, its rare that his little butt is in time out, and he will try to not do the things that put him in time out. punishment should fit the crime, hitting is never the answer, i dont want my daughter to fear me, i dont want her to fear time out either, but she will need to respect me, and time out and if done properly she will, as does my nephew.

  2. By Natalie on January 26, 2011

    Our sone is almost one, so we aren’t really there yet, for now a stern no works, if not, i remove him from the situation, and get him interested in something else. I know that won’t last for long. However, i don’t think i could live with myself if i ever hit a child. Let alone my own child. I too believe in discipline with a level head, and i just don’t think hitting anyone,  is ever a level headed solution. Some people might say spanking is different than hitting, but to me, it isn’t.

    There are a lot of aspects of parenting that might be the easier route, to me, spanking is one of them. A child not doing something bad, for fear of being hit, is different than a child not doing something bad because they understand why they shouldn’t. I know some people will say i’m naive. There are a lot of things my husband and i do in our parenting style, that we were told were naive, and wouldn’t work in the long run, but we have. We just chose not to take the easier way out.

  3. By Jessica Johnston on January 26, 2011

    My husband and I decided early on that we would spank - but we have specific rules. We have a 4 and 2 year old, and one on the way and didn’t begin spanking until 2 1/2 ish. When our daughter would directly disobey, this is what happens:
    1. parent gets down on their level and tells them what they did to disobey
    2. we talk about our role to teach them obedience
    3. they stand there willingly and receive a spank
    4. we hug and move on.

    We feel an immediate, unpleasant response to direct disobedience ALWAYS performed with a “level head” as you said - works for us. If we’re angry, we don’t spank. It hasn’t been hard for us to follow that rule - if I’m angry, they sit in time out until I’m ready to discipline. They get timeouts for tantrums when they clearly just need to calm down. Spanks are only for directly disobeying.

    Our kids don’t fear us, they don’t hit other kids, they view spanking differently than hitting from what we can tell. Thankfully, this method works for us.

  4. By on January 26, 2011

    Who spanks a 1 year old!?

  5. By amybeth on January 26, 2011

    Working in the childcare industry for years, I have seen parents discipline in many different ways, and as for my own; I know what I firmly believe is best. I was spanked as a child and will spank my children, but only for willful defiance, and only when I am not angry. For instance, I would not spank a child for breaking something or forgetting to follow directions. Time out works well if several children are fighting and they really just need a break from each other, or time to cool off. Taking a toy away if they are throwing it after you told them not to makes perfect sense… but if a child looks you straight in the face and defies your authority, a spanking works like nothing else.

    I have seen no other discipline approach that comes close. Time-out, or even a stern talking to does to a certain extent work,  but there is a sort of contempt it breeds in older children. I don’t think that self controlled, appropriate corporal punishment breeds that same sort of contempt in a child. I once heard a little boy ask his mother “Mommy, why am i always so nice after a spanking?“

    I think that pain is how nature teaches the young. They fall to teach them the step carefully, they get nipped by the doggy to teach them not to pull his tail, they get burned to keep them from heat. Of course, we warn them, but if they defy the warning and do it anyway, how else would they learn?

    As for fear, I think that there is a healthy level of fear that we all should have for authority. And good spanking doesn’t breed terror, its not like you’re beating the child. There is a big difference between a swat on the butt or a slap on the hand and a slap across the face.

    As for anger, I have found if you enforce discipline immediately, (and this goes for any sort of discipline) you will be much less likely to get angry in the first place. I have seen so many mothers/teachers/nannies ignore a behavior until they can’t take it anymore and then blow up at the child. Take action and it will rarely get to that point.

    If you have a history of physical abuse, I understand how this can all sound very cold and calculating and I know its hard to look a darling child and willingly put them through pain; but as cheesy as it sounds “tough love” that willingly puts itself through sorrow for the beloved is the only real kind of love there is.

    Whatever discipline tool you choose, I urge you to use it faithfully, a well disciplined child will thank you for it later.

    “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.“ -King Solomon

  6. By Elizabeth Renker on January 26, 2011

    I just stumbled upon your blog. The very fact that you admit to knowing almost nothing (join the club) about parenting made me smile. My dad spanked me as a child. My mom may have, too, but she passed away when I was 10 and I remember her as the most perfect woman ever. She was a fan of the, “Go to your room!“ which I hated, so I guess it was effective.

    I have three girls of my own, and we’ve tried a variety of discipline techniques. My favorite, and now the method I use all the time, is to give a warning, then a time-out. My oldest is 6, and sometimes chilling for 6 minutes isn’t much of a punishment to her, so we take away privileges. For me the bottom line is one little word: consistency. If you say you’re going to discipline, be that time-out, grounding, scrubbing the bathroom with a toothbrush (now THAT has potential), follow through. From what I’ve read, you seem to be pretty stellar in the motherhood department.

  7. By Amelia Sprout on January 26, 2011

    I believe that violence teaches violence, so we decided not to spank.  It is something I really strongly believe.  We put M in “breaks” when she was really little.  Just something to say, “OK, you need to take a break from what you are doing and calm down”.  It worked wonderfully.  It was something her daycare did, and clearly their years of experience had an impact. 
    Now that she is older, (almost 4) we send her to her room, we take away privileges, we take away favorite toys for a time.  It all continues to work.  There are still some issues with listening, but that will come with age.

  8. By Julie on January 26, 2011

    My son is only 15 months old, so we’re not really at the disciplining stage yet, other than telling him a firm “no” and redirecting him to something else.  However, neither of us can fathom hitting him.  I’m not going to say never, because I have no way of knowing, but we definitely don’t plan on it. 

    If, a couple years down the road, I see my son hit another child, should I tell him, “No, hitting is wrong.  Now come over here and let me hit you.“  To me, that’s ridiculous.

  9. By on January 26, 2011

    I came from a very angry household and I refuse to spank my (future) children. It’s unnecessary. I believe my parents, who are louder, more uninhbited people, have made me the calm, patient and rational person I am now.

    I won’t go into details, but my parents never were good disciplinarians. Spanking, screaming, swearing, etc. were normal in my house. Looking back, it is amazing that I’ve made it anywhere in life with the near abusive situation I grew up in (my dad did abuse my brother). I never thought of it as that type of situation growing up, but it really was bad. My mom never would have been that way if she hadn’t married my dad, but that’s a whole other story.

    And, I’m well aware that spanking is not abuse. But I’ve experienced it without it being abuse and it still is the most ridiculous form of punishment (it is NOT discipline, nothing will sway me on that, after all it’s called corporal punishment, and there’s a huge difference between punishment and discipline).

    Plus, I am a junior majoring in education and, speaking for teachers, we cannot spank. We need to reach the children in a different way. And if I can instruct 25-35 children every day for a year while managing classroom discipline I surely can raise the 2 or 3 children I give birth to in a manner that does not involve physically hurting them in order to make them understanding, respectful adults. Can’t I?

    I will not spank and I will not scream. I’m positive I’ll put off discipline to a time where I can calm down. I know I will regret choices I make and I’m sure I will find some of my choices to be ineffective. But if I manage to raise a few happy children that have really never done anything bad in the world to adulthood and they’re able to look back at their life and have happy memories then I’ll be happy with my work as a parent.

    I think time-outs, disapproval, discussions, distractions and. for older children, priveleges taken away, are effective forms of discipline.

  10. By missjoules on January 26, 2011

    This is something which my husband and I have been talking about as this pregnancy progresses. We both feel that people in general tend to not look at small children as real, live human beings, and for that reason they are treated in a way that would never be acceptable to another adult. We don’t think that is right. We know we won’t spank our children. We are really not keen on time out either because it sends the message that you are saving up your love for time when the child is “good” (Get away from me when you are being naughty, apologize and *then* you can have cuddles).
    We have read and liked Alfie Kohn’s “Unconditional Parenting” and will try to impliment his approach. This is all coming from a heavily pregnant woman, though. I have no actual experience yet!

  11. By Molly on January 26, 2011

    Ah, such a good question. Our sweetheart is only 14 months and I cannot ever imagine spanking her. Ever. But then again, when she openly defies me and laughs in my face (as some kids do) I may change my tune.
    So far if she’s playing with something dangerous I will give her a “Gracie NO. Mama said No” and she’s falls all to pieces and runs crying to me. It’s actually very sweet. But, who knows if that will change in a tantrum with kicking and screaming?!
    If only I would have studied parenting more rather than labor and delivery when I was pregnant with her!!! I was so prepared for her birth and NOT AT ALL prepared for parenting!!!
    Now that number 2 is on the way at least now I know, that I know nothing:).
    Ha!

  12. By Carlyn on January 26, 2011

    To AmyBeth - As I said before, and dont mean to repeat myself, I grew up in a house that spanked, and it flat out made me down right fear my mother, you should NOT fear authority, you should RESPECT it, I down right feared my mother, and never respected her, I was not beaten, I knew I was loved but I was deathly afraid to make a mistake in fear that I would be hit. You shouldnt learn to do the right thing because your AFRAID to get hurt, you should learn to do the right thing because, of the reward of doing the right thing. Eventually my mother went to smack me, and I punched her in the face, because I was tired of being afraid of HER form of consequense, i had no respect for her, I just feared her.

  13. By on January 26, 2011

    I was spanked as a child. I remember how much I hated it. I now have a 13 yr old, 5 yr old, 2 yr old, and one on the way. I’m happy and proud to say that I have never struck one of them. Ever. I don’t understand the reasoning behind hitting your precious child. Ever. Or screaming at them. It takes a lot to make me upset. I find that being calm and talking it out right away works the best because if you wait they are not likely to remember the exact situation. Often times though simply talking it out and letting you know that you were disappointed in their behavior is what is the most effective (for us anyway). My 13 yr old is a great kid, consistently on honor roll at school and a model kid and student. We have an extremely open relationship and she knows she can come to us with any problem.
    You respect your children-you get respect in turn. Simple as that. You yell scream and hit your child, your going to get a violent kid in return. You reap what you sow.

  14. By Kimberly o'Rosky on January 26, 2011

    As a child, my dad spanked me once and he cried harder than I did! Charlotte is only 6 months, but my husband and I discussed this topic fairly recently. We both believe that anger and violence ( we think hitting is a form of violence no matter how light or strong the act) is not the answer. It’s not something we want to teach our daughter and it never really solves the issue at hand anyways.

  15. By Sarah Christensen on January 26, 2011

    Molly - ME TOO!  I was a birth expert, not a baby expert…

    Mira - I’m not really sure.  I’ve never seen it in practice, but some mothers tell me they do.  At 18 months, I still feel like Charlotte isn’t really at the discipline stage.  But again, what do I know?  Maybe tomorrow she’ll do something radical that changes my perspective on the matter?  I figure that spanking falls under the same heading as most parental choices - people don’t do it because they think it is to the detriment of their child, they do it because they feel it’s the best choice.  I just don’t see myself doing it.

    Miss Joules - I have a friend you would LOVE.  Love.  She’s Alfie’s biggest fan ever in the world =)  She’s a big believer in treating children as we treat adults so that they model the behavior they see directed at them.  She always challenges me to think of Charlotte and the way I treat her and whether or not I’m being fair to her in my treatment.  I love that about her.

    Julie - I hadn’t thought of it that way, but that’s brilliant!

    Rebecca - That’s one of the reasons I don’t like it either.  If teachers have to find effective alternatives, and presumably don’t have the motivation with my children that I should, surely I can think of effective alternatives to spanking too.  Right?

  16. By Amber on January 26, 2011

    I was spanked as a kid, and it never taught me to be violent. I mean, really. Unless you’re being BEATEN, I don’t think it’s going to teach you that VIOLENCE is OK. I mean, my parents’ spankings didn’t even really hurt—its just an ass slap!

    I always reacted against them to my parents, telling them that it didn’t hurt, rolling my eyes, REFUSING to react. Thus, it never really taught me anything. THAT is the reason I would choose not to spank my child—because it didn’t ever work on my stubborn personality, and chances are it wouldn’t work on theirs, either.

  17. By Alicia S. on January 26, 2011

    I have a newfound respect for your opinion on this that I don’t think I would have had before I had my daughter (little sister to my very different son).

    We (sparingly) spank our son. Not only do we spank our son, but we will, without skipping a beat, dish out a swift pop on the rear in the middle of a department store if the occasion should call for it - which it rarely, but sometimes, does. And before I had my daughter, I wouldn’t have gotten far past the title of this without rolling my eyes in frustration and passing it off as one more parent who has never walked in the lonely shoes of a mother with a headstrong boy she so passionately wants to instill character, virtue and other wonderful qualities into. My son nearly knows how to read at barely three years old; he knew to unfailingly say ‘excuse me’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘may I’ at all the right times before any of his peers—he is an AMAZING child who is my whole heart personified, but both of my mothers (that including my in-law) who’ve both raised a number of troublesome boys - some who were spanked and some who weren’t - acknowledge that Matthew is just one of those young men who will need a firm foundation of discipline to thrive. My mother-in-law even surprised me once by commending my husband on his swift involvement in a specific situation that DID result in a quick and perfectly level-headed pop on the rear. And she has always been a non-spanker, EVEN after raising three difficult boys and the most problematic, disrespectful, destructive daughters that has probably walked the face of the planet, even into adulthood. I spank my son with nothing but love from time to time and I do it confidently, knowing that he specifically is better off for it.

    My daughter? I don’t think I ever could. I may be wrong, but I just don’t feel like every child needs that form of discipline—even sparingly. I look at my daughter, and even though I love my son with the same protective nature that matches that which I have for my daughter heartbeat for heartbeat, I relate to you completely.

    Also, I’m an avid reader of parenting books on discipline specifically and no matter what the books’ various opinions on spanking were, they all have advised that parents react in a way that is not emotionally compromised - whether it be stress or embarrassment or just sheer anger. For instance, there is a difference between intentionally raising your voice to a child in order to effectively demonstrate a point, and screaming at that child because they’ve enraged you so badly. I haven’t come across a book yet in which the experts behind it advocate disciplining immediately vs. disciplining level-headedly, even if that means taking a break from the situation and having to readdress it later. (But that’s mostly with older children—toddlers, of course, should simply be redirected most of the time).

    With our son though? No matter what the offense or the punishment, we always, always come out of the situation with long, tight hugs and renewed understanding of each other. Of course, I’ve worked in the childcare industry for years where obviously that form of discipline is not (and should never be) an option… But knowing that, I only feel that much more of a responsibility to teach my son respect by the means that I see necessary. Because if a parent cannot manage to get respect from their own child, then they’re paving a very difficult road for the child’s future teachers and caregivers who will have a slim chance, if any, of being able to get it.

    And one thing my mom always tells me to consider, regardless of what we choose to do, is that there will come a day when our sons will tower over us and will be more physically capable than even their fathers, and the behavior we’ll want to correct will be much more dire then and crucial to set straight. We will need to be prepared for that.

  18. By Sarah Christensen on January 26, 2011

    Amber - That’s the thing too.  A couple I know says they spank their kids.  But what they really do is swat their kids on the bottom.  The pathetic little swat (I give harder swats when I’m affectionately patting Char on the bottom as she runs off to a jungle gym sometimes) wasn’t so much the punishment as the knowledge that the children had upset their parents to the point of receiving a swat.  Everybody defines spanking differently.

  19. By Mom in Training on January 26, 2011

    Sheesh. I cannot imagine in this day and time someone thinking that hitting their child is effective parenting. And yes I am using my judgemental tone here, no one who spanks will ever get me to believe that their way is better or that they are justified in hitting their kid. What do babies ever do that is so bad that hitting them will teach them a lesson. I was never ever spanked and I fully remember how sad I would get when my parents were upset with me.  Both of my parents were beaten as children.  I don’t think if you speak to one person who grew up being spanked they would say it’s a great way to discipline.  Ack it just makes me sick.  To think of hitting Harper makes me ill and I do lose my cool and raise my voice to her sometimes and I do lose my cool and maybe use a little more force than I would like to (for instance if she is struggling and being a turd during a diaper change I may forcably hold her down until she stops) and I feel horrible about it afterwards!

  20. By on January 26, 2011

    When I was 3, my dad decided he could no longer tell the difference between spanking me to teach me or spanking me out of anger. So, he stopped. I’ve heard that Dad didn’t actually spank me more than once or twice. I only remember being spanked once and it was by an uncle. I was around 4 I think. My dad made it well know that he was only one how would ever discipline me again and no one was to ever raise a hand against me ever. It really was enough to firmly tell me to go to my room and think about what I had done and the consequences of my actions. My parents always taught me there were good and bad consequences for every action. I was allow to return to the family when I was ready. That was more than enough for me. I have never raised my hand against my 18 month old and I never will. When I feel like I’m loosing it, I stop, I count to 10 and then I gently pick up my daughter and hand her to her father and I leave the room. Sometimes I leave the house. I return when I’m ready to return to my family. I do sometimes tell my daughter “No” in firm rone and then I redirect her & we find something fun to do.

  21. By Sarah Christensen on January 26, 2011

    Alicia - I haven’t really read much about discipline yet, purely because I’m just not convinced that Charlotte is at that stage yet and I don’t feel that we’ve had any problems doing what we do.  But I am curious about the immediate vs. delayed.  I don’t know if I’m way off the mark, but I like to think that Char is more aware of her surroundings and her actions than we sometimes give her credit for.

    You could be right - maybe what matters most about discipline methods is keeping an individual child and their needs in mind.

  22. By Alicia S. on January 26, 2011

    I definitely agree with Amber! I mean, sheesh, my brothers and I get together as adults now and LAUGH at how my mom would always give us this emotional, “this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you,” before her worst ones, and they didn’t even hurt! It tore the little woman to pieces! But honestly, it would have probably hurt her feelings if we laughed at her, so we just kind of muffled our naughty little giggles, and we took our lessons with us. I believe that when I “spank” my son, (which just is not going to emotionally distroy the little gremlin - I mean, good Lord, let’s keep our perspective) I’m more than anything simply letting him know in a way he might be able to ‘hear’ over his own hoopla that I do not approve. I’m not ravaging him.. I feel like saying to those who have kind of radical views on the whole thing… ’are you implying that you love my son more than I love him? I mean, that’s laughable.

  23. By Sarah S on January 26, 2011

    I am a big non-spanking believer and we don’t use that for our kids. HOWEVER, after having 2 kids, I see why some people do it, and I do think there are some kids / personality types that will respond well to spanking. So, like most things in parenting, I have changed my mind a bit on that. For our kids though, I do yell sometimes but I try not to. When I do yell, I always point out to them that I asked them/told them something in my “nice voice” twice and the 3rd time it turns to yelling. Also, I try to apologize for yelling and explain that I was feeling angry and shouldn’t have done that. Sometimes just telling the kids that I am starting to feel frustrated with their behavior is enough. We all have to learn to manage anger, it’s not a feeling that humans can live without so I do think modeling that to your kids is a good thing.

    As for discipline, we have learned my daughter responds best to calm and logical consequences, putting the responsibility on her shoulders for making good decisions. Our latest was her not wanting to brush her teeth before school, discipline, 4 days of no dessert or treats. It works for her.

    My son responds best to time outs. He cries and screams but that is just the best way to respond to his mis-behavior.

    I would say, that even if you do end up spanking, Charlotte is way too young for it. Just like all of parenting, I think it comes down to knowing your own kid and your own family and figuring out what works for you.

  24. By Sarah S on January 26, 2011

    I also agree with Elizabeth - once they hit about 6, time outs don’t work anymore and you have to start what I call “big kid” discipline. Privileges taken away, missing out on fun activities.

  25. By on January 26, 2011

    I never got spanked but I am told that I was an easy going kid. You know when parents count, my mom says that she never got past one. My husband got spanked with a belt. It finally stopped when he was old enough to say he was going to call social services. I know that will NEVER happen with our son. Our son is 1 1/2 and defiantly takes after my husbands stubborn personality. The only form of discipline I do now is (I try not to tell him no which is hard because it’s always my first reaction) to tell him “ You cannot climb the table but you CAN climb on the couch” or “You cannot play on the stairs but you CAN play down here with us” or “We don’t put our feet on the table but you CAN put your hands on the table.“ I try to say it in a firm but calm voice, which isn’t always easy. I almost always have to repeat the same exact thing at least three time before he understands that I am not going to let him get away with it.

  26. By on January 26, 2011

    If a spank doesn’t hurt, and is just a way of telling your child that they have done something wrong, then it isn’t any different than other, non-violent ways of disciplining.  Why not just be creative.

    I don’t even think this should have been a topic for discussion.

    Violence is violence.  I’m sure Truman thought he was level-headed. That doesn’t make it ok.

  27. By Sarah Christensen on January 26, 2011

    Emily - Whether it should have been or should not have been, it was.  Another woman asked me how I discipline without spanking - and since I’m not really even at the age where discipline is an issue (I do alot of what Nicole does - please don’t do this, but you can do that - and alot of distraction and just talking it over), I thought it might be worth it to open up the floor to other parents.  Listening to other parents always forces me to think about aspects of a decision that I may not have previously considered - and doing that usually helps me better relate to people with different beliefs, change my mind, or feel more confident in my own choices.  Maybe next time someone asks me, I’ll have a better response than stuttering out the “um, er, she’s only one, and I don’t feel comfortable spanking, but I sort of feel like what I’m doing works okay, er, yeah.“

  28. By on January 26, 2011

    I think if you do choose to spank, it should never be in anger.  It should never be to make the parent feel better, but should be a controlled response.  It should be accompanied with an explanation and always followed with lots of forgiveness, love, and cuddles. 

    My daughter is 15 months, so while she isn’t talking back to me, she definitely has a will and will refuse to do what I say at times.  Children this age are figuring out that they’re separate from the mother and that they control their actions.  When she disobeys, I make sure to talk to her about it so she begins to understand that language—words like kindness, sharing, selfish, etc.  I don’t want to wait until she’s 5 to discipline—that would be so much harder than starting now and following through.

  29. By Carrie on January 26, 2011

    My child is 16 months old and I will never spank him, of that I am very sure.  I was spanked a couple times growing up, but what I really remember is the yelling.  My mother’s only form of communication.  She still screams at me when she gets frustrated and I’m 29 years old.  Once when I was teaching, I raised my voice to my students.  Feeling awful, I apologized the next day and we all moved on.  Some teachers yell at their students, I didn’t want to be one of them.  Some parents yell and spank their children, I will NOT be one of them.

  30. By mommica on January 26, 2011

    My personal opinion is that the punishment should fit the crime. My husband and I decided that we would spank our daughter if she did something to hurt herself or someone else. Of course, we never spanked her until she was old enough to understand when we said “This is how it feels when you hit mommy” or “It would hurt worse than that if you ran into the street.“ It is always done with a level head and (mostly) not out of anger.

    She gets more time-outs than anything, and they seem to work best for things like fits, when all she really needs is just to calm down.

    We use rewards for other behaviors. She gets a “special treat” if she sits at the table at dinner and behaves at the grocery store.

    I hate screaming - I remember how much I hated it when my mom did it growing up. This is one area I need to work on. Now that I’m pregnant with number 2, it has become easier for me to yell at her to do/stop doing something than to get up and MAKE her do/stop doing something.

  31. By on January 26, 2011

    With a son who mimics EVERYTHING I do, I can’t imagine that spanking would have desirable results. 

    I was never hit as a child. I’m pretty sure the only time one of my siblings was ever hit was when he threw a fit in a restaurant beyond normal/acceptable levels. We all turned out to be respectable, understanding, reasonable individuals.

    I can think of three or four people I know with grown children who all smacked/hit with a belt/spanked/abused? their kids. They all advocate that they think it’s crazy that more parents don’t smack their kids now-a-days. I look at their adult children who’s lives are in shambles, they have no respect for the people around them and have no direction or guidance. In one example the child has nothing to do with his father.

    Coincidence? Maybe. But I think it speaks mountains for communicating with your child what appropriate behavior is and what is unacceptable. I think that discipline (in one way or another) is very important from a young age. If Jude throws something at another child he’s expected to say he’s sorry. If Jude takes something from another child we discuss sharing and find our own toy or play together. If he whines for something he’s asked to say “please” before he can have it. If Jude empties a dresser drawer, he’s asked to help clean it up. If Jude throws a tantrum, he is removed from the situation and we explain that the behavior is not acceptable and then is replaced to try again.

    There have been a few times he’s gone ballistic and talking to him has no results. Usually I’ll nurse him, he’ll fall asleep and wake up a whole new child. So, no, hitting is not necessary, but discipline is for sure.

  32. By Catherine on January 26, 2011

    violence begets violence.  Does that mean that I haven’t totally lost my cool and yelled (way too loudly) at my son when he’s done something that sent me over the edge?  Sure, but I remember each time I’ve overreacted and strive to do better by my kids.  My brother and I were spanked a few times as children, I can remember each time with sadness and shame.  I’m sure my parents do, as well.  I hope to leave my children even fewer of those memories. 
    Kudos to you.  Parenting is hard and as they get older it becomes harder to be a “Perfect” parent, but it doesn’t mean we can’t strive to be the best parents possible.

  33. By Sarah on January 26, 2011

    This is another one of those topics that can cause many people to become angry and most of that is based upon how they were treated as a child. My dad used ot take us in the bathroom, smack his leg and tell us to “pretend to cry and go tell mom we were sorry”(he’s still a big softie!) I choose not to spank because I have a bad temper and I would never want to hurt my child out of anger. I have, however, given a well placed swat, simply to get one of my chidlren’s attention or to let them know the thing they are doing is not acceptable, but then I always talk them through it. I have never understood spanking such young children. I have family memebrs that do this and it goes all through me. A toddler does not understand reason . Anyway, I think it is great that you are taking it one day at a time and learning as you go!

  34. By Lauren on January 26, 2011

    I agree with Jessica Johnston.

    I don’t think spanking is for everyone, because I believe that when it’s done incorrectly it is harmful. But then, any discipline technique when done incorrectly is harmful.

    In my house, yelling, shaming, striking out or in any way using my own negative feelings toward the child to correct is NOT ON.

    My discipline philosophy so far is-
    -The three C’s- Clear, Calm, Consistent.
    -Never even talk to the child out of my own frustration (which is most usually born out of selfishness and lack of control of my own.)
    -Always back my husband up, he always backs me up.
    -Praise 10 times as much as I correct.

    I believe that spanking has gone out of vogue at the same rate as the leadership role in families has drifted from being the man as the head to nowadays being the woman. As much as the common line these days is that marriage is a partnership- parenting style is mostly directed by the woman. Most parenting books are addressed to females these days- it used to be the opposite. I think women find the idea of spanking harder than men.

    This is not to say that I think we’ve lost our way and everyone should spank. I think we’ve lost an idea of what proper spanking should look like, and so many of us were incorrectly disciplined or even abused as kids, that this generation probably will not find spanking very effective.

  35. By Julia on January 26, 2011

    Have you heard of the book Parenting with Love and Logic?  I really enjoyed it and the concept has been working pretty well for us (he’s two).  Basically, I give him two choices (like…if he’s not coming…are you going to walk here? or do I need to carry you?) and both options have to be something I’m okay with and will follow through on.  I’m in the middle of a couple other interesting books too that I’m eager to finish and learn some more ideas/theories to compare though because I rarely agree with everything in a single book (some examples in the love/logic seemed pretty extreme to me and doubt I’d do- but so far the general theory has been working well).  Thanks for the good topic as always :).

  36. By on January 26, 2011

    As for the discipline now or discipline later concept… I’ve heard on more than one occasion that for things like time out you should go with one minute for each year old. If that says anything about postponing discipline, it’s that the more immediate the response, the more effective it is. I especially feel this is important at a young age when children are still learning their language.


    For a totally made up, but not unlikely situation:
    I feel that Jude is a very bright little boy, but if I sat down with him later in the night after a tift on the playground and said “jude, earlier today, when you pushed the little girl off the swing, that was not very nice.“ He’d probably get “girl, swing and play ground” and smile at me. If I sat him down at the playground and showed him how it’s nice to push gently, but explained calmly that it’s not nice to push people off of things, he’d probably get a lot more from it.

    This is not to say that I go into every tantrum or situation with a zoloft induced calmness, but it’s what I strive for. Occasionally poor behavior gets a stern “Jude Michael” out of me or a set of evil eyes that only a mother is capable of. I think looks and tones are the things that kids who are not hit begin to fear (I dreaded the wrath of my father and the judging eyes of my mother) more than beatings.

  37. By Jodie on January 26, 2011

    I was spanked only in response to very dangerous situations (i.e. when I ran out into the street in front of a car). My discipline with my children has followed pretty similarly. Our 5-yr-old has received an occasional spanking in situations where she disobeyed a rule that resulted in a major safety risk. She knows that if she gets a spank, it’s a big deal. For other behavior issues, we’ve used time-outs with major success. We talk to her before AND after the timeout about why she’s in trouble and how we expect her behavior to look instead.

    My son is a little younger than Charlotte. He has a very different temperament than our first born. The stern “no” is completely ignored by him. And he is very adventurous - climbing and danger seem to be his #1 interest. He’s definitely a more headstrong, challenging child already!

  38. By Jodie on January 26, 2011

    Haha….. I just asked my 5-yr-old what kinds of things she gets spankings for and she said, “just for fun!“  LOL. Kids!

  39. By on January 26, 2011

    @Mom in Training - I was spanked VERY freqently as a child, and I 100% advocate spanking.  Most of my friends were also spanked as children and they now spank their own children.  The child’s experience of it depends greatly on how the parents handle it.  My parents always sat us down to say why we were getting a spanking, we got spanked, they gave us a hug and told us they loved us.  I NEVER doubted my parents love, was never afraid of them and I know spanking was essential for me in the formation of my character.  I spank my 2 boys and it works wonders.  Often times I try to use a time-out first and my older son is just hysterical screaming, throwing things and generally being a nutcase.  I spank him, he recovers within a minute, hugs me then happily runs off to play.  I’m not trying to get you to spank your kids, I just wanted to offer my perspective as someone who was spanked hundreds of times as a child.  I’m a very well-adjusted adult and I have a wonderful relationship with both parents.  This whole “violence begets violence” line as related to spanking is crap.  If someone tries to tell you that their life is a mess or they are violent because they were spanked as a child, I guarantee you’d find there was significant dysfunction in their family and issues wholly unrelated to spanking that pushed them in that direction.  While many wouldn’t agree with spanking regardless of how well the parents approach it, it’s completely ridiculous to lump all spanking into the category of violence, abuse, and torture.

  40. By Tracy Roberts on January 26, 2011

    I think you know how I feel about “spankings” which is just a nice word for hitting another human being.
    http://www.nospank.net

    As for discipline though, what many of the parents here are mentioning is punishment which I also believe serves no purpose other than making a parent a policeman.

    Discipline is different, it comes from the word “disciple” which means “to guide”.  Guiding is not hitting, it is not making another person miserable by sticking them in another room for a predetermined period of time.  And if you really think your child is thinking about anything other than how pissed she is at you, you are wrong.

    Time out came from the phrase time out from positive reinforcment which was a procedure done to rats in a lab.  Our children deserve better.  They deserve to be worked with, not have things done to them.

    I could go on forever, but there are a few excellent parenting books and sites that take this topic on quite well.
    Uncondtional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
    http://www.alfiekohn.org has excellent shorter articles too.
    Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon

    Discipline as you said Sarah should be about teaching, not about control.

    I think discipline gets easier as children get older too because then they can participate in problem solving.
    All behavior is just that, behavior.  I dont buy the misbehavior thing because there is ALWAYS a reason behind unwanted behavior and are acting just as they should/can based on the age/development of the child.

    Behavior that is unwanted is simply a problem YOU are having, work it out with your child.  Take ownership of the fact that you are the one not OK with what is happening, treat your child like a person, learn to solve problems with children (see books above), and most importantly model the behavior you want!

    Sarah, holding a discipline workshop for our group and AP orange county soon.

  41. By Alicia S on January 26, 2011

    You’d have to be pretty off your rocker to have to stop yourself from lashing out in anger to a kid Jude or Charlotte’s age. :-)  I think it relates more toward like three to—well, teens, I suppose. What I’ve read in the books I’ve looked into (Parenting with Love and Logic being one of them)  were simply not to feel *pressure* to respond to something immediately (to an older child—probably older than even Matthew although it works wonders with him) for fear that it won’t be effective. Becuase then you run the worse risk of being brash or not following through with a threatened concequence.

    I also don’t follow it to the tee, but I took from the section on toddlers a few gems that have really taken some of the hair-pulling out of raising my very willful little little bugger :-)

  42. By Jill on January 26, 2011

    I’m also a fan of “love and logic”. I need to go read that book again . . . (I’m a schoolteacher).

    I also believe that there are better, more effective ways of disciplining than spanking or any form of attempting to cause physical pain to another human being, or emotional or mental pain for that matter.

    Why is it that it is somehow ok to hit a child when it is not ok to ever hit anyone in any other situation? It just doesn’t make sense. We need to prepare children for life, and the realities of the choices they make. The reality is, they will not be (at least they shouldn’t be) hit or abused if they don’t turn in their homework, or get in trouble at work, etc etc, they might get a bad grade, or get laid off, etc.

    I’m a fan of helping kids understand the natural consequences of their actions. Think about why it is that a certain behavior is not acceptable and then figure out a way to explain it or show it, teach it. For instance, why don’t we want kids to hit other kids? Well, for several reasons, we don’t want our kids to not be able to make friends, we don’t want our kids to become bullies, we want our kids to develop good relationships with others etc. How is spanking going to teach this?

    I’ve noticed that those who use spanking and where it works, it is not the spanking that sticks or is effective, it is the accompanying explanation with a consequence of some sort (being hit, in this case). Therefore, why not replace spanking with a healthy consequence that doesn’t require causing your child pain. A no brainer for me . . .

    By the way, I was never spanked, and let me tell you, I felt waaaaaaay more remorse and spent hours thinking about my actions and their consequences because my parents were good at explaining what I did wrong, letting me experience natural consequences, and making sure I understood their disappointment in me.

    There are other issues with spanking:
    1. you will not always be around to exact punishment, your child will go to school, leave home and then what will regulate their behavior?
    2. your child will grow too old for it to be socially acceptable to spank and then where will you be?

    Teach your children to regulate their OWN behavior, teach them to think things through, to make their OWN good decisions. This way, they will grow up and discipline themselves. Isn’t that the goal?

  43. By on January 26, 2011

    LOL My Mom used to open her eyes real wide and purse her lips so tight when she was mad at me. It scared the bejeezus out of me!

    We won’t spank (I hope). I think there are better ways of dealing with discipline. I think spanking is the quick impatient reaction. We should be able to take the time to think about how to deal with the situation and do it calmly. It’s a goal I strive for but I don’t always meet it. It’s not easy to discipline when you’re busy and/or exhausted…. But I try…

  44. By on January 26, 2011

    Woah, what a hot topic!!  I was raised under the adage of “spare the rod, spoil the child” and I was what was known as “head-strong” and “hot-headed” and I was spanked. Not beat, mind you. But spanked. I didn’t learn to be violent from those spankings. But by the same token I don’t think they taught me how to be a good parent. Flash forward many years: I spanked the first three because that is the only way I knew to “discipline”. It was about as effective as I’d experienced as a child. Enter child number four—and by then I had mellowed, figured out spanking didn’t really work and I did it all differently. The core of your relationship with a child is the number one thing you need to focus on. Without a loving, trusting, consistent, strong relationship with him or her you are really just putting a band-aid on the problem when you spank. So how would I vote? Oh, no spanking. But mostly I vote that a person follows their heart and does what their heart tells them is right to do with their own child. I think your responses to that woman were wonderful, Sarah. You think you don’t know shit. I disagree. You know so much more than I ever knew when I was your age with small children. And you are kind about sharing it with people like that woman. Three cheers for you!

  45. By on January 26, 2011

    I would just like to add that I think Jill (above) said it best. While I was reading her explanation I thought to myself: parents take what seems to them as the easiest way out….spank the child, send them to their room, etc. Her way (and the way she was raised) takes a great deal of thought, follow-through, patience.

  46. By Tracy Roberts on January 26, 2011

    reading through your comments, it floors me how many people think hitting is still OK.

    “When a child hits a child, we call it aggression. When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility. When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault. When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.“
    — Haim G. Ginott

  47. By Alicia S. on January 27, 2011

    I just want to add that those who think that parents who PAT THEIR CHILDREN ON THE REAR are taking a brash, impatient, thoughtless, easy-way-out of parenting their child could not be further off the mark. I understand completely that some parents would never, and could never do it. As I said before, had I never had my son—only my daughter, I would be on that team. (Though I’d take more time than some on here have to not judge so thoughtless and radically.) And I have nothing but respect for parents who choose that path with their own children.

    I normally stay out of these more hot topic issues, but I replied to this one because, Like Sarah I have an open mind about the subject, and I was interested in hearing other techniques that parents use to guide their little ones in the direction they feel is right. Sarah’s right, we ALL love our children. I’m willing to bet that the percentage of child-abusing parents that do very much exist probably do not have blogs like we do, wherein they dedicate forty minutes a day to editing photographs and beautiful memoirs of every runny nose and playdate their child has ever had. We are not those parents. Not the ones who spank and not the ones who don’t. I normally stay off of these topics issues because more often than not, I’m pretty set in my ways. I’ve researched the subject for myself and I do what I do because it’s best for my family. I am not looking to have my view swayed and I have no intention of swaying another’s way that works for them. This, I was interested in hearing other beliefs on because when it comes to disciplining my child: he is always growing and what it takes to discipline him effectively will probably shift from time to time as he learns to test new boundaries in new ways. It’s one of the facets of his budding personality I adore the most. If he does not CRAVE discipline, than he does a poor job of showing it! J

    I won’t get upset with statements that would have very deeply offended me had they not been so comically, radically misguided. And I will not defend my stance to the tee - because it may change if I am able to find a better way that my son responds to as well and that my husband agrees will be effective.

  48. By Alicia S. on January 27, 2011

    In all complete and honest sincerity though, I would like to say Mother to Mother that my deepest fear is not that my child will grow to be abuse others (only because I’m so sure that he won’t); it is not that he will disrespect me in front of the other Mommies at a playdate—It’s that he might walk in the very real shoes of the bullies who torment my step-daughter to tears nearly everyday on the bus—or worse, threaten her if she doesn’t do it to someone else. Our experiences shape our fears and our fears shape that which is most important for us to shield our children from.

    My husband was laid off a few years back and while the economy was bad the only job he could get was a school bus driving job in which he was highly overqualified for, and it was one of the most eye-opening experiences for us in our parenting lives. My personal experience was not in abuse or neglect (though I have seen many children come through the foster care system of our close neighbor growing up who WERE and the fact that parents liken a well-intentioned, loving pat on the rear with THAT? That is what sickens me.), my personal experience was having my step-daughter bullied, and when the teacher tried to defend her, the little fifth grade jerk called the teacher a stupid B-word. That is my biggest fear. Before my husband drove that school bus, I worried that if Matthew goes to a public kindergarten, he might learn from the older kids that Santa Clause isn’t real—I now know that chances are, he’ll hear more words—I can’t even bring myself to type on here (and I’m not even the prude type!)—than I even know exist before he turns SEVEN. My experience is watching more and more children over the passing years go into the care of my mother and I in our respective daycares, BEATING on their mothers for taking them home or for telling them that broccoli was on the menu that night. Yanking at their hair, punching them in their faces… screaming at them that they are ugly and that they hate them…. For cooking them broccoli. And that is not a made-up scenario. Everything I’ve mentioned was a true experience and there were many more like them. That is my biggest fear for my child, because that is the kind of child that far outweighs what seemingly few mannerly, respectful, considerate children that there are LEFT in this society. That is what I want most for my son, and I will not allow the scorn of some mother five hundred miles away from ever knowing the beautiful relationship that exists between my firstborn baby boy and I to guilt me out of disciplining my son, and teaching him in a way that is done with both ample amounts of love AND respect, the way that I see fit. I will not fear my son the way that some mothers have grown to fear their students and their children’s peers. My son depends on me for structure, and I love him enough to give it to him.

    That’s My Son by Rick Johnson. Illustrates my point beautifully.

    So tell me that your beliefs are different. Tell me that your experiences make non-violence a bigger priority in your mind. Go ahead and tell me that I’m going about it the wrong way. But do not accuse me of patting my son on the rear because I want an easy way out of demonstrating to him right from wrong.

  49. By Cambria on January 27, 2011

    We don’t spank. I can’t even fathom it.

    At two, Hadley is at such an age that she repeats everything and on top of me just not able to hurt my child, I think it sends a mixed message to such a young child. Do we spank her as a punishment for hitting her sister?

    We do, however, do time outs, or if in public, she may lose her privilage in whatever we are doing. And if she’s just crabby, whiney etc., we have her go to her room for quiet time. We also request an apology when one is necessary.
    Our words and voiced have to be stern and sometimes she cries, but it works for us.

    Good luck! To not spank was a no brainer for us, but how to be a united front - mostly on what behavior deserves a TO - on discipline has been the tough part.

  50. By on January 27, 2011

    I am a nanny and I taught elementary school for a number of years, obviously spanking or any form of corporal punishment has never been an option for me. What I have seen and experienced though is that the children who are spanked are less equipped to handle conflict with their peers,either they are way too passive or they resort to physical means-pushing, pulling grabbing things from people etc. I have also noticed from working in people’s homes and speaking with the parents of my students that spanking tends to give better immediate obedience but other forms of discipline tend to have better long term results, however the problem often takes weeks to be fully resolved and it takes a lot of commitment from all caregivers.
    I favor the long term success, I see over and over again how kids respond to the consistency.  I think though people fail to realize that it is not a pretty method, it often results in huge tantrums and rebellions initially, they test the waters and it really is not fun, but they come out on the other side and they get it, they have been taught methods of dealing with stressful situations and the lessons carry over into other parts of life.

  51. By Amanda Brown on January 27, 2011

    I am not opposed to spanking and it has been part of our discipline approach, though never done in anger (except for one time and I felt so awful and couldn’t stop crying about my lack of control). I found we spank more in the earlier years of life (say, ages 18 months - 2 years) since it’s hard for kids to really understand time-outs, loss of priveleges, etc when they’re that young, and then less as they get older. We still sometimes use the threat of a spank (“If you do that again, you will get a spank”) but rarely have to follow through with my four year-old since she knows we mean it and she usually chooses to stop the bad behavior. This is such a tricky, delicate subject and so much depends on the child’s personality. When we do discipline, we always make it clear what the consequence will be (“If you hit your sister again, you will have a time out,“  or “If you choose not to share while we’re at your friend’s house, we will leave and go home.“) so they know the boundaries and the expectations.
    My biggest parenting philosophy is RESPECT. That’s how I was raised: my parents valued me as a human being and at a very young age would be open to discussing things with me, re-evaluating their stance on certain issues once they heard my point of view, and they never lorded their authority over me. I want my children to know they are respected, and, in turn, to respect me and my husband.
    Hard to live that out sometimes when my two year-old is in the middle of a thrashing tantrum because I had the audacity to make her get dressed in the morning, but we’re trying. :)

  52. By Tracy Roberts on January 28, 2011

    Mickyoll,
    I am sorry you have to go through that and I sincerly hope you will question the premise behind why your parents discipline you this way when/ if you have your own children.
    I have a really hard time believing that Jesus would ever treat children that way, so using the Bible as an excuse does not work for me.

  53. By on January 28, 2011

    Amen, Tracy!

  54. By Sarah Christensen on January 28, 2011

    Hi everyone.

    The comment that a previous commenter left which described physical abuse of a minor, including all the information I can trace such as IP address has been reported to the appropriate authorities.  The comment has been made private so that it cannot be accidentally deleted, so that the commenter’s privacy is protected, and so that it can more readily be investigated.

    If you are or know someone who is enduring physical assault in silence, please PLEASE speak up.  Contact the authorities.  Do not wait.

  55. By on January 29, 2011

    What I have learned from working with kids of all ages for the past 8 years is that it doesn’t really matter how you punish poor behavior.  What matters is consistency.  You will send mixed messages to a child if you punish them one time for a poor behavior, but then let it slide when they repeat this behavior.  And there are many more ways to get a child to have a desired behavior.  Positive reinforcement seems to work with most kids, so then the thought of spanking won’t need to be dealt with.  After the warning, if the child changes their behavior to something more desirable, give them positive feed back like hugs and kisses.  I’m not so sure immediate hugs are effective when a child is freshly out of time-out because of the mixed messages, but I guess as long as you are consistent with when you use time-outs it should work.

  56. By Tracy Roberts on January 29, 2011

    @ Lauren and all who use time outs and positive reinforcement or for that matter all the punitive forms discussed here, I challenge you to read the VOLUMES of reserach discussed in Punished By Rewards or for a more reader friendly verison, Unconditional Parenting.  Both books by Alfie Kohn.  It will knock your socks off and I make the relationship between you and your children 100 times better.

  57. By Miami DUI Lawyer on February 04, 2011

    I believe you have a great attitude about being a parent. I wish I had been raised as you were. Yelling seems to be in my nature. So I too have to take a deep breathe and give myself time to compose. I have to always be mindful of how I’m speaking to my daughter. It isn’t easy but it’s worth it.


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