Spanking goes against every motherly instinct I have.
This month, Ireland became the 47th country in the world to outlaw corporal punishment of children, including in the home. This means that it's illegal for parents in Ireland to spank, slap, hit, or inflict any kind of physical punishment on their children for misbehavior. Other countries that have outlawed these practices include Argentina, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Israel, Kenya, and the Netherlands.
If you asked most families in the U.S. if we should follow suit and ban corporal punishment by parents, you would be met with some very passionate responses. The majority of Americans believe that spanking should be allowed in the home, though they differ on how often, what methods should be used, and which punishments require a spanking.
I'm a mother who's in a slim minority: I've never spanked my children and don't intend to. Yes, raising children is damn hard. Yes, it brings me to my knees every day. And for sure, there have been times when I've felt so angry and frustrated that I wanted to give my kids a little slap on the face or bottom.
But at the same time, it went against every instinct in my body to do so.
I know that every family needs to make a decision that works for them on this issue. I believe — and hope — that even families who choose to spank do so sparingly, and try to inflict the least amount of pain on their children. I also know that some parents might spank once or twice, and feel so upset by it that they choose to stop. Parents are only human, and most are just trying to do their best.
1. It goes against all my instincts as a mother.
I'm the safe place for my kids. They come to me when they're sad, mad, and hungry (gosh, they're always hungry!). I can't imagine purposely inflicting pain on them, even if I could justify the reason. And though I may know why I did it, they wouldn't understand. All they would know is that the person they trust the most in the world is hurting them. I can't picture this happening without my heart breaking in two.
2. Research supports that spanking harms children.
It's not just me and my "sensitive" spirit. There's a ton of research supporting the fact that corporal punishment harms children. In fact, the Academy of American Pediatrics "strongly opposes striking a child for any reason." Other major health organizations have similar stances.
3. I'm more interested in teaching my children how to manage their feelings long-term.
Although spanking might produce the result of compliance in the moment, studies show that spanking doesn't produce an overall trend of good behavior among children; in fact, it often makes them more aggressive and defiant. My goal as a parent is to help my children work through their complex, sometimes explosive (and often infuriating!) feelings.
It's going to be messy and loud, but I want to raise kids who not only learn boundaries, but also learn how to express their feelings healthfully and without shame.
4. I don't want my children to believe that hitting or violence is a way to resolve conflicts.
This is something about spanking I have never been able to wrap my mind around. We all agree that children shouldn't hit others, but doesn't spanking teach them to do just that? It just doesn't make logical sense to tell a kid that hitting is "bad," but then model that behavior yourself.
5. There are alternatives to instill good behavior in children.
One of the things you hear from people who advocate spanking is that kids who aren't spanked have no respect or boundaries. Parents who don't spank certainly discipline their kids. In my house, we use consequences, positive reinforcement, and whatever the situation calls for to set appropriate boundaries and expectations for our kids.
Yes, my kids (and I) are wholly imperfect. But who isn't? I'd rather put in the time and work to raise good citizens peacefully than resort to quick and often ineffective solutions like spanking.
6. How I handle my own emotions is a model for my own children.
I'm not perfect. I yell more than I would like to. Yes, that day my toddler toilet-papered our entire bathroom I had to leave the room because my rage was boiling up like a volcano. I don't believe my kids need a flawless parent, but they need one who's trying each day to manage her feelings, and not take them out of her kids.
If I yell, I apologize. When I have a moment where I don't feel like I can control my anger, I leave the room to cool off. I do the best that I can, and I ask my children to do the same.
7. I can see the results from not spanking.
My children are blossoming into smart, kind people who are able to express their emotions without fear. My first child is a difficult child, always has been. I'm constantly needing to reinvent the wheel with him in terms of how I discipline him.
That's why I'm always a little bit floored when his teachers consistently tell me what a well-behaved child he is. Most importantly, they tell me what a good friend he is. The fact that he knows how to be a good friend and citizen is the most important thing to me and makes my heart happy.
I know that the way we discipline our kids has a traditional aspect to it and many cultural sections of America are going to laugh or scoff at my reasons.
Many parents feel that all their instincts tell them that spanking is important, normal, and necessary. They will say that they turned out well and so will their children.
Perhaps that's the case often enough, but in a world that seems to be teeming with violence lately, I want you to step out of the box for a minute and consider that spanking (even lightly) is sending a very specific and direct message to children that force is an appropriate reaction to conflicts.
I urge you to consider whether this is the message you want your kids to be learning, especially given the fact that other, gentler and more effective methods of discipline are out there.