Because I’m Bigger Than You, That’s Why!

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Discipline is a controversial topic. Like many parenting responsibilities, deciding how to teach a child the difference between acceptable behaviours and wrong doings is often difficult.  However, one thing is certain: any parent trying to teach his or her child will be confronted with advice from well-meaning people, whether he or she solicits it or not.  Parents are then left to choose between spanking or not, time out or in, and mainstream or alternative styles of parenting under the watchful eye of do-good advisors.

The problem with discipline is that no one style will work for all children. The problem with advice is that no one person is meant to instruct all other people in how to “train” their children. The problem with all of that is by the time you are figuring all of this out chances are that you are at the end of your rope with the whole situation, and you still have a kid that needs some sort of guidance.  So what is a parent to do?

First, if you are looking for a blog instructing you to spank your little one then click away now because that is not what you will be getting here. I believe that there is a fine line between a spanking and a beating, and in the middle of a spanking it may be hard to stay on the right side of that line.

I honestly believe that parents need to listen to their instincts. Most people who spank say things like, “I wish I didn’t have to do this,” “I hate hitting him or her I just don’t know a better way,” and “this is harder on me than you.”  Let me assure you that it is not harder on the hitter than the hittee!  There is emotional trauma and physical trauma being perpetrated on a child by the very people that are supposed to protect them. So, while you may not like what you are doing, you are not being damaged by your actions.  The fact that a parent would need to say the above excuses tells me that said parent’s instincts are screaming out against the discipline style.

I am not a spanker. I don’t want to teach my children that the best way to gain compliance is through intimidation and physical harm. I would rather my children act in socially acceptable ways because empathetically they feel that it is the right thing to do. For instance, I don’t want them to share a toy because I threatened to spank them if they didn’t. I want them to share because it feels good to make people smile.

I was spanked. I wasn’t abused, and I can count on one hand how many times my dad took the belt out in the name of training my sisters and myself “up right”.  However, the though of that belt stifled my will as a child. I no longer felt safe to be me. I grew up more withdrawn than my peers, and to this day I find it difficult to maintain friendships.  I associate this difficulty with my inability to trust people, which, in my opinion, stems from the breaking of trust that occurred after my first spanking.

Even if you don’t believe the spankings are doing any lasting harm, you can’t deny the hypocrisy of it all. How can we teach children to be kind while being cruel? To not hit after we strike them. To not yell after we scream in to their tiny ears.  How can we justify these things?

First, people find strength in numbers. Many people describe proper discipline as something which includes physical action. Phrases like, “snatch them up”, “bust their ass”, and ” tan their hide,” are common in my area. Really? That is how you want to treat the tiny being that you carried inside you for 40 weeks? I personally find it hard to purposely, and with out necessity, inflict pain or discomfort in my tiny beings.

I have been confronted with criticism over my lack of spanking.  My own mother has said that I do not fully discipline my children. Yes, she has gone as far as to compare my children with my sisters children and say that mine are unruly.  However, I cannot agree with her judgement of my parenting.  How can you compare a family which consists of five children with one only having two children? Obviously, we are louder because there are more voices. We create confusion, but only because there are so many of us travelling in so many different directions. I just believe that there are too many differences to make an accurate comparison.  Furthermore, spanking does not mean full discipline.  Spanking is a punishment. Discipline teaches a child. Discipline does not have to include punishment.  Therefore, I repeat there is no comparison!

I must admit that I do not know the best way to discipline a child. I believe that discipline should be gentle. I believe that children should be guided to making good choices through love and empathy. However, I don’t know how to do that.  I know that my children are all different. No matter how many times I punish my oldest she does not listen but if I talk to her about a problem she seems to understand and I see change in her behavior.  Also, my fourth child, a headstrong and active the year old, does not respond well to threats. Telling him that he will be sent to his room if he does that again seems to invoke some rebellious spirit in to him. Seriously, his grin widens and he is compelled to repeat the action. He functions much better with diversion techniques.

All of my kids learn differently. I am one parent, but I am learning how to parent five children all differently.  Obviously, I have rules and consequences, but when it comes to getting the rules to be followed I have been learning to adapt my style based on each child’s individual needs.

I will be forever learning as I travel through this journey called parenting. I see that every judgement I made about children and parenting styles before I was a parent was unfair, unjust, and uneducated. Now, I know that I know nothing about parenting. I have to keep learning about my kids and their needs.  However, I know that hitting is not the way to be the parent I want to be.

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