I often get questions from personal friends and from online followers on why (and how) we choose not to punish by spanking. I will be totally honest and say that both my husband and I have failed in this and have laid hurtful hands on the kids in moments of weakness and helpless anger. But mostly, if we feel angry and unable to handle things calmly, we try to take a parent time out util we can deal with the problem and/or behavior with calm and consistency with our house rules.
Modeling and consistency are key. Discipline is showing a child the way to live. They’re following in our footsteps. So, spanking makes absolutely no sense. It’s telling a child, “I don’t like what you did, and I’m bigger than you, so I can exert my power over you and hit you” it also says “you’re bad!” to the child. So I try not to do it. I don’t want to create more stress in hour house than there already is!
Modeling and Consistency
I usually carefully police my OWN behavior in order to make sure that I am showing my babies the kind of person I want them to look up to. I do use time outs, but only when one of the kids really needs a break from the situation at hand – and the time outs are not punishments, they are time to stop and think about the rule that they are disregarding. So, I sit WITH them, we watch the clock, and take deep breaths for one minute (or three minutes, sometimes, for Abbey). Then we recite the rule that the child broke, talk about what happened to lead to the destructive or disrespectful behavior, and think of something we can do differently next time.
Time outs aren’t shame-based when they’re used with compassion. . . and they’re not useless when used with consistency and presence. It helps the child think about what they’re doing and the actions that they’re taking. And lets them know that mommy (or daddy) cares about them. Responding with sensitivity can be so useful in consistently supporting house rules and respectful behavior without shaming.
In Their Shoes
Of course, this example uses breastfeeding as an example for an adult to get “in children’s shoes” . . . the topic is so central in my life as a LLL Leader and student of Public Health. So, here we go: lets get into a situation in which we are upset and someone is trying to change our behavior with words.
Suppose you are a mom (or maybe you are a mom) who tried awfully hard to breastfeed, but ended up weaning from the breast early and using formula. Would you feel empowered to try again if someone said “shame on you for not making it work the first time! You need to be punished for the way you behaved! Babies deserve breastmilk! What’s wrong with you!?” or if someone said instead, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out the first time. That must make you feel sad. I can help you try again. We can talk about this, and next time you try, I know you can succeed!”
I’m pretty sure that in both of the situations above, you would prefer the gentle, supportive, sensitive approach. It’s human to be self-preserving, and being yelled at or shamed is scary. We respond better to positive language and perform tasks (including learning how to calm down when upset) better when positive, supportive language is used.
Obviously, we as adults don’t want to be shamed and ridiculed for our behaviors – It feels awful, even just thinking about it, doesn’t it!? So why would we want to put that same heavy, awful feeling on our little ones?
Do you try to parent with compassion?
What do you think your discipline tactics say to your child?