If asked what chapter in this book I had difficulty writing, I would have to say this one.
In my son’s earlier years, he had a bout with anger management. He would easily be angered and the intensity of his resentment would not be commensurate to the situation at hand. More often than not, he would be screaming and kicking. He would growl and grunt like a warrior about to be put in the ring, ready for a match.
Seeing your son at five having that much anger is very disconcerting. Although the strangest thing was that he never, ever vented on me (usually his little sister was the clueless casualty—she was three at that time). I attribute this now to rapport. Yet still, this behavior was unacceptable and undesirable.
My usual approach when he was in this mode was to simply speak to him. Just like any negotiator, I told him that I understood his frustration. I made it a point that he did not to go to bed without taking responsibility for his actions. I asked him to write five things that he thought he did wrong that particular moment.
He wrote about his “unbecoming behavior” and how sorry he was. I was happy with that since my son had this mind-set of carrying up to the following day any disappointment or frustration he had the day before.
His father chanced upon him the following morning picking on his younger sister, again. His father was always patient but perhaps realized that the behavior his son showed his little sister had reached its limit and was no longer acceptable. In short, he gave him a big whack on the butt. One of the very few times he ever did.
Spanking is such a widely used form of punishment (read: not discipline but punishment). A lot of books have been written about the pros and cons of spanking. Most psychiatrists and psychologists explicitly state that no parent should ever spank a child. I believe it’s unrealistic to think this way.
Say, for example, you are a well-meaning parent who was advised that a no-spanking policy should exist in your home. You have a child who has been misbehaving badly and you have been longing to give him a spank. But then, you believe in the book, that you will become a terrible parent if you are one of the parents who spanks their children. So you muster enough self-control and don’t spank your child. The result? The tension between you and your child becomes stronger as the number of times you dread to give your child a spanking but stop yourself from doing so. That’s why this approach is unrealistic. It would be better that you give your child a few swats to clear the air. Afterward, the two of you can start over again. I perceive this as the same concept in adults wherein you try to bring a hysterical person back to reality by giving them one big slap. Afterward, one feels sorry but is able to release tension, and the other becomes more in touch with the world and realizes that they can’t always have it their way.
Again, I will emphasize that spanking is a poor and less effective method of teaching. If parents were perfect, then there would be no need for spanking at all. But we are not. We are human beings whose patience has limits, we have tempers. Oftentimes, we show our humanity by being the vulnerable and affected people that we are. Which is why I make room for the occasional spanking, not because it is a good form of discipline strategy, but because it is an integral part of human nature and for my children to realize that I have limits too.
I’ll try to recall the number of times I have given my children a spanking throughout my life: My eldest, about seven times. My son, cannot remember. My youngest, only once as well. But she remembers it vividly, that it did not even really hurt; she was just surprised that I attempted to spank her. And if I recall it accurately, I have not spanked any of them since they were four or five years old. When I did so, I was a young mother in my twenties. I did not have the tolerance nor patience I had back then as I do now.
Children have their own characteristics and personalities. I figure now that perhaps the reason I spanked my youngest less than the other two children was because she was an easier child to deal with. And by my third child, I knew better how to handle my children. Obviously, spanking is not a widely used form of discipline for me. And when I say spanking, I mean, a few swats with a slipper on your child’s bottom. To spank or hit them in another part of their body is unreasonable. I don’t use my hands either. Children should not learn to identify your hands as a tool that will inflict pain on them. This is why I use a slipper since it is a detached object that can be discarded later on. Above all, we teach children to love, and one of our greatest tools to show love is our hands. Hands are for showing love, not pain.
If the other strategies in this book are used properly, you will find that there are fewer times of frustration that will give you the emotional need to spank. And I am sure you would like to spank as seldom as possible. Since spanking is a punishment and not a form of discipline, it suffers from many psychological drawbacks that go with any form of punishment.
I reiterate, whenever we spank a child, it teaches them to hate, fear, and avoid us. The number of times we spank them is the equivalent amount of hate, fear, and wanting to avoid us they will feel. How can we become good and effective examples and teachers to our children if they fear and avoid us or, more so, if they hate us? It has also been proven by many studies that spanking arouses a deep desire in children to retaliate and seek revenge as they get older.
Spanking, like other forms of punishment, is useless as the child gets older, say eleven or twelve (in girls, when they start having their monthly period). Come to think of it, how could one possibly spank a teenager unless they’re a father who is as huge as Arnold Schwarzenegger, or a mother as strong and powerful as Xena, the warrior princess? (I assure you, even Arnie and Xena cannot prevent their children from running away after being spanked!)