Monday, May 28, 2012
Before I had my son I knew I wasn't a fan of corporal punishment. I still feel that way almost 20 months later. Sure there have been times that I when I let my anger get the better of me and thought about a good swat to the bum or hand, but no, I knew, it wasn't productive. Recently, the discussions between parental friends has centered around discipline since we are all parents of toddlers. I have found it hard to explain exactly WHY I instinctively don't like or agree with corporal punishment. I always come off as that sappy clingy mom who doesn't want to hurt her kids feelings. Thats not the case either.
I find it very strange that a good analogy came to me during the celebration of Pentecost. I haven't a clue why, maybe my son was really ticking me off at the time. But here goes.
Using spanking, hitting, swatting or pinching is like dropping the "F" bomb.
Bear with me.
In college I took several writing classes for theatre and literature. In all of these classes there were some loose "rules" of writing. You didn't have to follow them, but if you look at culture and good writing you will find these rules are somewhat obeyed. One of those rules, especially when writing dialogue, was to avoid using the "F" bomb at all costs or if necessary to use it sparingly. In other words, use it once when it needs to resonate with the audience, when you need to make a powerful impression. If you find yourself adding the word while drafting a piece always question "is it necessary?" "does it serve a purpose to further the story?". I always thought that advice (given by all of my professors) was some of the best advice for writing , I never thought it would come in handy for parenting.
So far, I think, corporal punishment is much the same. Ask your self, "is it necessary?" "what purpose is it serving?" and last of all "how does it resonate with the child?" . Because I haven't spanked my son, I can't really imagine what would happen, besides shock on his part. The times I've been tempted to spank or swat his hand have been when I was angry, which was an indication that I needed to give myself a time out and separate myself from the situation. Has it ever been necessary? Not yet.
When you tell yourself that physical pain is not an appropriate means of discipline something happens inside of you as a person. First, you have to discover more powerful and clear means of conveying right and wrong. Maybe something they are doing isn't actually BAD, maybe its just a behavior you find annoying. I stop and question, "Does he know that is wrong?" "Have I ever told him it was wrong?" No? Than why I am I yelling at him?
Setting a high bar for myself as a parent in what I find acceptable is hard, its trying everyday. Sometimes I'm just saying "Jesus" in my heart all day, not as a curse but for help, channeling that infinite patience that He has in His Sacred Heart for us. Yes, its hard to slow down inside myself while being consistent, thinking fast and reacting to bad behavior.
Ultimately, disciplining my child in a non-physical way has benefited both of us. He still tests me, he isn't perfect, he hits me, he throws toys and he screams. The difference is that every time he does one of these behaviors he can count on me to consistently correct his behavior. Kids don't need to feel pain to understand that something is bad or wrong, they need a parent saying and doing the same thing over and over (until the parent gets a headache and wants to scream). So what if a 20 month old doesn't understand that throwing is wrong? Just keep doing it! How many times did it take you to memorize multiplication tables? Once? I didn't think so.
There, that's my point, raise yourself up, challenge yourself as a parent, there are more effective ways to convey your meaning of right and wrong.
And thanks to my writing professors for teaching me how to be a gentle parent.