You don’t have to be a parent to have an opinion about spanking.
But as one mom learned, the experience of parenting a strong-willed child may give you a new perspective on the issue.
Blogger Sage Penn writes on Scary Mommy about her own journey on the issue. She started, she freely admits, with a somewhat judgmental attitude about parents who spank, classifying them all as “child abusers,” with the only distinction being their justification for it.
Being somewhat shy, she didn’t share her beliefs with others… until she got pregnant.
“Hormones turned me into a woman unable to suppress most of my thoughts…. I was vocal about my beliefs concerning appropriate child rearing. Especially with my sister-in-law, whom I dubbed, ‘Mrs. Spanky McSpankerson.’”
“I would engage her in argument after argument about how damaging spanking is to a developing child. I would send her articles, texts, whatever I found on the topic.”
All those strongly held beliefs, however, ended up being challenged when Penn’s son was born. First came the colic and the whining. Then came an even more difficult phase.
“After the era of whine, he became what some euphemistically call ‘strong-willed.’ That is just a nice way to say he’s a d***. He comes by it naturally enough.”
Penn catalogs the difficulties she had trying to find an effective way to discipline her son. He laughed at the stern ‘talking to’ he got for tormenting the cat. He laughed and stuck out his tongue when he got a time out for a tantrum.
Even praising him for good behavior — like drinking his milk instead of pouring it on the floor — failed.
“He smiled, then maintained eye contact while pouring his milk directly into my shoe.”
The ‘natural consequences’ approach — like having to put up with the cold when he wouldn’t wear a coat — made no impression. Penn had tried every form of child discipline that experts recommend, without notable success.
“I discovered a third category of spankers. Parents who have no other choice but to use the discipline method that a million generations before them have used…”
Suddenly, her opinion had changed.
“All my carefully crafted belief systems about raising children using love and logic and choices evaporated in a puff of smoke. I calmly turned that child over, slid his pants down, and gave him a solid whap right on his round little bum. I didn’t argue, or plead, or negotiate, or use complicated words. I spanked him and said, ‘You will not slap mommy. That is disrespectful. I am in charge, and you are not. This is not a choice.’”
Her son was beyond surprised. And he cried. But Penn noticed that he also got over it quickly. What’s more, he hasn’t stopped being strong-willed, but he is more prone to think twice about his action and be more respectful.
“I no longer believe that parents who spank are child abusers,” Penn concludes. “Now, I believe that those parents are simply strong-willed. And maybe a little desperate.”