Friday, December 25, 2009

Spanking? What is your view?

Spanking is a controversial subject for most people. I have been a strong advocate for Nurturing Parenting/non-violent parenting for many years. I have often been surprised by the resistance and sometimes down right anger that meets the accumulated research for the last 100 years indicating negative outcomes for children who have been spanked.

I have concluded questioning parenting practices goes to the heart of the perception of American Freedoms of ownership of one's child rather than the privilege of bringing vulnerable children into the world, gratitude for the lessons they teach us and they joy of watching them become all they can be. However, this maybe a cynical perspective on my part.

I heard questioning parenting practices is an overwhelming task of self analysis in which people are hesitant to travel this road because of a deep seated fear of guilt, blame and shame.

Common responses of parents have been "hey my parents spanked me and they did it because they loved me. I turned out all right."

Most parents who spanked did so and then told their children it was all about love. Children believe most of what we say because they love us. Therefore, a child who is spanked out of "love" will believe that spanking is a loving act, often without questioning the pain and humiliation of a spanking. Thus children are taught not to accept what their inner guidance system is telling them. They are forced to choose between the belief that they are love and the survival mechanisms of their own psyche. They are forced to accept what they are told over what they have experienced.

Is this a painful topic? Of course it is! No one who spanks wants to deal with the true impact of their actions. This involves taking responsibility for having mistakenly hit a child and causing them physical pain. I do believe that most parents hit their children believing it is for the best. Some parents are in so much pain themselves it becomes an unconscious act of dumping one's own emotional pain onto a child.

I KNOW the pain of self exploration. I started out spanking my children. Having been physically abused as a child. I truly believed that spanking was the adult way of disciplining after all I wasn't raising my children the way I had been raised, being hit without cause or beaten with a belt or slamming their heads into a sink. They were not beaten. Only smacked on the behind and not when they were babies or toddlers as if that made a difference. What changed my thinking?

I was alone, single with 3 small children in tow when I went back to college. I learned that both positive and negative reinforcement increased behavior. I read up on reinforcement patterns and it didn't take long to realize that children who receive eye contact only during criticisms, discipline and spankings are going to increase their undesirable (bad) behaviors to obtain more negative attention (eye contact) rather than ceasing undesirable behavior.
Just one of the many reasons spanking doesn't work.

For those who say spanking works, how many times have you had to spank for the same act? More than once? How is that working for you? How good do you feel after your spank your child? It NEVER felt good to me. I remember getting angry at my child because they had acted out and I had to spank them. How crazy is this thinking? As if I being the adult was not more powerful and stronger than the child. As if I could not make another choice? Spanking is what adults resort to out of lazy parenting. It is easier to hit than to take the time to figure out a more creative solution.

These thoughts and many more were food for pondering much over the years. The more I studied the more condemnation I felt. As I realized what their bodies had endured at my hands, my soul became tortured. I read study upon study which showed that cortisol is released in a child's body which has many consequences. High levels of cortisol are related to many long term health conditions.

I decided while I could not undo the harm already committed. I could begin again. Each day was a new beginning. I could understand when they acted out worse by trying to elicit the behavior from me they were use to and I could one day at a time learn to forgive myself and move forward. Each moment of new parenting was a new beginning.
I move forward in my life now. Hoping that my early parenting experiences will help others. Will make the world a better safer, more nurturing place for children.

Although I confess to having made these grave errors in judgements I know I did so out of ignorance, not a lack of love for my children. It is not an easy journey I have chosen. Since I began this exploration I have discovered that people do not start out spanking an older child as I did. They actually hit and spank babies. Babies who cannot even formulate words to speak up or say what they are feeling.

My quest is to promote nurturing parenting, massaging of babies/children, sign language, and other techniques and tools that will make parenting a loving, kinder and supportive experience for both the children and their parents. It is crucial to give parents supports that work.

For parents who believe it is a cultural practice. I challenge any culture that normalizes violent parenting practices. For those who consider it a biblical practice, I challenge each verse of the bible. Remember to Discipline comes from the word "disciple" which means to teach. The analogies of the good Shepard who guided the sheep with his rod. The rod measured the sheep's growth and gently guided the sheep to safety by the "Good Shepard." There is no indication or supporting documentation that "to spare the rod and spoil the child" meant to beat a child with the rod.

May you begin to reach out one day at a time. Nurturing Parenting

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