April 24, 2006

A little self realization ain't so bad

I had a bit this weekend. I looked deep into the abyss that is my dark heart and realized that I am not a hitter. I am not going to hit my children. I will not spank them. I am not going to do that bullshit thing that my dad did. You know, the "this is going to hurt me more than it will you" thing. I always used to tell him, that if that was true, why didn't we just skip it? I'd still get spanked. I didn't get spanked a lot, mind you, but I did get it from time to time. I am absolutely 100% certain that I deserved each and every one of those smacks, too. But, I don't think I will be doing that to my kids.

I threatened them with it on Sunday, though. I told them, after they continued to run around the house and after I told them to stop. I told them that since they had just broken the crystal bowl I was given from my much beloved, now dead, grandmother, that I would spank them if they didn't listen to me and if I had to tell them something again twice.

But, here's the thing. I can't do it. I won't do it; not over this. I might give them a swat in the parking lot if they tried to get away from me and thus scared the living hell out of me. But to just whack 'em for not obeying?

No. I can't do it. I won't have my children look at me fearfully. I told them, too, that I was changing my mind, that I wouldn't spank them for not listening to me, at least, not automatically. I do want to leave a small area of doubt. But when I sat back and thought about it, I realized that I can not just cold bloodedly, at this stage, put them over my lap and hit them. Laps are for cuddling. Laps are for hugging and for squeezing and sometimes for tickling. Laps are not for hitting. Cold blooded, by the way, because I never, ever want to be the person who physically corrects his kids in anger -- that's a disaster waiting to happen.

I don't know how my dad managed to make himself do it. I don't mind at all that he spanked me since, like I said, I bet I drove him to it. I was a bit of a terror and had a mighty smart mouth on me. But I just can't see myself doing it.

Especially to my daughter. I don't want her to EVER think that any man has the right to put his hands on her violently. EVER. End of discussion there.

So, where does that leave me? Where I started -- enforcing discipline through a consistent application of the rules so that the kids know where the limits are, where the boundary markers lay, what my very, very clear expectations are for their behavior. I don't want to force adherence to the rules out of fear, no matter how badly I want them to adhere. Some things may just not be worth it, some avenues are too likely to transform all of us in ways I am just not comfortable with.

So, I put the hand back in my pocket. You see, the next time I take my hand from my pocket, I don't want my kids to flinch when I go to stroke their hair, which I do a lot.

All bets are off when they get to be teenagers, of course. Although, by that time, its probably way too late.

And by the way, I reserve the right to change my mind as circumstances require. After all, grand pronouncements of parenting rarely, if ever, survive contact with a real, live child.

Hope some small part of that above ramble made sense.

Posted by Random Penseur at April 24, 2006 09:37 AM | TrackBack

Yes, it made total sense. :-)

I was spanked two times by my dad when I was fairly little. Once around 4 or 5, I think and the other time I think I was 8. This was in the sixties and there simply weren't any dads around that didn't spank. I felt fortunate that that's all I had ever gotten compared to most of my friends.

Each time was formal and I'd "deserved" it. And as you say, yes, it did make me fear my dad but it didn't stop me from doing the behavior. (The first one was mouthing off to my mom when she was telling me it was time to get out of the tub, I think I threw a tantrum and the acoustics were very very loud and my dad was tired from work, you know the drill... and the other time I'd gone to the forbidden river not far from our home after having told the family I was too sick to go to church (cough cough) and gotten caught by Dad in the family car coming back from church. Ouch. It was dangerous down there and strictly forbidden. Yeah, I was resigned to my fate on that one. hehehehe)

Now, my ex and I never spanked our kids, except for a swat here and there as you say. To get their attention so I could tell them to "go to their rooms" or whatever the discipline was. And that was the absolute limit of my patience, if I resorted to the swat.

Yet, they grew up to be lovely human beings, honest taxpayers, good citizens and all that good stuff. :-) Despite never giving them corporal punishments.

There are ways other than hitting. Basically, when the kids misbehaved, it fell into two large categories. They were choosing to do something wrong even though they knew it was wrong, or they were tired/sick/worried/upset/feeling misunderstood.

In the "choosing" to do something wrong, it made much more sense to sit them down and talk about *why* it was wrong and get them to see the logic. But that's when they were older, of course, although your GC is old enough for that.

When they are little, it's almost always because they are tired/upset/whatever. So you solve that situation and then almost magically, the "misbehavior" stops.

Sometimes they just need to be alone for awhile. I think kids easily get sensory overload and it's up to the parents to step in and make them take a break so their little brains calm down.

And yes, once they are teenagers, all bets are off; by then you want to strangle them. hehehe...And of course, this whole corporal punishment thing is undoable by that time. Little hellions. ;-P

You're such a good Dad, RP. You have your head screwed on straight. Loved reading this. :-) (sorry for my "War and Peace" comment, but this touched me. :-)

Posted by: Amber at April 25, 2006 11:14 AM

This whole post proves that you're a thoughtful, caring, loving father.

This part?

And by the way, I reserve the right to change my mind as circumstances require. After all, grand pronouncements of parenting rarely, if ever, survive contact with a real, live child.

Proves that you live in the real world.

I've no doubt that your children will grow "straight" and fine and that there will be no fear involved.

Posted by: Margi at April 25, 2006 03:08 PM

RP, I am so moved by what you have written here. I honor you for a wisdom born out of love that far surpasses that of any child expert.

Posted by: Roberta S at April 26, 2006 02:45 AM

Well put, sir!

I personally don't think there is one easy plan for all kids as they are all different. Sticking to your guns is the biggest thing, absolutely no backing down. I find my oldest behaves the best when you get down to his level, look him in the eye and explain things. And then if he's done something towards somebody we ask him to apologize. Surprisingly he goes back to being the nice kid that we know for a good chunk of time after that. Only in extreme times have we ever had to give him a slight swat on the butt, that's when all else fails and even timeouts and the other tactics aren't working. It's really more show than anything.

Posted by: Oorgo at April 26, 2006 02:20 PM

Ya know, I read this post earlier today and I wasn't going to comment, because the whole "If thou don't have kiddos, thoust shouldn't comment about the raising of other people's kids" thing raised its ugly head. But I saw this same situation today as I walked past the local playground...

I might give them a swat in the parking lot if they tried to get away from me and thus scared the living hell out of me.But to just whack 'em for not obeying?

...and I knew I had to comment, lack of parenthood be damned. For what it's worth, better the latter, and not the former, because with the former you're punishing your children primarily for how they made YOU feel, not for their behavior, when it's the latter, it's simply because of what they did, which, if one thinks about it is more just---if there is such a thing as "kiddie justice." ;)

All I can really ask is that you please, please PLEASE do not make your children responsible for YOUR emotions. I have a mother in law who did this to her son, the husband, REPEATEDLY, and it's a cause of much grief in his life. The first incident of this in is life was when he was four, he was taking a nap and his friends called him to come outside and play. Only problem with this scenario was that the husband's bedroom was on the second floor of their house. The husband was halfway out his bedroom window and onto the garage roof when his mother caught him. What did she say to him when she chastised him? "Don't ever do that again! You scared me to death!" She took a wooden spoon to him as well to reinforce the message. She never once said, "You could have hurt yourself" "You weren't supposed to be up from your nap" or whatever the rational reasoning was. She was paralyzed by her fear of losing her child---which was rational---but in the process she made her child responsible for her, an adult's, emotions, which is not rational.

This is where his anxiety issues started, and the anxiety is what led him to self-medicate with alcohol, which, when you're an alcoholic, isn't such a great thing. I can't tell you how many checks I've written to pay therapy bills.

Now, obviously, no everything your parents do causes you to go into therapy and I'm not saying for an instant that you would do this, RP, I'm just saying, well, I've seen how that plays out when it comes to adulthood, and it ain't good.

Take it for what it's worth. ;)

Posted by: Kathy at April 27, 2006 03:59 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?