It was a wonderful Saturday afternoon and Geoff wanted nothing more than to enjoy a delicious burger from the Fuddruckers that had opened up nearby our house. There we were, dipping our crispy french fries into delicious nacho-style cheese when I saw a mom with her kids about 3 booths down struggling with her three young children. Initially, my heart went out to her. Her kids all looked under the age of 4 and although I'm pretty sure she was younger than me, she somehow looked older. Her eyes were tired and she reminded me of...well..me. Her little girl, who looked about one and a half was singing and jabbering as kids her age do and I was actually looking on, reminiscing on what a fun age that was with the girls. My visit down memory lane took a sharp left when I heard this woman begin to reprimand her daughter. Even if I were to ignore the use of profanity that was used to tell her daughter to "shut-up", what I saw next made it impossible for me to finish that burger sitting in front of me, no matter how delicious it was. The woman grabbed her little girl by the arm and slapped her straight on the mouth, once again telling her to shut the f....well...you get the point. For those of you who know me well, despite my strong exterior, situations like this don't just make me uncomfortable, they usually make me cry. I just didn't understand... why was it necessary to hit her... in public... when all the little girl was doing was singing?
Now I would never judge a person because you never know their story. I'm sure she had a very long day with her three young children and I certainly didn't see anyone around to help her. In fact, the sheer fact that she left her house with three small children should guarantee that this woman should have someone sculpting a statue of her out of granite to be raised in a town square somewhere. But that image stayed with me as we drove off. "I should have said something." I told Geoff. "She MUST know that there's other ways to get your toddler to be quiet than slapping her on the mouth while shouting, RIGHT?"
I think when you first become a parent, the most difficult part of parenting is basic survival skills. How many times should I feed my child? At what age can I finally give them honey? I know she just sneezed once, but perhaps it's worth a trip to the emergency room. You know, those types of things. But as they grow, these basic things become easier and then you REALLY begin the hard stuff. Discipline. There are a lot of tough decisions to be made as a parent. Should I feed them all organic? At what age do I want to start them in preschool? Is it okay to listen to MC Hammer in the car with them? But no decision is more difficult and controversial than that of discipline.
Thankfully, although Geoff and I disagree on a few things as parents, we were on the same page about choosing not to spank our children. Although I myself was spanked as a child, this was one of the things that I decided I was going to do differently when I was a parent. No, I wasn't traumatized by my parent's using this form of punishment and I think in some ways it kept me on the right path. But even my parents have been verbal about their regret of having had spanked us when we were children. I think when you are making this tough decision of whether or not to spank your child, you have to think about the purpose of discipline. It's meant to be a teaching tool for your child and not a release for you as a parent. The moment your discipline plan has become selfish, you've failed. Yes, spanking your child will probably make them regret what they did, but did they learn anything? Well, in most cases, they DO learn something, in my opinion. They learn that hitting is ok. Something I've had to learn quickly is that kids don't learn from what you SAY to them, they learn from what you DO. My daughters make the same faces I do and use the same phrases I do. Not because I TOLD them to, but because that's what they've seen me do. They pretend to cook and pretend to put on make-up not because I sat down and showed them but because they see me do it daily. (Ok, the cooking thing they get from their "Lita", but it's the same concept. They are watching me even when I don't notice. This realization that kids absorb your behavior and regurgitate it right back to you can be scary because it shows you all of your flaws. But this experience makes you want to become a better person...so that they will grow to be a better person too. So if I choose to hit my child (no matter how lightly) to tell them that what they are doing is wrong, then whose to stop them from doing the same during a playdate to another child because they took the toy they were playing with away from them? We see our child hit their friend and we reprimand their behavior. But in their minds, they might be thinking that what THEY did is the same thing that mommy does. Why am I getting in trouble? That must be SO confusing to them.
In my opinion, choosing another method of discipline such as time out (which Chloe got to experience today in the middle of the electronics aisle at Target) teaches your child something very important. GRACE. Now I know that sounds conceited being that my name is Grace, but stick with me here. Grace can be described as not getting what you deserve. It's a basic principle in my religious faith and one that can be pretty hard to practice as humans. Our human reaction when we are mad is to yell or hit. It's innate in us. So when your child can see that you are as mad as can be and you gently grab them, sit them down at your designated spot (I learned that from Nanny 911) and then walk away, you are teaching them an important lesson in Grace. What you're saying is "You're behavior was so naughty that it would probably warrant a spanking, but I choose not to do that because I love you." It reminds me of the time I got caught cheating on a test in middle school and the teacher didn't call my parents. That teacher showed me Grace and I appreciated it. I never cheated again. Not only that, but what I love most about something like a Time Out is that you are giving YOURSELF the opportunity to calm down and ask yourself a VERY important question. WHY AM I MAD? Am I mad because they did something that could be dangerous to them or because I haven't had my coffee yet? Time out for your child is just as valuable for you as it is for them.
I don't mean to bash anyone who has chosen to spank their child.I am a firm believer in respecting other people's choices. (Unless you think Pepsi is better than Coke, in which case this friendship is over). But I would ask that you ask yourself why. Are you spanking because that's how your parents raised you? Because I'd like to remind you that back then, infant car seats where not the norm in people's cars and it might've been considered okay for a woman to smoke while pregnant. If it's because you get a quick result, then I'd like to remind you that fad diets have the same effect. Yes, you lost the weight, but sooner or later you gain it all back (plus 5 extra lbs.... just for fun.)
The last thing I'll say is this. It's our responsibility as parents to research things thoroughly before you make decisions. I don't know about you, but I researched every item I posted on my registry EXTENSIVELY to make sure it was going to be the best and safest thing for my child. Why should discipline be any different?