To Spank Or Not To Spank?

I had been working in child protection for a year and a half before I met the family that made such a profound impact on me that I continue to think of them to this day. I became involved with a little girl after an altercation with her father that left bruises. I learned of her life, her history, and years of physical abuse, or what the father called, “discipline.” This little girl was outgoing, bubbly, and creative. As she approached her teenage years, the scars that had developed and healed throughout her childhood began to surface in her personality, her attitude, and in the way she manipulated her appearance. Though she loved her dad, the relationship was marred by the fear and anger that was boiling within her. The father told me that he had been spanking as a punishment throughout her childhood, but as she got older, it no longer “worked.” He told me that I would not be able to understand until I had children of my own.

I have always remembered this. As I was attempting to console my screaming newborn and felt my blood boiling up, I remembered this. As I attempted to repeatedly redirect unwanted behavior and felt the frustration building, I remembered this. As I took a deep breath and went inside myself for a few minutes until I could speak to my son without screaming, I remembered this. Yes, I do understand the frustration that comes with parenting. Having my own child has helped me to better understand the frustration he had to overcome. The piece I still cannot wrap my head around is the indication he was looking for to determine his discipline was “working.” As he lashed out in anger at this child who’s wellbeing he was responsible for, the punishments became more and more severe until the little girl began to cry. He viewed her tears and begging for him to leave her alone as an indication that she had realized what she did was wrong. I see this as an indication that he had broken her. He had broken her spirit. He had broken her trust. He had broken her strength and her confidence. She was no longer learning to decide for herself what was right or wrong, only learning what might set him off, and was ready to say whatever she had to to make it stop.

SPANKING

I recently saw a picture posted by a friend that had also been posted by thousands of other Facebook users. The picture is captioned, “a well-deserved spanking is not child abuse.” It’s true. Spanking is not child abuse in most states and there was a time when I would have simply agreed with the captioned photo. I can recall saying, “my dad spanked me and I turned out fine.” I can also recall times I saw kids loosing their shit in a store and thinking, “that kid needs to get his ass beat.” After years of working in child protection and witnessing various parenting styles first hand, there are a couple of things I think we should consider.

  1. In most places, the legal definition of abuse does not include spanking. The distinction between a spanking and abuse is usually bruising. If a parent were to give a child a swat on their bottom, there would normally be no indication of this only moments later and no issue from a child protection stand-point. Spankings can, however, cross into abuse very easily because they are usually given in a moment of extreme frustration and used as a last resort. At a point where parents are feeling the effects of the increased adrenaline (“stress hormones”), they may not realize how much force they are using and unintentionally cause harm, thus crossing that line into being considered abusive.
  2. Discipline as a means of teaching vs. punishment. There are two ways to look at discipline. The first way is to look at discipline as a means of teaching your child right from wrong. Children are born knowing absolutely nothing about the world. We teach our children how and where to walk, how to make and treat friends, how to manage their emotions, etc. Thinking about discipline as teaching, a parent might demonstrate, explain, and take things away that a child might not yet be ready for. Another way to look at discipline is as a punishment. This is based on the idea that the parent tells their child what is right or wrong and expects the child to remember and understand what they’ve been told. When the child fails to follow these directions, they receive a spanking as a consequence to reinforce more strongly the importance of what they were told or the importance of doing what the parent tells them. Many research articles have shown that spanking is ineffective at teaching children right from wrong. Often, the children remember the punishment and the way the punishment made them feel, but they don’t always remember the lesson. I was spanked as a child. I can remember those spankings, but I don’t always remember why I was spanked. I don’t remember each of the lessons they were supposed to teach me. Yes, I turned out fine. Some might say I turned out fine because of the spankings. Others might say I turned out fine despite the spankings.
  3. Some parents with young children have told me that yelling or spanking is the only thing that has an immediate effect and seems to be what “works.” The yelling or hitting causes their child stop in their tracks, no longer focused on what it was they wanted, but rather focused on the negative response. The piece that’s hard for us to anticipate is the long-term results, whether we are giving in with a reward or standing firm with a strict punishment, it is difficult to anticipate how our actions will impact our child’s personality and ability to make good decisions in the future. Using discipline as a punishment seems to miss the mark when it comes to teaching children how to make good decisions for themselves as they get older. Many campaigns have focused on “talking to your children.” Talk to them about drugs. Talk to them about sex. Talk to them about staying in school. I believe this is because many children are raised in a way that says they should or should not do something “because I said so.” Well, what if a parent didn’t tell a child what s/he should think about drugs? The “because I said so” or you get a spanking method of discipline might very well work in that moment, but it is not teaching a child to think for themselves and to be able to determine for themselves why something might be a good or bad decision.
  4. If the child is doing something so bad that s/he “deserves” to be hit then the parent hasn’t been effective in teaching them right from wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the parent is entirely to blame, I do understand that some children are more spirited (read difficult) than others. I have one of those more challenging children myself. But I would never give up/ give in to what my son wants thus rewarding his efforts because I know it would only make it worse in the long-term. Spanking seems like one of those things. I know that yelling at him or spanking him might get his attention now, but it’s not going to teach him the lessons he needs to learn to be successful in his life. And thats the goal, right?

Why do we continue to justify spanking our children, America, when many other nations have completely eliminated the practice (American Academy of Pediatrics)? Why to we hang tight to this form of discipline when we have numerous studies telling us that this does not work? I do not blame past generations for using this method of discipline because they did not know any different. They did not have all of the information we have now. They were not given alternatives. The internet is now exploding with alternative techniques. The libraries carry free books filled with strategies and suggestions. There are parenting classes available, and often for free, for parents willing to take the time. We want the best for our children. It’s time we admit that spanking is not the best. We can do better. You can do better.

Rocking This Stay At Home Mom Gig Like A Classic TV Housewife

Like A Classic TV Housewife

It seemed natural, in our society, to look forward to a role as a mother and wife. I can remember playing house with my friends as a child and pretending to be the mother, nagging my make believe husband and child, acting as if the pretend kitchen was “such a mess.” I remember myself as a pre-teen, doodling ‘Jonathan Taylor Thomas” in my notebook and playing MASH with my girlfriends to determine my future as a wife and mother (career was never part of the game). Above all, I can remember watching Nick@Nite re-runs where woman were idealized in their roles as mother and wife. It is these role models who I reflect on today in my endeavor to be a good stay at home mom and wife.

I grew up with a tv family full of women who were homemakers. Jane Jetson (The Jetsons, 1962-1988), was truly futuristic, with all the latest gadgets aiding her in her ability to maintain a spotless home – not even an ink smudge. Samantha Stephens (Bewitched, 1964-1972), was a clever woman who chose to be a homemaker and oh, happened to have magical powers to make life easier (yes, please). Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch, 1969-1974), was always incredibly put together (with the help of her full-time housekeeper, Alice) and seemed at ease with raising six children along with her loving husband, Mike. Edith Bunker (All In The Family, 1971-1979), was a sweet homemaker who was often the voice of reason for her husband, Arrrchie. Norma Arnold (The Wonder Years, 1988-1993), was the always supportive and loving mom. Harriette Winslow (Family Matters, 1989-1998), was a no nonsense mom who somehow managed to put up with their ridiculous neighbor, Steve Urkel, without completely losing her shit. Jill Taylor (Home Improvement, 1991-1999), was a mom/ homemaker who was sometimes a mess, driven a little crazy by her husband’s hair-brained schemes, but someone who was real, who was endearing, and who was totally relatable.

Even as I write this I am surprised at the number of television moms and housewives that easily come to mind.

I honestly didn’t think I would find myself staying home full time with my child. These women were patient, loving mothers and devoted wives. They were women who presented themselves and their homes as well organized and put together. I, on the other hand, could be descried as a hot mess at times and tend to be a little more all over the place. I see myself as more of a Roseanne Connor (1988-1997) than a sweet, patient Amy Matthews (Boy Meets World, 1993-2000). Like Roseanne, I am blunt, to the point, I get things done, and I do the best I can (take it or leave it). My house is not always spotless because there are other things I would rather be doing than being at home cleaning each day. I do not take the time each morning to really put myself together because I would rather just start my day than spend time preparing for the day. I do not always cook elaborate meals because pizza/ pasta is cheaper, tastes just as good, and takes half the time. But every now and again there are moments where I find myself rocking the stay home mom gig so well that I make even Carol Foster Lambert (Step By Step, 1991-1998) look lazy.

My sweet little baby turned 1 this weekend and this was definitely one of those moments! I knew I could have let the day pass unnoticed because, as many pointed out, my son wouldn’t know the difference. I knew I could have also made life easier by choosing a theme that is currently popular, such as the new digital Mickey Mouse, which is annoyingly plastered all over every piece of clothing, store, and accessory like Santa Claus in December. These options just didn’t feel right to me. I felt like he deserved more, and you know what, I felt like I deserved more after a full year of mommying. I have to say, now that the party and the stress is behind me, my son’s first birthday was a total success, Winnie The Pooh theme and all.

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The birthday festivities began with a cake smash photo session. I actually made three cakes in preparation for the day. The first cake, promoted on Pinterest as a “Babies First Birthday Cake” recipe, was a disaster. It tasted like whole wheat bread with melted whipped cream! This cake just missed the point. A first birthday cake should assault his tastebuds with the pure joy that is sugar, but hopefully not send him into a full sugar coma. I ultimately decided to make some alterations to a delicious strawberry cake, using half the butter and sugar, while preserving the heavenly cake experience. The results were delicious and there was no question that my son fully enjoyed his first cake experience.ADAM (7 of 17)Photo courtesy of Journey Photography

My husband and I searched long and hard to find Winnie The Pooh decor for my son’s birthday. It’s interesting how right now Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street, and Frozen have been deemed popular and therefore every store is carrying the same exact party decor for these three themes. It makes it difficult to choose anything else, but I was determined to not let the retail industry dictate our party theme. Ultimately, we ended up finding random Winnie The Pooh items at an antique store, on Amazon, and at Hallmark. The items we could not find, we made ourselves.

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We made party hats, food signs, banners, etc…

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Eeyore’s depressed meatballs = hamburgers (hah!)

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The table for Piglet punch (21+), Rabbit’s garden, Owl’s eggs, and cookie acorns

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These were a huge hit with my son!

I went back and fourth on what to do for a cake. Initially I wanted to purchase a beautiful Winnie The Pooh cake I saw posted and reposted all over Pinterest. Can you believe, I got a quote from several bakeries, and it would have cost somewhere around $200-318 for 25 people!? For a baby’s birthday cake! I guess some people pay that. Ultimately, I ended up making the baby a healthy blueberry banana bread cupcake with cream cheese frosting and purchasing a fancier cake from the local grocery store. I’ve always thought sheet cakes look and taste like spray paint and sugar, so I went with one of the round flowery cakes for $15, stuck a few sugar bees on, and voila!

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I’m not sure the photos taken on my phone can truly convey the way this party came together, but it was certainly a winning mom moment for me – a beautiful homemade birthday party, me drinking Piglet punch while wearing a matching dress and makeup, and my little boy in all his glory. It even provided a temporary distraction from my sweet little baby turning a year old! We wont talk about the fact that when it comes to my boy, I can be a bit of a Beverly Goldberg (The Goldbergs, 2013-)!