I want to talk about the biggest falsehood that’s been sold to parents since the beginning of ‘progressive’ thinking about raising children. Namely, that it’s OK to spank in anger but a monstrous crime to calmly and methodically subject a child to corporal punishment.
How often have you seen exchanges such as this one in your favourite magazine?
Parent: My five-year-old is driving me mad at the moment and the other day, I finally lost my rag with him and swatted the seat of his trousers. Now I feel so guilty for raising my hand to him.
Expert: Don’t be too hard on yourself. A quick spank in anger isn’t the right thing to do but it’s understandable. Why not try speaking to your child/naughty step/time-out/seeing a psychologist?
Sound familiar? I have read dozens of similar exchanges in women’s and parenting magazines over the years. The subtext is that although the mum is being told not to feel guilty, she should feel guilty.
It also perpetuates the greatest misconception about discipline that today’s parents have – namely, that it should be regulated by their feelings.
The truth is, the only thing that should decide whether your child needs discipline at a particular moment is their behaviour.
Listen, I know how it is. Some days, the kids can run you ragged and you get to boiling point. Other days, they can be naughty but seem quite cute, because you’re in a better place personally.
But guess what? That should make no difference as to whether you discipline them. Discipline is about their needs – not yours. I’ve had times when my hand has been itching all day – but I’ve held my temper and patience, because a spanking wasn’t the right course of action for that particular challenge.
On the other hand, I’ve had days where I’ve firmly put a child across my knee, even though inside, part of me found their misbehaviour quite cute or downright hilarious.
If you or I are up in court for some misdemeanour, our punishment isn’t (generally speaking) predicated on what sort of mood the judge is in. It’s about selecting an appropriate punishment based on the evidence, mitigation and sentencing guidelines.
So should you be hard on yourself if you lash out in anger? Yes, you damn well should. And frankly, what good is a swat on the seat of their trousers going to do in altering a child’s behaviour? With today’s kid-friendly clothing, you’ll be lucky if they felt anything. However, that is a topic for another day…
If you really want to do the right thing for your child, recognise that you need to intervene at an early stage, and when you’re fully in control of your emotions. Only then can you fairly decide whether or not to ‘spare the rod’.
Be ready for the really shitty days when you really want to whack them but have to hold your hand. And be equally ready for the just-as-difficult times when you really don’t feel like spanking your child, but justice has to be done.
Contributor: Louise. Originally published in her blog The Spanking Mum. Opinions expressed are solely those of the original author.