Yesterday, I was on Good Morning America, talking about my position on spanking.
The interview, led by Amy Robach, included myself (position: anti-spanking) and fellow Babble writer, Joanna Makewski (position: pro-spanking) debating the topic side-by-side.
Most of the on-air time was dedicated to Joanna’s position, probably because it is the more salacious of the two (few parents admit publicly to spanking) and because Joanna’s position went against a new research study that GMA was presenting on the issue.
The study basically says that children who are spanked are at greater risk for mental health issues such as depression when they are adults.
Although my opinion on spanking remains the same, I wanted to share a few things I learned about myself as a parent while doing the interview.
Joanna’s pro-spanking stance seemed to be based mainly on how she was brought up and what felt instinctual to her as a mother.
Listening to her, I realized how little I base my parenting on instinct.
When I had my daughter more than two years ago, I was fully aware that I had no idea what I was doing. I read parenting books and magazines cover to cover, took a parenting preparedness class with my husband, and asked friends and family for every bit of advice they could muster.
I am also very lucky to have a sister who has a PhD in school psychology. Almost every problem I have encountered with my daughter, I go straight to her. Her advice has even resulted in an “Ask Dr.B” column on my personal blog.
The thing that amazes me about my sister’s advice is how often it flies in the face of what I would think to do on my own. But most of the time, if I am consistent, it works — over time.
“Over time” is a key phrase in this discussion because I believe that spanking is a “quick fix”. The threat may scare the child into stopping the undesired behavior or hopefully teach the kid a lesson that he/she won’t repeat (don’t touch the stove, don’t disrespect mommy, don’t act out in a grocery store, etc.), but I wonder what it ultimately teaches the child about their parent.
One of the main issues we have had with Mazzy is that she hits. She thinks she is playing. How can I teach my daughter that hitting is wrong by hitting her? I believe that if a parent hits, the kid learns to hit. If a parent yells, the kid learns to yell.
“Modeling behavior,” which is what my sister advises in almost every situation, takes consistency and time before it sinks in with your child. But nobody ever said parenting is easy.
Joanna expressed her desire to create a parent/child divide that included both respect and a little bit of fear. I’m not sure I like the word ‘fear’ but I agree that establishing a relationship where the child knows the parent is in charge is of utmost importance.
There are tons of things you can do to punish a child that aren’t physical. You can make them sit in time-out, you can put them in their room, you can take away their favorite toy, you can tell them ‘no television’, you can put them to bed early, you can take away story time, you can end a playdate and you can deny them dessert.
I honestly believe that denying my child her bedtime stories or taking away the iPad creates a more lasting impact than a swat on the tush.
Yes, I may have to deal with the resulting tantrum but that is something I am currently in the process of learning how to combat, too.
I am not a perfect parent — not by a long shot. And my daughter is not the most well behaved child on Earth. We are works in progress. I use trial and error to see what works for us while relying on my sister, my mother, books, and research to develop a lot of my parenting philosophies and techniques.
Perhaps, in the end, admitting that I don’t always have the answers will make me a better parent.
For now, I know that my daughter is happy and full of life, and I refuse to stifle that by raising my hand to her.