In Kids & Family

"Motherfest" columnist Molly Snyder Edler & company.

Motherfest: Should you spank?

Nobody should be afraid of a kitchen utensil, but many of us grew up terrified of Mom's wooden spoon. She didn't even have to use it, just wave it around a few times like a mean-spirited magic wand, and my sister and I cleaned up our bedroom like our Keds were on fire.

No, getting results through fear isn't ideal, but it works. I remember this while my napless 2-year-old is writhing and screaming on the floor of a suburban shoe store, telling me to "shut up" when I try reasoning. (Did I mention he learned the word "shut up" from an animated fish in a Disney film?)

I try to practice "attachment parenting," a modern style of parenting developed by Dr. William Sears that emphasizes physical closeness (sling wearing, co-sleeping) and puts spanking on the "no no" list. Philosophically, I believe this wholeheartedly, but what happens when talking, "1, 2, 3" and "time outs" don't work?

Many books say consistency is the key to obedience, but even after reinforcing hands-free forms of discipline with the repetition of an electric breast pump, my kid still doesn't listen and disrespects sometimes. Sadly, it's come down to doing something to regain autonomy or accepting the fact my son thinks he has a marionette for a mama.

A friend, who practiced attachment parenting until her child was two-and-a-half and started kicking her in the face every time she changed his diaper, said she tried spanking and it worked. In fact, she only needed to swat his behind twice, and he never did it again.

Another mom friend said she spanked a few times during the toddler years, but never out of anger. She gave her daughter a warning, and then if her severe behavior continued, she said something like, "Mommy is going to spank you now because this is your consequence for choosing to bite the helpless, declawed kitty again."

Never hitting out of anger is important, and definitely different from the spanking style many of our parents used. Using the hand, and not a belt or a brush, is also key.

Overall, modern corporal punishment is about making a statement, not a contusion. I get this, but a little voice inside -- perhaps it's my inner hippie -- still says that hitting to prevent hitting doesn't make sense. And even though some of the crunchiest parents I know admit to swatting to avoid having a truly obnoxious child, I'm on the fence.

After all, at age 35, the rattling, jangling sound of a kitchen utensil drawer opening still freaks me out a little.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | March 28, 2006 at 6:36 p.m. (report)

Sammy said: All kids have a choice, and if they make the wrong choice well then they should know there's going to be a consequence and to teach them a lesson the best thing to do is give them 3 good spankings right on their butt so they know they made a mistake & that they know they will not do it again

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OMCreader | Jan. 28, 2006 at 6:33 p.m. (report)

cyndie said: My twins, now 20, were never spanked. They are respectful, charming, darling, successful in work, committed to community service and mission work, finishing college in 3 years,etc etc. With a close parental relationship, "the look" of disapproval was enough to shape good behavior.

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OMCreader | Jan. 8, 2006 at 1:32 a.m. (report)

David said: spanking is a mild form of physical punishment created specially for disciplining children, many years it was practiced effective, i think it's still effective, sometimes nothing can stop a child doing a really bad behavior than a spanking, i dont understand how parents use reasoning with a little kid, everyone who experienced disciplining children already knows younger children(preteeens) very rarely respond to talking and reasoning, their brain just still haven't been evolved enough to find and accept reasoning,

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OMCreader | Dec. 6, 2005 at 12:43 p.m. (report)

Emma said: I have to agree, the children that are not spanked are sassy mouthed litle brats!! I have enough experience with them!! I spent 6 months - yes 6 months, putting our child back into bed every night, saying stay in bed. Every night until midnight I did this - night after night, minute after minute. I finally said to my husband - enough is enough and it took two spankings and stayed in bed and went to sleep!! Children need discipline and love. A combination of both will raise a loving and responsible child.

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OMCreader | Nov. 26, 2005 at 11:27 a.m. (report)

Julie said: In the beginning, I was a firm believer of "not spanking". Now I have 2 boys, ages 4 and 8, that run over me all the time. I tried the time-outs, the reasoning, etc., and all the other bull-crap that is popular today. But let's take a look at kids today in general. I teach and all you have to do is step into a classroom today to see what "modern discipline" has created. I don't believe in "beating a child" with an object, but let's face it, a swat on the behind leaves a lasting impression. Anything short of that is just wasting your time and creating an out-of-control youngster.

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