This blog is small glimpses into my heart and soul - attempts to be transparent with friends, and sometimes, to myself. This is my safe place, where I can come and be purely Ness.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Walking Away From Spanking

When Bug was little, we started having a few situations where we needed to start teaching him discipline and set some boundaries. On the advice of someone I respect, we decided to "nip it in the bud" and started giving his hand a little smack when he would get into things he wasn't supposed to. As a time passed and he didn't seem to be changing his behavior at all, I became frustrated. The hand smacks were occasionally harder and more frequent. And it didn't take very long at all before Bug started hitting himself when he was frustrated.
This was the point when I said, "There has to be a better way."

I don't want to write a post full of facts, figures, and research, expect to say - there's tons of it out there. Do a quick google search and I'm sure you'll come across plenty of studies showing why it's harmful, papers on why it doesn't actually work, research on why it's not actually "biblical," and perhaps even the rarer information on how it can affect your child's sexuality. If you want to know, it's not hard to find.
Instead, this is just my story, sharing with you the reasons why we choose not to spank.

We started out on that journey, but as you can see, it didn't seem to go anywhere good. I didn't see it actually having any kind of positive effect on our son's behavior. It wasn't in any way guiding him to learn self-discipline. Now, yes, he was very young, but if you could teach impulse control at that age, why wasn't it working, and if you can't teach it, there certainly isn't any point to trying through physical punishment, is there?
On top of not seeing any positive effects, we saw two negative effects. Bug began hitting himself. As I looked into it, I learned that it wasn't unusual behavior in toddlers. But my mother heart knew that my hitting him was connected to this new act of hitting himself when he got frustrated, and it hurt my heart.
The second effect we saw was in me. Since it was now acceptable to hit my child for unwanted behavior, the whole "never spank when angry" line began to blur. I found myself more likely to smack his hand than choose a different tact when discipline was called for, and more likely to do it out of the frustration I felt in the moment. It's not hard to justify it then either, because when your child is two, you can't come back fifteen minutes later and try to explain why you are now smacking their hand for something they might not even remember doing.
I knew that my own self-discipline required me to say, "no smacking/spanking ever." It had to never be ok for me to hit my child, or the sometimes ok would become often ok. I am very ashamed to admit that even now there are rare moments when the end of my temper is reached, and in reaction to being hit repeatedly by him, I hit back. I don't like to share that, but I want you to know that I'm not perfect, and definitely don't think myself to be. I feel like a failure when I fall down that slope, but so far, Bug has always been forgiving when I tell him it was wrong of me and offer my apology.

Since that time, there has been a lot I've learned and considered about child development, relationships, and my view of God that sent me down a path of non-punitive, grace based parenting and that continues to keep me on this path. Now, there are a lot of reasons why we choose not to spank, but these were the first ones, and I'm grateful we learned them so early on.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. Great perspective. We don't spank either, but I'll also admit that in the heat of the moment, I have smacked Isaac. :( Which in turn has led to me apologizing and him graciously accepting. I love/hate all the imperfections parenting pulls out of me. Such a lesson in grace and humility.

    1. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone. It can be a hard instinct to overcome.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. We too are not spanking but the hand swatting has been a challenge. I was 110% against it before my child hit 2. And he started hitting me multiple times a day. And just like you mentioned once we tried swatting his hand it made things worse. He wasn't hitting himself but he started with more intention and more force hitting ME. Not Daddy. Just me. So if Hubs would swat his hand he would come over and then hit me. So we have since thrown that out completely. I'm glad I'm not alone.

    1. You're definitely not alone. Although, I know how much it can feel like that at times. There's this idea that there is a generation of screwed up people because they weren't spanked, and especially in Christian circles it's often believed that if you aren't spanking, you aren't doing it "right," and your child will be spoiled. I don't believe any of that and most non-anecdotal evidence seems to back me up.
      I've seen other gentle Christian parents online, but finding them in real life has been far more challenging. I'm happy to share ideas, sources, and frustrations any time you need anything.

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