Monday, March 18, 2013

Why I don't spank

I read something on Facebook today about spanking. The gist of it is that kids who got spanked survived, and kids "these days" who were never spanked are rude and disrespectful.

I must vehemently disagree.

****Stop here if you don't want to read my thoughts on spanking, this entire post is dedicated to how I feel about spanking. It is not indented to criticize any specific person. This post was sparked by something specific, but these thoughts have long been ruminating in my brain. I do not think that parents who spank are bad parents. But I do think that spanking itself is not good. So read or skip.****

I was never spanked. I am not some sort of hooligan who spits in the face of authority. I am confident and outspoken. I am thoughtful yet assertive. I am respectful but not deferential.

And I will not spank my kids.

I work with kids from a variety of backgrounds. Some who have been spanked. Some who have been beaten. Some whose parents used non-physical forms of discipline, and some whose parents used zero discipline.

You know which kids are the best behaved? The ones whose parents used non-physical forms of discipline.

You know which kids are the worst behaved? The ones who are spanked/hit/beaten AND the ones who are not disciplined at all.

You know how I know this? Because I have conversations with my students, especially those who are trouble makers, about what goes on at home.

Overwhelming consensus from students: Spanking and hitting doesn't make us behave, it just makes us do things behind our parent's back.

More than just this, spanking is illogical. We are our children's greatest role models. We are the biggest influence on their lives, their development, their future. They will, for better or worse, model their behaviors and their relationships after the ones we present to them. So why would we make hitting an acceptable behavior? When is it ever ok to hit an adult? When do we ever hit our friends? When is it ok to hit our spouses or partners?

The answer is that - it's not. So why is it ok to hit a child? Especially a child who doesn't know all the rules. A child who is still figuring out how the world works. A child who, oftentimes, doesn't really understand WHY their behavior is bad.

They stole a toy from a friend or a candy from a store. They yelled at a parent. They drew on the wall. They're still figuring out WHY these things are not acceptable. They need to be told WHY. They need to understand that stealing a toy from a friend makes their friend sad. They need to know that stealing candy from a store is wrong because that candy doesn't belong to them - they didn't pay for it. They need to know that it's not acceptable to yell or be disrespectful toward parents and authority figures. They need to be reminded that coloring is for paper, not walls.

And they need to be told this multiple times because they are children and don't exactly have phenomenal long term or short term memory. They need to be reminded because they're trying to learn 1,000 things a day and lessons need to be repeated.

Then they need to practice. Practice using their words "Lily, can I play with that please?" "Mommy, can I please have a candy bar?" "Daddy, I don't want to wear that shirt." "Grandma, I'm sorry for coloring on the wall."

Give them words. Make them use them. Make them repeat them.

And then give natural consequences. And spanking is NOT a natural consequence. Make them clean up the mess. Or apologize to a friend. Or get a toy put up if it can't be shared... etc.

But what, exactly, does spanking serve to do other than make them angry and sad and confused? And what, exactly, does it teach them?

Hitting is a terrible teaching tool. It's ineffective in the classroom. Hitting doesn't help teachers teach, it doesn't help kids learn.

We are our children's greatest teachers. Their first teachers. And if you don't trust your child's teacher, a trained professional, to hit - then why would you trust yourself? No one trains you to be a parent. There's no guide or instructional manuel.

I just honestly don't understand the logic behind spanking.

There are those that lament "kids these days" and blame it on a lack of spanking. News Flash: kids these days to more volunteer work, care more about the environment, & are more accepting of diversity than any modern generation before them. There's nothing "wrong" with kids these days.

But there is something wrong when there's a lack of discipline in a home. The absence of spanking shouldn't equal the absence of discipline. Because discipline - consequences of inappropriate behavior and rewards for appropriate behavior - is important in teaching kids boundaries, social norms and expectations, and how not to be a jerk. (I could couch that in positive language "how to be kind" but I feel like "how not to be a jerk" is more accurate).

My kids test me. My kids throw tantrums. They misbehave.

My students test me (especially 6th period). They misbehave.

You know what works best to get my kids and my students to do what I want? Positive rewards for positive behavior. And to TALK to them. A 1-1 with my 9th grader works better than anything else I've ever tried in the classroom. A 1-1 with my son who just finished throwing and epic tantrum works well too.

And yes, I have to repeat the lesson. But unless you learned Calculus in a day, you need lessons repeated as well. We all do.

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