I might be one of the rare kids from my generation who was never spanked. I will say I grew up in a pretty relaxed household and there were rules, but the enforcement of those rules was…flexible. When it came to serious issues, however, my folks were firm but gentle. They raised us with compassion, and empowered my brothers and I to think for ourselves and have an understanding of the “why?” There was never any power struggle or fear in our house. There was a lot of love and so, so many laughs.
My dad truly never raised a hand to any of us, and trust me, we definitely tempted him.
From my older brother kicking down a door at an upscale hotel in Tampa, Florida, to my middle brother making fart sounds in line at a restaurant, to me becoming the “human riveter” in New York City at the age of 8 proclaiming I had to go to Bloomies, we tested my folks over and over again. Instead of punishing us with a spanking, my folks were good at getting on our level and talking to us. We understood the consequences of our actions, and my parents held firm limits around those consequences. I vividly remember being packed in the car on our way to our first Disneyworld visit and after my brothers and I fought for most of the drive there in the backseat, my dad, as promised, turned that car around and we didn’t see Disney for another few years. I remembered that.
I have a memory of my father making an empty threat about smacking us when I was around 7. I can remember my brothers and I smiling at each other, knowing our father, the gentle soul that he is, could never bring himself to actually do it. He probably really wanted to, though.
Fast forward some years, and I’m a mother now to two adorable and rambunctious little boys. My husband and I had to sit down and talk about discipline when my oldest was about 3 and started to really test us. We agreed on most of the important talking points: timeouts—sure, maybe, if necessary and a minute per year of life; follow through—absolutely; appropriate consequences—a must. Then we landed on hitting. We both didn’t pause for a second and agreed we would never lay a hand on our children.
Here is why I won’t ever hit my children, I don’t judge any parents who choose that as a way to discipline. To each his own. My choices are simply based on my own upbringing, information I have collected and advice from the plethora of mommy groups I’ve attended in L.A.
From my experience parenting two very different boys who need very different parenting styles and discipline methods, I like to believe I have learned a thing of two.
Hitting or spanking is a very emotionally charged and impulsive response. It is also a way to control, I believe. I don’t want to parent by fear tactics or control. I am doing my best to teach my boys limits, empathy and to understand WHY the thing they did is wrong and to find a solution together to make a better choice the next time. I want my boys to be able to think for themselves and not stop themselves from doing something because they are scared. Instead, I want them to not do that thing because they KNOW it’s wrong.
My favorite forms of discipline that have been very effective so far include:
GETTING DOWN ON THEIR LEVEL, MAKING EYE CONTACT AND NARRATING
-If things in our house are elevating to other-level insanity, I find it very effective to get down on their level, hold their shoulders, make eye contact and talk in a calm tone, even when I want to scream
-This connection usually stops the impulsive behavior and lets my kids calm down their sensory overload (and mine!)
-I try to listen and let them communicate and I also repeat over and over again a script. For example, if younger son is taking toys from my older son, I say, “I know you wanted a turn, but it’s still Ryder’s turn so you can have a turn when he’s done.” I repeat and repeat and repeat and eventually he calms down
TIME – AND AGE – APPROPRIATE TIMEOUTS
-A minute per age of life is recommended. For example, five minutes in a safe place to calm their bodies for a 5-year-old
-I also love the idea of a time-in. If my older son is hitting my younger son, we both go into his bedroom, I stop his body, let him calm down and take that time to talk about his choice and what different choice he could perhaps make the next time
-If you dilly-dally with teeth brushing at bedtime, we won’t have time to read a book
-This is by far the most effective for us. Kids remember when they didn’t get to go to Disneyland, had to leave their BFF’s birthday party early or didn’t get that toy they threw a tantrum for at the store. They will remember and they will try to make a different choice next time
Hey, we are all in this together. Motherhood is tough. Disciplining children when the stakes are high and patience is low is no easy feat. We all have to do this parenting thing our own way. This is MY way and why I made the choice to never hit my children.
Maybe one day, when they have kids of their own, my children will look back, as I do, fondly at the gentle yet firm parenting style their father and I have adopted and be grateful we gave them the skills to rock parenthood whichever way they choose.