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to spank or not to spank - is that the question?

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

to spank or not to spank - is that the question?

I've been thinking a fair bit lately about discipline, boundaries, rules and stuff like that with regard to parenting. It overwhelms me. I don't want to do the wrong thing. I don't want to be too harsh with Alexis but I don't want to let her run amuck thinking she rules the roost either. I want her to be sociable, considerate, kind and caring yet I want her to be confident, assertive, independent and self-motivated. That is a lot to ask of a 15 month old, but that is what I want for her as an adult. I believe that personality, whilst somewhat genetic, is mosly due to our experiences early in life. Bad behaviour can be unlearned and good behaviour can be taught in later years, but my desire is to give her a good start by fostering good habits early in life so she doesn't have to struggle with it later. But how do I do that?

This following link is to a blog I read. Gullible New Parent: Quote a Day #3 - NutureShock. Fellow Blogger from Gullible New Parent loves to read things intellectually and summarise them for her readers. I often enjoy her take on things. From reading this post and following up some links in it I am thinking that the form of discipline parents use is not as influential as how they feel about it and how consistent they are. In cultures where spanking is normal spanking isn't damaging to children (provided it is controlled and calm) because they grow up knowing spanking is out of loving discipline and they know that if they disobey they will be spanked. Spanking a child in anger as a one-off reaction to an offence can be far more damaging, according to some research. I'm really sorry I can't be bothered researching it now so look it up if you can or visit Gullible New Parent.

It would seem that consistency would be the key. Kids seem to like to know what to expect from their parents. Giving them a clear sense of responsibility and consequence seems to be beneficial. But what age does this come into play? And if kids know they will be punished for doing the wrong thing will they be less likely to turn to their parents if they get themselves into trouble? Do young kids who are punished physically think its ok to be physically rough with their parents and friends and peers? Is time-out a better option or does time-out make the child feel isolated, lonely, unwanted, unclean, unworthy. What is the best way to convey disapproval of certain behaviour while still making it clear that the child committing such behaviour is still the most precious gem in your eyes?

Unfortunately I have no answers, only questions and goals.1) I want Corey and I to be a united front so there's no chance of the kids thinking they can sway a weaker parent or being confused about what is acceptable and what is not. 2) I want the safety of my children to be paramount. For example if 15 month old Alexis is about to step in front of a car I will not try to reason with her I'll pick her up or grab her and drag her out of harm if I have to. 3) I want my kids to respect authority. 4) I want my kids to treat others well. 5) I want my kids to help those who can't help themselves. 6) I really want for my children to be able to discern for themselves what is good or bad. 7) I want my children to know that our God, their father Corey and I will always love them and will always be here for them no matter what.

These things can't be explained in detail to a young toddler and definitely not baby Wormy in my womb. That does not mean we are off the hook though. Far from it. Now comes the scary part. All Corey and I can really do is try to become the kind of people we want our kids to become. God help me, I'm going to need it. Now I have a young toddler I know full well how messed up I am and how much I need to change.

Alexis is getting to the age when she is starting to mimic behaviour and speech. Now, more than ever, is the opportunity for Corey and I to mould her and guide her on what is right and wrong. At this young age she is not going to notice so much what we say but how we say it. She is not going to remember what we tell her but how we act. How we behave when no-one is watching will soon be etched in her mind and will be displayed for all to see. I noticed this when I observed her yelling into her toy phone. I had not long before that lost my temper on a phone call to Corey. I need to work on speaking graciously. I must also pay close attention to what I say. Dirty words carelessly uttered could easily be picked up by her young ears and repeated by her innocent lips. I need to work on what I do. Having a panic attack if my plans are changed on me is not a good idea if I want Alexis to be flexible. She got extremely upset the other day because ABC was off air when she wanted to watch her favourite TV show. That scared me. Of course she is still just a baby and she is allowed to get upset and lose her temper and experiment with different emotions. It would not be healthy if she didn't. I do, however, want to limit the bad habits she witnesses because of me.

With regards to discipline I don't know what approach we will go with yet. Most of the time Alexis is so good we don't really have to worry. She is learning what "no" means and usually obeys or we can distract her with something else. I would like to be prepared though, as best as I can, to try and have a plan set up. Otherwise I worry she's so cute she could get away with just about anything. I would absolutely hate to overstep the mark one day if she did something out of character while I was tired, cranky, stressed and overwhelmed and didn't know how I wanted to handle it.

Maybe I'm just thinking too much coz its midnight and I should be sleeping.

Do you have a plan of attack with regards to discipline and rules or do you wing it? What age do you think it is appropriate to start trying to teach children manners? Do you have any bad habits that your kids started to display? Do you think that physical punishment teaches children to be good or just to be good at not getting caught? Do you think that time-out is cruel? Do you have pre-set punishments or do you choose them based on severity of offense? Or are your little angels practically perfect in every way (or at least have a gorgeous smile that acts as a "get out of goal free" card)?

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At June 19, 2011 at 6:44 AM , Blogger Kristy said...

You pose some very good questions... some we've been thinking about lately too!! We aren't sure what is best either and are trying to find which approach Mackenna best responds to. We have tried gentle spanking, but she thinks it's a game and often laughs at us, but we don't want to spank her harder, so yeah... where is that fine line. We have also tried the 'time out' idea... 5 mins in her cot with no toys or dummy.... made her have the biggest tantrum we've seen, I think because she didn't understand what was going on!! We've also tried removing whatever it is she is disobeying us with (at the moment, it's her TV chair) but she doesn't really learn from that because she has so many other things to do and distract her from it.
I do believe that spanking is ok and I do believe coming from a little teeny bit of anger is ok too. Mackenna knows how loved and cared for she is and we want her to know that if we are spanking her, then she has upset us. She does seem to respond better if she knows that we aren't happy with her too. It's definitely not something that I'm keen to encourage though and thankfully, she is pretty good... for the moment anyways. We've got the terrible 2's just around the corner!!

At June 19, 2011 at 7:05 AM , Blogger The Mother Experiment said...

What we have tried so far is based on what it is, so in a nutshell
- if she was inappropriately rough with her baby cousin (before she was old enough to fight back) she got a little smack on the fingers. Not enough to hurt her just enough to get her attention. At first she would scream but more because she was upset she was in trouble. After a while she saw it as a game and started spanking us. So I'm not sure if i want to start it again with the new baby.
- She absolutely hates any form of time out but if she is throwing a tanty walking away seems to work best
- if she is in immediate physical danger I pick her up
- if shes being naughty with something we just say "ta" and take it away
- distracting her seems quite effective.
- we always talk about what we are doing even if we dont think she will understand.

It seems to work because shes a good kid. Cheeky but good. But the terrible twos are too close for comfort


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