Welcome to the Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Second Annual Spank Out Day Carnival hosted by Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Spank Out Day was created by The Center for Effective Discipline to give attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. All parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children on April 30th each year, and to seek alternative methods of discipline through programs available in community agencies, churches and schools. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I was spanked as a child.

Hit with a metal flyswatter. Brush on the back of the knuckles. Ear pull. No prop “just use your hand” butt spank. Head smack. And a lot of yelling surrounding it all.

My mom remembers none of it.

Eventually I could run away faster and had a lock on the door. It was easy to wait till the angry threats of increased punishment if I came out “now” had passed. Even at school, children could be sent to the principal’s office to be paddled.

Now I have my own children.

From the outset, I knew I didn’t want to spank. I feel bad when I raise my voice — plus, I think have a seething anger rather than a loud kind since other folks in my family took up the soundscape with their anger. Time out just no longer makes sense to me.

When my conditioned (and conditional) parenting “techniques” are not working…What is left for me?

It’s not that I don’t feel like being domineering sometimes. I’ll admit that, especially with postpartum hormones and adjustment of having two, I find myself sometimes dreaming up little fantasies of grabbing my daughter by the arm and making her sit in the chair and forcing her to put her clothes on.

It would be so easy to use force to bend her to my will.

But I think my feelings around no spanking have caused me to question all uses of force. Sometimes I struggle to keep my power to a minimum when the messages around me are that I need to contain my children’s essence by “telling them who’s boss” or “making them obey.” I know I would never hit my daughter, but that is just one extreme of conditional parenting. If I manipulate my daughter through punishment (withdrawal of love or attention), bribery, yelling, praise or any other form of conditional love, I just feel something is off.

In these moments, when I’ve lost my cool but can’t find something to grasp on to, I have to go deeper. I have to call into question everything I am thinking and feeling. I examine it and try to make sense of it. I want to understand why I have these reactions and what actions I would like to take instead.

Here’s what I’ve realized is left, what’s beyond spanking and yelling and time outs:

Compassion

Who doesn’t lose it once in a while? Make a mess sometimes? Get a little loud on accident?
Children aren’t trying to manipulate adults. They aren’t doing things “on purpose” just to annoy us and make work for us. Even actions of jealousy are not “to show me” something.

Our children’s behavior is a reflection of what is happening inside. The hard part for me as a parent is to accept that her behavior is in large part a result of my parenting. If I keep her fed, rested, hydrated, sufficiently sunned (outside time) and cuddled as best I can, we are both in general doing alright. If not, then I am going to see the strain of covering for that loss.

As a mother my actions and words should arise first and foremost from a compassionate place…..or else I should endeavor to keep my mouth shut.

In fact, right now I am working to start in with empathy and then the guidance rather than a “No” and then a lecture. A challenging, but worthy task, I can already tell.

Comfort 

When I am struggling, I want comfort. I want to know things are ok.

I snap at my husband. I lose my patience with my daughter. Even my floppy-armed baby boy can get on my nerves when I am not getting my needs me.

In those moments, what I want is a kind word, a hug, a drink of water, a quiet breath. My children deserve these things, too. When my daughter is losing it, I gesture or ask her if she needs a hug. Even if she says no, I can still communicate that I am there for her during this struggle by offering her comfort.

Connection 

When I stop, drop and breathe, and gather my compassion, I find that my response increases the connection between us.

Where my child might run away or yell louder or push me away, there is a togetherness. We are having a hard time, but we are in it together. I don’t abandon her to her feelings and shame her for her exploration and learning.

By getting down to her level and staying with her in a calm way, I let my daughter know that her feelings are ok and we are ok.

It is through this same connection that the power of my example works its magic. One thing I know is true: If I want my children to do something or be some way, the surest way of getting that is to do and be that way myself.

Communication 
After I have found within a place of compassion from which to work,  acknowledged my daughter’s needs and  validated her worthiness, I can now set a limit. By going through the other steps, rather than jumping straight to this one, I have a better chance of being heard. I have encouraged my daughter to shift rather than forced her into it through my words or actions.

In action, these might be like this:

  1. You are feeling angry because you want that toy and your brother has it.
  2. It’s hard to have to wait for something to want. 
  3. [Drop down to her level and look her in the eye.] I see that this is important to you right now….
  4. ….but I need to keep you both safe and I won’t let you hit. 
In comparison to this, spanking would be the easy route for me. This does not come easily to me. However, the difference between how I feel when I reach for doing something like this versus how I feel after losing my patience and snapping at her is dramatic. I feel bad that I am trying to raise a gentle, loving human being and doing something completely against that in order to “teach” her.
Spanking, yelling and time outs simply do not lead to compassion, comfort, connection or communication.

I want to love my child unconditionally, and I feel the more I can do that the more my child will embody these very qualities that I hold dear.

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RESOURCES

 

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Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival hosted by TouchstoneZ

On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the handy #SpankOutCar hashtag. You can also subscribe to the Spank Out Day Carnival Twitter List and Spank Out Day Carnival Participant Feed.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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