Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

I grew up in a family that used positive reinforcement, patience and love when disciplining. I did, however receive spankings as a child. They were few and far between and reserved for especially bad behavior. I remember them never hurting and I also remember my parents were always calm and deliberate when dolling out a punishment. My parents quickly learned that spanking was quite ineffective and they quit doing it all together. They never spanked us hard enough to hurt, and we began not caring whether or not we received a spanking as a punishment. I was certainly never abused and much of the way I parent my child is based on the positive experiences I shared with my parents when they raised me.

My son has reached a bit of a violent stage. He is three years old and lately when I discipline him or give him an answer he doesn't like, he hits me. I know he is acting out like many children do, but it is still incredibly frustrating. My husband and I were discussing how to discipline this behavior since we'd like to be consistent. Time-outs don't seem to make a difference to him when he is frustrated enough to start hitting. He just doesn't care whether or not he has to sit in time out. It's completely ineffective.

During the discussion on how to discipline our toddler, my husband stated that he wants to discipline our son without spanking whenever possible, but that he also believes in the phrase "spare the rod, spoil the child." I admit that I had never even heard of that phrase before. It took me a little off guard. My husband also stated that it was a quote from the bible. (I researched it. It's not in the bible. It originated in a poem by Samuel Butler back in the 1600's) I was completely taken back by this. I couldn't imagine a worse way to describe disciplining a child. Spare the rod, spoil the child sounds so harsh and uncaring. It completely lacks any love or affection. It certainly doesn't describe the parenting style I would like to adopt.

My husband is an all-around great guy. He is considerably more affectionate and kind than most people I know. I was surprised we would even be having the "should we spank our kid or not" talk. Admittedly, I used spanking as a form of discipline on a few occasions (that's how I was raised) and felt horrible about it and made it a personal decision to never do it again. It wasn't something I discussed with my husband though. I suppose with our schedules being opposite to minimize child care needs, there are many important conversations that we haven't had yet. We also don't need to punish our child very often. He is usually very well behaved and responds well when we just talk to him about appropriate behavior. Well, as we started talking about our views on spanking we realized that we both had very different ideas as to what was appropriate punishment and what wasn't.

We decided to ask the opinion of a friend who also happens to be a professional family councilor. He stated that, in his experience, most parents don't discuss beforehand how to discipline their children. Many parents just "wing it." In a world with limitless information right at our fingertips, many parents don't seek out parenting advice and instead adopt the parenting strategies their parents used. Why not? My parents are awesome. I don't see anything wrong with parenting my son the way my parent's raised me. Well, it creates a perfect setup for a marital dispute. For example, if I don't like the way my husband decides to discipline our son and I say so, not only am I insulting him, but I'm insulting the way he was raised. All of the sudden it becomes intensely personal. So, our friend suggested we research many different parenting styles (we are going to be doing a LOT of reading in the next little while) and choose what fits the needs of our family best. By drawing from the same source, we will have much better success in maintaining consistent and loving discipline.

As my husband and I continued to discuss discipline over the coarse of several days it became evident that we both wanted the same thing. While it took my husband a little longer to realize it, we both feel strongly about not using any type of corporal punishment on our son. We also discovered that we both feel strongly about natural consequences, positive reinforcement, and most importantly teaching by example.

Loving, effective, and consistent discipline can be difficult. No parent is perfect. There is no one-size-fits-all solution either. For our family we have decided to make a better effort to utilize all the resources we have available to us and really research this parenting business more. There are experts out there. While we may disagree with some, if not many, I'm sure we will find a solution that fits our family without resorting to spanking.

"I was out in the front yard with my boy the other day and he was playing with his little friend and he hit his friend, and I went up to him and I said "Hey, (smacks his boy) we don't hit." He looked up at me like "Here's your sign, dad.""
-Bill Engvall

What parenting books have helped you the most? Did you talk about discipline with your partner before having children? Do you talk about parenting styles and goals with your partner regularly? I'd love some feedback as we are putting a lot more effort into a united purpose and goal for discipline in our home.


Tara said... [Reply to comment]

I spend a lot of time researching parenting styles and I have a keen memory of my childhood and how the few times I was spanked how much respect I lost for my parent (at one point telling my mother that if she didn't want me to hit my sister and me to behave then maybe she should be a better role model). I'm really against corporal punishment and am not found of time outs either (I know - they're ubiquitous , but I don't think they deal with why the child is acting out.)

Honestly, I want my son to behave because it feels good, not because he wants to stay out of time out or approval. And the best way we've found to deal with the hitting -which is usually when he's frustrated, angry or tired - we tell him he can stomp, but he can't take his anger out on other people.

Most often - and what's been most effective in our house - is I don't respond, I stay calm and I get up and walk away without saying a word. (I don't put my child in time outs, but I put me in one fairly often). But he seems to have gotten the message that hitting is not behavior we engage in our house as our hitting and biting stage was rather short lived. And a few minutes later I'll go back and see if he wants a snack (if the tantrum was out of hunger) or a bath (good scene changer if he's not ready for bed).

Raqual said... [Reply to comment]

I am so glad you are asking all the right questions! Most parents just do what mainstream does or their parents did just because, even though they feel horrible when doing it.

I was smacked as a child (in the christian way) because my mom thought that it was what she HAD to do as a christian mom. Unfortunately a lot of those bible verses have been taken out of context.

We have decided to adopt an empathetic/ grace style of parenting and have been getting an AMAZING response from our 2 year old. And it feels just right. As a christian I feel that I want to parent my child as God parents us. With love and Grace. After all He sent His son for us so that we no longer had to atone for our sins, right? What is spanking? Making our child atone for their 'sin'. I dont think God is like that at all!

Have a look at my blog and see my journey. I also add a few links to some very informed people.
also this woman is a genius:
And here is an IN-DEPTH look into the biblical perspective on spanking:
Hope this helps and good luck!

Mandi Spencer said... [Reply to comment]

I can relate--sort of. My childhood experience with spanking is some of what you describe. There was some of the methodical, not too painful type of spanking that was done purely because "the Bible says so." There were also some times when it was an angry reaction to something I had done (talk back, etc.). Those were more painful, both physically and emotionally.

As a parent who is strongly against spanking, I still find it hard not to slip into that pattern when I am frustrated. I have used some spankings in the past and they did not help. All it did was increase the violence between my children. One of my favorite books on the topic is Unconditional Parenting. It reminds me why spanking (or any punishment, Kohn argues) doesn't work. There is also a DVD where the author discusses much of what is written in the book. When my husband and I find ourselves heading in the wrong direction, it is helpful to pop it in and watch it together.

Mandi Spencer said... [Reply to comment]

I forgot to add that Unconditional Parenting is written by Alfie Kohn.

Leslie said... [Reply to comment]

oohh... great post, I love this subject. I was attracted to your blog by the title, "Connected Mom," because to me that is what it is all about - connection. I just posted about my favorite parenting books.
I also recommend the Unconditonal parenting, listed above as well as Gordon Neufeld's, Hold on To Your Kids.
My husband and I have come into our own and had lots of similar discussions - he also started out pro-spanking, but after more research and discussion has decided against it, thankfully. And we are all so much happier. A much more peaceful, loving, connected home.

Good luck!


Amy Phoenix said... [Reply to comment]

I have had some experience with spanking and punishment... here's a tidbit:

I agree that children can benefit from guidance and accountability - we all can - some more than others. This article describes an alternative approach to the use of "rod" in the Bible:

When it comes to a Biblical approach, Jesus left us a living example of how to be with others... love. Although the old testament talks about the rod, Jesus does not suggest harming a child once. He actually speaks to the contrary.

Punishment is not necessary when parents are clear about what they want and how they will guide the children. It's just a clarification process that's necessary. :) Enjoy the journey and feel free to connect with me if you'd like assistance.

Rachelle said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you all for the feedback and suggestions. My husband and I are continually looking for ways to maintain an environment of love and respect in our home. Deciding against mainstream parenting is different from how my husband and I were raised, but we both feel like it's the right thing for us. We are excited to learn more and appreciate your info!

Rachel Lyn said... [Reply to comment]

It actually is in the Bible. Check out Proverbs 23: 13-14. Not saying I agree with it, just wanted to clarify that it is in the Bible. Great post! Good luck!

Rachelle said... [Reply to comment]

@Rachel Lyn

I guess I should have clarified. That exact phrase spare the rod, spoil the child is not in the bible.(At least the version I own.) The verse you mentioned is the reason so many people believe it is. I only mentioned it breifly because I didn't want to delve into the religious aspect of things.

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