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.""
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.