Don't underestimate the power of children's desire to please their parents, I read somewhere in a parenting book. For the past two years, that has been my key parenting tool. Now, a study claims to show that spanking children leads to mental illness. That is no surprise to me.
I've never been a big fan of spanking. A friend once casually announced that she takes a switch to her daughters if they don't do well in school. The girls shape up right quick, she said. I got the chills.
I've never been opposed to a good old fashioned swat on the butt from time to time. It just doesn't seem to be very effective. I also tried slapping Liam's hands. That's a waste, too.
Sometimes, I count to three. However, Liam's 2 years old, so he counts right along with me.
My husband and I endeavor to be consistent. When kids are tired, those aren't teaching moments. We don't waste discipline when putting them to bed. We just put them to bed.
Mostly, though, I use my tone of voice, repetition and follow through. A stern voice and The Look work wonders. For example, when I hear him cutting it up when he should be sleeping, I stomp my way upstairs. Then I dramatically push the door open until it slams something. Instead of putting my hands on the boy, I just stare him down. Silently.
Even more frightening to my son than getting yelled at by Mommy is not getting yelled at by Mommy. I stand, scowl and point. He bows his head, turns his eyes up and sheepishly crawls under the blankets.
Another example is when I hear him from the room below, I thump the walls and holler "go to bed, Liam!" He thinks I'm omniscient. It scares him straight.
When he needs a moment to regroup—and there are plenty of those times—I plop him down on his butt for a time out. He may throw a fit, but he doesn't get up until he's done.
Whenever I have tried spanking him, he has kept on doing the undesired action. It's as if he thrives on the negative attention, too. Every once in a while, he gets a swat to refocus his attention. It just doesn't seem to work out for this toddler. The swift sit accomplishes the same goal.
Instead, we tell him all day long what the expectation is. A lot of praise goes a long way. "Good job" is a lot more powerful than a belt. Then when Daddy comes home, we discuss all the good jobs the boy did throughout the day. The discussion layers in more praise. The simple acts of catching him doing good things is the best motivation for good behavior.
I've only had a couple years experience. I realize Liam will change, and my tactics will need to as well. I remember a lengthy public spanking as a 7-year-old. It was humiliating as well as painful. Children grow to hate people who deliver that style of punishment.
So as our children grow up, I will look for manual labor like painting the garage or moving bushes around the yard instead of beatings.
I'm not surprised that spanking is linked to mental illness. But spanking my children? That sounds nuts.