Nevertheless, it was effective. My siblings and I were (and are) very honest people. We are very obedient people. While I hated the few spankings I did receive, I certainly never thought of them as abuse. They were simply discipline: a harsh consequence designed to enforce a pair of non-optional behaviors.
It is only now, years later, that I remember something that happened one night when I was about 11. Brother A had smacked brother B in spite of repeated warnings, and so he got spanked. I asked my dad "If you hit him as a punishment, then how does that teach him to not hit?" My dad told me that my logic was wrong and that the idea came from Satan, and that the difference was that brothers are equals but that parents are in a position of authority and sometimes needed to use force. It didn't sit well with me at the time but apparently I eventually accepted it because as I entered adulthood, I had no problem with the occasional spanking of a child.
When I met Hubby, Wolf was 3 years old and more than a handful. He'd had a lot of upheaval in his early years and was a master of testing boundaries. Hubby did not believe in spanking, and I felt that Wolf's wild behavior was a direct reflection of that. Every "gentle discipline" or non-spanking family I'd ever met had wild (ie, undisciplined) children, and I concluded that Hubby should be glad that I'd come along when I had, so that I could teach him how to parent and teach Wolf how to obey.
So for a few years there was some spanking. Not terribly often, and not as severe as what I'd been raised with, but it definitely happened. And do you know what? It didn't make a lick of difference. That was the first thing that made me start to think. I had never questioned whether it would work--it seemed so obvious that it had worked with me and my siblings--but Wolf just didn't care. He would get mad about it, but he didn't change his behavior. Unfortunately, my initial conclusion was that the solution was to be more consistent--to discipline more often and (sometimes) more harshly.
Then I started associating with a group of "natural LDS moms" (on a yahoo group). Spanking came up a number of times, and was always a hot topic. There were moms who were staunchly for it and moms who were staunchly against it. For a long time I fell into the former category--still relying on the firm belief that there was a time and a place for spanking: usually as a last resort, but still, an appropriate place for it. I shared this opinion a number of times. The story is somewhat longer than this, but for the sake of the privacy of those involved, I'll just say that one mother mentioned (privately) that whenever spanking came up she always skipped my posts because she knew that I supported spanking, and it broke her heart to see that kind of message from someone whom she otherwise respected. She said that she just couldn't imagine Christ spanking someone, and she didn't feel like it was a Christlike way for us to treat our children.
A lightbulb went on for me that day. I think I have thanked her for that message, but if not, she knows who she is, and I know she reads this blog, so at the very least she's hearing it now.
"If you hit him as a punishment,Yes, I have spanked my children, well, that is to say, I have spanked my older child. I have not spanked the younger one and have every intention of not spanking either one of them in the future. Unfortunately, when a person is raised with something it is usually very difficult to change the habit. Even if you want to be different, it's very likely that you'll fall back into certain familiar things. And so even since making the decision to not spank, I have done it once or twice. I yell more than I mean to as well. BUT I am not giving up, and I continue to try to find better ways to teach my children.
then how does that teach him
to not hit?"
then how does that teach him
to not hit?"
I am learning that "gentle discipline" does not have to mean "undisciplined," but that it really can mean teaching children discipline through gentle means. In fact, the more I have thought and read and talked with others and pondered about it all, the more I realize that gentle discipline is Christlike discipline. So now every time I am faced with a problematic behavior from my children I try to think of what Christ would do. Christ never hit anybody, and he never yelled, so I figure those two things are out. What is in, well, that's something that everybody has to work out themselves. I lean toward a combination of natural consequences, imposed logical consequences, and a lot of distraction for little ones and discussion for older ones. I am planning to write more about my ever-developing philosophy of parenting.
For what it's worth, regarding my own childhood and the things my father told me... My father was raised in what I consider to have been a terribly abusive and unloving home, and as I said, old habits die hard, even when you're trying to overcome them. In college he also studied behavioral psychology (which is based on drooling dogs and pecking pigeons and focuses on rewards and punishments to teach behaviors). Since it's based on animals (and doesn't allow for free will) I believe that it's inappropriate for humans, but the behavioral psychologists say otherwise, and dad trusted his professors...and that's a whole other post. ☺ Anyway, the point is, my dad's parenting style was imperfect but was unquestionably better than what he grew up with. Over the years he has continued to work and improve, and from what I hear my younger siblings are having quite a different childhood from what the first few of us did.
I love and respect my father on many fronts, and believe that most of the faults with his parenting stem directly from what he was taught by his own parents. On the other hand, what kind of a person would I be if I were content to maintain the status quo? No! I have every intention of continuing to improve. Maybe my children or grandchildren will be perfect parents...I know that I never will be, but at least I'm making a conscious effort at making each generation better than the last one.