Saturday, July 16, 2011

What Do They Really Think?

Children receive a very clear message when they receive corporal punishment, but it is usually not the message their parents intend.  I asked several women what they remembered about being spanked; here are their thoughts and stories:

"I was three or four years old. After putting me to bed, my parents were sitting in the livingroom where they were untangling and testing several strings of Christmas lights to put up on the house. Of course, I found this fascinating; the sparkly lights seemed to call to me. I found excuse after excuse to come out of my bedroom. Eventually, my parents spanked me and sent me to bed with the threat that I'd get more spankings if I came out. I was crushed. I felt misunderstood. I was too excited to sleep but they didn't care. I stayed in my room but the resentment stewed. The next day I took it all out on anyone and everyone who couldn't strike back--my baby sister, the dog, the children at preschool. I became a bully." 

"After the spanking was over, my parents would hold me.  I remember being terrified, humiliated, and scared to do anything that would displease them in the least, lest the nightmare repeat itself.  I would sit in their laps and pretend I was sorry.  I learned that tears of "repentance" really made them happy.  I became a fake repenter.  I felt bad about what I had done, don't get me wrong.  I even wished I had not done it. But not because it was wrong.. But because with the punishment came the terror of shame.  The sick feeling of worthlessness, and a total and complete failure as a person."

"I remember feelin scared. Ashamed. Unloved. I remember the feeling of anger and resentment towards my parents. My mom would stop on the side of the road and "cut a switch(spelling wrong I'm sure)" and carry it with us in the van if we were acting up. And I don't remember what the "acting up" consisted of either. But I rememeber the anger from her. And the hate in her voice. I felt unsecure and worried about my next move."

"I always vowed to "get them back", I don't remember if I actually did anything, but I was very angry. The last time I was spanked, I screamed so loud that the neighbors came over to see if everything was OK. I had warned them that I would do it. They didn't spank me that hard, but it made me very angry. I don't think my younger brother or sister were spanked much after that either. I must just add that I have wonderful parents who love me very much, they just didn't know what else to do. (I was very difficult)."

"I was never a violent child. At all. But when my mom spanked me I wanted to get a knife and stab her in the chest. I wanted to bite her in the face and spit a chunk of her flesh back at her. I remember feeling somewhat good inside when other kids would misbehave and get spanked. I wasn't the only one. I felt like I wanted to dominate younger children at times due to it. I had been subdued and dominated, I needed to unleash that on someone else or it would consume me from the inside. When I got older and babysat other children I was terrified when I realized the anger that had been building up inside of me all those years. I was able to control myself and I never hit a child in my care. As an adult, I had to work through all those things and release them in a way that would not hurt others."

"I once told my sister, as we were in our room waiting for our parents to come up with the wooden spoon, not to cry when they spanked her. "If you cry, it means they win," my young self told her. That is the dynamic spanking creates: Us versus Them. Don't let them win. Don't let them break you." 

Here is a telling testimony from as former spanker, Claire. I have included a link to an insightful blog she and a few other women write in, where you will find more stories and thoughts on gentle discipline:

"I smacked my son's hand a number of times before I moved to GD. I would smack him, he would cry, I would cuddle him. When he had calmed down enough he would say, 'Don't hit me Mummy'. Not Sorry I drew on the wall or I won't scratch my sister again. There was no connection in his mind between the offense and the punishment, he just knew he had been violated by someone he should be able to trust 
Also, at other times, he would do the same thing again, experimenting to see if he got the same reaction - it wasn't much of a deterrent even though it was painful. Part of me knew that was normal 2yo behaviour - in fact that sort of determined experimentation is GOOD - and I shouldn't have to hurt my child over and over again for being 2..." 

If you use punishment to train your child, I encourage you to take a long, hard look at your method. Ask your child how spankings make him/her feel, promising that you will not punish him or her for being honest. Look into your child's eyes: Is he afraid of you? Is she angry/hurt/wounded? Ask yourself: am I treating my child the way God treats me?


  1. I just wanted to take a minute to tell you how much I have been enjoying your blog. I am a gentle Christian parent, but due to the overwhelming amount of parenting materials from the Christian perspective that advocate harshness, I sometimes have trouble connecting the gentle to the Christian. Keeping the fruits of the Spirit in mind is helping. So is your blog. :-)

  2. This was me - both the spanker and the spanked. How can people not understand this? I don't get it!

    I write about how it felt to be spanked here:

    I write about how I decided not to spank my daughter here:

  3. As a former spanker, now gentle parent, I see how there was never a connection in my children's mind between the crime and the punishment. It doesn't work. It doesn't solve the problem - it only creates distrust and disconnection. Only techniques that building more connection with our kids work.