Thursday, January 3, 2008

Spare the Rod?

Lunanik tagged me to answer the following question:

Do I spare the rod in disciplining my children?

Yes, I do.

Here's the thing about being Mexican and Irish - it can create quite a temper. The only times I've been tempted to spank have been the times when I'm seeing red. In that state, it's best to walk away.

In the interest of full disclosure, there was one time where I spanked Sylvia's behind when she was about 18 months and I deeply regretted it. No, there was no permanent damage, but the sound of that slap coupled with the red on her naked scared me straight, I guess.

These days, the biggest issues have to do with sibling rivalry - or sibling abuse!! It doesn't seem to me that we'd do any better if I enacted a punishment that involved hitting when what I'm usually trying to stop is hitting. I know it's not the same thing, per se, but it still doesn't sit right with me.

But my position on time-outs isn't quite the SuperNanny method. My belief is that when tempers are flaring, it's best for everyone to take a breather. The girls need some time away from each other now and again, so I'm trying to teach them both to somehow disengage themselves from the situation. If we're at home, I tell one of them to go to their room and calm down. If we're in the car, I order them not to look at one another for a little while. It generally does not happen outside of those two arenas, but if it happens in public, they get "the look." And some harsh words about how angry I am, and a warning that if they don't cut it out, they will [insert consequence here]. Usually, the warning is enough to make it stop.

If it's not about the two of them fighting, then I order the unruly one to their room, and I generally find a place to go cool down as well. Taking that breather allows me to sort out what's going on...why is she acting this way? Why am I so upset?

Usually, I can find some underlying reason for the out-of-control behavior and go in and talk to the girl about whatever it is that I think is the root of the problem. Once that's sorted out, I remind her that it's not acceptable to act in this way, and next time to please find another way to deal with the anger. I follow that up with a few suggestions - draw a picture, go to your room, jump up and down, hit the beanbag...

Does it stop bad behavior completely? No. I'm not under any delusions that it will. But, hopefully, each time that it's said and done, the lesson gets engraved a little more. And I've been given enough encouragement from the girls to believe this is true.

For example, yesterday, there was a moment when Riley was deliberately taunting Sylvia. Sylvia went to their room and closed the door. She knew she needed some time without her sister. Given that they've been off school and together for every moment of the past 2 1/2 weeks, that's perfectly understandable. Riley was still in the mood for a fight, so I had to discipline her a bit more. She ended up getting the consequence of not being able to go to the playground yesterday because of her behavior.

So I do think there is room for more disciplinary measures than spanking, or even the standard time-outs as most people look at them. I do agree with Lunanik, however, that parents who are "caught" spanking their children in public should not be investigated by Social Services. Just because it's not right for our family doesn't mean that I have any room to judge others who don't spare the rod (within reason, of course). While in theory, the idea of every call being investigated is nice and all, the reality is it can lead to the system overreacting to different things, and innocent parents (and, worse, children) being caught in a horrible nightmare. There should be some reasonableness to the standards of what they investigate.

I've often joked with my friends that are parents, "where are the laws protecting us from parental abuse?" At one time or another, we've all been kicked, hit, had our hair pulled, etc...sometimes, without malice, of course, but it can still hurt!

I'm supposed to do the whole tagging thing, but I'm so not into that! Feel free to write about it, of course, and please let me know so that I can read your take on the subject.

1 comment:

Kate said...

hmm, going to have to dwell on that one. Have many feelings on this one, much along the same lines as yours though with my own flavor, now just have to figure out how to word it all.