Being a respectful parent, who doesn’t use punishment and who is surrounded by other like minded parents as friends, I forget that it’s still common practice for many parents to discipline using force. Whether you call it smacking, swatting, tapping, etc. I’m talking about using physical force to punish a child or ‘teach them a lesson’.
The common reasoning behind parents using this method is to ‘teach children’. So, as an adult who was hit as a child, I want to let you know what being smacked taught me.
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What I learned being hit as a child:
I learned to avoid being hit.
I learned to put on denim so it hurt their hand to hit me.
I learned nothing about the actual behaviours by being hit. I can’t remember any of the reasons for being physically punished – just some of the punishments themselves.
I learned to fear my parents judgement rather than seek their advice.
As a person I’m naturally more opinionated. Being hit as a child taught me to hide some of my own characteristics to appease my parents.
I learned to “Be yourself. Not like that.”
I learned to hide the aspects of myself that I’m praised for now (i.e. leadership, decisiveness, stong-will, etc.) I may have learned much better techniques earlier if I hadn’t have been forced to repress these things or had them painted with such negativity early on.
I learned to feel like I was intrinsically ‘bad’; as though I needed ‘punishment’.
I learned to view the protection and love of my parents as conditional.
I learned to fear showing strong emotions. I also didn’t learn what to do to handle strong emotions.
Now, as a mother, it has taken me more work and a longer time to be the kind of parent I want to be. I knew I didn’t want my children to be taught those same lessons how I was. I had to unlearn and reform habits of the mind and those knee-jerk reactions.
As a parent now, I know my children’s self-image begins with how they think that others (particularly their parents) perceive them. Smacking sends a confusing message, especially to a child too young to understand the true reason behind the punishment.
I think the reason parents spank, yell at, and threaten their children is because when they do, the response is often immediate and there is instant gratification – a visible change. But what have they taught the child? To me, what matters more than an instant response is a meaningful lesson. I don’t want my children to stop a behaviour out of fear of punishment, but rather from an understanding of why it wasn’t a good choice.
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” ― L.R. Knost
The thing is, hitting can ‘work’. It can stop the behaviour in some instances. But only if blind obedience is the goal. Punitive force doesn’t teach intrinsic motivation. It doesn’t show your children that you (as a grown adult) can control yourself – quite the contrary.
The bottom line for me is that it may work – but often at the expense of your relationship.
Gentle discipline and respectful parenting is often more work in the short term. But it’s a long term goal. Personally, I choose to do what I think will help them learn long term meaningful lessons. I choose connection, discussion and genuine consequences. I choose to see them as the people they are who need my guidance. I want them to know that I’m here to help them make sense of this world – not hurt them.
You can now read what we do instead of punishment and yelling and shame. But, wherever you are on your journey as a parent, if you’re looking to find positive parenting advice, some of my favourite reads include:
- Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn – a must read!
- ParentSpeak by Jennifer Lehr – a significant read about how we talk to children.
- Positive Parenting by Rebecca Eanes.
Thank you for reading!
You can find us on Facebook and Instagram for more unschooling and parenting inspiration.
It’s disturbed how more people don’t notice this.
This post made me cry! I was hit a lot as a child, sometimes for reasons I couldn’t seem to understand. Other times it was inconsistent. One day I’d do something and my mom would laugh. The next day I’d do it again thinking it would make her laugh again, but she’d hit me instead.
In my 30s, I still have trouble understanding my value. I would really love to get married one day, but I have a hard time dating. Every time I meet a nice guy, for some reason, deep down inside I feel unworthy and unloveable. I also scared to get close to people because I think they won’t ever really care about me and my feelings. I live in constant fear of rejection. I don’t really know how to change this feeling at my age.
My life is incredibly lonely. I’m glad you worked on this because I would’ve wished for anything to stop my parents hitting me growing up.
I’m curious how you deal with issues that come up in parenting. If you don’t spank or use timeouts, what methods have worked for you to connect with your kids while still not allowing them to rule the family? Are you saying that you never correct behavior, even if its inappropriate or dangerous? Would love your thoughts!
What we do: https://www.racheous.com/respectful-parenting/what-we-do/
Eliane Sainte-Marie says
I’m so excited to have found your work, Rachel. I’ve already started sharing many of your articles with my peeps, and storing them on my Pinterest boards. Very cool to find a like-minded sister clear across the world!
Thank you for writing about these important subjects. You can check out my Parenting For Wholeness blog and you’ll see how aligned we are.
I love finding like-minded mamas! Thanks for your support! I enjoy your blog Eliane! Glad to have found you too!
I find it so interesting how I agree 100% with your article Rachel, and yet my sister disciplines their child the same way as passed on through the generations. My opinion is every family has a choice. However we prefer to wake up and bring up a positive loving family without the fear of punishment ?
I too was spanked as a child. I also do not remember a single reason why.
I do have a vivid memory of being belted for stealing rolled up coins. I wasn’t taught that I had hurt someone’s feelings and damaged their trust by stealing. I wasn’t made to apologize to this person, or do work to make up the money I had stolen. I was old enough to do both of these things. What I did learn is how to steal better, and how not to get caught.
I so appreciate this perspective, and hope that I will be able to teach my son lessons of value and communication rather than the “instant gratification” effect.
I agree with you completely. I was spanked as a child and I was afraid of my parents . I have children and I don’t want to raise my children the way I was raised. Thanks for this wonderful post.
Wow! So well written. I agree whole heartedly, word for word! Beautiful and important message. Thank you!
I commend you for making the decision to change the cycle in your family and the resolve to follow through. I am wondering how your family has responded to your decision. Are they supportive or have you had to avoid them or intervene when they try to handle things?
My parents spanked and did time outs as discipline. They would talk with us about the reasons why, but it wasn’t a natural consequence so over the years, my memory has blurred the reasons why any individual spanking or time out happened. I can list off several things for which a spanking was the guaranteed consequence, but there were others I don’t recall very well.
I found parenting by connection in the last couple of years and have slowly transitioned my thinking to this style of parenting instead. As I try to implement it, I am having trouble with my mother accepting this different way of handling things. She is my respite – my husband works very long hours and she watches my son for me when I desperately need a break. Also, our family is very tightly connected (half of us live on the same street) and get together often – I can’t exactly avoid her influence on my son. She has read some articles I’ve printed off for her and seemed to consider them carefully, but ultimately decided she disagreed. She will respect my choice about not spanking and I know she won’t do it since I’be made it clear, but every time I try to discuss a new issue/stage/behaviour with my son, she reverts back to trying to convince me to do spanking and time outs.
I wondered if you have to face something similar and, if so, how do you handle it?
Personally, I don’t try particularly hard to change the minds of anyone around me – even family.
However, I have made it known that I don’t want my kids seeing it and that they are never to punish my child/ren in those ways. So long as people are respectful of my way of parenting – regardless of their own beliefs – I don’t really take to heart if they feel differently.
Such a well written post and I really appreciate the points you made and the links. I can really relate. x
Thank you so much xo
I appreciate your honesty in this post! Sometimes the best thing we can learn from our parents (who did their best when the information they had, I’m sure) is what NOT to do. I was hit, too, but not often. I also don’t remember what I was being punished for; just the punishment itself. Your kids are lucky to have a mom who reviewed how she was raised and decided she wanted something different for her own children!
Thank you Emma – it’s a hard step as a mother raised this way to choose differently. I really appreciate the support!
Such an important message! Thank you for being so raw and honest xx
Thanks so much for reading and supporting xo