I was spanked as a child. It was infrequent and it was tame by most standards — I was only struck by a hand — but the episodes left an impression and it’s part of the reason why I have such a difficult time imagining ever spanking my toddler.
Don’t be fooled — there are moments when I believe he deserves a spanking. In fact, I wonder in those moments whether a spanking would benefit him. And that is the center of my conflict.
For instance, after being placed in time out the other day for throwing toys and general malevolent behavior, my 3-year-old ran to his room, slammed the door and urinated all over the floor. After running out, he pushed his 1-year-old brother to the ground. My wife and I looked at each other, trying to decide what punishment was commensurate with this crime.
To spank or not to spank? Does a stern talking-to equal a good swat on the behind? Do I need to send a message to the boy in order to protect our younger child so toddler doesn’t lay hands on him again? I tried to weigh all those questions in a matter of seconds.
Ultimately, I opted to keep my hands off. In practice, I do not solve my problems in life through violence or threats or fear. It’s not in my nature. The last thing I want to do is teach my children that putting our hands on another person is a way to enforce our will or force someone to bend to our rules. But I’m still confronted by the thought that does a spanking — in limited use — send a message that words do not? And does certain behavior demand a more serious response than a time-out or having toys taken away?
I’ve discussed this with several parents over the past few weeks and some have mentioned that children should have a healthy fear of their parents. I did. I always knew that my father loved me but it took awhile for me to develop a certain closeness with him. It wasn’t until we drove the northeast looking at colleges during my junior and senior years of high school that I felt we were becoming friends. We talked, shared stories and reached a level of ease with each other that persists to this day. At 40, I don’t make a significant life decision without seeking his counsel. He’s one of my best friends.
But for the longest time I had a healthy fear of my dad and in my heart, I wonder if the brief but memorable spankings contributed to my sense of fear. I want to avoid that with my own children. It’s a fine line, I’ll admit. This is not about me wanting to be my son’s friend or convince him to like me. I punish him. I discipline him. I’m not a pushover. But I’m having an internal debate — as toddler enters the Terrible Three’s — over whether a well-timed spanking is not only deserved but necessary.
What are your thoughts?