Q: My husband and I are expecting our first baby in September. He was raised with spanking and thinks it is ok to do occasionally. I disagree and was wondering your thoughts.
A: The first thought that comes to my mind is whether or not you ever engaged in this discussion before you were married much less before you decided to have a baby. Because as far as I’m concerned this is a deal breaker. This is one of those topics for me that has no gray area, no middle ground and no room for a difference of opinion. At best, spanking is a fallout of laziness or ignorance and at worse, it is a byproduct of anger on a much deeper level. If I was dating a man and it got serious enough to start having discussions about marriage and family and it became clear to me that he was in the cavemanesque camp of “if you spare the rod, you spoil the child,” we would need to go our separate ways. Obviously the two of you are married now and a baby is on the way so I truly hope that you can both sit down and have a truly meaningful discussion on this subject before baby comes.
I am certain there are many things your husband, as a grown man, does differently than his parents did, so why, of all the influences this one needs to remain is an argument that makes no logical sense to me. Don’t ask yourself if your parents spanked you as a kid or not, ask yourself, does it seem right or sane to hit a child. I believe with my whole heart that my God given job description as a parent is to love and protect my kids, not to hurt or hit them. I am mystified by the fact that if you haul off and hit another adult…that’s assault. If you smack another adult on the butt, well, that equals a sexual harassment lawsuit. Yet somehow there is a group of parents out there that for reasons that defy explanation, believe that inflicting these same behaviors on a small, helpless child is righteous.
I am all in favor of raising kids with a sense of discipline and respect but to believe that the way I achieve that is with a belt or a wooden spoon is a misguided belief system of epic proportions. It has been proven time and time again that kids who are spanked or more likely to be aggressive themselves so share this reality with your husband. If his reasoning is that he wants his children to be well behaved, swatting them will more likely put him on the fast track toward the precise opposite. Another undeniable truth is the fact that the greatest leverage you will ever have with your children is love. And I don’t mean leverage in the sense that you give love and take it away to manipulate them into good behavior like small puppets on strings. Unconditional love should be every child’s birthright. What I mean by leverage is that the absolute love and embrace that you give your children will motivate them infinitely more to do the right thing than the fear of being spanked. The feeling of disappointing you will always sting far more than any physical harm or hurt you could inflict.
There are numerous wonderful books that can shed more light on this topic if that interests you, but at the end of the day, you, Mom, need to be steady and strong. It is on you to share with your husband that the two of you need to work together to find different ways and means to raise your kids without the option of spanking. Is it harder in many ways once you take this option off the table. You bet. But I have never in my life found the easier path to yield the better result. There’s the right way and then there’s the easy way. For what it’s worth, we have three amazing kids, but I still threaten to buy a dog in the hopes of having some living creature in the house that listens to me.
Congratulations and best of luck!