Please don't tell me to smack my child

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

I really don't like smacking my kids. So much so, I don't do it. I'm not some perfect sanctimonious mother, sometimes I get frustrated with my kids just like everyone else; there are times when I find myself raising my voice and being the grumpy mother I never wanted to be. Still, I do my best to remain as calm as possible, and I choose not to use physical violence to discipline my kids. 

I just don't see how hitting them sends the message that I'm trying to convey. In the real world, we don't get to hit people who do the wrong thing. How would you like it if you made a mistake at work and your boss raged out and beat you for it? I mean, just a quick whip on the butt? You'd probably call the police, you'd sue them, it would be a really big deal. It's not acceptable in our society to behave that way as adults, so why would I want to teach my child that hitting is the answer when someone is rude or does the wrong thing? It doesn't make sense to me.

I grew up in a home that was heavy on physical discipline. When I was a young child, I was scared into behaving well. As the years went by, I didn't confide my worries in my parents; I was always concerned I'd be in trouble for the littlest things. What happens when a child is too old to smack? I became a rebellious teenager who listened to no one, so I really can't say their methods proved to be much of a success.

I vowed I would never be like my parents, so I do my best to use words to guide my children instead of an open hand. But still, I find if my child misbehaves in front of my grandmother, my mother, my father, my mother-in-law, even random strangers, there's always someone who feels the need to pipe up and say, "That child needs a smack on the bum. Your mother is going to smack you if you don't cut that out." 

Just the other day I found myself standing frozen, dumbfounded, watching on while an older family member took it upon themselves to furiously smack my daughter who was in the middle of a tantrum, because, as she said to me: "What you're doing clearly isn't working!" 

This annoyed me. Clearly I'm still annoyed by this snarky snipe at my parenting, so much so I find myself writing this piece in defence of those of us who choose not to smack our kids. Because I know I'm not alone - not all parents choose to discipline their kids in the old fashioned way of scaring and hurting them into compliance. Some of us choose to treat our children differently, we all have different methods. 

My children are only young, they are just preschoolers. They still have outbursts sometimes when things don't go their way. That's normal. I don't believe hitting them is warranted, they are tiny humans trying to find their place in a giant world. Sometimes things will be overwhelming for them, and it is my job as their mother to help them through these moments of strong emotion. 

Each week, I watch the way their teachers interact with the young students at preschool. These teachers are always cool, calm and collected, they never use anger or aggression to get the kids to listen and follow direction. They use kind voices and gentle words, as well as songs and images as cues for the children to do various tasks. They don't yell or hit. I find these teachers inspirational. They know that sometimes, young children misbehave. Sometimes, there is no reasoning with them, and you just have to give them a few minutes to work through their emotions. 

Kids mirror us, so when we hit them, we really are teaching them that is the correct way to behave, whether we like it or not. I refuse to throw a tantrum and join in with my child, yelling like a lunatic or hitting them in anger when they make a mistake or do the wrong thing. It's up to me to teach my children how to be functioning members of society, and sometimes that might mean using an embarrassingly stern voice in public, or holding my child in a big hug for a minute or two while they calm themselves down, or simply waiting until a tantrum subsides.

I find it quite unbelievable that anyone could be so concerned and oppositional towards a parent who chooses not to hit their children - you would think it would be the other way around. I don't tell others that they shouldn't hit their children, I simply choose not to hit my own. Yet constantly I seem to hear from people of that old fashioned mindset: if you don't smack your children, they'll never listen to you... Spare the rod, spoil the child. Please, save it. My children aren't perfect, but overall they are well behaved young kids who I am proud of. I don't need to beat them to get them to listen to me.

So, should you wish, go ahead and judge my "weak" parenting methods all you like, and while you're at it feel free to do a little bit of research on the topic. You may be surprised at how quickly you come across countless studies clearly showing the detrimental effects that smacking has on a child's mental health, how it causes low self confidence, not to mention how smacking is known to make a child's nature more aggressive. 

My goal is to build up my childrens' spirits, not to break them. And that's why no matter how many people might tell me I should, I'm still not going to smack my kids.