Monday, March 18, 2013

I'm a Dumbass

At some point in my younger years, my evil sister told me that if I didn’t cry when Dad gave me a spanking, then he would think I was a man and stop.

Genius, I thought…

Then I tried it.

When I didn't start crying, my father seemed to take it as a personal challenge.  He dropped my “drawers,” and he made sure I understood how angry he was with me.

A few days later, I was up for another spanking (go figure).  Only now I had mastered the trick.  Before my mother’s hand even made contact with me, I let loose a blood curdling scream.  I kept it up throughout the spanking.  Afterwards, I was sent to my room to think about what I had done.  I sat and happily played with my toy cars, content in my knowledge that I had figured out how to outsmart my parents.  I even heard my mother tell my father, as she walked past my door, “I think I might have hurt him.”

I didn't get many spankings after that.

When people say the word “spank,” it seems to conjure up images of the 1940’s and children getting beaten with switches.  The phrase “rule of thumb” is not a joke people; it used to mean you could beat your wife with anything smaller than the width of a man’s thumb.  (Thank you Boondock Saints)

Violence is not a joke.  Many people who would include themselves in my generation were not spanked, they were beaten.  I was not.  Thousands of women and children are abused in the United States and around the globe every year.  My wife is not one of them.

That is not how I parent either. 

My parents never even used a belt, although some of my friends were spanked with belts and sticks.  This sort of violence is not appropriate.  My parents spanked all of their children until, wait for it, it stopped being useful.  At a certain point, spanking no longer changes behavior, but rather it shames and builds resentment in the relationship. 

I don’t like to use the word spanked, because it has such a negative connotation.  I swat.  Once a child is up and walking around, they get into everything.  We didn't start either of the boys on timeouts (our preferred negative consequence) until they started pushing two.  Until that point the get a swat on the hand for getting into something that they are not supposed to touch.  After that point, when they get three timeouts in a day, they get a swat to the bum. 

I often hear that the reason parents don’t spank is because they don’t want to teach their children that anger and violence is an appropriate response.  Neither do I, but anger and violence is a response and adults often use it.  A fellow dad blogger recently wrote a post about when he almost spanked his child.  In it, his daughter is pushing and pushing and pushing as children do.  Eventually, he gets a book thrown at his face and ends by removing himself from the interaction.  A tool I have often used in the past.  I’m not judging how he handled the situation, but, to say the least, I would have handled it differently. 

I would rather my kids learn what happens when you throw a book at someone’s face now, than when they are in their twenty’s and at a bar.  If they try that shit there, I am certain the person will not simply leave.  (Well maybe Jackson gets away with it)  To be clear though, I wouldn't beat them or spank them, but I would swat their bum as they went to timeout.  Yeah, I would probably yell as well.  After the timeout, we can have a more rational conversation. 

Like many things in parenting, you have to do what’s right for you.  Each parent has to do what is right by them.  I get that, I just wish the word spank could stop being equated with beat.  That’s not what I do.

Besides, spankings (swatting) only works when they are young.  As I said above, eventually it just stops working, and you’ll need to get more creative anyway – something my father was very good at doing.  Shortly after I stopped getting spankings, I wished that I could go back.  When I did something wrong, my father would just give me a stack of paper.

“Write, ‘I’m a dumbass’ a thousand times.”  Do you know how much your hand hurts after that?  Trust me, it was more than my ass ever did.

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