I never planned on having kids so, like many non-parent adults, I had views on parenting that I was certain would work best. Those views were very traditional, strict parenting: spanking, time-outs, yelling, like hell the kid would sleep in my bed, etc.
Then I became a mom. A mom who suffered from postpartum anxiety and OCD (my post about PPA/PPOCD)) and man, did my views change. In helping heal my PPA I found that taking a gentle approach to my life truly helped me; I started meditating, I stopped stressing about things I couldn’t control, I would practice my breathing and control my emotions before I responded to a situation and I found that it worked! While I still have general anxiety, I’ve learned to regulate it without medication and, for somebody who has been struggling with it for almost 20 years, that’s a big accomplishment.
My daughter was very attached in her infancy; I had to babywear if I didn’t want to listen to her scream because if she wasn’t near me then she was just miserable! I found that I loved babywearing, though, so it turned out to be a win for both of us. As she got older and more mobile it became harder to wear her while trying to do things around the apartment so she’d just follow me and scream, out of frustration I’d yell at her to leave me along for five minutes, if she touched things she wasn’t supposed to I’d smack her hand. Every time I did something like this the look on her face would break my heart but it’s the only thing I ever knew in regards to “discipline” and teaching. She was a very high-needs baby, but also very sensitive, and that has carried on with her now that she’s a preschooler.
One day we were getting in the car at the mall after a play group and after telling her to wait by the car while I loaded in the little boy I watched my daughter darted into the road and a car had to swerve to miss her! She thought it was funny and giggled as she ran, but out of complete fear I raised my hand and I spanked her butt. I hit my child. I was angry and so scared, more scared than I had ever been in my life, but I hit her. I buckled her into her seat and I sat outside my car and I cried. Man did I cry so hard.
While most people will read that and think, “Good, she deserved a pop for that!” I am still feeling guilt because of it. It broke me. I was spanked as a child and I grew to fear those spanked me. I never felt respect for them, I never felt that I learned anything, I grew to be cautious of them; if I stepped out of line or said the wrong thing I could get hit. I never wanted that for my child but there I was, hitting her in a parking lot.
Something needed to change after that. I started applying my “gentle life” techniques to my parenting and it was like an instant change in our daughter. She started listening more, she was more curious about life and was much more excited to show me things that she found in her world, we were interacting on a different level and it was incredible, I don’t even really know how to describe it.
I’ve shared that I’m a SAHM/childcare provider, my husband works long hours and, as a result, isn’t around much so it took a long time for our daughter to get used to him. For the first year and a half of her life he was active duty but then after he got out of the USMC he took another government job with equally as long hours, often getting OT on the weekends. Charlotte wouldn’t go to him much, she was wary of him because he has a strong presence; a stone face, doesn’t show much emotion, strong voice, and loud when worked up about something. He was raised in that traditional, strict home as well and then joined the Marine Corps. where emotion was pretty much banned, so, in a nutshell, the man is far from Mr. Rogers lol.
I’ll never forget the day that he and I reached our breaking point in parenting. While I had started to filter gentleness into my style, he remained the strict one. We were packing our apartment to move to our first house and our stress levels were much higher than usual; Charlotte happened to touch something that my husband didn’t want her to and instead of saying, “Lets not touch that, we could get hurt,” he shouted, “NO!!” and smacked her hand and snatched up the case she had touched. Instantly she came screaming to me, red, puffy cheeks and eyes, shouting, “Daddy scare me!” He heard it. As I hugged her and calmly said, “Daddy didn’t want you to get hurt,” she just cried and wailed, “No, daddy scare me!” He acted preoccupied but I could see that her words were hurting him.
That moment caused a fight between my husband and I (and in our five years together I can count our fights on one hand). I described his actions as listening to a TV when the volume is too high: you can hear the noise but the words aren’t clear. That’s what was happening with our toddler, a tiny human who was still learning how things work – she was exploring and instead of learning why not to do something, she was basically told to fear it because she couldn’t understand the message.
Since that day I’ve noticed an incredible change in my husband. He is so much more patient with our daughter, he takes the time to show her how things work and explain why we do things. He even invites her into the garage (his personal sanctuary) so they can work on his project truck together. We had snow a few months ago and he went outside and built a snowman with her. He encouraged her walk along side him while he put some chemicals on the lawn last weekend. She gets so excited when she wakes up and realizes that he’s still in bed and not at work, because it means she gets to hang out with him.
I know that it made him sad that our daughter was scared of him for so long, his family would comment on it, he even made a remark to a friend of ours at a Fourth of July BBQ that our daughter would never want him to play with her the way our friend’s son was playing with her husband. I’m so glad to say that in under a year that has changed all because of his new gentle approach to parenting.
We are often criticized for our choice to not spank or yell, because we choose not to isolate our daughter in time-out, that we still hug her when she’s sad or hurt or scared, but to those people I say, “Oh well.” We are raising a child who is confident in her choices, who knows that it’s okay to be wrong from time to time, a child who isn’t afraid of an accident.
I found this quote recently and I quite like it:
“When a child hits a child, we call it aggression.
When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility.
When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault.
When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.”
– Haim G. Ginott
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Were you spanked as a child? How do you feel about it? Do you spank as a parent? Have you asked your child what they think about being hit? I hope y’all have a great weekend! ❤