This post was written for inclusion in the Second Annual Spank Out Day Carnival hosted by Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Spank Out Day was created by The Center for Effective Discipline to give attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. All parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children on April 30th each year, and to seek alternative methods of discipline through programs available in community agencies, churches and schools. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
One of the vivid memories I have of my childhood involves feelings of anger, shame, and hurt as I buried myself in the pillow of my bunk bed crying inconsolably after my father had left my room one night. I had just been spanked for a reason I cannot recall (but I get the feeling it was related to my fear of sleeping alone and my outcry about that) but the emotions I felt during this time are still very raw and very real. My trust had been violated because a person whom I believed loved me inflicted pain consciously and straightforwardly for something that wasn’t even important enough for me to even remember. I do remember feeling confused, shaken, and afraid very clearly though. I still fear my father because of those impressions from my early childhood have been anchored so deeply in my psyche.
I also remember that soon after, my mother stole quietly into my room, hurt by my cries and offered me a stack of mini rainbow cookies. In hushed tones she told me to keep this between us because it would anger my father, this show of compassion. My pain was meant to teach me a lesson after all, whatever that meant. It also gave me mixed feelings about what happened to me. How can one parent hurt me while the other give me a treat all within the same moment? It baffled me. Did they both love me the same? How is hurting me a show of love, or guidance?
It isn’t, which is why it was so confusing to me as a child. The relationship I had with my parents was one of power over the other until I became old enough, and brave enough, to no longer accept it. Up until then I would shut myself away emotionally and live vicariously through my imagination as a way to cope with the anxiety it caused me. When daily interactions always involved power struggles, emotional manipulation, and often rejection and punishment, at some point I realised that I had no power and just gave up expressing my feelings and needs. I still struggle now to express my needs to those I love because I am so used to repressing them.
Truth be told I do not think my parents knew how to interact with me or my brother, having become parents before they were emotionally ready themselves. They seemed to follow every parenting trend in terms of ‘discipline’ because they probably had no clue what a healthy parent-child relationship looked like and how to get there. Their expectations would shift and change so often, as well as their consequences, that I never quite knew my place. Inconsistency became my norm. Like many parents they seemed mainly concerned with how they appeared to be as parents, based on our outward behaviour, rather than nurture the relationship itself. Apologies were never made for how we were treated, even when we were obviously hurting. We were expected to accept our treatment quietly and adhere to whatever they were enforcing. It is not uncommon, this way of relating to children.
Now I realise that what I grew up with wasn’t my fault, how I was treated. I was not a good girl only when I complied to their (or anyone’s) wishes, nor was a bad girl when I didn’t and expressed myself, because it was never about me. It was about them and how they did not know how to teach me without manipulating me and forcing my behaviour. They simply did not know how else to because they themselves were not taught to. It is a cycle that will keep going until someone chooses a different way to interact that instead supports healthy emotional development by engaging in a respectful, dignified, and compassionate manner.
The memory of my own upbringing, of having been spanked, and the feelings that accompany that kind of relationship spurs me to make the necessary changes in my life to offer my own children a different experience. It is a process since I must address and fulfill the emotional needs that were overlooked during my own childhood and learn a different way to behave not only towards them but towards myself. By doing so I can feel myself heal little by little too.***
On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the handy #SpankOutCar hashtag. You can also subscribe to the Spank Out Day Carnival Twitter List and Spank Out Day Carnival Participant Feed.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Redirecting the Impulse to Spank Amy W. shares at Natural Parents Network about her experience redirecting the impulse to spank, and encourages all parents to respond with sensitivity and redirect anger before it becomes harmful.
- Perspective is Everything Patti at Canadian Unschooler learns to heal from the trauma caused by the childhood death of her sister, and gains a deeper understanding of her own mother's love for her as a child.
- Remembering and Recharging Emily at The Other Baby Blog shares how she refocuses her mindset during high-stress times.
- Does spanking work? Megan at TheBehavioralChild lists the five reasons why spanking doesn't work.
- Love is All There Is: A Spank Out Day Post Tree at Mom Grooves shares her thoughts about needing to find a way to discipline her 5 year old that could give her daughter the boundaries she is craving while still treating her with only love and respect.
- Discipline isn't SOmething You Do; Discipline is SOmething You Have Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children questions how parents can expect their children to show self-control if they, themselves, do not exhibit self-discipline.
- No Spanking, No Yelling, No Time Outs....What's Left? Sheila at A Living Family shares that though spanked as a child herself, she has made efforts towards an alternative approach to setting limits.
- Forgiveness is possible; loving others in a way that works for us Kelly Hogaboom finds that if we are to raise our children in a humane fashion, we must first recognize our own humanity.
- Dear Daniel, (On Discipline and Love) Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son about the many choices we have in life: how we treat people, how we parent, and how we use our bodies in the process.
- Spanking: A Day to Consider Our Muddy Boots recognizes that some see a difference between abuse and spanking, and maybe today is a day that we can consider some other perspectives and utilize available resources to make different choices.
- Mutual Respect Sithyogini at Very Nearly Hippy learns how mutual respect between parents and children leads to peaceful parenting.
- What Is the Difference Between Spanking and Abuse? You know what is difficult? Trying to explain the difference between spanking and abuse to a child. Dionna at Code Name: Mama can understand the confusion.
- I Hit My Kids and Now Begins The Real Work To Heal The Honesty Conspiracy hosts this powerful, anonymous story about how it's never too late to start on a different approach to spanking.
- How To Talk To Parents About Gentle Alternatives To Spanking Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares some useful ways to discuss the often divisive issue of spanking.
- Spank Out Day: 3 Untruths and 11 Alternatives to Spanking MudpieMama at Positive Parenting Connection breaks down 3 of the biggest myths about spanking and shares a list of effective gentler discipline alternatives.
- What Spanking Taught Me Meg at MommyStoleTheSugar explains the spankee's perspective and how it has affected her disciplining choices as a parent.
- A Memory of Spanking Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores her own upbringing and how it has affected her and why she is changing the way she relates to her children.