Who’s in control?

Often when a parent spanks their child it is at a time when they are frustrated and at their wits end.  It’s at the end of a long, hard day, they’re physically and emotionally drained and their child has just stepped on their last remaining nerve.  In an effort to gain control of the situation and regain some sort of composure, the parent spanks the child.  But what does this really accomplish?

Let’s start with the parent. The spanking gave the parent the satisfaction of controlling the child and the impression of doing their parenting job well. Their child who was having an outburst a few minutes earlier is now sobbing pitifully in the corner.  The outburst has been quelled and so the parent is satisfied that the spanking altered the behavior thus they are carrying out their parental duties in a timely and effective manner.  But the sounds of their child’s sobbing is unnerving. The parent feels a bit queasy in the pit of their stomach and silently wishes that their child would behave better so that they wouldn’t have to spank them.  They don’t really like spanking their child, but it is the only thing that allows the parent to gain control over the child and the situation.

The child is heartbroken, sobbing in the corner.  He doesn’t understand why his mommy just hit him when he only wanted to know how long it would be until dinner was ready. He’s very hungry because the daycare gave him beans for lunch and he doesn’t like beans. She shooed him away when he tried to ask.  He kept trying, even after mommy warned him to leave her alone as she was busy.  He just wants her to understand that he’s hungry right now and the hunger is making him belligerent. He doesn’t want to be naughty but he doesn’t have the right words to tell mommy what he’s feeling.  So now, he’s hungry, hurt and angry.  He’s worse off now than before he made mommy mad.  And he still doesn’t have anything to eat.

Unfortunately this is a scenario in many households today.  I don’t believe that any loving parent WANTS to hit their child, but it’s all they know.  They were never taught methods and strategies to handle the situation without striking their child.  It’s how they were brought up, so that is what normal parents do.  It may very well be normal, but it’s not humane, and it’s certainly not the best way this situation could have been handled.

Chances are if you are a parent who spanks, you were also spanked as a child.  You weren’t taught how to control your emotions, they were spanked out of you, much as you are unwittingly doing to your own child.  So now, as a parent, when your child frustrates you, you spank them.  And then you have control.  But, control over whom and what?  Your child is no longer having a tantrum, making outbursts, (insert any offense you deem “spankable” here), so you have gained control over the situation and have, in effect, controlled your child.

The child stops his or her behavior after a spanking because they do not want to be hit again.  They are afraid of their parent’s wrath. Depending on their age, they really do not understand why they are being spanked, even if you give them an explanation.  A toddler or preschooler is incapable of understanding cause and effect.  They are naturally inquisitive and want to explore everything in their surroundings to learn about the world around them.  These are good traits regardless of how frustrated it makes the parent.  A child’s curiosity and wonder should be encouraged, not squashed by a spanking parent.  A child can be taught to control their emotions and outbursts on their own if given the right tools to do so.  Those tools do not involve striking them.

The first step to teaching this skill to a child is to first control your own emotions.  A frustrated person makes unwise choices and rash decisions.  When that person is a parent with a child and the child is the source of the frustration it all too often ends in a spanking.  When your child is getting on your nerves, or behaving badly, step back from the situation for a few seconds and take a deep breath.  Remember that this little person, your flesh and blood, looks to you for guidance and love.  Do you really want to guide them to be unable to control themselves when they are angry or frustrated?  Of course you don’t.  You want your child to be happy and healthy in every way.

Take your deep breath and then get down eye level with your child, or bring them up to your level.  Calmly ask them what is bothering them, or what it is that they need so badly that they are insisting upon your immediate attention.  Getting to the root issue (the outburst or tantrum is the result of the issue, not the issue itself) will allow you to solve your child’s problem, or help them to solve it on their own.  In the case above, if the parent had just taken a few moments to calmly ask her child what was wrong,  she could have given him a snack and they both would have been much happier in the end.

When you begin to control your own emotions, you will lead your child by example and as a result, the outbursts, tantrums and bad behavior will begin to diminish.

Love your children in every way.



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