Confessions of an AP Spanking Mom

The Straight Dope on Spanking



“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


Last night on our Facebook page I went back and forth with a mom who was upset because I said spanking was abuse. I heard the same things I hear over and over again when the subject of spanking comes up:

“I have an amazing relationship with my parents and received many spankings”
“The bible it’s self speaks of spanking children.”

“Take a look at the older generation of reserved, well behaved and well mannered people, where spankings were the largest form of punishment ”
“I was spanked as a child, and I deserved it”.

It went on and on. As I am typing this people are posting in favor of spanking children and justifying it. Why? Why do people feel the need to justify hitting a child? I know why, because it’s wrong, but who wants to be wrong? Who wants to think for one second that their choices aren’t what’s best for their child? Not me. So we make up excuses and we rationalize. It’s called Cognitive Dissonance

Definition of COGNITIVE DISSONANCE : psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes (as a fondness for smoking and a belief that it is harmful)

Wikipedia gives a more geeked out version…

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideasbeliefsvaluesemotional reactions) simultaneously. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment.[1] The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational driveto reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements.[1] An example of this would be the conflict between wanting to smoke and knowing that smoking is unhealthy; a person may try to change their feelings about the odds that they will actually suffer the consequences, or they might add the consonant element that the smoking is worth short term benefits. A general view of cognitive dissonance is when one is biased towards a certain decision even though other factors favour an alternative.[2]

So you get it now right? There’s a need to say, yes hitting is wrong, but I don’t hit my kids, I spank them. I abhor violence but dominating my strength over my children is acceptable in my world because if I admit it isn’t then my brain would explode, or I would be wrong, whichever comes first. Now you may be thinking you know me, but you don’t. I am the first to say, hitting is wrong, spanking is wrong. These are truths, but I am a hypocrite, because I spank my kids.

How Can You Be Pro Attachment Parenting and be Pro Spanking?

You can’t. Attachment Parenting says this about discipline;

Positive discipline is rooted in a secure, trusting, connected relationship between parent and child. Discipline that is empathetic, loving and respectful strengthens that the connection between parent and child, while harsh or overly-punitive discipline weakens the connection. Remember that the ultimate goal of discipline is to help children develop self-control and self-discipline.

Um, Gena you were a Board Member for Attachment Parenting International for 5 years for crying in the out-loud, you spank?

Yes. This is a confession not an endorsement. I’m not proud of this. I get down to my kids level, I talk through things, we do dance time-outs but every once in a while I lose it and spank their butts, BAM right on the diaper. My 9 year old doesn’t get spanked but she will tell you I will haul off and yell(just as bad in my mind), but that is another post altogether. Why do I spank? Because I am frustrated because I have lost my patience. I revert to what I know. I revert to how I was parented, it’s a knee jerk response. Heavy on the jerk.

Am I A ‘Bad Mom’ Because I Spank?

I don’t think I am a ‘bad mom’ because I spank my kids. I think I am a human being that can fall prey to what was modeled to me when I was a child. I think the fact that I spank even though I KNOW in my bones/soul/heart or wherever we feel things deeply, that spanking is WRONG shows how powerful spanking affects the child. I was a child once, I was spanked, often. I was hit with a belt on my butt, hit with a hand, smacked on the back of my head, flicked and yelled at. Did my dad love me? Yes. He still does and I adore him. Does the fact that I grew up to be a responsible (ha!) member of society and an Attachment Parenting advocate make all of the corporal punishment okay? No. Absolutely not. It just shows that children are resilient. It just shows that we will love our parents in spite of abuse. Love knows no bounds.

I Was Spanked As A Child and I Turned Out Okay

Yeah, I did too. But what is your definition of ok? My ok is, I am a kind generous loving person. However I am insecure, untrusting, and afraid of a lot of things. I am super people pleasing, I have insomnia. I have an excessive need to control. I have in the past suffered depression and have attracted abusers into my life. Heck, ten minutes into listening to any of my life coaching sessions and the abuse (sorry dad, just calling a spade a spade) I endured as a child comes pouring out. The way I beat myself up when I fall short or make a mistake, it’s all from the spankings. All of my coping mechanisms all come from that time. But I am an adult now and how I behave is up to me. I am choosing to start new. I am choosing something different.

Spanking is Hitting. According to the APA.

The following are examples of abuse.

Examples of Physical Child Abuse

  • Shaking or shoving
  • Slapping or hitting
  • Beating with a belt, shoe, or other object
  • Burning a child with matches or cigarettes
  • Scalding a child with water that is too hot
  • Pulling a child’s hair out
  • Breaking a child’s arm, leg, or other bones
  • Not letting a child eat, drink, or use the bathroom

Um, so I’m abusing my kids? Yes, yes I am. “But Gena” you may say, you just spank them and only “once-in-a-while” right? Yes. But that means I only abuse them “once-in-a-while”. “Spanking is not the same as hitting Gena.”
Well, according to Paul C. Holinger, M.D., M.P.H. in an article titled; 

Why Do We Still Spank (Hit) Children? The Problem With Physical (Corporal) Punishment

 Spanking is a euphemism for hitting. One is not permitted to hit one’s spouse or a stranger; these actions are considered domestic violence and/or assault. Nor should one be permitted to hit a smaller and even more vulnerable child. Hitting a child elicits precisely the feelings one does not want to generate in a child: distress, angerfearshame, and disgust. Studies show that children who are hit will “identify with the aggressor,” and they are more likely to become hitters themselves, i.e., bullies and future abusers of their children and spouses. They tend to learn to use violent behavior as a way to deal with disputes.

Yep, I identified with my aggressor, heck, I look like him. I can’t imagine spanking my husband to get him to “behave” or do what I want him to do. Well, I can, but that’s silly right? Or hit my client because she didn’t pay me or hitting anyone for anything in my “real life”! That would be, well, it would be assault. But my helpless child who loves and adores me, that’s okay, right? Is it? No, it’s not. It’s not, but yet I will hear and see it explained away, defended and rationalized forever, and most likely at the end of this article in the comments.

But, It’s Infrequent!

It doesn’t have to be often to make an impact. In an article by  Carly Hennessy in the The Sunday Mail, January 23, 2011 she shares:

JUST two smacks to your three-year-old can lead to a violent primary schooler, new international research has shown.

Infrequent use of spanking defined as one or two times a month doubled the risk of aggression in five-year-olds.

Yipes! THAT’S ME! And yo know what? It’s true. My darling Uma, (Darling in real life, really is her middle name), hits her sister when she won’t cooperate. On the butt! Wow! Congratulations Gena, you taught your daughter with Down’s Syndrome how to resolve her issues with spanking. Sigh. I would be down and out and more upset by this had I no idea that all of this can be healed. In an interview with Marcy Axness I learned that all I have done can be undone and that is a relief to me.

Why are You Being a Hypocrite?

Good question. I’m trying like hell not to be. I started our radio show because I wanted to be a better parent. I found out about Attachment Parenting when Ava was still a baby. I was so happy that there was a name for the way I was going against the grain. I was happy to know that there were other parents that took issue with how they were raised. I do not want to spank my kid anymore and I have gotten to the point that it’s rare for me. I hope I will one day master my anger, and overcome my past. Thank God for therapy.

So You Think You’re Better Than Me?

No I don’t. I DO want to DO better than my folks and I PRAY my girls will be better parents than I am, someday. People accuse me of judging parents that hit/spank/swat (pick any euphemism for striking), I don’t, talking about the truth about spanking doesn’t mean I am judging. It’s me sharing that hitting another human being is wrong. That’s it. It’s me standing up for kids, because I know it’s wrong.If you feel like it’s wrong but do it anyway that’s your personal journey. If you do it and because of cognitive dissonance can’t admit it and try to defend it on my page (facebbok) be prepared to be pelted with facts and evidence not judgement.

All We Can Do Is Try and Do Better, One Day at a Time

That’s it. I’m trying. The one thing I can do is apologize. And I do. My girls get to hear “I’m sorry ” from me. “I’m sorry I lost my temper and hit your bottom. That isn’t how I should behave when I am angry.” I know it’s working because even if they do act out on each other or even to me they can say they are sorry. They can admit they were wrong. That’s what I want for my children. Saying you were wrong about something is huge, important and a big part of being okay.

“That young boy without a name, anywhere I’d know his face.
In this city the kid’s my favorite.
I’ve seen him, seen him. I see him every day.
Seen him run outside looking for a place to hide from his father,
the kid half naked and said to myself “O, what’s the matter here?”
I’m tired of the excuses everbody uses, he’s their kid I stay out of it,
but who gave you the right to do this?

We live on Morgan Street;
just ten feet between and his mother, I never see her,
but her screams and cussing, I hear them every day.
Threats like: “If you don’t mind I will beat on your behind,”
“Slap you, slap you silly.”
made me say, “O, what’s the matter here?”
I’m tired of the excuses everybody uses, he’s your kid, do as you see fit,
but get this through that I don’t approve of what you did to you own flesh and blood.

I have heard the excuses everybody uses, he’s your kid, do as you see fit,
but get this through that I don’t approve of what you did to you own flesh and blood.

“If you don’t sit in your chair straight
I’ll take this belt from around my waist and don’t you think that I won’t use it!”

Answer me and take your time,
what could be the awful crime he could do at so young an age?
If I’m the only witness to your madness offer me some words to balance out what I see and what I hear.
All these cold and rude things that you do I suppose you do because he belongs to you
and instead of love and the feel of warmth you’ve given him these cuts and sores that don’t heal with time or with age.

And I want to say “What’s the Matter here?”
But I don’t dare say “What’s the Matter here?”
But I don’t dare say.-Natalie Merchant

What’s the Matter Here? By Natalie Merchant

1 Comment
  1. Phillip Holbrook says

    So, apparently we can throw our Bibles away because the Scriptures teach us to abuse our children by spanking them when they misbehave. I am a retired pastor and father of two now adult and successful contributing, law abiding citizens, and, though I have never abused, never aggressively brought them physical pain by striking their bottoms, yet, when the situation necessitated it, spanked them as children. Once, at the end of a church service my then five year old daughter pulled away from her mother’s hand and darted for a busy highway. Yes, I wore out her fanny with my open hand…. and saved her life! It never happened again.
    I later preached the funeral of a five year old girl whose parents, ironically, did not spank. She died after stepping into traffic. Her parents were not close enough to grab her …they were indoors at the time.

    Obviously our world views differ greatly. Mine is based upon God’s Word and Christianity, which you ridicule as you give terrible advice to parents- parent whose teens are now being arrested for criminal behavior: who are working on developing addictions that will ruin their lives; and some who are being buried because their parents did not love them enough to punish them for their serious wrongs, and failing to teach them that there are devastating consequences for disobedience – whether of one’s parents, teachers, or societal laws.

    When King Solomon instructed the people to physically punish their children, it was the law that juvenile delinquents were to be tried and stoned… to death! What loving parent in such a culture would not use every tool necessary to save his or her own child? And even today, there are many personal, emotional, legal and countless other consequences for doing wrong things, including death! I would rather spank my child for experimenting with Robitussin Cough Syrup than sign the orders at the hospital for removing all life support when there is no hope for survival. Your choice not to spank really says you would rather be a comfortable parent who is so complacent in the disciplining of your children that you would rather allow your children to make their own choices without fear of swift punishment, then suffer far more serious consequences, than be willing to suffer pain yourself by administering effective correction, and that is very sad. Your children are very real danger!

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