Confessions of an AP Mom Who Spanked

DISCLAIMER, THIS ARTCLE IS NOT A PRO SPANKING ARTICLE IT IS THE ANTITHESIS

Confessions of an AP Spanking Mom

“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

Peter Dazeley / Photographer’s Choice / Getty Images

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]-

 

 

Mother discipling child with a spanking. > (Schoenbaum/Getty )

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 have spanked 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.

Dr. W.Sears. Me and Charles de Girl (age 6mos) Martha Sears Rn.

API co-founder Barbara Nicholson, President of API Board Janet Jendron, and yours truly

I am writing this because a lot of people are under the impression that I am a perfect mom. HA! I am not. So here goes; “Gena, have spanked your kids?”
Me: “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 in my life as a parent I have lost it and spanked them 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 have I spanked? Because I was frustrated because I have lost my patience. I reverted to what I know. I reverted to how I was parented, it’s a knee jerk response. Heavy on the jerk.

Am I a ‘Bad Mom’ because I Spanked?

I don’t think I am a ‘bad mom’ because I have spanked 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 spanked even though I KNEW 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. But that doesn’t make it right.

 ”I Was Spanked As A Child and I Turned Out Okay”

From My Life Is Lame

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.

“I Don’t Hit My Kids I Spank Them.”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 Gena you are saying if I spank I’m abusing my kids? Yes, yes you are. “But Gena” you may say, you just spanked them and only “once-in-a-great-while” right? Yes. But that means I only abused them “once-in-a-great-while”if. You may insist,”Spanking is not the same as hitting Gena.” Well, I have news for you.

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! Even though I can count how many times I’ve spanked. And you 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. But it doesn’t make it alright.

 

  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 spanks my kids again and I don’t but I still yell I have gotten to the point that even that is very 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 however, 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 you 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. They have heard,”I’m sorry I lost my temper and hit your bottom, or now more often than the latter, raised my voice at you. 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.

How Do We Make the Change? How Do We Stop the Cycle?

Surround yourself with like minded folks. Go to support groups. Go to an AP meeting. Don’t try to do it alone. The eighth principle of AP covers this:

 

Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don’t be afraid to say “no”. Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself.

Get help. I did. You are not alone. Stop the cycle. Yes you hit your child, is that wrong? Yes. But beating yourself up about it wont help. That’s self abuse. Own your mistakes, forgive yourself decide to make a change. But MAKE that change.
Want to know more about how to strive for balance listen here.

 

“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

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This is the posts comments

  1. Gleamer Sullivan June 29, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    Thank you.

  2. Sarah Short June 29, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    I love this article. You give me hope that when I become a parent that I will be able to break the cycle of abuse that I was exposed to. Luckily, spanking wasn't a huge factor in my childhood- but abuse comes in many forms- and old habits die hard.

  3. Sarah Short June 29, 2012 at 1:40 am #

    Also, gotta love 10,000 Maniacs! Excellent song to illustrate your point.

  4. Andrea Kennedy June 29, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    I relate so much to this, it's like you took the thoughts right out of my head. We have worked with our oldest to take 3 deep breaths when he's seeing red, but since a bout of depression recently I have been a terrible example of how to behave when one is upset and I get so down on myself about it. But recently I started searching out methods and kind of hyping myself up to do better and I found a quote that struck a chord with me so I put it on an adorable picture of my boys and set it as my desktop background so I don't forget, "More than anything, your child needs instructions on how to treat other human beings, particularly during moments of anger or frustration."

  5. Debi Tracy June 29, 2012 at 4:15 am #

    Thank you for making me feel normal for being human.

  6. Mands Glover June 29, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    I relate a lot to this. I was raised the same way and so were most of my peers. And pretty much all of them still think this is acceptable. I find myself struggling sometimes to not give in to my 'knee jerk reflex' and so far I've been able to keep myself under control! thank god. I'm so lucky that I have turned out to be a critical thinker rather than the robot my parents have tried to raise me to be. My parents still try and tell me what I can and cannot wear etc. My brother came out just the way they wanted but luckily I was born first and was the 'experiment' child and for them it went all wrong but for me it turned me into the activist I am today and if for nothing else, I am grateful to them for that at least.

    • Connie Higdon-Yeager July 5, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

      Mands I truly do not want to upset anyone, thanks for removing my comment on the Attached at the Hip place and I did not mean to send you a friend request obviously you feel very powerful about circumcision and I don't want to be trouble. I"m not sure why I was completely blocked from the group and not allowed to comment on other topics anymore that kind of hurts my feelings as I liked most aspects about the attached at the hip page but wish you well.

    • Mands Glover July 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

      Connie, it wasn't I who removed you, however the owner of the page wasn't happy with the things you were saying. You are completely entitled to your own belief system BUT *most* people are very anti-circ and as AATH is an anti-circ page, the owner didn't feel as though you were able to contribute helpfully. No ones feelings are meant to get hurt but sometimes that is unavoidable. You *seem* like a lovely person but we just do not appreciate it when someone obviously has some guilt that they are trying to overcome by defending their decision. I spoke to my husband, who is very Christian, that Jesus himself never preached circumcision except for circumcision of the heart in that you did away with the old to make way for the new i.e. you cut away the old testament to embrace the new testament. And as my husband rightly says, in situations like these, the defensive party needs to do their own research because we could argue until the cow's come home about this with no one seeing the other's point. So i urge you to do your research, and i also urge you to realise that there is a huge movement in religious communities that is ultimately moving towards dropping the circumcision tradition. So please Connie, do your research, look at the news. There is nothing wrong with being wrong, you admit your mistake and vow to do better next time. Now that you know better, do better. Best of luck to you Connie, in your parenting journey.

  7. Mands Glover June 29, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    I relate a lot to this. I was raised the same way and so were most of my peers. And pretty much all of them still think this is acceptable. I find myself struggling sometimes to not give in to my 'knee jerk reflex' and so far I've been able to keep myself under control! thank god. I'm so lucky that I have turned out to be a critical thinker rather than the robot my parents have tried to raise me to be. My parents still try and tell me what I can and cannot wear etc. My brother came out just the way they wanted but luckily I was born first and was the 'experiment' child and for them it went all wrong but for me it turned me into the activist I am today and if for nothing else, I am grateful to them for that at least.

  8. Dave Joyce June 30, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    First off, I LOVE your honesty. I love how you said that you can apologize for spanking and and tell your kids when you're wrong and ask forgiveness. That's *huge* I think. I think there's a fear for some fathers that if they admit they were wrong that it's somehow a sign of weakness. But it's not. Strength is found in the ability to admit weakness and become small and ask forgiveness.

    The spanking you describe I agree is absolutely wrong, we shouldn't hit our children out of frustration or irritation. That is wrong. My philosophy on spanking is very simple, and I don't believe it's cognitively dissonant. If I spank my child, what I'm doing is not beating them into a behavior pattern, that would be wrong. I should be an example to them to mold their behavior – like a shepherd leads his flock. For me, spanking is about illustrating to my child that with wrong behavior there is a just punishment will result. And the child upon receiving the spanking can have the good feeling of having paid the price for his wrong doing. Justice was served. He did wrong and he paid the price. And there's an incredible sense of being purified through that process.

    So if your child hits his sister for example. And you tell him what he did was wrong and he feels guilty about it. What does he do with that guilt? Spanking provides a way for him to atone for his wrong actions and be purified of his guilt. What would you suggest instead?

    • Bex Komene June 30, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      woah – that's really sick. Jesus won't thank you for it – in fact you cause Him pain every time you hurt you child in His name. It is congnitive dissonance of the very worse kind. Call a spade a spade – you enjoy harming your babies. Shepherds don't harm their flock – their job is to keep them safe from harm and guide them to prosperity. You are not doing that. I am appalled.

    • Ali Edgley June 30, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      Thank you for a brave and honest post, Gina.

    • Ali Edgley June 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Don't need to do anything. If the child feels guilty the child doesn't need punishing. Not that I believe in punishing anyway.

      Dave, how is a child to know the difference between the behaviour he is supposed to emulate and the behaviour he isn't? Or is it 'Don't do as I do, do as I say' in your house?

    • Ali Edgley June 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

      Hitting as a cure for guilt. Novel. You could put the psychoanalysts out of a job, Dave; just hit people instead, that'll sort them out. I don't want my children to live with guilt or ignore it either, so I talk to them.

      Your kid will try to emulate you right now. That's probably why he hit his sister in the first place. How's a kid supposed to know he's nt supposed to copy that bit?

      I don't think 'spanking' (aka hitting) is ever called for. But then, I don't think I've been 'placed in authority' over anyone.

    • Ali Edgley June 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      Ah, no kids yet. Good luck with that.

    • Dave Joyce June 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

      Thanks. I know I need all the help I can get. I can't do it on my own. I'm just trying to do the best that I can.

    • Ali Edgley June 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      I suggest you start off by not being violent towards your child.

      • Craig July 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

        That’s what this article is about Ali, I agree wholeheartedly.

    • Jewel Hernandez July 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      two things, first, of what use is guilt anyway….in my experience guilt is feeling bad about oneself and hanging onto it. Its twisted and useless, toxic with shame. If one is truly being authentic (parent or child) there is empathy and that is what we have to tap into as parents. I can best illustrate through personal experience…my 14 mo old granddaughter was at playgroup and wanted something from another child and to her mother's horror looked like she was about to chomp on the other child's arm. Her mother swiftly and gently re-directed her to some other toy. GD has never been hit. Now what if she had bitten the other child and her mother had given her a swift swat? What would she have learned? And what if she had bitten the other child and she witnessed and felt the other child's response – the surprise, the shriek or crying – and mother drew her attention to this etc, what would she have learned…empathy. As an attachment parented child, she still has the capacity to feel. I'm not saying that only AP children have that capacity, but I do think that more and more children lose this through our birthing and parenting practices and we REFUSE to look at this as a culture. My mother was the slapper in our family. My father took a different and non-violent tack. The lessons my mother was trying to teach me are long forgotten, though the by-products of shame, unsecurity etc are alive and well. However the times my father addressed the things I did that needed correction, I can still remember crystal clear and I don't feel any shame, just relief that he lovingly and concretely set me on a better path….ahhh, that more fathers/parents could be like he was.

      This is a very hot topic. Thank God Gina (and others) are brave enough to address it!

    • Gena Kirby July 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

      Dave Joyce, I do not believe that spanking for any reason is alright.
      Your definition of spanking is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance.
      There is no good feeling that follows being hit by the person you love. Purification through violence? Absolutely not.

    • Bex Komene July 1, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

      You make assumptions about a character that hasn't been born yet. Lesson 101 – if you expect a behaviour from a child they will live up to those expectations even when they are wrong. So if you expect a child to misbehave he will and it will be your doing. He is only doing what he thinks you expect from him. So to then punish him for misinterpreting a message that you poorly relate is YOUR wrong, not his. If you must punish anyone, punish yourself. Or do what most people do and forgive yourself and don't repeat the mistake. This is also an issue of interpretation. I don't think my daughter who is 2.5 is capable of guilt. I don't remember truly feeling remorse until I was the age of about 8 or 9. So if you interpret a baby's or toddler's behaviour as guilt you are mistaken – it's fear. Children only want to know that they are accepted regardless of the mistakes they make and it's through acceptance that they learn not to repeat those mistakes. They need to know that their behaviour is right even if it is socially undesirable because otherwise they feel shame and that only leads to isolation and unhappiness. You have very little time to open your mind to how to have a happy human being. I suggest you begin researching the work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth and Jean Liedloff.

    • Bex Komene July 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      And Gabor Mate, Alfie Kohn and Naomi Adort. And http://www.ahaparenting.com/ has everything you need to know. And if your baby is crying and you feel he needs to be purified – think again. It's because YOU haven't found the cause yet. Which is usually a cuddle and breastfeeding.

      Your son and yourself are both equal under your Creator. Research the difference between "authoritarian" and "authoritative". You can lead your son without having to exercise your physical prowess over him. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HIT HIM but you may hit yourself if you wish. ps I sincerely hope you do not try to purify your wife in this way.

    • Barry Parker July 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

      Why hit? If you are wanting punishment for atonement, why hit? There are a million other ways to make atonement. Chores, doing something for the person who was offended, grounding, timeout, loss of toy, etc. No need to hit.

    • Barry Parker July 1, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

      And wouldn't you want the atonement to be real? Guilt is a natural emotion so is being willfull and the myriad of other NORMAL behaviors you are about to encounter. Most situations should not require punishment if you take the time to guide your child by explaining the right behaviors and showing by example. Please look up other methods of parenting. There is a ton of material out there showing how to deal with every situation without spanking. If 32 countries can raise millions of adults without spanking, you can too!

    • Samantha Gentry July 6, 2012 at 8:41 am #

      Oh that is awful. Tell you what if I hit my real-life sheep and goats (my flock, I DO have sheep and goats) they would run away from me. I treat them gently and feed them and they come running to me when I call them. Hitting to absolve of guilt for a child sounds like a perfect way to develop self-harming and eating disorders in adulthood, both forms of self-punishment. I had an eating disorder and self-harm tendencies. I was raised religious and was hit.

  9. Ceci Steiner Gray June 29, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    Good article

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