I Ain’t The Poster Child For Tough Love


Before we became parents, Bunny and I used to sit around and talk about what life would be like with a kid.  We’d discuss names, what gender we’d like to have, what physical attributes they would possess from either of us and “How are we going to discipline?”

“Oh hell,” I would say, “I always got spankings when I was a kid and its going to be the same for my kids!”

Bunny would vehemently disagree with me.  While I was raised by a mother and father who disciplined me carefully and methodically with a wooden spoon and logic, Bunny was raised by a single parent whose spankings were nothing more than the result of an adult temper tantrum!  I assured that I would follow my parents form of discipline down to perfection. 

Only thing is… I hadn’t anticipated beauty in its highest form, deep blue eyes and the tiniest, most heart-crunching “Daddy… I love you” escaping the pouty pink lips of my first daughter:

After looking into the eyes of what I’d helped create… I began looking into other methods of discipline.  Her hugs, kisses and seemingly never-ending love quickly smothered my pre-kid disposition that “tough love” was the route I wanted to take in making my first daughter mind her parents.

Now that she’s reached the age of two… she now understands how and when to push the limits of her mother and I’s patience.   I read a book called, “1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline For Children 2-12” and it made surprisingly good sense to me.  It taught discipline without ever having to lay a hand (or a wooden spoon) on the posterior of my child.  It taught surprisingly easy tactics by managing your tone and your emotions.  It coached using the “time-out” instead of spankings to convey to your kid: “Hey… I’m not joking here.  I’m freakin’ serious!” 

Bunny and I are using the program and it has been successful and we have never had to resort to pulling out the wooden spoon.

This doesn’t mean she’s entirely perfect.  She is two… and with the territory comes some rebellion.  Usually this involves pulling my hair or rearing back and hitting me in the face when she’s tired, she can’t communicate what she wants… or both.  I’m always very calm, institute the rules I learned in the book and it always results in positive outcomes.

Despite its success… I deviated from my “time-out” tactic the other day and it wound up breaking my heart.

On this day, DLG and I had spent much of the afternoon at Wal-Mart hunting and gathering.  Since we were down to a single walnut and some corn flakes in our pantry… it was a long trip.  As the groceries piled up in the cart, DLG had to resort to walking next to me.  It’s not as easy to operate this way because DLG has to “buy” everything:

“Daddy, I buy this!”

“No honey… we don’t need that peach.  Can you go put it back please?  Thank you!”

“Daddy, I buy this!”

“Hey… honey… we don’t need a gallon on vinegar right now.  Can you go put it back please?  Thank you!”

“Daddy, I buy this!”

“Oh you’re a silly gilly gumdrop… c’mon now… don’t be silly… we already have ‘The Funniest Of Benny Hill’ on DVD.  C’mon… let’s put it back.  Thank you!  Good girl!”

In amongst all this work to corral her by myself I also successfully fed her lunch, navigated a poopy diaper and prevented the consumption of an ancient, dirty green bean that had been hangin’ out on the floor for God knows how long.

By the time I stumbled in the door to our kitchen with every single bag around either of my wrists (because men HAVE to carry EVERY bag in from the car)… I was exhausted.  Exhausted yet feeling very accomplished.  There was a time when, by myself, it took a good hour just to leave the house!!  Never mind navigate everything I had just done!

Regardless of all that, it was DLG’s nap time and I went through our extremely ritualistic routine to get her laid down.  The conclusion of our nap-time rituals led to DLG smacking me in the face because she was tired and wanted me to read her one more book.

I was still calm, collected and ready to place her into time-out.  Although, perhaps out of “Wal-Mart” detox, I decided to give her a little taste of what she’d been dishing out.

Mere seconds after she’d struck me and with a stern look in my eye I quickly spanked her on the bare skin of her left thigh.

She looked at me with a look of complete and utter confusion… and then started cry GIANT CROCODILE TEARS!

I suddenly felt like a COMPLETE AND TOTAL HORSE’S ASS!!  I’d dealt with DLG crying many times before this but never had I dealt with sobs that were a result of purposeful physical pain dealt to her by my hand!  She cried and I gently helped bury her head in her blankie that draped across my shoulder.

I can’t begin to tell you in how many directions my heart was breaking listening to her cry on my shoulder.  It’s unlike anything I’d ever felt in my lifetime.  I knew that she’d recover… but would I?  I reassured her over and over again how much I loved her while holding back MY tears!

Quite frankly, I might have just spanked the rebellion right out of her because she immediately fell asleep once I sheepishly laid her down for nap time.

I exited her room and immediately called my wife so she could reassure me I was a good father.  All I got was her voice mail.

Damn.

I guess I would have to get that reassurance later.

While I knew I had not struck her out of anger, I was completely thrown off by the emotion I felt!  I had come so far from my non-negotiable “discipline by spanking” approach I had before I was a father to now when I could barely contain my emotions after one swift swat to my kids thigh!

I crawled into my happy place:

DLG’s “Princess Tent”: my safe-haven from the outside world

I felt like I was a horrible father.  I felt like I was on the downward slope to prison.  I felt like a massive douchebag.  I felt like shit quite frankly.

Within 24 hours, these feelings deteriorated and I learned that people (even me) change.  Before I was a father, I thought I could dole out a few swift spankings as my mother did when I was a kid.  I was dreadfully wrong.  My mother was able to see the long road ahead when I would be writing this blog post literally THANKING her for whipping my ass for some of the dumb crap I did (like throwing our family cat off the third floor balcony)!!  Now… I’m not able to see past the tears streaming down my little ones cheeks.

Spanking isn’t for me.  I was even raised in a family where spanking was done right i.e. not out of anger, with lessons learned and hugs and kisses after the swats. 

I just can’t do it. 

If you don’t agree with me… then I think you better go to time-out.

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15 responses to “I Ain’t The Poster Child For Tough Love

  1. I agree with you. Can’t do it. Sometimes, you think it would make discipline easier, but then realize that it would only show them that hitting is an acceptable way to get what you want. At least that is how I feel about it.

    Great post.

    • Yeah… that’s what the book 1-2-3 Magic teaches you too. I’d honestly never thought of it that way before reading the book. I guess because the way I was raised and they I was spanked… that was never a viable reason for me.

  2. It’s not funny….but you had me LOL anyway as I read this last night. They melt and you end up feeling like a giant @$$hole. (At least, that’s what happens if I end up smacking a thigh.)

    I have never read the book you mentioned, but I use a 1-2-3 thing to get my 4 year old to listen. I like to call it “Get off ur Butt Parenting.” I ask her to do, or stop doing, something. She doesn’t obey. I count to three, and if she still hasn’t done it/stopped, I make it happen (like, if I told her to put something down and she doesn’t, I get up and take it from her and put it down). From experience, she knows if I start counting she better just do what I said. Rarely do I make it to 3. She does usually start crying when I say “1” though, because she knows she has “lost”.

    My two year old boy however doesn’t give a crap about the 1-2-3. He schreeches, hits me when he’s angry/tired/can’t communicate, and regularly tells me “No!”. It is frustrating for me and a challenge in parenting. I am never sure what to do with him. I usually just end up holding him with his arms pinned at his side until he decides to stop trying to hit.

    Wait till ya have one more – and they fight with each other. Oy vey!

    Good luck, Papa K. I think your reaction (emotional too) to the hitting is completely normal. Try not to beat yourself up. Kids are great – they forgive just like God does – absolutely and completely. 🙂

    • Thanks Mama. Appreciate the kind words! I agree with you… I don’t know how everything is going to go down when we have another one. Well… actually I do I’m just not quite sure how I’m going to respond!

  3. I agree, no spanking here. I believe fear based parenting is a way outdated practice, and is to blame for many of the problems in our adult society today. Spankings like your parents gave you are one thing, but many parents spank purely out of anger…how can we teach our children not to be violent when we are violent with them?

    I truly believe there is a balance between having the power of a parent while also respecting our children as little people…children respond so much better when we firmly set boundaries and respect them enough not to inflict pain and humiliation on them.

    Side note: My lil Dani is our trouble child, as precious as she is…and had issues with hitting at school when she was little. It made NO sense to hit her, to teach her not to hit. Because to a child without the maturity to know the difference, they are the same.

    Sleep soundly Chris. We have ALL made parenting mistakes. I make them daily.

  4. ok so i don’t have a kid but i have a niece and when i watched her and she had a fit or misbehaved i got on the floor at her level and i put a serious face and voice made her look at me and i talked to sternly and she stoped. cried but i picked her up hugged her and it was over. not saying i know how to handle kids im sure there would be times they will test u , but u have the right idea. good blog yet again yo

  5. My younger one really tests our patience. Sometimes my wife will turn to me in exasperation and say something about her being so difficult. I’d shrug and say “I deal with her more often than you do. Be thankful.” I do the countdown with her and I follow through with the timeouts so she KNOWS she better do what I say. You’re only human (I think LOL).

  6. It’s really providential that you posted this right now. We just got back fromt the MidWest Catholic Family Conference and one of the speakers was Dr.Ray Guarendi, quite possibly one of the funniest people on the planet. He may be a psychologist, professionally, but could just as well be on the Comedy channel. I know he has CDs out, but they couldn’t be nearly as effective w/o his body language, giving you his version of teen-speak and parental and/or “expert’s” blather (the man has ten kids, all adopted and some with terrible backgrounds so he knows of what he speaks). Anyway, despite all the comedy, the subject was discipline and the parent/child relationship. He’s not opposed to PROPER methods of spanking, as you pointed out, and I don’t know if the 1-2-3 book follows any of his other directives, but check him out sometime on his website: http://www.DrRay.org where “the doctor is always in”.

  7. Depends on the kid, some are tougher than others. When I was young I swore in front of my mother. She took me to the bathroom and made me brush my “dirty” mouth with soap and a toothbrush. I cried like a baby. We tried the same scenario with a friends child. He came downstairs aftewards with his finger in his mouth, saying ummm clean teeth. THAT kid needs a spank on the ASS. 😉

  8. I once read that spanking was ok, but then after the tears you’re supposed to cuddle them and tell them why they got spanked. I’ve done a lot my nephew and niece’s raising and I found that for them taking away things is a better form of discipline, but they’re a little older so that may not work with your daughter. I have spanked my nephew before and felt the same way you did. I don’t anymore just take away something they like for a day or two and that works better.

    • That’s what my mom did with me. Before I got a spanking… she told me why I was getting it and how many I was going to receive. Then, after the deed was done, she would hug me and tell me how much she loved me. I wasn’t forever ruined by the way my mom did it. I just don’t thinkn I could do it to my daughter AT ALL. I can’t stand to see the tears running down her face as a result of some physical pain that I cause her.

  9. Oh, Chris. Just wait until she turns 3. The 2’s were easy. Where Paul and I agree on the no spanking thing, I admit that I have had to resort there a few times (like when I can’t put her in time out – ex: in a public restroom when she won’t stop opening the stall door while I’m on the toilet). I’ve also read the 1-2-3 Magic book, and it was incredibly educational! We use that most of the time. And MOST of the time, it works. Though River has been letting me get to 3 a bit more lately. I TOTALLY am with you if you are the one to cause your child pain, the tears they cry of betrayal and emotional hurt just rip your heart in shreds. The whole time I read your story, I was sitting here shaking my head, since I have been there – the long shopping trip with a toddler who wants to buy EVERYTHING (it doesn’t matter that they don’t know what it is), changing the diapers, them not wanting to ride in the cart, and you make it home without going completely mad. Barely. Then they challenge you some more. Good Lord. Sometimes I have to put River in time-out so that I can have a time out. So I can blow off steam without hurting her. I think ALL parents get to that point, and it’s so important to just separate yourself from the anger. If you haven’t gotten to that absolute point of frustration and anger yet, like I said, wait until she’s 3.

    Anyways, I guess what I’m saying is that you will both recover. And you didn’t spank her out of anger, which believe it or not, is a lot easier to recover from emotionally. And lastly, you ARE SUPERDAD for making through a long Wal-Mart trip with a toddler, complete with messy diapers, without going insane! Well done, Chris!! Well done. It’s not as easy as it looks. 🙂

  10. I thought of another thing too. Sometimes, spankings are best when you need to communicate in a swift matter something that is dangerous.

    (Maybe this isn’t even really a “spanking” per se, since it doesn’t involve butt, thigh, ect.)

    For example: If my kid reaches for a hot stove, and I have already gone through the “hot” thing with them, or they are just too young for the “hot” talk, I will (and have) swat their hand. It grabs their attention in a way that “Honey, please don’t touch that,” won’t. In this case I see the imminent danger of permanent burn damage triumph over me being upset making them cry. (Even though it still sucks, and I still feel bad about it.)

    Just another thought. This isn’t something that happens all the time. Usually with a 1 or 2 year old….and usually they remember that one swat on the back of the hand and don’t do it again (in my experience).

  11. I have a feeling girls have the too cute gene that boys, sadly, lack. One my boys I’ve only had to spank twice in his life (he’s 6 now). The other one, though… wow! that kid tests my patience every single day and i have to admit that for a couple of years I can’t even count how many spanking he wound up getting. Now that he’s older and reasoning with him actually works, the spankings have come to an end (no pun intended) and discipline is all about talking and getting grounded.

    I love your happy place! 🙂

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