I gave my son a slap on the behind yesterday. It shocked us both. He was startled because I told him nine months ago that I wasn’t going to spank him ever again.
I want to say that it wasn’t really a spanking, that instead it was an attempt to get his attention, a physical reminder to listen to me. I suppose that’s technically accurate. But I think it was a slip, a momentary relapse into my old habits of taking short cuts.
Parenting Short Cuts
Spanking, and the threat of a spanking, used to be my parenting short-cut to desired behavior. Rather than work with my children to understand how their disrespect or treatment of others damaged relationships, rather than walk through the ways defying me can endanger their lives, rather than show them the real-life fruit of selfishness and revenge in the loss of privileges and broken trust, rather than take a more time-consuming route to their hearts, I too often opted for a short cut. I used my kids’ desire to avoid discomfort to short-circuit their bad behavior instead of doing the often agonizing, always complicated, definitely constructive work of training and teaching.
One day, I heard the words I was saying differently, the way sound comes in so clearly after popping your ears. I sensed cognitive dissonance over spanking as the foundation of raising children. When one of the kids struck another, I would send the offender to my room. But how could I spank a child for striking their sibling? That doesn’t make any sense. I couldn’t do it. Gradually, I began choosing other approaches to showing my children the foolishness and hurtful results of their choices. As time went by, I began to reconsider when and how I used spanking.
I’m joining several parents in a conversation we’ve called “Faithful Parenting: A Gentle Parenting Series from a Christian Perspective.” I also hope that you have some suggestions for me, as I still have so many things to figure out.