Guest post by Jennifer Andersen
What amazes me most about parents is their humility. Mothers and fathers, all over the world, every day of the year, are facing difficult personal truths in the interest of improving for their children.
For many parents, this includes things like yelling, withholding affection, and treating their children punitively. Most would agree that each of these things is harmful to our children, and that it is right to stop them. There is one practice though, that is still widely accepted as a legitimate and necessary form of punishment for our children: spanking.
The wide acceptance of spanking makes it difficult for those who want to stop. In many families spanking is not only a mutli-generational practice, it is believed to be “required” for a child’s well being. In spite of all of this, many parents want to, and have successfully, stopped spanking.
How do they do it? With parents, grandparents, neighbors, church heads, and friends telling them that they will lose all control if they do not spank their child- how do they find the inspiration to stop? How do these mother and fathers commit to overcoming the rage that overtakes them in trying moments? How do they admit that what they have been doing all along is not in the best interest of their child?
There are no words to better answer this question than those of parents who have successfully stopped spanking. When you speak with parents who
have achieved this, their openness to share how they did it, and how things have changed between them and their children is humbling, and beautiful. It inspires each of us to face the things we need to change in the interest of our being better to our children. It motivates us to
keep on trying.
On a recent Facebook thread, I asked parents who have stopped spanking how they did it, what inspired them, and what changes they have noticed
in their relationship with their children. This is what they said:
“When I came close to my son, he would cower or flinch. Even when I went to hug or play with him. I didn’t want to be a source of his fear any longer (I stopped spanking when he was 3). The trust is returning, but he still doesn’t openly give or return my affections. I know I’ll have to work long and hard at repairing our relationship.” Stephanie R.
“I didn’t ever spank, but I was spanked and everyone I knew was spanked. I made a very conscious decision not to spank my children and
to ensure my partner had the same mindset. There are times I feel my body wanting to react in anger. I always identify it when I feel it. I
have an internal dialogue with myself and remind myself to take a moment so I don’t react in a way that I will regret.” Rachel Y.
“I was spanked as a child (mainly by my dad) and I KNOW it has left residual effects and has put a big damper on our relationship among
other things but I don’t want my son to grow up being afraid or thinking that if he makes a mistake momma is going to hurt him. It creates a
child who isn’t trusting of the people who should be able to come to no matter the situation.” Kailie R.
“I spanked as I was taught it’s what the Bible says we must do. I was re-educated and now see it doesn’t say that at all. In fact it highly
promotes peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self control, joy and primarily love. When I decided to stop it still took a long time to find
alternatives and retrain myself. Seeing my gentle, happy son disappear and an angry, aggressive boy appear when I did spank reminded me why it was good to stop.‘
“When he sobbed ‘you hit me!’ it broke my heart and his trust in me. I had to work very hard at re-learning something so fundamental about
parenting! Not easy when everyone I’ve ever known hits their kids…”
“Stopping hitting has made for a more peaceful home and has forced my husband and I to be more creative and thoughtful in our parenting. I can honestly say nothing has ever caused me to grow like gentle parenting! Nothing! What a joy to gave been led to this :)” Emily B.
“I never did spank a lot, but know I know once is too much. Once I realized that spanking is my own immaturity and lack of problem solving
skills, and I realized fully that my children are actual people not just my kids, and that they deserve the right to themselves, it all came to
me and I cant look back.” Faye T.D.
I am personally grateful to parents who share their stories so openly. Their honesty and vulnerability encourages countless parents to evaluate
the practices they are using against their children, and search for solutions that are for them. The words above stay in the heads of many. They will find their way to the surface in a moment of frustration, or before implementing “necessary” harm. These words will show others that it is good to reconsider what they have always known, and that standing up for your children is always the right thing to do – even when this means standing against who you have always been.
Jennifer is an unlikely convert from mainstream to gentle parenting. She planned to put her baby in his own room, alone, from his first night home from a hospital birth- no matter how much he cried for attention. Then she met her son, and everything changed. Now, she and her husband are committed to living respectfully and authentically with their two children. They share a massive family bed, are committed to unschooling (a type of homeschooling), and are constantly trying to override what they “should” do, so that they can do what is best for their family. Jennifer blogs about her family’s transition and child advocacy at OurMuddyBoots.com, LIVING! With Kids. The OMB Facebook community is thriving with knowledgeable, supportive, and informed parents who are also trying to connect more deeply with their children. You can also find Jennifer hanging out on Twitter ,Pinterest and Google +.