Why Some Parents Spank

spanking, cooperative kids, bill corbett, discipline, parenting
This is for all the parents who set out NOT to spank their children, but end up doing it anyway; you are NOT bad parents, sometimes you just don’t know what else to do.  I believe you may get frustrated to the point of using it to gain the child’s attention or as an attempt to stop challenging behaviors immediately.  I can say that I've been in your shoes!  I raised 3 children of my own and often felt myself get to the point of having the urge to spank.  So I feel for parents and know how hard it is when our children push our patience to the upper limits.

(Photograph courtesy of David Castillo Dominici and freedigitalphotos.net)

I was the oldest of eight children and took notice of my parent’s anger and how it would provoke them to the point of spanking, and they did.  I remember having the sense that one or both of them would be bothered by something outside of my control and then I would do something that kids do and it would push them to their breaking point.  I would get spanked real hard and cry.  If it was my mother, she would sometimes comfort me afterwards when she cooled down and apologized.

When my father spanked, I could tell that something happened to him outside of our home.  I never really understood what it was, I just knew.  When my mother spanked, I knew she was feeling something that had to do with my father and how he was treating her.  What seemed strange to me was that even though I knew this stuff, I couldn’t stop myself from acting out sometimes, as kids do.  I would act out knowing full well that a spanking or a beating would be coming my way.

This all made sense to me in a way when I became a father.  One day my preschool-age daughter placed her cup of milk on the very edge of the table.  It, of course, fell on the floor and the milk spilled.  I saw what she had done and she knew she was not placing it on the other side of her plate in the spot I had shown her many times earlier.  I felt my father’s anger rise up in me as I looked at the spill I would now have to clean up, and I asked her the “stupid dad” question that many dads ask… “Why did you do that?”  She replied with the common response, “I don’t know.”

It might seem strange, but I think kids do many things that set their parents off, even though they know it will.  I believe that there were many times when I remained quiet and still as a child, out of fear for how I might be responsible for getting them angrier then they already were.  Yet there were many times that I accepted that risk and didn’t. 

One of my earliest recollections as a child was a day when I got spanked.  My parents were at the kitchen table and seemed to be arguing.  I believe there were three of us children at the time and we had all received hobby horses as gifts for some occasion.  A hobby horse (also called a stick horse) had the head of a horse on the end of a long stick.  We would ride them, making believe that we were riding real horses.

As children often do, I had invented a new purpose for my hobby horse; it had become a lance.  I was now a knight in an imaginary jousting tournament and I was chasing my sister with my hobby horse turned around in the opposite direction.  I poked her and she began to cry.  That sound brought my father outside who spanked me hard with my hobby horse.  It broke and that put an end to my new toy.

From what I can remember, I was not surprised that my actions brought my father outside.  In fact, I almost expected it.  And I know that if my father had asked me why I did it, I probably would have said what my little daughter said when I asked her why she put her cup of milk so close to the edge of the table; “I don’t know.”

When I think back to that day and try and remember what I may have felt after the severe spanking I received, I believe that I felt many emotions: I grew more afraid of my father, I didn’t like my sister for crying, I felt sad that I lost my cool new toy and I had thoughts that something was wrong with me for having done what I did.  These were all thoughts and feelings that did nothing toward helping me to grow and learn and develop positively.

I believe that most good parents have wonderful intentions to love their children unconditionally.  They set out to build strong, loving relationships with them.  But then life gets in the way and with it come the adult stresses of work, finances, family and the world.  We adults are only human and make mistakes.  We also don’t do very well at taking care of ourselves to ease that stress.

If I could rewind my life to that horrible day and replay it in a way that would have my father act and speak in a more positive way, I would first have him approach me calmly and silently.  I would have him get to my eye level and hold his hand out in a gesture asking for the hobby horse.  As I handed it to him, I would then imagine him saying to me calmly, “When you’re ready to use it as a horse and not in a way to hurt your sister, you can come ask to have it back.”  He would then walk away calmly.

If you strive not to spank but you've gotten angry enough to do it or wanted to do it, forgive yourself and take it as a sign that you need to take better care of you.  See your children as just children and take note of their playfulness, their innocence and the fact that sometimes they just don’t know why they do the things they do.  They are only children trying to find their place in the family and in the world.

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