When I became pregnant with my first child, my son Joe I started to think about how I would parent. I knew there were some disciplining styles that were used by my mom that I vowed to never use with my own son. Of course, “yelling” and “spanking” were at the top of my list to never use in my home. My mom yelled frequently. When I was young I could not decide if she was always angry or if she just spoke loudly. My mom did not spank me very often. However, when I was spanked I can remember very clearly how it made me feel and it was not good.
As a result, I tried very hard not to use yelling or spanking as a form of discipline when my son misbehaved. I must confess on a very stressful day my son had misbehaved and I decided to spank him. At the time he was almost seven years old. It was his first spanking and his last.
Immediately after spanking my son I felt really bad about my choice. The next morning Joe and I were getting ready for work and school. He approached me with a calm yet confident tone of voice and said, “Momma, do you know that when you spanked me it only made me want to act worse and it did not make me want to act good.” I was speechless! I was shocked that my son had enough courage to tell me about his feelings. My attempt to use spanking in order to discipline my son for misbehaving failed tremendously.
Once I regained my composure I asked my son, “What should mommy do when you misbehave since spanking does not work?” He looked at me and said, “You know, momma, I like it better when you talk to me.” I explained to Joe why I decided to spank him instead of talking. However, right at that moment I made a promise to my son that I would never spank him again. Joe and I created a mutually agreed upon list of consequences that I could use if talking did not work when he misbehaved. He really felt that playing outside was really important and thought that I should take away his outside time if talking failed to help him behave appropriately.
Today Joe is almost ten years old. He is not a mischievous child but at times his behavior needs redirection. I have had major success with redirecting Joe’s behavior by utilizing the list of mutually agreed consequences we created about three years ago.
Parenting is not an easy job. On the job training is the only way to gain experience needed to make better parenting decisions. Before you defer to parenting styles that were used during your own childhood, I highly recommend that you take time to think about what worked and what didn’t work. Even though I knew early on that I did not want to spank my own children, I used the discipline method out of frustration. Take time to think before you act, utilize everything you know about your children, and include the actual child in making choices on how you parent. Keep in mind that your choice will have a tremendous impact on choices they make as a child and an adult.