Spare the rod?

It’s a touchy subject, but it brings to light a decision every parent has to make: do you/will you spank your kids? Find out what two sets of Richmond parents have to say about it (and tell us what you think).

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the latest installment of our parenting column written by two sets of Richmonders: Jorge and Patience Salgado (veteran parents of four gorgeous children), and Ross and Valerie Catrow (parenting rookies who have only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a few months). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.

Today’s question: Do you/will you spank your kids?

The Salgados

I sat around a dinner table with my husband and his siblings feeling mildly disturbed over the conversation. Really, who doesn’t have those experiences with the in-laws every now and then?

“Remember the time mom hit you with the shoe?” she said. They laughed and laughed.

“But at least we never got beat, ya know? Our cousins on the other hand…” No one was rocking in the corner or anything; it was all good natured ribbing, but I knew we would never spank our children. Ever.

His experiences with spanking were explosive and impulsive, mine were methodical and controlled. The result of both was fear and shame. I’m sure both sets of parents had the intention of love to shape, guide and protect us on some level. It just doesn’t strike me as an effective long term tool from any angle and can be potentially harmful. The message being, I am bigger, stronger and can hurt you and for this reason you will listen and respond to me.

We insist that our children do not hit each other and encourage the use of words for conflict resolution but then we hit them? The logic behind this one baffles me. We often decide to use this form of discipline as a last resort but could it be that we as parents are just too tired to keep exploring other options? The misuse of power is just quicker and easier.

I will openly admit that there have been moments of complete and total frustration with my kids; times when I wanted to shake the hell out of them, times of yelling and crying, meltdowns all around. Yes, I have been the lady in Target pushing a screaming child outside to talk so we won’t disturb your shopping experience. It is our children’s developmental work to explore and test boundaries to discover what is both safe and acceptable in the world. It is our job to give them the skills to navigate as whole and complete individuals, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Spanking has never found its way into the equation and I hope never will.

The Catrows

When I was growing up, spanking happened in my house from time to time. However, I don’t recall it ever happening to me (not because I was inherently good, but because being the third child gave me a good idea of what we could and could not get away with).

Meanwhile, Ross was spanked all of once when he was about two years old, and then it didn’t happen again.

So keeping that in mind, neither of us has a vivid, firsthand experience of what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a disciplinary slap. Also, you must remember that our kid is only seven months old and isn’t currently at the point where we have to discipline him beyond a stern “No” or “Let go.”

That being said, I guess you could say our official stance on the issue of spanking is this: we’re not adamantly opposed to it, but we think other approaches to discipline work just as well. And I can declare with a strong amount of certainty that we won’t be spanking our little man.

Our main issue with it breaks down to two points:

First, we believe it would be very easy for a parent to (perhaps unconsciously) use the spanking as a way to get out frustrations with the current situation (and maybe pre-existing issues), rather than to just discipline the child. And we wouldn’t ever want our little boy to have bear the brunt of a swiftly delivered blow that was backed not only by discipline but also a parent’s pent-up anger over the daily mess and chaos that comes with child-rearing . That is just not fair.

Second, it seems that taking a physical approach to correcting behavior could enforce the whole “Because I said so” philosophy of discipline (of which I am a product), rather than the “This is why” approach (of which Ross is product). The distinction of those is important to us because while I behaved well while I was growing up mostly out of fear for what would happen if I did something wrong (not physically, of course, but in other ways), Ross behaved well because the understanding of why the good behavior was valued over the poor behavior was established early on. We want our kid to behave well because that is what he supposed to do, not because of what he’ll have coming to him if he doesn’t.

Now, I’m sure there are some parents who will say that we have no clue what we’re talking about because we’ve never really had to discipline our child. Undoubtedly, someone muttered, “You’ll see…” while reading this, maybe someone who’s just coming off telling their toddler for the 74,342nd time to NOT touch the STOVE because it’s HOT. But, like with every parenting decision you make with your child, you have to have a starting point. And this is ours.

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Patience Salgado

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