Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spanking and Child Abuse - Know the Difference

I once worked for a man who was called for jury duty on a child abuse case. When appearing before the judge he was asked by one of the lawyers how he felt about child abuse and the people who abused children. His response, I was told, nearly had him locked up for contempt of court: "They should die." No, he wasn't trying to be dismissed from jury duty; that was genuinely how he felt. Since that time 10 years ago, I've seen countless images of battered and beaten children, heard tragic stories of those that didn't survive, and now have 2 small children of my own, all of which have brought me to the point just short of agreeing with him. I cannot bring myself to agree because I think death is too kind a punishment for them.
At the same time, I am bothered by the social momentum the child abuse prevention movement imposes against the spanking of one's own child. Just as in our legal system there are punishments to fit each crime culminating in consecutive life sentences or the death penalty for the most serious of offenses, there should be a scale of discipline tactics available to parents culminating in corporal punishment, aka spanking. Ultimately, it is up to the each parent to decide if their children would benefit from physical disciplining, but when is spanking acceptable? I'd say only when each and every one of the following conditions are met:
  • The child is old enough to understand rudimentary causality. There is no age for this; the parents must know their child. Some kids may understand that there are consequences at 18 months, while others may need until 30 months or older to grasp how one thing can cause another.
  • The child has been told what action of his or hers will result in a spanking. Just as you wouldn't expect justice to come in the form of being pulled over, your car impounded, and you held overnight  because of a local ordinance about which you were unfamiliar, neither should a child's first instruction that some action he or she took is bad be accompanied by a spanking. This also requires that you as the parents have given some thought as to what earns a paddle on the bottom. Some say lying and defiance are the top two reasons to spank; I prefer only when there is an act of aggression. Whatever it is you decide, communicate it to the child and stick with it.
  • You can remove the child from the situation and explain what is happening. Try not to let his or her siblings see the spanking whenever possible. Designating an area in the home is not a bad idea. Resist the urge to swat a bottom at the moment of transgression. 
  • Explain the situation once you've removed the child from any peers. "You hit your friend/You lied to me/You did not do as you were told. What happens when you do that?" It seems silly to go through all this and maybe even unnecessary; however, if you can accept that a spanking is a means of justice rather than simply a punishment, the person to whom justice is being served must understand the causality and the best way to teach causality to a young child is to say it as explicitly as possible. Leave no ambiguity at all and remain calm. Emotion from the parent is counterproductive. 
  • The spanking is appropriate for the age of the child. Younger children need only mild pats, while older kids will scoff at the same paddling. Under no circumstances should a spanking be given with closed fists, external implements such as belts, or be so hard to leave welts, bruises, or break the skin. Doing so crosses the line between discipline and abuse. 
  • Take the opportunity to express love for your child after the spanking is finished. This is the most important part of a spanking because it shows the child that he now has a clean slate and is still one of your favorite people. It establishes you as more of an authority figure more so than the actual spanking. 
I recognize that each item in this list may seem necessary and to watch it all play out exactly like this truly does seem tragic, but adhering to this advice as closely as possible ensures that the child understands and matures from the experience of being spanked without his or her life being placed in danger through abusive parenting.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Things No One Told Me About Parenthood...

*That times speeds up the second you have children.

*That a baby could mess 6 outfits in one day.

*That my prayers to God would become so desperate ("PLEASE let this baby who's woken up five times in one hour go to sleep!")

*That I would actually take a picture of my toddler's first poop in the potty because I was THAT excited.

*That halfway to our destination when my toddler started screaming we'd forgotten his blanket, that I'd actually turn the car around because it was, in fact, a life or death situation.

*That I was so busy trying to get everything packed and everyone out the door that I left wearing pajamas and slippers.

*That there are 20 ways to burp a baby and that my mom will always do it better than me.

*That I would become such a light sleeper that I'd wake up to every sigh, yawn, or slight movement the baby made.

*That I'd never truly sleep again. At least not until they're grown and out the house...and probably not even then.

*That I'd turn into a diaper snob (go Pampers!)

*That I'd have a camera glued to my body at all times.

*That I'd feel a sense of accomplishment if everyone was up, dressed, changed, fed, and ready to go by 9 AM.

*That I'd hold out my hand so that my toddler could spit his chewed up food in it.

*That I'd somehow find strength in the scariest of situations so that my kids wouldn't be scared.

*That I would be puked all over and not even flinch.

*That I would know exactly where to step so that the floor wouldn't creak and wake the sleeping baby in my arms.

*That I could run outside and scowl at the neighbor for laying on his horn and and waking the baby.

*That my husband and I would play "Guess that toy" and actually be able to correctly identify each and every toy by its sound (from the other room).

*That I'd have the ability to heal any wound with a simple kiss.

*That a friend would dump me because I had kids and she couldn't relate.

*That yes, I would resort to bribes on occasion.

*That I would read every parenting book out there and still not find a suitable answer.

*That my toddler would have the ability to melt my heart and then frustrate me to no end in the span of one minute.

*That I would go driving at 11 PM just to get the baby to sleep.

*That I would breastfeed past a year because it was the right thing for us.

*That I would feel like a bad parent when my son had a meltdown in public.

*That I would be THAT mom with THAT kid on several occasions because that's just the way life is.

*That I would sing children's songs when my children were not with me.

*That I would give my time, attention, and love to my children and wonder if it's enough.

*That I was capable of loving on such an intense level.

*That I would start living in the here and now and appreciate the little things in life thanks to my kids.

*That I would become a confident mother with strong opinions on many parenting topics.

*That I would understand what my mother meant when she used to say that she'd lie, cheat, steal, and kill for her children.

*That I would become a very different mother than I thought I'd be...and happier than I could have ever imagined.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Perfect Space

I graduated from college in 2001. Between 2001-2006, the majority of my friends got married. Between 2006- 2009, most of those same friends had their first baby. I can honestly say that 2010 was the first year I didn't spend a considerable number of weekends attending bridal or baby showers. Life seems to have slowed down a bit in my circle of friends...for the moment anyway.

Now the focus seems to be on child spacing. What is the perfect space between children? Two years? Four years? Among my friends there is one couple who spaced their children 11 months apart and, although difficult in the beginning, it has worked out well for them. Another couple is purposely waiting five years before even thinking about having another child and wouldn't have it any other way. So what's a couple to do?

I am pretty sure that Rob and I had the "baby discussion" long before we were even dating. We were close friends throughout college and spent a lot of time together. Because I can't think of a single topic we didn't discuss, I am positive that babies and children had to have come up at some point. He comes from two and I come from four so we settled on three. We are 2/3 of the way there! We decided to try to space them two years apart both because we wanted them close enough to grow up together and because I wanted to be finished having kids by age 35. Our boys are 2 years and 3 months apart so we are on track so far. :)

Obviously there are positives and negatives to having children close together as well as spacing them many years apart. I've heard all the reasons but I've never taken the time to write anything down. As you know from previous posts, lists are my specialty. :) I am a planner and enjoy seeing things neatly arranged in front of me. So here goes...

Benefits to Closely Spacing Your Children:

-They can share toys, games, movies, music, etc... and will most likely be interested in the types of things at the same time.

-Because of their similiar interests, there is a good chance they will become natural playmates.

-You will be able to put them on the same schedule- eat at the same time, nap at the same time, go to school at the same time, etc...

-The older one will be too young to know what jealousy is.

-The older one will not remember life without his/her sibling so there will be no issues of "only child syndrome" to tackle.

-You can reuse baby gear (carseats, swings, high chairs, bouncers, carriers, etc) because the safety standards will not change that much such a short period of time.

-As one child ends a phase, the next will begin it. Since you're already in the trenches, you might as well stay there! ;)

Benefits to Spacing Children Further Apart:

-You will have time to get to know and enjoy one child before you have another.

-You will be able to get your body back (for a while anyway) before you get pregnant again.

-The older child will be able to help out (bring you a diaper, entertain the baby while you shower, put the pacifier back in the baby's mouth, etc...)

-You will have time to rediscover yourself and your interests before becoming absorbed once again with a newborn.

-The older child will be somewhat independent and able to entertain himself/herself when you need to tend to the baby.

-You will have taken a breather from babyhood for a while and may be able to start again with a fresh outlook as well as the knowledge of what works and what doesn't.

-You will never have to worry about having two in diapers at the same time! :)

A quote from nicely sums up what I would like to say to all of my friends who are struggling with the topic of child spacing: "It all works out in the end. Parents tend to advocate whatever age gap their kids end up with, finding it hard to imagine life any other way. So don't worry; you'll enjoy benefits no matter when your second child arrives and probably feel the timing was just right."