Monday, 30 April 2012

I Hit My Kids and Now Begins The Real Work To Heal

Welcome to the Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Second Annual Spank Out Day Carnival hosted by Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Spank Out Day was created by The Center for Effective Discipline to give attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. All parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children on April 30th each year, and to seek alternative methods of discipline through programs available in community agencies, churches and schools. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


As one of the moderators for The Honesty Conspiracy, I was pleased to offer this space for an anonymous writer for the Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival. I received an email from a friend who saw my invitation to participate in the carnival and felt moved to share her experience. She was afraid to tell her story publicly, even though she knew it would help her heal. We discussed how passionately she felt about the potential her story has to help another parent know they are not alone and that there is the possibility to move beyond corporal punishment, even when it feels as if there is no way out. We got together over food and drink so that I could interview her about her story, then she reviewed and revised what I wrote for her from that evening. I am honored to share her moving story here with you…
~Zoie at TouchstoneZ

For the first 5 years of my life as a parent, I used punishment as a way of curbing my children’s behavior. I used time outs, removal of privileges, and what I called swatting in an effort to control them. I was often conflicted about the roles we played in our family and I know it was due to the punitive aspect of our relationship. I was in the power position, my children were in the subservient position and we were often at odds. Too often I thought of it as a battle of wills and I had to be the winner. There was little to no room for complete connection that I had with my children when they were newborns.

The day I spanked my two oldest children was the day that changed everything for us.

It was a wakeup call for me. I was so far removed from the real relationship I longed for with my children that I didn’t back away from the painful reality that I was causing the distance between us. As the parent in the power position, I was choosing to continue to punish my children because I was afraid. I was afraid of trying something different than what I knew. I had many friends who practiced attachment parenting and I had read some of the research about how ineffective punishment is in modifying behavior in healthy ways.

 I decided that I wanted better for my children than I was giving them. This wasn’t a criticism of my own parents or even my own approach to parenting. It was a new way of looking at us as a family. It was admitting that I was using fear instead of love to be with my children. And I didn’t want to teach them that fear was more powerful than love anymore.

It would have been easy to turn away from this truth. I had many reasons why I spanked my children that day. I was dealing with undiagnosed Post Partum Anxiety, my husband had been away for several months, and I was coordinating hospice care for a family member long distance. The amount of stress I was under made me quick to be angry with my children. I was doling out punishments in a way that felt like an ever-increasing spiral to keep up with what I thought were misbehaving children. Never once did I consider that my emotional state was impacting them. I was in the battle of wills mode.

So, I snapped. I threatened my two oldest children with spanking if they didn’t stop their behavior. And when they didn’t, I turned them over my knee and gave my two oldest children three spanks with my hand on their behinds. After that, with all of my children sobbing, I think I went into shock at what I had done. I remember a hollow feeling, as if I were looking at everything from afar.

It was the cries of my children for “momma” that brought me back. I had spanked my children and they needed me, the one who had hit them, for comfort. I was all they had, even though I had betrayed their trust and hurt them. They still loved me.

I wasn’t sure I could live up to that much love and trust. I wonder if my husband had been home, if I would have made the decision to change in that moment. But, he wasn’t there. There was no one else but me to care for my children. I apologized. I listened to everything they said to me about being spanked. I took all the pain that it caused me to hear their anger, humiliation, hurt, and blame. I used that pain to remind me every time I wanted to swat them or give them a time out, what I was really teaching them. It has become a source of strength for me.

I reached out to a few close friends. A few did not understand and turned away from me. A few loved me unconditionally and helped me with the basics of how to heal my family. My husband helped me find a parenting therapy group that meets twice a month. We have started going together so that we are parenting consistently.

It has been 3 years, and some days are harder than others, but we are healing together. I have never hit my children again, although the thought to do so still crosses my mind at times. Whenever I feel I am slipping into the battle of wills, I use coping strategies to gain some perspective. I will never be a perfect parent. But, I have the kind of close relationship with my kids that I longed for. And even more importantly, I think they have the same with me.


Spank Out Day 2012 Carnival hosted by TouchstoneZ

On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the handy #SpankOutCar hashtag. You can also subscribe to the Spank Out Day Carnival Twitter List and Spank Out Day Carnival Participant Feed.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: