Why I Try to Avoid Spanking

As parents, we either respect or reject the way we were raised. My parents were fairly authoritarian and followed the advice of Dr. Dobson, whose book The Strong Willed Child was a bestseller in the '80s. They believed in the adage "spare the rod and spoil the child;" and in our household, the rod was a wooden spoon or a yardstick. But we three daughters rarely needed such correction. When we were disciplined in this way, my parents always prefaced it with an explanation of what we did wrong and a reminder that they loved us.

As an adult now, however, I can't recall more than one or two reasons why I was spanked. Instead, what I remember is the boiling anger and resentment it stirred up in me. I certainly don't recall deciding to change my behavior as a result, only trying to avoid getting caught. Psychology backs this up, showing that punishment motivates a child to avoid future punishment but it does not effectively change behavior by itself.

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Returning to the Heart of Discipline

This month is bringing the harder days of parenting--days when the children wake too early, when fatigue coils around us a bit more tightly each hour, when tantrums have the power to bring a wave of anger or a rim of tears to my eyes. But the struggles are teaching me to reflect on my responses, particularly those that proved unhelpful. On occasion, when I put my children to bed, I have to apologize for my meanness and for reacting too harshly. I pray aloud that we can be more patient with one another.

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