When I was a kid, I was always in trouble for doing something stupid. If there was an absurd way to break a rule before it was even a rule, I found that way. (No luging on the front steps! No taking money out of mom's purse to buy ice cream for the entire neighborhood?)
I was never grounded because well, I wasn't allowed to go anywhere anyway so what were my parents going to do? Ban me from the kitchen? I was threatened with beatings, um, I mean spankings often and I actually received more than my fair share.
While spankings worked on me, in the sense that it made me pause before I did something stupid, they didn't work for my youngest brother. A stern word would send him into an avalanche of apologies and I'll never do it agains -- no spanking necessary. I don't remember my sister ever getting a spanking or even in trouble (I'm going to have to investigate that further).
Some of my friends were grounded, given time outs, or deprived of their favorite toys while encouraged to think about what they'd done. I had other friends, who were spanked/beaten well beyond what I could understand. I saw the difference between how they related to their parents and the world around them.
When I suddenly became an "unplanned" parent, I was so dazed and confused that I didn't really read up or study various punishment methods. I just figured that like my parents, I would know what to do based on the personality of my kid. Then Boogie happened.
Let me start off by saying that generally, my son is a good kid. He doesn't throw tantrums just for the hell of it. As a matter of fact, his tantrums consist of him frowning, folding his arms and giving me the side-eye. Sometimes if he finds the matter particularly troubling, he will also add an, I'm never going to be your friend, mommy. Never ever ever ever ever.
He will then eventually find a grandparent to sing his tale of woes to, and I'll usually respond by asking, "Are you grandma's friend?" He replies, "Yes. But not yours" Then I respond with, "Well, good. At least you have somebody." And then I leave him to get over himself.
Still, I struggle with the disciplining. I've tried time-outs but I have to be honest, I don't really know what the point is. I sit Boogie in a chair and tell him not to move and tell him how disappointed I am in whatever it is he did.
But my son is almost 5. By the time I get to the "Think about what you've done" part, Boogie's pretty much forgotten what he did. I now use time outs to calm him down when he's crying but not really as punishment.
That being said, there was a time a few months ago when Boogie was having a Linda Blair exorcist moment. It started at the library. Yes. In public.
He wanted to get on the computers instead of getting a book and he proceeded to lose his big-headed mind when I told him that wasn't happening. I don’t do public scenes and this was the first time he’d ever flipped out. I tried to stay calm externally, while cursing the day he was born in my head. I put away the books we were planning to check out, took my son's hand and silently walked him out of the library.
My face burned as Boogie preceded to scream the entire 10-minute ride back to the house. I pulled into the drive-way and asked him to stop crying so that we could talk about what was going on. He kept screaming. I could feel the blood pounding in my head. We got out of the car, I sent Boogie to his room and did the best I could to ignore him. He kept screaming.
I sat in the living room furiously trying to ignore him while Boogie's screaming only seemed to get louder. Then this child actually came downstairs just to scream in my presence. I yelled and threatened to throw all his toys in the trash if he didn’t calm down. He kept screaming.\
(Something you should know about me: I don't do screaming. I don't care if you're a three-foot toddler or a six-foot grown man, you ain't gon' scream at me. That’s what is NOT going to happen.)
I was so frustrated. I wanted to break down and cry watching this demon child scream! My instinct was to leave the house. To just grab my keys, get in the car and leave him alone.
That's when I made an executive decision: I decided to spank him. It felt like the only option. He wasn’t listening. He was non-stop screaming. I didn’t know what else to do.
I didn't want to do the whole pull down your pants/lie across my knee thing. First of all, he is a strong ass little boy. Like, I'm pretty sure at night, when the rest of us are sleeping, Boogie's lifting weights in the basement. I've seen him do 10 push-ups in a row. The boy is not human.
Second of all, pulling down your child's pants to spank them just seems so dramatic and more about submission and domination than discipline. In my opinion.
I also knew I wasn’t going to use anything. As a kid I was spanked with slippers, fly swatters, belts and etc. The memories of which were too fresh even decades later. I wasn’t going to do that to Boogie.
A quick smack would do. Boogie's been potty trained since he was two, so there was nothing between my hand and his ass but a pair of cargo shorts and Spiderman underwear. I whipped him around quickly and POP! right on his butt.
There was a silence. I didn't know if I was supposed to say something like, "And there's more where that came from!" or "Come at me, bro!"
Boogie was stunned. He turned around and gave me this What in the hell did you just do? look but he did stop crying.
I've never hit anybody in my life. I’ve never been in a physical fight. To be honest, I'm not very good at it. I’ve thrown things and I remember slamming a laptop cover on someone’s fingers, but that's about it. I’m a lover not a fighter.
While Boogie, my newly spanked son, looked at me, I started feeling a little ashamed of myself. I realize it was for disciplinary reasons and to get his little butt to calm down, but I felt like I had to explain myself to him.
Sure, technically, it worked: Not only did he stop screaming, he apologized for screaming and then asked if he could go to his room. I’m sure if spankings became a regular threat around here, I could leverage it to get Boogie to fall in line and behave, but it doesn’t feel worth it to me.
The very last thing I want is for my son to be afraid of me.
I want him to respect me. I want him to understand that I am the parent and I have his best interests at heart. I can’t do that and hit him at the same time.
I know myself and my temper. When I felt the tension tighten in my chest as Boogie screamed, I wanted to pick him up and throw him against a wall or completely abandon him. That’s how angry I was. That’s how confused and frustrated I was. If I allowed myself to be more open to spankings or truly felt as if it was my right as a parent to “beat my child,” I have no idea where that anger would end and the discipline would begin.
Since that day, I've learned to walk out of the room, shut the door and turn up the TV really loud when Boogie has a scream attack.
Eventually, he just stops. Then he'll comes out of his room and apologize. I hug him and tell him that he'll never get his way by acting out of control, that it's not okay to act like that.
Then I send him back to his room. No TV. No computer. Boogie, like most human beings, doesn't like to NOT do things or have his stuff taken away. I think that may be the go-to punishment as he gets older and bigger than me.
I'm hoping that at the end of the day, what I have is a good kid who won't give me too much trouble. But I've got Plan B if he does.
If it ever again gets to the point when the only thing I can think of is to take a belt or a switch or fly swatter to my son, well, I've got an emergency bag packed. I'm going to gather my favorite shoes and some cash and leave. He can have the house. I’m too cute for jail.