If you would have asked me what my parenting style was as a young 22-year-old mom, I would have said survival. Jon and I defaulted into parenting the way our parents had known, and without much information out there to help the generations that had gone before us, it was mostly built upon punishment. Our parents did the best they could with the information they had, as Jon and I did. It wasn’t until Ethan came along with his special needs that we began to question how our tactics were helping our children.
The Tools of Punishment
The tools of punishment are physical (spanking, soap on their tongue), isolation (time-outs, or emotional – as in no hugs because you were bad), humiliation (sharing your child’s latest mistake as a Facebook post), shaming, and grounding. I began parenting using some forms of punishment that I thought were discipline such as spanking, which never did feel right with my heart. I couldn’t get over the fact that I was using my loving hand to bring pain to my child. Although I did not use spanking often, it was burned into my memory every time I engaged in the act.
Spanking our autistic child (we did not know his diagnosis yet) brought us severe meltdowns, crying, screaming, panic and rage. He was communicating to us that punishment was not what he needed. Thank goodness he showed us through his behaviors how we were damaging our relationship with him. And with such awareness, we could see spanking was creating distance within our relationships with our other children.
We needed to consciously decide how we were choosing to parent instead of parenting by default. And it never did make sense to me when a child would hit another child and a parent said, “no hitting” and as punishment, the parent would hit the child’s bottom. How confusing.
Some would argue that corporal punishment is in the bible verse of “spare the rod and spoil the child.” The actual bible verse of Proverbs 13:24 reads in one form or another
“Whoever spares the rod hates the child, but whoever loves will apply discipline.”
~ New American Bible Revised Edition
The true meaning of this verse no matter the bible version, is based upon a shepherd and his flock of sheep. The shepherd leads his sheep with the rod, using the hook to guide them to the path. The shepherd uses the rod to take watch over his sheep in protection and with love tend to them. The rod or staff is not used to hit the sheep into submission but to guide them.
Many feel the phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child” came from this 17th-century poem by Samuel Butler called “Hudibras”. In the poem, a love affair is likened to a child, and spanking is mockingly commended as a way to make the love grow stronger. The actual verse reads :
- “What medicine else can cure the fits
- Of lovers when they lose their wits?
- Love is a boy by poets styled
- Then spare the rod and spoil the child.”
For me, I want to be a shepherd for my children. I am excited to begin sharing with you the wisdom I have gained through my parenting mistakes. How Jon and I went from using spanking, time-outs, and grounding to a new way of parenting using communication with natural consequences.