Today on Facebook, I was called a libtard, I was told that I am the worst parent in the world, and that my kids must be spoiled rotten brats. Why would someone say something so horrible to someone they don’t know? Because I vocalized my opinion on a story that has gone viral down in Lower Alabama. A grandfather was arrested in Birmingham for spanking his grandchildren at McDonald’s.
First of all, spanking is completely legal in Alabama. Secondly, I have NO issue if you want to spank your kids. Thirdly, I am not the vindictive type of person, who would call the authorities on child being spanked in public, unless you are the type of person who hits your child with a closed fist. Hell, I spanked my kids a long time ago, but something happened around seven years ago that completely changed my mind.
My daughter was three, and per being part of the nuclear inspection team after a major nuclear weapons incident, my husband was gone inspecting something. My daughter had done something, I don’t really remember what, but it was something typical of a three year old that garnered the reaction of me spanking her on the butt. I gave her a spanking, and when I was done and about to explain to her why she had “deserved” that punishment, because that’s what every good spanking mom does. She hit me, and said, “bad momma, you shouldn’t hit.”
In that one moment, I became utterly confused. I sent her to her room, and told her not to hit. It was in that moment, I realized I had two options. I could punish her more for hitting me, by hitting her, and she is the type of child that would have hit me again. Or I could change my parenting approach. I realized in that moment that spanking her was not going to work. She had outwitted me.
Of course I get the, “How did you teach her not to run into the street, or touch hot things without spanking her?” Simple, I told her that if you run into the street, you could get hit by a car. I kept a close eye on her, and didn’t allow her to go near the street. It didn’t require me to hit her if she got close to the street. It just required me to say, “Hey Sophie, come here, you are too close to the street.” If she didn’t come, I would go to her, and grab her. Again did not require me to hit her to get the point across. She never really ran into the street. Same goes for the oven. She would get close to the oven, I would say, “it’s hot, don’t touch.” If she got too close I would remove her. And one time she did touch it, and got a little burn. It hurt, it scared her, and she never touched the oven again. It didn’t require me to smack her butt.
As for my son, when he was first diagnosed with autism, we were told that traditional discipline would not work, and could have dire consequences. Namely, one therapist said, that spanking a child on the spectrum could cause them to become overly violent, or it could cause them to mistrust adults. We stopped all corporal punishment after we were told this. The only time he has ever injured me was completely accidental, and he has never purposefully been violent to anyone.
Well, the conclusion of the Internet parenting experts is that my children must walk all over me, they must be disrespectful, and they must be brats. None of the above is true at all. I’ll sing the praises of my children. My son, the one with autism, is one of the most sensitive loving children a parent could ask for. He has a wicked sense of humor, and his favorite thing in the world to do is tease everyone. He has one of the most interesting tastes in music, and is a Boy Scout. His best friend is Thor, my 100-lb Golden Retriever.
My daughter wants to be an ABA-therapist when she grows up. She is polite, kind, and wicked smart. She plays violin and sings in the church choir. This summer she has decided to read the Bible cover-to-cover. When I asked her why? She said, she liked church stories. Her favorite song is “How Great Thou Art.” Trust me, I have a new found faith in God, but I am not nearly that religious. She has said that when she gets married that her husband better love Ryan, because he will be living with her when she grows up.
The behavior of on-line commentators utterly confuses me. I have said nothing about myself, my political leanings, or how my children are. I have not judged any other parent for their parenting choices when it comes to discipline. I am one of those parents, who thinks that if a discipline method works for you, and your family, go for it. But I am also one of those parents, who believes in mutual respect. That does not mean that I am best friends with my kids (yet, perhaps when they are older we can have a relationship like my mom and I), but it means that I respect them as human beings, and I feel (most of the time) they respect me. I don’t believe in demanding respect by virtue of age, or experience. For me respect doesn’t work that way. It can’t be something forced, or demanded. Respect is earned, and it can be taken away.
My kids are not these wild children that everyone complains about. They are not entitled, demanding, or spoiled. They are good kids. My parenting philosophy is if my kids are the type of kids a grandparent feels the need to discipline, the type of kids that people complain about, or are not respectful and polite, then I am the one who failed, and I need to fix the way I parent them, not the other way around.