Monday, March 24, 2014

Spanking? No thanks!

The other day I was driving with the radio on. A parent advice show came on so I listened. I don’t know who the speaker was or what the show was called because my radio soon lost reception for that station. One thing the speaker said was, “Now, I am not recommending spanking your young child, but if you do spank make sure your child understands why they are being spanked.” I wanted to call in but it wasn’t a call-in show. To put it mildly, I was appalled and angry. The speaker spoke as an authority and had a captive audience with no space for different perspectives. I have a different perspective!

First I’ll get to the point. I recommend never spanking your child. Don’t spank in anger, and don’t choose to spank while calm. I don’t like hitting as a persuasion method or boundary delivery technique. There, I said it. Now I’ll explain. 

I want to acknowledge how hard it is to be a parent. As a grandpa, I am one step removed from the level of stress parents experience. I am no longer engaged in the day-to-day activity of parenting while trying to maintain the other necessary realms of daily life. I am guessing that everyone at one time or another feels like hitting someone. I know I sometimes felt that way as a parent. The question becomes how to deal with the triggered feeling that often leads to the reaction response of hitting.

The primary learning modality for young children is imitation. They copy from the example of the loved ones around them. It is not a conscious choice to copy though. It is if the children are compelled to copy by some invisible impulse. Imitation is an unconscious method of learning for the young child.

When babies are born, they cannot walk or talk. How they learn to walk and speak is by copying other the human beings in their environment. If they were not around other human beings they would not learn how to walk and speak like a human. (For example the ‘wolf child of Aveyron’). The children also learn many other things from parents through imitation, notably their strategies to deal with frustration and stress. Simply put, spanking teaches the children that hitting is a way to get the message across when they are frustrated.

Boundaries are important for the children. One of the child’s needs is safety and adults have to hold safe boundaries so the children can develop and thrive within those boundaries. There are other ways than spanking or hitting to show the child boundaries. In fact, using hitting as a tool for creating boundaries shows the child that he or she is not safe because if they do certain things they get hit. What an anxious world that creates.

Staying calm and centered and responsive is not easy. Stress sends most of us into our reactive mode and if spanking and hitting is programmed into us from our own childhood, it is very hard to choose non-violent actions. Parenting is a spiritual journey really because we get the chance to look at our own reactiveness and behavior patterns and work on overcoming those. Parenting is really a path. And if we understand that we are participating in the programming of the reaction patterns in our children, maybe that is enough to help us hold back our impulse to spank. Even if we think we are calm and centered and choosing in the moment to apply a spank to get the message across, we are still teaching the child that one hits when others don’t appear to listen.

Along with any practices you take up to maintain your calm and patience, I also suggest thinking in advance of an alternative you can put in place if the time comes. Plan ahead! There are many resources in print (my book Connecting With Young Children for example) and online (Dr. Rick Hanson’s website and the Parenting Beyond Punishment website) to give you ideas for alternative actions and practices for staying in your responsive centered mode. 

Additionally, the parenting ‘expert’ on the radio mentioned that if you do spank, ‘make sure the child understands why they are being spanked.’ Just a minute here. The part of the brain that does ‘executive function,’ that is involved in understanding consequences, cause and effect, and logic, is named the frontal lobes. It is simply not present in the young child. That part of the brain is the last part of the brain to mature and during adolescence it is still undergoing extensive changes. It continues developing until one is almost thirty years old.  Your young child doesn’t have the neurology to understand why they are being spanked.

How do you get a radio show? Maybe I could have one too. In the meantime, I’ll use this newsletter to get the message to you all.

Please be present enough to THINK of an alternative to spanking. Eventually our whole world will be a better place for it. 

This coming Saturday, March 29, from 11am to 3pm, NEW FORM TECHNOLOGY is having their 1st Anniversary Celebration. New Form Technology is involved in a science of the future -  a science that looks at the objective structure of form and tries to find the intention behind the form. One form they are working with extensively is a discovered geometric solid named the 'Chestahedron.' The NFT center in San Carlos, California is an exciting place of creation, design, conversation and research. The anniversary celebration includes demonstrations of research and projects, food and a lecture by Frank Chester on the relationship of form to the human heart. Don't miss this event!
More information about 
New Form Technology at their website.

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