A reader asked me about spanking and it remains one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written. I figure about half the folks looking at it are pervs and end up moving on. But I remain amazed at the response all the same.
So I figure an update is needed about now.
He question was, do I still use it? The answer is no. I’m not saying I will never do it again, but there were some bad byproducts that were totally not anticipated. While Thomas did and still does fall into line around me, the spanking brought on an obsession of sorts for him. The last time he got it was actually in the church parking lot when he started seriously back talking. And then for the next month, when we’re wlking in chuch, he is saying very loudly, “I’M GOING TO HAVE GOOD BEHAVIOR SO I DON’T GET A SPANKING! I SURE DON’T WANT A SPANKING, DADDY! THERE WILL BE NO SPANKING TODAY!”
I can just see child protective services ringing my doorbell.
It was traumatic for him, which I suppose is sort of the point in a way. He does listen to me better now. I’m hoping it sticks around but not so much it rules all of his thoughts, you know? After a couple of months, he doesn’t go on and on about spanking anymore.
It was traumatic for me, as well. Sure, I know it works but I’m no Ivar Lovaas. It’s not something I want to do every day, every week or every month. Having said that, I will give his arm a squeeze at times while making my point, but that’s about it for anything physical.
Jane is convinced that I taught him to hit, which is patently false. The boy was hitting long before I took a hand to his backside. Some things just don’t need to be taught.
So, to the reader looking for advice I’m not going to say to do it or not to do it. But I will say that you might be a wee bit preoccupied with punishment. Change your thinking and turn it around a bit. For instance, church is a traumatic time for Thomas and his brother or any child his age. But sitting still and quiet for extended time is a useful skill and is worth working on. So that’s what we’re doing. I have a train magazine for him that he is ONLY allowed to look at during quiet time at church. He lurves trains and it is a powerful enough reinforcer to get him to fly right for a time. Think about enticement rather than coercion. Give choices instead of threats. These are less traumatic for everyone. And I am SO for less trauma.
When spanking Thomas, it basically was a nuclear option resulting in an instantaneous meltdown. There was no more learning, talking, consoling, explaining, teaching that was going to happen for a long time and maybe even the rest of the day. Even longer, perhaps, considering the ensuing obsession.
Every single person out there says that it should be controlled and done without anger. I’m all for the controlled bit, as it is the adults job to be in control. But I’m not so much for the “without anger” part. That seems a bit silly, actually. Of course I’m angry! And registering measured anger is not a bad thing. One of the biggest problems kids have today is the inability to self regulate. They need to learn to regulate their own emotional reactions and modeling controlled anger is one way adults can help. You can even tell them you are angry, and why you are so mad. Guilting parents for being angry is annoying at best and harmful at worst. And if you are going to make a good and convincing go of spanking you may need some anger. It’s gotta hurt some. The child, I mean. It has to register. I might have tried a mild swat years ago, and it simply did not register at all with Thomas. Fact is, it is has to hurt. No one wants to see their child hurt so the fact that it’s going to hurt you as a parent probably goes without saying. But in order to get past my own issues, I needed some of the anger to muster up the nerve to do it and to do it “right”. “Right” being defined as being severe enough that I would not have to do it again. I’ve seen parents beating their kids repeatedly and that bugs me. I’d rather get one good strong stout swat and be done with it. Make the point once, and it is finished. If it still doesn’t work, then doing it over and over again isn’t going to make much difference accept just help the kid get used to it and require ever more beatings.
So I’ll probably get lambasted for this one all over the place, having violated several rules of society, good parenting, behaviorism, the IRB, Good House Keeping, the APA and my own professional code of ethics, except I’m speaking as a parent, not a teacher.
Okay, since I’m knee deep, I might as well enjoy the coolness of this squishy substance I’ve waded into:
When I was a kid, my mother used a belt on us kids and my Dad used a stick. A stick he made US select. Jane’s mother used a wooden spoon. Some use rulers, hairbrushes, ping pong paddles, tennis rackets, shoes, and other assorted utensils. Some schools have recently returned to corporal punishment and use various wooden paddles, some with holes drilled in them. Some may recall the kid who got it in Singapore with a rattan cane.
But I do not advocate the use of such devices. I have used my bare hand every single time. And yes, it hurt my hand every single time. Oh well. It might have actually hurt me more than him, since he had jeans and underwear between my hand and his bottom. But that’s okay. Another incentive to give it one good blow and be done with it. I’m not trying to wear out my hand or his bottom. I am registering displeasure at a behavior that I want to stop immediately. I am expressing intolerance. I am enforcing my will. If my hand is too sore to continue, it is time to stop. And one time is sufficient for me, physically and emotionally.
Spanking really is deep water in parenting today, and even moreso with kids with disabilities. In schools, it is deeper water infested with mines and sharks. I can’t believe anyone in a school actually does it now days.
For me, it was a very mixed result. I do get tons more compliance. Jane does not, and I’m not sure she could get my level of compliance even if she beat him diligently and daily. There is some real difference in the way fathers and mothers relate to children, and fathers usually can get more compliance if they are motivated to gain and keep it. Even though my own mother was generous in her use of the belt, Dad still was the ultimate even though he only spanked me maybe twice that I can remember my whole life. But that was sufficient, as he made a deep enough impression. That doesn’t mean I was a perfect child but I knew there were lines I dare not cross with him where I might try Mom many more times.
I’m not giving advice, I’m stating my one opinion and experience. For kids with autism, they are all different and everyone’s mileage varies. Please apply all disclaimers you have ever seen, read, heard of or dreamed of right here.