Urban Mommys

A Site For Urban Parents!



Got into a discussion on FB today that turned into a lot of people arguing back and forth over how best to discipline children.  People who admitted to hitting a child in any way shape or form were immediately vilified.  They then turned on the hands-off parents as being unrealistic, full of shit with horrible kids.  First, let me just stop typing to laugh out loud, really loudly. 


Ok, whew, I’m back!  When I was a younger mom I would have felt defensive of my position (because I have spanked my kids) but now that I’m older, I found myself playing devil’s advocate in the discussion.  In parenting, there are so many different ways to do a good or bad job.  I rarely try to convince people to hit or not hit their kids.  Different things work for different people.  I have hit my kids over safety issues and as a disciplinary tactic.  For instance, if you run into that street, I am going to beat your little butt.  (It’s happened and it is a life or death situation.)  Or you tell a child, let’s say a five year old, if you continue to hit that two year old and make him cry, I am going to show you how he feels by hitting you and then you do it, you have explained what the consequence for that action is going to be and delivered on it.  But I believe that if you are smacking your kid weekly, the problem is you not them.


How about time out you say?  I use it, it has worked wonders for me in certain situations.  Another example: four small boys are playing in the living room and one is particularly unruly, misbehaving, pushing other kids down, etc.  You put his little butt in the bedroom by himself and let him sit there for fifteen minutes while the other kids continue to run and have fun.  Works like a charm most of the time.


The whole discussion on FB started when a prominent minister was in the news for beating his teenage daughter to the point of ‘minor injuries’ over disobeying his order not to attend a party. Beating a teenager? By then, most of that teaching to regulate behavior is done. Does that mean let a teen walk all over you? No, but people are all very different even when they are raised the same way by the same people. I’ve had a teen son raise his fists once, & I got my bat. First & last time. Testosterone rage over, we had a great learning discussion.  (Ok, and after I locked him out for 24 hours and sent him to grandma’s house for the night).  I’m not trying to hit you at 17, you damn sure aren’t hitting me. If you are getting into physical altercations over parties, your discipline broke down years before.


I have way more to say on this, but this is a good start to get the discussion going.  Add your comments and we’ll keep it going.

Category: Main
  • Gabrielle deBarros says:

    I was raised by spankers (and I earned most of the ones I got!), but I’m not a spanker myself. With a teen and a toddler in the house, I’m constantly re-evaluating my commitment to non-violent parenting, but that’s usually just my anger talking. I’ve waded into this debate before, with family and friends, in person and online, and ultimately what it all comes down to is this: be clear, be proactive, and be consistent.

    Being clear means letting your child know in advance what you expect his behavior to be, and what the consequences for misbehavior will be. For example: We’re at Toys R Us, picking up a gift for a cousin’s birthday party. I tell my toddler before we go in that we’re getting a present for her cousin, not for her. She will sit in the cart and keep her hands to herself. She will use her words and her manners when she speaks to me. She will not beg for toys she cannot have. She will not attempt to embarrass me by throwing a fit in the store. She can tell me what she would like to request for her own birthday or Christmas. We will leave with her cousin’s gift, period. If she cannot follow these rules, we will leave the store immediately, and I will go out later, without her, to finish my errand. She will forfeit a treat, like her daily viewing of “Dora the Explorer”. All clear? Let’s go shopping!

    Being proactive means keeping an eye on your children and making sure they don’t get so out of hand that a raised eyebrow isn’t enough to give them pause. I’m not talking police-state surveillance, but don’t go off-duty just because you’re with family and friends. A little low-level intervention, like telling your school-aged child to be careful of the little kids on the playground equipment, can prevent a full scale disaster and a trip to the emergency room.

    Being consistent means more than you keeping your emotions in check and not disciplining in anger (although it means that, too). It means following through every single time. It means that anyone empowered to discipline your children (non-custodial parents, stepparents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, babysitters, etc.) knows and accepts your ground rules, and knows how to implement your disciplinary methods, whatever they may be. If you’re a spanker, make sure your parents know the difference between which offenses get a (literal) slap on the wrist and when it’s time to get the belt–by your standards, not theirs. If you’re a non-spanker, make sure your fellow caregivers understand how timeouts work in your household and what kind of followup happens after the kid is off the chair.

    Finally, spanking or no spanking, you have to do all that stuff starting from Day One. You can’t retroactively teach your child to behave or respect you with one sound beating at the age of fifteen. Not only has the horse gotten out of the barn by then, it’s gone and run the damned Kentucky Derby. Way too little, way too late.

    June 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm
  • Loren says:

    I love this topic. And I love what both of you have shared so far. I look forward to being a non-spanker, and I think it takes incredible discipline on my part. I’m committed and I understand that discipline begins from Day One, except my baby is too little to differentiate wrong from right. So, I have got this eagle eye on looking out for Day One once it arrives.
    Personally, I am the hold of being disciplined through spanking, and I think I became more aggressive and combative because of it. And, I’m almost certain it induced me to be physical with my younger siblings, which looking back on it, I regret. I have awful memories of getting physical with my brother and sister. I hope I can discipline my baby without spanking, but we will see. However, I don’t condemn parents who spank. I can’t judge other people’s situations, although there are parents who I can clearly see that all they are doing is venting on top of their child’s own frustration, which is just a big old nasty “mud pie”. That’s all.

    June 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm
  • MamaJ says:

    Since I was in on that FB discussion, I have to say that I don’t think the spankers were being vilified. I was the first person to jump on them – and I only did it because it cracks me up that every time someone winds up in the news for abusing their kids, someone always comes along lamenting the fact that parents aren’t allowed to “discipline” their kids anymore. Abuse is not spanking and spanking is not necessarily discipline – and I will always be irked by those who equate abuse with discipline.

    That said, I generally try to not get into spanking discussions because they always leave me disappointed. I know too many spankers who I love and respect to let myself get too carried away with looking down on those who choose to discipline their children that way. However, I rarely get the same respect. I’ve had people look at me like I had three heads, one of them with horns, when I said that I don’t believe in spanking – and then the insults and predictions begin.

    What surprises and disheartens me most is that SO many spankers are SO attached to that way of thinking that they REFUSE to see anything else. You could give them all the evidence and options in the world and they will still swear that spanking is the only way to discipline a child. And will jump on the smallest misbehavior they see in the child of a non-spanker with the rally cry “If you would just spank her…”

    When I tell people that I was raised without being spanked and that I’ve never spanked my extremely well-behaved 13 year old, they look at me like either I’m lying or the other shoe hasn’t fallen yet. When my teen was younger people would tell me over and over to just wait, that when she became a teenager I would see how all those years of not spanking would result in disaster. Well, all of their teens are now refusing to speak to them, other than to complain and talk back, and giving them grief. While my girl gives me hugs and is often as happy to hang out at home with me as go out with her riends. Not saying she’s perfect, she fights with her sister and has to be told three times to do anything she doesn’t want to do – but compared to other teens her age, she’s a delight. But being a responsible adult whose never been spanked raising a wonderful teenager whose never been spanked isn’t enough to convince true spanking believers.

    I understand why people spank, it is a simple, easy, mostly straightforward approach with quick results. I have been tempted to do it. In fact, with my 6yo, I did spank her on 3 occasions. The first time, she was in a full blown, out of control tantrum and I needed to shock her out of it. Unlike her older sister, a sharp word has no effect in that situation. So I gave her a swift, sharp swat on the butt. She was shocked, stopped screaming, started breathing, and then we could work on calming her down and getting back to normal. So the next time she had a tantrum, I tried it again – only it took two swats that time. And the next time, two swats didn’t shock her. And I realized that if I kept using this method, I would have to keep escalating things and that was NOT where I wanted to go.

    And that’s one of the problems I have with spanking. When it is the main form of discipline, kids get used to it and in order to have the same impact, parents often feel they have to hit harder, or use something else, or hit more. I think if if you are a spanker and you have to graduate from a hand to a belt to a brush and you go from one swat to ten swats to five minutes of hitting – that is not a normal progression as your child gets older. That means your child is being desensitized and that spanking is NOT working.

    And that’s another problem I have with it. I think it desensitizes people. It makes them harden themselves to physical and emotional pain. It’s just like telling boys, “don’t cry” and then wondering why men don’t show emotion. Hitting kids has a long-term impact that people don’t recognize because it’s considered the norm. But isn’t it possible that people who aren’t raised being hit or living in fear of being hit, might be more emotionally open, more sensitive to the situations of others?

    Spanking sends mixed messages, and some very clear ones as well – Can there really be anything more confusing than telling someone not to hit and then hitting them as punishment for hitting? Really, I’m sorry, but there isn’t any more mixed message than that. I also think the whole idea of hitting a child when you’re concerned for their safety sends a mixed message as well – “I don’t want you to get hurt, so I’m hurting you.” And the one big, clear message spanking sends is that the bigger, stronger person, gets to make the rules and cause the pain.

    In every single case where someone has spanked, I can see an effective alternative. And that’s the thing for me. If someone chooses to spank, fine. But at least consider the possibility that there are alternatives that work just as well. At least consider that spanking in and of itself might have some ill-effects. I think the job of parenting is serious enough that it’s worth it to look at and seriously consider all the choices and the effects of those choices. I think too often people who choose to spank do so without thought. They simply dismiss other forms of discipline as ridiculous or weak without really giving them thought. They disregard any possible negative effects of spanking with the tried and true, “I was spanked and I turned out fine.” Every time someone says that to me, I think, “Really? You think hitting kids is a good thing. That doesn’t seem like turning out fine to me.”

    June 12, 2012 at 9:13 am

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *