Disciplining Our Children: To Spank or Not To Spank


Most parents will tell you that parenting is hard work – especially if you want to do it well. This forces one to stop and ponder the finer points of how we were raised as children (good, bad, or indifferent), and maybe consider more progressive and evolved thinking in regards to child rearing in today’s world.

Let’s face it, how we were raised by our parents has a lot to do with how we raise our children today!

As sociocultural norms and values change, new ideas and more effective methods of parenting emerge. Which brings me to my current topic – How do we as parents choose to discipline our children?

Admittedly, this is a very personal and complex issue. Typically, most parents (consciously or unconsciously) follow this simple rule of thumb: What was done to us, in most instances is what we tend to do to our own children.

Of course there are many exceptions to this (especially in extreme cases), but we are only human and subject to our conditioning. In most instances we follow what was ingrained in us with what Iyanla Vanzant calls – Inherited Pathology!

Honestly, when I think back to the corporal way I was disciplined by certain members of my family, or hear other folks recall stories of how they were made to “pull down their pants/underpants and lay across the bed” to get whipped with a belt, or some other instrument of punishment, I physically cringe.

Perhaps I shudder because it triggers flash backs of those painful feelings of guilt, shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and yes ANGER! These are all feelings that I vow to NEVER inflict upon my children…at least not intentionally.

Disciplining styles also seem to vary culturally. It’s common in our African American community, to make light of how “Grandma made us go pull our own switch off the tree,” or “getting knocked into next week”, or “I brought you in this world, and I’ll take you out”, and many other colorful colloquialisms. Not to say that this is how we all were raised by no means, but I think historically our culture tends to discipline more on the physical side – and condone it.

Meanwhile, we dismissively crack jokes on how some of our other white brethren, were just made “to go to time out”, or “sent to the naughty spot”, or were simply “grounded.”

I’m aware that many of our disciplining horror stories are retold in jest with an air of nostalgia associated with them – and may be somewhat exaggerated. However, within the retelling of these tales, the missing theme that resonates with me is the idea of disciplining our children while maintaining an environment that still includes feelings of love, mutual respect, calm, trust, creative thinking, and empowerment.

Yes, I know that there are some children who tend to be “hard headed” and no matter how hard you feel that you are trying, some kids just don’t seem to wanna get with the program – in fact my girls at times express this sort of attitude.

But in my house, this is when we feel as parents, it is our responsibility to utilize all of our adult critical thinking skills, education, and readily ample available resources.

For we understand that how we act or react to the constant stress of dealing with our children on an individual basis, is an impression that will last a lifetime, and in most instances will be repeated by them when they have kids.

There’s an old adage that describes how a person’s character can be fully assessed by how they handle complex and turbulent issues – not just so much the easy stuff.

We don’t want our first reaction to be getting upset about something that they’ve done, and strike out by hitting, spanking, cursing, etc. We strive to be mindful of their need to still feel validated, feel worthy, feel good about themselves – even though at that moment their behavior may not be to our liking. A lot of time, extreme and quick tempered reactions usually have very little to do with the offending party or their actions, and more to do with us!

It could be our own personal ego and control issues which make us go into violent default mode and chose to hit our child, or maybe it’s just how we think we are suppose to handle a child who has stepped out of line. But we can’t say that there is a lack of information out there to help us find more creative and less menacing disciplining solutions.

Historically, some may say that there are profound reasons as to why some African American parents automatically default to spanking, or “whooping.”

Some studies have shown that our cultural tendency to “whip” our kids may have some correlated deep seeded roots to our time as slaves in this country.

If a slave did something wrong, he or she got whipped to help ensure it didn’t happen again. As a result of this frequent experience, our people may have adapted this punishing approach – many times out of fear for our children, thinking it would be best for us to discipline our kids beforehand as opposed to the brutal slave master. Unfortunately, this degenerate concept, may have been carried down from generation to generation.

Regardless of its historic significance, in our house, we strive to use communication as a way to thwart ill behavior. Kids go through a lot of emotions that they have not yet learned to master – just like many adults.

They get frustrated, they get bored, they become irritated – they feel all of the same emotions that adults feel! They are like us, just smaller and underdeveloped. With our girls, we try to give them constructive ways to handle their stress. We say things like “that is not an appropriate way to behave in this house” or ” it seems like you need a little time to yourself to calm down”, or “how about going to do some deep breathing and think about it.”

We almost always follow that up with a discussion about the undesirable behavior they exhibited and most importantly, a more constructive way to demonstrate their disgruntlement. Then comes a hug, to make sure they know that no matter what, we still love them, they are still a good person, and now lets continue on with the day. For the most part, this works!

For parents and children, taking a time out when we are upset to calm down, really helps to put our emotions in check. I would almost bet, that if before a person raised their hand to hit a little person, if they took several minutes to calm down first, the intensity of the situation would be lessened.

If you believe in spanking or whipping, then perhaps you wouldn’t hit as long or as hard, perhaps your words would be softer, as opposed to angry, and just perhaps, you may find that the point was already well received by the lil’ offender, and no more punishment would be necessary.

Do our kids work our nerves sometimes – YES!!!

However, our choice is to teach them and train them lovingly, peacefully, and respectfully.

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