Thursday, March 18, 2010

Laxative Guilt

This is my first contribution to Girl Talk Thursday--I hope to make a habit out of it. If it's anything like my desire to make exercise a habit, I will participate three times a year.  Tops.  This week's topic is Parental Punishments--what did you endure, hate, and would use now?

I'm not looking to open a can of worms here, but I'll come right out and say that this household is a no-spanking zone.  I personally don't believe in spanking as a principle, but also because if I allow myself to hit my children when I am angry, I would hit them HARD.  Where do you draw the line?  I stop myself at a firm grasping of an arm and speaking in a low, serious tone to tell them I mean business.  What 'business' is, I'm not quite sure--hey, aren't we all winging it here?  But it's usually enough to make them quit whatever they are doing.

I only recall being spanked once as a child, after my brother Matt and I repeatedly crank-called 911 while we were supposedly under my father's watchful eye.  I (allegedly) asked the 911 operator out on a date (I was not more than 6 at the time).  Man, would I love to go back in time and hear the conversation that undoubtedly occurred between my parents that day!  Anyway, I scarcely remember the spanking, but what stuck with me was the appropriately-placed guilt.  My parents never used overdone, Catholic guilt as a parenting technique (my Mom is Jewish, which is a whole different breed of guilt, and my dad is an athiest)--this was smooth and effective...laxative guilt, one might say.  Mom and Dad pulled out the "someone may have died because they had a real emergency and called 911 but you were tying up the phone line" story.  At that age, I didn't know that the 911 system was likely, and hopefully, more sophisticated than one guy sitting on a ratty brown office chair with the foam stuffing poking out, answering one rotary-dial telephone, even if this was Tallahassee in the early 80s.  I did feel appropriately terrible, although (again, allegedly) my first draft of my apology letter to the police contained a statement along the lines of "My brother made me do it".  Needless to say, I got my first lesson in revision that day.

This laxative guilt was used throughout my teenage years as well.  I am a terrible liar (thus narrowing my career options with my law degree), so it was clear when I was hiding something.  During those years, my parents' stock line after a lie was "It's going to take a long time to build back the trust".  And it was devastating, knowing that my parents viewed me as some shifty person they couldn't quite trust.  I must have subconsciously filed that line in my parenting lobe, because I totally have used that one.  Another one I use that channels my parents is "Did Daddy already give you an answer?  Because we don't shop around for answers in this family."  Mmmmhmmmm...pure gold.  I'm sure as the boys get older and we're faced with new struggles, I'll be rooting around in my subconscious for more.

Sam and I, thankfully, are virtually totally aligned in our parenting styles.  The one method he has used that I vehemently oppose is "The Pinch", something he learned from his own childhood.  When he acted up during dinner or couldn't get his act together in the car as a child, he would get a firm pinch on the leg.  When we had it out over this, Sam agreed that when he was being his best parenting self, he would not choose this option to change our children's behavior, that it was more of a last ditch effort, I've-had-it-up-to-here kind of thing.  That parenting method has since been discontinued in our household, thanks in part to a couple of great parenting books (and in part to, shall we say nicely, a verbally persuasive wife).

I'm not a parenting book type of person really, but I have to say that I am reading a book now that has helped immensely in my goal of being my best parenting self--Buddhism for Mothers, by Sarah Napthali.
Ladies, check it out from your local libraries because this one is worth reading.  I am no Buddhist, but incorporating some of these ideas into my every day life has made such a difference in my well-being, and given me a new perspective on interacting with my children.  Sam didn't know I was reading it, but noticed the way I diffused a situation was particularly calm and productive.  Mothers with more than one child may notice that something that worked fine with the first just doesn't work with the second or third.  Timeouts are perfect for Jackson--we send him up to his room to cool off for a couple of minutes, and then one of us goes up and has a great conversation about how he could have handled the situation differently, and how he could make it right.  With Alex, removing him from an argument with a timeout only escalated the situation, leaving him furiously kicking his door and screaming.  It took many agonizing tries and late-night parenting discussions before we adopted a strategy that is helping him slowly learn to put his emotions into words.  It sure is a team effort to parent consciously, learning to switch our pitch depending on the batter, but here's hoping it will pay off in the long run.


  1. People used to think it was necessary to "spank" adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is "spanked", but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the genitals and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, striking them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulus in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be sexually abusive, but I won't list them all here. One can use the resources I've posted if they want to learn more. All materials listed may be accessed at the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at

    Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering (euphemistically labeled "spanking","swatting","switching","smacking", "paddling",or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like "Supernanny" and "Dr. Phil" are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches' Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  2. Whoa. Well, that's an exhaustive list of anti-spanking propaganda. Ok. Glad to see you participating in GTT, Annie! This post was great and I love the book rec. I'm not into parenting books either unless you count The Mominatrix (Her philosophy is what's good for the goose is good for the gander, ya know?) but I'll check this one out.

  3. PS I'm not a spanker. (PDeverit, I think you're preaching to the choir over here, man.)

  4. And just to totally monopolize airspace over here, I nominated you for an award. Check out the details on my blog if you have a sec.

  5. Yeah, I thought that was a pretty thorough comment, and I figured PDeverit had been commenting on all the GTT posts this week, but I didn't see it anywhere else. More power to him/her if he/she wrote all of that for my little blog. Where I clearly said I don't believe in spanking my kids. But anyway.
    I definitely need to check out The Mominatrix, because the gander could use a little sumpin' sumpin'.
    And I'm totally blushing here, because this is my first award! SO excited, and I'm checking it out right now. Monopolize all you want, as you can see, it's not like you were having to elbow people out of the way to get your comment in. :)

  6. As I recall, after the 911 incident the conversation between your mother and I included a considerable amount of laughter -- naturally, we didn't share that with you two. As a child, I got the occasional spanking, but I'm glad we didn't resort to it much when raising you two. The only other time I got really mad was the Bong Incident (enough said about that), and by then your brother was too big to spank.

  7. Ha! I just related that story the other day. It was the only time I heard you use really bad words outside of building or fixing something. I remember the feeling of sweet relief that said apparatus wasn't mine, and then pity for Matt. He wisely placed the blame on a third party...

  8. First of all, my name is Annie and I have two boys (and that third Big Boy with a wedding band on his finger)...and we plan on having a third, which my gut tells me will be a boy as well. So, obviously, when I saw your blog title listed on The Fence I laughed and had to check it out.

    This is a great post and really hits home because we are having to alter our consequences for our 2.5 year old because Time Outs suddenly stopped working (just days after his baby brother was born...hmmm, interesting...). We don't believe in physical punishment either and I agree that I can't give myself an inch on this one because I know that my level of frustration in that moment would not allow me to give just a 'little tap'! I think I will have to check out that book! We can always use more help and guidance!!!