On Crime and Punishment

Dear Kids,

Before your dad and I were parents, we talked about disciplining our future children. No, we didn’t sit around fantasizing about how we could torture you; although I know that is what you think.

Both your dad and I were brought up with pretty strict rules and consequences for breaking those rules. We both feel that your grandparents did a good job of raising us to be awesome adults. We wanted to be firm, yet fair with you.

I can’t speak for your dad on this one, but for me there were aspects of your grandparents’ approach that I wasn’t crazy about. For one, I felt like I was afraid of what they would do if I broke a rule. I wasn’t afraid of getting a beating or anything abusive, but as a little kid my brothers and I were spanked from time to time. Your grandparents were not violent people (HA HA HA…can you imagine Grandpa or ESPECIALLY Grandma being violent? It’s laughable, right?), but they did punish with a firm hand. I think this was probably reminiscent of how they were brought up.  And they turned out great too.

So when I was pregnant for the very first time, daddy and I talked discipline and punishment. We shared how we were disciplined as children, and I talked about what sort of behavior management I use with the teenagers I teach. Before any children were born, we decided we wanted to be firm, but fair. As for any other details, we would handle it on a situation by situation basis. At that time, we didn’t rule out spanking.

I can’t remember the exact conversation,or what Eddie did, but I do know that at some point when Eddie was entering the phase of toddler-hood where lines are explored and pushed, we decided we did not want to spank. Since thinking it through and talking on it, we have a number of reasons that spanking just doesn’t jive with what we are trying to accomplish as parents.

First and foremost, your dad and I believe in nonviolence; we believe that problems can be solved using words. Using your hands against another person for whatever reason (other than self-defense) is wrong. Your dad and I do not hit each other. It is not Ok for you kids to hit each other.  Therefore it is not Ok for us to use hitting as a punishment.

Telling you not to hit and then using our hands against you to punish you for hitting feels icky because it’s hypocritical. I can remember Grandma telling me that it hurt her more than it hurt me when she spanked me. I didn’t believe it at the time because I was thinking of pain physically. The few times that I have swatted a bottom or slapped a hand, I have felt so, SO bad. I cried right along with you.

If hurting another person physically breaks me like that, it’s the wrong choice for us.  Love should not be physically painful.

Photo of Cort and Eddie by mL photography

Photo of Cortney and Eddie by mL photography

Each of those times broke you a little too. I saw the hurt and confusion in your eyes. I saw trust seep away. I cried for that too.

We don’t want you to mistrust us. We don’t want you to feel like you can’t come to us. We don’t want you to be afraid of us. We never want you to think, “but what will my parents do to me?”

I grew up wondering that. Not because your grandparents beat me or were awful parents.  Quite the opposite, but things were just different, I guess. I am sure it didn’t all have to do with the way your grandparents punished me either. It’s not like every crime’s consequence was a butt-paddling.  Not even close. It’s just how things were done and it’s just how things were.

Dad and I just don’t see a purpose to it in our family now.

If the purpose of a spanking is to serve as a consequence for wrong-doing, we feel that we can do better. Since we don’t believe in violence (we see “violence” in this case as an act that physically, mentally, or emotionally hurts another person) as a consequence in the adult world, why would that be an appropriate consequence for our children?

The consequences we give {so far in your young lives} have ranged from time-outs to removing privileges. These have worked so far, so we go with it.

We also are firm believers in talking about problems. If one of you lashes out and speaks to someone rudely or inappropriately, we usually call for a time out and then a re-group to discuss why it happened and to discuss why an apology is not just appropriate, but needed.

If your “crime” is something potentially dangerous as hitting or throwing toys, you are removed immediately from the situation. You probably lose things as your punishment in that case. The point is, we go on a case by case, kid by kid basis.

We don’t consider parenting a job that requires us to “train” you, our children. We teach you and guide you  and show you how to be good, kind people. We help you to problem-solve, make decisions, and create and nurture relationships with people, hobbies, beliefs, and yourselves.

While we are happy our decision to not spank is backed by many psychiatrists and psychologists and pediatricians, our reason for making the choice is out of love.

All our choices with you kids is out of love.

Your dad and I want to be your safe place.

Safe places do not have hands that hit, rather arms that embrace.