The title isn’t a clever segue into a vast outpouring of wisdom or sage advice. It’s truly a question I have.
I’ve been watching videos on the philosophy of peaceful parenting, or rather, anti-spanking. They offer statistics showing how damaging the effects of spanking are on children along with the illogical cycle of aggression it causes; child hits sibling, parent spanks child for hitting, hitting combats hitting, and hypocrisy reigns as moral double standards confuse and agitate aggressive children. They tell you all about how negatively spanking impacts the psyche of the child and teaches imperialistic violence and exertion of force in order to get the child to conform to behavioral standards, and how spankings are no different than physical violence or abuse on the mind of a child. What they haven’t told me yet is, how do I do it?
How does it work? How are standards enforced? What happens when my child refuses to comply?
It’s true that certain behaviors have built-in consequences: If you choose to wear shorts when it’s snowing, you’re going to be cold. Anyone who has never parented a two-year-old says, well that’s absurd, who would want to wear shorts while it’s snowing? There are also those who would say that allowing a child to make choices that are ultimately to their detriment are committing child abuse. My question to them then is what happens when the child refuses to comply to the contrived set of choices offered? What happens when there is a tantruming, screaming, coughing, sputtering, angry ball of fury pounding indignant little fists and feet on the ground adamantly asserting that shorts are perfectly acceptable regardless of outdoor temperature?
I suppose what I am asking is, how does one reason with a tiny mind with an undeveloped capacity for logic? How does a parent peacefully achieve the virtuous and moral standards desired for their children without allowing the child to make choices detrimental to their safety or well being, while simultaneously not exerting force upon the child? What happens when the answer is just, Because I said so? Where does respect come in? How is it taught? How is it learned? How are standards internalized for future correct behavior?
I do not know the answers to these questions. What I do know is that spanking does not work for me my strong-willed, aggressive toddler, and the alternative doesn’t yield consistent results. The threatening angry approach is exhausting for all parties involved and robs the parent of the joy of parenting and the child the joy of childhood. It creates fear, shame, secrecy, embarrassment, and guilt and I want no part of it.
But more importantly, I want my son to make right choices. I want him to understand why obedience to my instruction is not only desired, but imperative for his safety and well-being. I want him to feel safe, and trusting of me and my Christian witness. I want him to know he can come to me later in life for wise counsel and advice. I want to be a peaceful parent, I’m just not sure how.