In my opinion, it is always wrong to spank your children. Even a single shmeits (Yiddish, slap).
And let’s call it what it is: spanking means hitting. “Giving a spanking” means hitting repeatedly.
It is an abuse of parental power and teaches the use of physical violence to solve problems.
In my own experience, I remember the few times I hit my kids. And I was wrong.
I don’t recall spanking daughter #1 (and neither does she) but my husband spanked her hard once when she was about 5. I remember getting into bed with her afterwards and sleeping there for the night. I barely talked to my husband for two days, I was so distressed.
I shmeitsed son #1 when my very pregnant body couldn’t grab him (at 2 ½ years old) before he ran into the street.
I shmeitsed daughter #2 (I think she was about 6) when she broke a bottle of red nail polish all over the bathroom floor after several warnings. There were still stains between the tiles when we moved out almost 20 years later.
Son #2 (probably around 4 years old) got it when he broke an expensive doll after having been warned away from it. I recall giving him a shmeits another time, too. Something having to do with lying and cookies, but we don’t remember the details.
But I was wrong (except maybe with son #1). I hit when I was very angry and my frustration level was too high to quickly think of something else to do. I felt horrible that I had “lost it” and hit my child. And I regretted not having been able to restrain the impulse.
I myself was a good little girl but occasionally got in trouble for fighting with my younger sister. I was hit on my tush or my arm by my mother who yelled a lot and was angered easily and often. When my husband was young, he would get, “Wait until your father gets home!” from his mother and when his father did get home, he would be hit across the tush with a belt. Horrible. Just horrible. (And impossible to picture my beloved, gentle father-in-law doing it.) The premeditated kind of spanking somehow seems so much worse than the impulsive shmeits.
Long ago, when we were all young parents, our friends visited us with their two small children. The little boy hit his older sister. In a flash, the father, a psychologist no less, grabbed the boy, threw him over his knee and gave him a spanking while yelling, “We do not hit! We do not hit!” (True story.) My husband and I were flabbergasted.
My father never hit me nor did he ever raise his voice. All he had to do was say, “Renée,” instead of my nickname, and I knew something was up.
I practiced discipline along the same lines. To this day, my kids say they dislike their middle names because if I used their full names, rather than their nicknames, they knew there was a problem.
Mostly I maintained discipline by trying to reinforce the notion that my approval was essential to their well-being. In other words, my extending, or withholding, approval was enough to elicit desirable, or suppress undesirable, behavior.
Only rarely did I threaten, and my kids knew that I did not make empty threats. When my oldest two wanted phones in their rooms with their own number, I said no because I thought that was being “spoiled.” I agreed to put up an extension of our home phone in the hall between their rooms. I told them that the first time I knew about a fight between them over the phone, I would pull the phone out of the wall. They knew I would follow through and peace reigned. (Or, if it didn’t, I didn’t know about it.)
I never got in the middle of an argument between my children. If they were fighting, and came to me to mediate, I told them to work it out themselves. I did not get paid enough to referee. If they couldn’t figure it out, they would both get in trouble. (I honestly don’t remember them getting in trouble and also can’t recall what “trouble” I had in mind.)
I also had a very effective “point system” for vacations and outings when it seemed that the kids were more rambunctious than usual. It was a little complicated, and admittedly somewhat capricious, but they could get “good” or “bad” points depending on their behavior. Two good points could erase a bad point and three (or was it five?) good points got the little angel an extra souvenir.
I asked my now adult children to evaluate the disciplinary system in which they grew up. My son said succinctly, “You were the boss and we didn’t want to mess with what the boss wanted.”
My point, exactly.