"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

So I Hit Him

The other day, my husband came home tired after a long day at work. He wasn't feeling well, he'd had a fight with a co-worker, and he'd encountered snag after snag in a report that had to be done by the end of the day. He had yet to tell me, but he was also very concerned about upcoming budget cuts. He came inside, changed out of his work clothes, and sighed as he sank wearily into a living room chair.

I told him that he hadn't yet fixed the drain in the kids' bathroom sink, and that I expected him to do it as soon as possible.

"Are you serious?" he asked me. "I just got home, and - "

"I asked you to do something," I told him firmly, "and I expect you to do it with a good attitude."

He wordlessly shook his head. He rolled his eyes.

So I hit him.

I did it for his own good, though. He had to learn that he couldn't be so openly disrespectful and defiant. He had to learn that he couldn't treat me that way, and that it was unacceptable for him to talk back. I didn't hit him in anger, and I didn't hit him hard enough to leave a mark. I just hit him hard enough and long enough for him to open his eyes to his own sinfulness. I hit him until he apologized, got up from that chair, and headed off to complete the task that I'd given him.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

No, the above never happened. But minus the hitting, it certainly could have. We all have bad days. We all have moments when we're less than cheery with those we love, especially when we feel like we're not being heard. We all have moments when we want, with every fiber of our being, to tell the person who's ordering us around - and not considering our feelings - to BACK OFF. We're human.

Most of us wouldn't consider striking a spouse, or a friend, or a coworker for a moment of humanness (and even if we did, we recognize that it's not exactly LEGAL) Yet the above scenario is something that's played out with parents and children over and over again. The above justifications for spankings are ones that I hear verbatim every time the subject comes up.

They need to learn to obey the first time!
They need to learn to be respectful!
They need to learn who's in charge!

You may argue that it's not fair for me to compare a grown man to a child. He should already KNOW how to treat people. A child is still learning, still immature, still figuring out the way the world works. It's our job as parents to make. them. understand.

Wouldn't it follow then that they should receive more compassion, and not less? That they should be treated more gently, not less? Children are people... people with big feelings and strong emotions. They are looking to their parents for reassurance, for love, and for a positive example of how to treat themselves and how to treat others.

Will spanking meet that need? Or will it do the complete opposite? At its very very best, the most it can do is send a confusing message about blind compliance with people bigger than them... and that their own thoughts, opinions, and feelings do not matter.

I want my kids to feel safe in their own house, and in their relationship with their father and I. I want them to know that they can say anything to me without fear of punishment, and that they can trust that I will give them an honest and thoughtful response. I want them to know that I will apologize freely when I've hurt them, and I want them to know that I will forgive freely when they've done the same.

As for learning to be respectful: In the above example, I could've started by not treating my husband like he existed to meet my every whim and demand. He doesn't, and neither do my kids. If I'd taken a step back and really listened and watched and empathized, I would have seen that nothing more was needed than a kind "Rough day?" or "Want to talk about it?" Either response would have garnered a far more positive outcome (for both of us) than any blaming or punishing ever could. Either response would have spoken volumes to how a person should be treated, and to how a person should be respected.

I think it's interesting that companies hold all these meetings and conferences and seminars about effective communication and positive conflict resolution. I can't help but wonder if it would even be needed if more people practiced the concept on their own children.

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