Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hitting Children

One of my greatest fears about having kids is that I will over-discipline them. I think that many of my friends spoil their kids rotten. Two things annoy the hell outta me: 1) negotiating with a kid - sweetheart, if you take 4 more bites out of your chicken, I'll buy you a toy, etc. You don't negotiate terms with a four year old. You give him his options. Sweetheart, you can finish or you can go to bed hungry. You cannot have pasta for dinner every night. 2) threatening punishment and never delivering. If you don't pick up your game pieces, we are not going to the movies. Take your feet off the table or you will not watch tv tonight. I think kids need to know that you mean what you say. If you don't mean it, don't say it, because you look weak and they know that if they whine/cry enough, they will wear you down. And that's a terrible lesson for them to learn.

I am also a big believer in spanking. Yes. I was spanked. But by spanked, I mean something very specific:
1) never, ever in anger. If you are doing it in anger, don't do it.
2) only with an open hand and only on a kid's bottom. No belts, rulers, hangers, feet or fists. No knuckles, backs, legs, arms or faces. No twisting, tweaking or punching.
3) it should never ever leave a mark or God forbid hurt a kid. No bruises, sprains, broken bones. It should hurt just a little on impact.
4) it should not go on for more than 30 seconds tops.
Spanking teaches a kid that there is going to be a moment of physical pain associated with unacceptable behavior. And children are behavioral creatures, especially when they are very little. If you are three and you run into the street even though Daddy says not to, and you associate a quick swat with that behavior, you probably won't run into the street again. I also think spanking is for little kids; once kids enter the age of chinuch and reason, spanking is inappropriate.

I was babysitting my nephew once when he was two. I was playing with him on the floor of his room and I went into the living room to answer the phone. I was gone about a minute. In that time, he made his way into his parents' bathroom, climbed up on the sink, opened the medicine cabinet, pulled out his Daddy's shaver (which was plugged in) and started winding the cord around his neck and pulling. Then he flipped the shaver on. And when I walked in, he was laughing his cute little head off with that "I know I'm naughty" look on his face. In horror, I grabbed the shaver, unwound him, pulled him off sink, crouched down, looked him square in the eye and with my meanest, most serious aunt face, I said "Ari NO! The shaver is dangerous." He laughed at me. I tried it again. He laughed again and even playfully tried to reach for the electric razor again. I was clearly not getting through but he was so cute. I swept him up, carried him to his room, and swatted him on bottom three times. He wailed. I felt like hell. I said "Ari, no shaver, NO SHAVER!" and left him in his room to cry himself to sleep. As soon as I was out of the room, I burst into tears myself. I love that kid so much and it took so much out of me to spank him. I hated doing it. When I told my sister what happened, she said, "I hope you spanked him for that!" and I told her I did but that I hated it. She said "look WebGirl, sometimes, you have to be hard on a kid in order for them to learn and to be safe."

This afternoon, a friend and I were having a discussion about the Yeshivish world. It wasn't a great debate...we both agreed that the Yeshivish world certainly has its faults...the dogma, the uniform, the closed-mindedness, the lack of mentschlachkeit. We are close to the same age, and he grew up going to black-hat yeshivas and I went to modern ortho ones. But then he told me how the Rebbes in yeshiva inflicted corporal punishment on him. He was slapped, smacked with a ruler, beaten with a windowshade roller, kicked to the ground, for minor infractions like coming late, and ridiculous ones like going to a shoe repair store that had a video game in it (!), bitul zman during mishmar, etc. And this was all accepted as normal in those Yeshivas. My friends, this is not spanking; this is not normal. First of all, physical punishment needs to stop after a certain age (which is around 5 or 6 years old). AND, a teacher cannot hit a kid, period. If a teacher does not know how to discipline a kid without hitting him, he should not be a teacher. I was HORRIFIED. Listening to him describe these episodes brought tears to my eyes. How can this have ever happened? How can the Yeshivish world that I know and respect today have allowed this or worse yet, encouraged this? Olam chessed yibaneh. What the hell is this all about? Does this still go on today in black-hat Yeshivas? OMG, this is Yiddishkeit? NO!


Nice Jewish Guy said...

I think I have maybe spanked my child twice, if that, ever, and for something like running into the street. It was so long ago that I can't even recall when it was, and I haven't felt the need to do it since then. In other words, almost never.

I think for a child, the knowledge that they've disappointed their parent hurts more than any potch ever could; you only need to see the look on their faces when you tell them, in a calm, even voice, that they've let you down by what they've done. A potch hurts for a few seconds; a verbal rebuke is deeper, and is meant to accomplish something.

A parent who hits is a parent who has run out of options, and one who has lost control. I'm not judging, but in the shaver scenario, I would have taken away the shaver, scolded the toddler, while pointing out the danger, and both removed the shaver to a safer place and the child to a safer room.

Obviously I have my opinions..

WebGirl said...

I'm not a parent yet and so I will defer to the opinions of those that are. How do I know if I will be able to actually spank my kid when it's real?

With my nephew, I did just what NJG recommended as a first option. I removed him from danger, I scolded him & warned him that what he was doing was dangerous. And he laughed in my face. It wasn't the chutzpahdik-ness that got to me; it was the real danger that he wasn't taking me seriously, didn't understand how he could hurt himself and wanted to do it again.

But I'm not a parent.