To be honest, I’ve spanked Mina on her hand or bottom on a few occasions (3 or 4 times to be exact), but after each slap, my conscience feels heavy with shame, for days. In those moments, I’m completely convinced that I’m a bad mother and I can do nothing to stop the tears of a failure. I feel guilt and disgust dig at the core of me. This needs to stop.
When I was back home in Tokyo a few months ago, my Mom lectured me on spanking as a necessary form of discipline to teach Mina what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not. That piece of advice lingers in the back of my mind. She’s raised 3 kids; maybe I need to respect that and listen to her. Her advice translates to a voice in me that questions my ability to discipline her otherwise: “If I don’t spank her, Mina will end up a spoiled brat.” I don’t really believe this; it’s just my insecurity feeding justifications. I can’t buy into them.
Impulse is another factor and I’m wondering if that impulse is rooted back to my own childhood, making spanking all the more familiar to me.
I’m realizing that spanking weighs too heavy on my conscience. It doesn’t sit well with me, at all. I don’t want to punish her anymore. There is a difference between punishment and discipline, and I don’t believe punishment to be a valid form of discipline. If I’m against punishing a teenager, why would I even think to punish a toddler? It makes no sense!
I don’t want my style of discipline to evolve inadvertently simply out of fear, familiarity, impulse, or history repeating itself. I want to be conscious and consciously choose my way to be, in this case as a parent. I need to find another way to discipline, to communicate with Mina in a way that I can teach her to learn, not fear, and in a way that I can be proud of.
I want to consciously build a family culture and language that nurtures love, peace, respect, curiosity, responsibility, integrity, equality, mindfulness, because these are the virtues we value most. Writing this, having arrived at this intention has given me clarity. I have no space, no tolerance for punishment or violence in our family. Not even a slight slap on the hand. No exceptions, no fine print. This cycle of punishment stops now. I make this pledge to Mina, to my family.
I need to be realistic, though, and be kind to myself. Just like any change, especially behavioral, it won’t happen overnight; it will take time, patience, practice and perseverance. I’m pretty confident I’ll never spank Mina again, but I still need to unlearn my impulse to use a certain tone, raise my voice, or react a particular way, especially to superficial matters like messes and crumbs; and learn a constructive and compassionate way to teach and communicate with Mina that I can be proud of. I’m prepared to learn, to practice, to grow and change for the better. And even if I were to mess up with a slap or regress to old habits, I need to quiet the urge to judge or criticize, and be kind, forgive, and love myself. I’m only human and I’m learning to become a better one. I keep coming back to this quote by Pema Chödrön, “This very moment is the perfect teacher.” Indeed. All I can do is stay focused and pay attention to this very moment, my perfect teacher.
This insightful article triggered many thoughtful reflections on family, happiness, and life; a MUST-READ!! How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen
A quote from page 3, Create a Culture: “Ultimately, people don’t even think about whether their way of doing things yields success. They embrace priorities and follow procedures by instinct and assumption rather than by explicit decision—which means that they’ve created a culture. Culture, in compelling and unspoken ways, dictates the proven, acceptable methods by which members of the group address recurrent problems. And culture defines the priority given to different types of problems. …In using this model to address the question, How can I be sure that my family becomes an enduring source of happiness?, my students quickly see that the simplest tools that parents can wield to elicit cooperation from children are power tools. But there comes a point during the teen years when power tools no longer work. At that point parents start wishing that they had begun working with their children at a very young age to build a culture at home in which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one another, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do. Families have cultures, just as companies do. Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently. If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.”