Spank My Kid, Hate Myself

Yesterday, my 2 yo son was entirely too ripe for naptime. And he was pissed about it. At 33 lbs, and taller than ANY of his peers, he is a force to be reckoned with. Watching him stand there in a froth of tantrum and exhaustion, I came at him low – like a wrestler – to keep my balance and scoop him up before he took me out. As anticipated, the fight was on. Kicking, screaming, thrashing – I did all that I could to hold on to him and make a break for the bedroom. And as I was almost there, he took a huge swipe at me with unclipped finger nails. He scraped my face and it hurt. Anger flared inside me. And then, as I passed through the doorway to his bedroom, he thrashed out yet again and managed to push hard on the door frame with his feet. As a result, drove me – hard – into the door frame on the opposite side. And it HURT. So what did I do? I put him on the ground and swatted at his bum.


I have NEVER spanked either of my children over the 5+ years I have been a mother. And I said I never would. But I did. NOT because I thought it was a good idea. NOT because I thought it would teach him something. I did it because I was really mad and wanted to get him.

Wow. There I said it.

Oh, my stomach clenches at the memory – I felt so terrible in that moment. I scooped him up and rocked him and whispered to him while those horrible waves of mommy guilt washed over me, seeping in, soaking everything.

How was he? Well, when I swatted him, he hardly noticed. I think he thought I was pushing him into the room. He cried no more or no less. He only slowed his crying once I started rocking him. He was so damn tired, that poor baby. So I put him in his crib, he laid right down, I rambled about a thousand “I love you”s, and that was that.

But that wasn’t that for me. After all these years, after all the thousands of temper tantrums that I have muscled through, why did that one drive me to spank him?

Ok, so lets talk about spanking. It’s really one of those hot button topics with moms. Some do it, some don’t. Either way, parents tend to feel strongly about why they do or don’t. And we can all get uppity and self righteous about why we do or don’t – but I don’t judge another parent’s choices on that. I just decide how I want to parent my own children.

And what are my feelings about spanking? I don’t think it works. I don’t think it particularly hurts a kid physically, but I just don’t think it accomplishes a damn thing. If anything, it sends a message that hitting for a bad behavior is ok. I think it tells your kid it’s ok to strike out physically in a time of anger. I am just not a fan of negative reinforcement. I have managed to get my kids to mind – or not – just fine without it.

(Until now. Gulp. Just swimming in guilt here.)

Now, I was spanked. Am I all screwed up because I was spanked? Nope. Did I learn to hit people because I was hit a few times when I really got in trouble? I don’t think so. So knowing that, I don’t judge anyone who spanks their kids – or I try really hard not to. I have just been pretty dug in about the fact that *I* don’t want to do it with my kids. Bottomline: I don’t want any hitting under my roof, I don’t care for what purpose, and that’s that.

So, I broke my rule yesterday, and swatted my baby’s bum. And, as I’ve mentioned, I am up to my nose in a sea of mommy guilt. But I have friends who are rolling their eyes so loudly right now, telling me to get over it. Telling me he needed a good swat, telling me to stop being so damn guilty all the time, telling ME to stop be so damn self-righteous. Telling me people screw up and none of us are perfect parents.

Eh, I guess.

I still had to call my husband and admit my mistake. And while he agrees with the no spanking thing, he was hardly impressed. Just kind of “Oh wow… What was HIS problem?”

But I think the other thing that bugged me about the moment was my intention. Again, I didn’t spank him because I wanted to teach him a lesson and felt this would be a good method to do so. I did it because I was hurt and mad – and I snapped. Obviously, I hardly went crazy. This wasn’t child abuse, I know that. But it scares me how me – miss “anti-conflict, peace loving, can’t we all just get along” Caroline – could snap and want to hit her very own child.

I know I am not alone here. I know parents are driven to moments like this. I know friends who have had to walk away, lock themselves in their bathroom and count to 50, with their child pounding on the door outside. The everyday, monotonous, groundhog day, water dripping on our foreheads constant of whining, crying, hitting, kicking, throwing can just… get to us. No matter how much we love them. However, we should never NEVER act on that anger or frustration in the heat of the moment. Never.

No matter how unhurt he was (or even if he hardly noticed), spanking him in that moment (when I don’t believe in doing it anyway) was wrong.

So, yeah. I need to let it go. And blogging about it is my way of publicly apologizing for it I think. So this is my penance. Please don’t call child services on me. I learned my lesson, that’s for sure.

But you might want to call the Mother of the year Award committee and tell them 2009 is probably out for me too.



Filed under Children, Guilt and motherhood, Mothers, Panicking, parental fear, Parenting, Reality check, Self-analysis, Teaching kids

10 responses to “Spank My Kid, Hate Myself

  1. First I want to say hugs to you! I can only imagine what you felt at the time, the frustration with your son and afterwards with yourself. But I can completely understand where you are coming from here. My 21 mo old son sometimes pushes my buttons and I was very close to a swat in the pants the other day myself but I didn’t do it (he was sitting at the table), but the same exact thoughts went through my head as what you voiced above. “What am I teaching him?” “Will he try to hit me if he sees me swatting him?” But I can completely and totally understand where your head was at that time! I was spanked as a child. A lot as a matter of fact. My husband and I said the same thing – we won’t spank, although I can see as he gets older that perhaps there may be a time when a swat in the pants is in order. I hope not, but I can see it. I don’t judge anyone that does it (as long as it isn’t excessive certainly), since I was spanked and I don’t think I suffer any ill effects. I just wanted to offer you my support and say to be easier on yourself. You are a good mommy!!!! 🙂

  2. This is a great post. I haven’t yet spanked – I have a 2-year-old, too – but I have done a lot of things that I swore I’d never do, and I’ve felt guilty about a lot of them. I feel like I’ve been losing my patience over and over and over again, and that in itself is frustrating. Why can’t I keep in mind the fact that she is 2 and she’s *supposed* to test, stall, test, complain, test, whine, test? But it’s easier said than done sometimes.

    Not an ounce of judgement from me, just thanks for the honesty. And from the sidelines, some encouragement: Your son is no worse for a single swat on the bum, and you’re no worse a mom for delivering it. And tell that Mother of the Year award committee they can shove it! 🙂

  3. wyliekat

    I’ve used physical punishment with my daughter precisely twice. And both times were because I was mad. Once, I slapped her hand, because she kept throwing her food off her plate and onto the floor. Once, she was pushing and shoving at me, as a way to get my attention and I spanked her butt.

    This is my public apology, too. Because I know my reasons for doing it weren’t good enough.

  4. Wyliekat – You know I get what you’re feeling. I guess I’ve got two things to say about this whole thing. (1) We need learn to forgive ourselves and (2) if this is the worst thing we do as parents, I’m thinking we’re in pretty good shape. One day at a time, my friend.

  5. I hope you don’t get too many negative comments from this. I have only been a biological parent for 2-1/2 years and I know that it happens. I have only slapped my daughter’s hand on 2 occasions. Both, like you, out of anger; when you cannot endure one more second of the tantrum and you don’t know what to do to make it stop.

    And having teenage step-sons, I know that when they’re teenagers, you’ll want to slap them all of the time (not always out of anger, but to knock sense into them). But you can’t…because they’re bigger than you 😉

  6. wyliekat

    That’s all it ever is. I always say this, jokingly, but it’s very true –

    “Parenthood: Finding new ways to fail, every day.”

  7. Mommying is so hard – being on the back burner all the time and having to fight lots of the time with a toddler can push you over the edge – I know it has me many a time. I haven’t actually spanked or used any kind of physcial action but I have used words that I know are not good either. I’ve already started practisding the words mommy makes mistakes too and I don’t know everything – and of course to that statement my almost three year old told me her daycare provider knows everything – even the things that I don’t! Anyway – hugs to you! I know the feeling! I think every mom does!

  8. starrlife

    We’re not Stepford wife mommies, we’re human and raising a child is part of our developmental stages as well as theirs. It is scary and enlightening as to how we do when the buttons get pushed. I’ve learned to just apologize to my daughter when I screw up and show her that I’m human, make mistakes and try to re-connect, try a different way. I kind of do what I do with her, know what I’m capable of and then develop a plan to end run my impulses, ie. when I feel like swatting I give her, and myself a warning- “I’m really getting mad now”, as a way to defuse things. Not that I feel that way all that much,lol. Parenting teaches us major humility!

  9. All of your feelings are absolutely normal and understandable. I know that kind of mommy guilt and do everything in my power to avoid feeling it. But I really do gotta get out of the habit of jokingly saying, “I’m gonna beat that kid!” One time my oldest actually said (in public) “No, Mommy, don’t beat me!” He’s been a little smarty pants ever since he was a baby. 🙂

  10. No pun intended here, but don’t beat yourself up over this. We are human, and our children push us to limits and edges we never knew existed. 99.99% of the time we take a breath and deal with it. I too have been pushed over the edge with my Bird, who is willful and stubborn as, well, me. I popped him on the bottom once, but he was so worked up in a tantrum fit anyway he didn’t notice and beyond functioning. That spank was purely me losing my shit. I’ve been there, sister. Hugs all around.

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