Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
So, I’m going to say something today that I never, ever, ever thought I would say, and that is, “I’m glad I spanked my child.”
Those words just sound so wrong, especially because growing up with an abusive father, I promised myself that I would never, ever, ever spank my children. And from the get, Emmi was such an easy child, but Andy was not. Andy always had a little edge over her.
I remember when the kids were toddlers, and we used to have bath time. It was something we really enjoyed as a family. And then, out of the blue, Andy started biting Emmi. I mean, it got so bad. We really tried to keep them apart at bath time. We tried giving them baths separately, but they didn’t really like that. They like being together. Out of the blue, for no reason, they were not fighting over a toy, nobody was upset, Andy would lean over and bite Emmi. It got to the point where we would call Andy “Jaws” and Emmi “Shark Bait.” I mean, you would blink, and Andy would do it!
We tried everything. We tried talking to Andy. We tried keeping them separate. As I said, we tried giving them baths separately, but they didn’t enjoy that.
We really work on redirecting Andy’s behavior. And then, one day, she leaned over, and she bit Emmi and Emmi started crying. Now, this part was not different. This part happened regularly. But this time, Andy began to crying when Emmi was crying. It was like Andy finally got it into her head that she was hurting her sister, and it didn’t happen again.
So, even though we had this little edge with Andy, we thought we had relatively under control. We were managing it. We were working on it, and we were moving forward. I mean, honestly, this was our biggest challenge with the girls, really not a big deal beyond that. So, we thought we had the discipline thing down until Andy started getting a little older and just started acting up more.
The first time I knew we had a problem, I was walking down the stairs to our basement. We were living in Michigan at this time. I picked Andy up. We were on the stairs, and all of a sudden, Andy starts kicking, screaming, pulling, and carrying on. And down the stairs, I go. Now, these were about ten steps, and I did everything I could to protect Andy. Nothing happened to her. I got banged up. I got bruises. She was fine. I sat her down and explained, “You can’t do that. You and Mommy could fall. Everything’s going to be fine. But you can’t do that again.”
I thought Andy got it because she was pretty scared when we got up off the floor, dusted ourselves off. But, it happened again a few months later. I had to do laundry, and I asked both girls to go downstairs to the basement. The basement was this wonderful playroom and attached to it, I had a little office and laundry room. The girls typically loved being down there, but this particular day, Andy didn’t want to go down, and I really needed to get laundry going. I needed to get some of my grading done. And I said, “Okay, Andy. You can just walk down the stairs, or I will have to carry you.”
Andy had a speech impediment, so she was very non-verbal. I couldn’t understand anything that she was saying. I picked her up because she was refusing to go downstairs. We’re about the third step when she starts flailing. She’s just kicking and screaming, and her arms are going everywhere. I didn’t want to fall. I was terrified of her getting an injury. I was terrified of being injured myself, so I swatted her bottom. And her eyes just went like, “Whoops! What’d my mom just do?”
Andy stopped. She didn’t cry. I didn’t do it with force. I didn’t do it meanly. I didn’t do it in anger. It was just one swat. More than anything, it was shock. “My mom had never done that to me. What’s going on?”
She stopped. I carried her down. I sat her down, and I said, “You can’t do that because we’re going to fall again, and next time we could get really hurt. So, I’m going to give you a two-minute timeout because that’s a no-no. We can’t do that.”
So, I sat her down on the little timeout chair. She didn’t kick. She didn’t scream. She didn’t carry on. She seemed fine. Two minutes, I thought we were done. She went to play. I went to do the laundry, the grading, and that was it. I thought, “Okay. Maybe this time, speaking to her and the timeout worked. This is not going to happen again. We’re not going to have any more of these types of problems.”
Now, believe it or not, I really, really believe that there are many benefits to having ADHD. It allows you to multitask. It will enable you to get lots of things done. And you know, that hyperfocus of an ADHD person or child can have is amazing. It’s amazing. A lot of people do learn to harness ADHD in a positive way. My husband’s definitely one of those people. My nephew’s one of those people. One of my sisters is one of those people. But a lot of times during childhood, kids haven’t yet learned to harness that ADHD energy positively, and they express it not in the best of ways, not in the most appropriate of ways.
So, in this period wherein the “H” in ADHD reared its ugly head, I really had to reassess my discipline approach to the kids. What do I mean by the “H” in ADHD? The hyperactivity—and definitely with the hyperactivity comes impulsivity issues. Right around four, almost five, Andy started hitting her sister all of the time. I couldn’t leave them alone. Andy spent a lot of time in the timeout chair. We had many conversations about not hitting her sister, being good, why it was not appropriate, rewarding good behavior. But we weren’t sure that we were getting anywhere with her. In fact, now, when I look back, we weren’t getting anywhere with her. This behavior continued constantly.
Until that fateful day: Andy pushed Emmi off the treehouse fort swing set, playground thing. This thing was about five feet off the ground. It was deliberate. I had just told Andy to keep her hands off her sister. I was walking towards them because the situation made me nervous, and I mean, I was walking fast. It was almost like a walk-trot kind of a thing—and Andy pushed Emmi. When she pushed Emmi, my world almost stopped. It was like I could see this in slow motion. I could see Emmi falling. The treehouse was high enough, and Emmi was small enough; the fall could have caused a head injury. Andy could have caused her sister to have a spinal cord injury, to break something. I mean, yes, there was grass underneath, but if she would have fallen the wrong way, we would have been in trouble.
Thankfully, Emmi fell on her butt. She didn’t bruise her coccyx. She was physically okay. She was screaming hysterically because of the fall. It was long and high enough to really frighten her. I picked up Emmi. I consoled her. I took Andy off of the play structure. I took them both inside. I put Andy where I could watch her, and I sent Emmi to play. I called my husband. I explained what had happened, and for the first time, we found ourselves discussing spanking. Now, my husband said, “I think we should spank her.”
At that point, I was out of options too, and I responded, “I agree. I think we should spank Andy.”
And he replied, “Well, you can tell her that I’ll spank her when I get home.”
I was like, “That’s not going to work. By then, Andy’ll have forgotten. She won’t understand that there’s a relationship between the two.”
So, here I am. I’m thinking, “Well, if I was saying that we should spank Andy, I should be okay with spanking her myself.”
But I’m a child of a physically abusive father, and this was so incredibly traumatizing. So I was like, “It’s my duty as a parent. I need to protect one child, and I need to make sure that the other child doesn’t cause my other child harm.”
I was so upset. So, here I am in the bathroom taking deep breaths, and I get one of my husband’s little belts, and I called Andy over, and I said, “What you did was terribly wrong. You could have really hurt your sister. She could have broken a bone. She could have ended up in the hospital. This cannot happen again, and to remind you that this can’t happen again, I’m going to spank you.”
I pulled down her little shorts, left her little panties, and unbelievably after what you’ve heard in the last episode, I swatted her three times with the belt. Now, I didn’t put any force in it as my father did us. Just enough to make her skin pink, just enough to get a couple of tears, and I could see the shock on her face. Then I sent her to her room to think about what she had done. But the reality was she was in her room playing. I was the one thinking about what I had just done. I had just spanked my child—something I never wanted to do.
And that led me to think about the future. I gathered myself, looked at the situation, and thought, did I discipline myself? I didn’t lose my temper. I didn’t lose control. I didn’t hit her hard, but it still felt wrong. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to hurt my child physically. I sat in the bathroom, and I started crying, and this was this big, ugly cry.
I’m the child of an abusive father. I don’t want to ever physically harm my children. It was terrible! But what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t allow one child to hurt my other child. It didn’t make any sense. Hadn’t we talked to her, given her timeouts, taught her by example? I mean, what were we supposed to do to keep this from happening again? And what would I’ve been teaching her if I was hitting her after she hit someone? Wasn’t that a mixed message? Would she be learning that discipline means freedom, or would she be learning that discipline means terror?
There had to be another way. There just had to be another way. I didn’t know what that way was. Frankly, the internet fourteen years ago was not what it is today. You couldn’t just search and find tons of information like you can today—no easy access to resources. I started my search on the internet anyway because I was just desperate at that point. I contacted people that I admired as parents. It turns out that 1/3 of them spanked, so I didn’t want to follow that example. I also turned to a couple of childcare providers. I was like, “What can I do? I don’t want to spank. I never want that to happen again.”
And that’s when I heard of a program called “Love and Logic.” The words just appealed to me—”Love” and “Logic.” It made sense. I tried to find the tapes. I tried to find the books, and it was really difficult to get them at the local library. So, Amazon was around by then, (handy dandy!), searched for Love and Logic and read as much as I could about it. I found that Love and Logic teaches self-discipline through natural consequences. I was like, ” I’m not sure what this means. But I’m going to spend those $10 to get that Love and Logic book on Amazon.”
It’s no longer $10, but you know, inflation and all that jazz. It’s a tiny, little book. And that tiny little book changed our lives. I call it my lucky charm, my miracle, my everything as a parent. It just really saved me because I finally had the tools to deal with this very difficult situation—the situation was I had limited parenting skills, and I had children. It wasn’t their fault. Children go through different stages, and they can be really challenging at some stage and really easy at another stage. It wasn’t their fault. My daughter was being a child who couldn’t control her ADHD. I needed to be a better parent.
So, in the next episode, I’m going to share with you our Love and Logic journey. But back to the beginning of this episode: do I regret spanking my child? No. Absolutely not because it took that one time to set me on a completely different path. Did I ever spank my children again? Never. Have I ever slapped my children, hit them on the head, on the back? I see parents, especially at Disney, that do this kind of stuff. The answer is, no, I’ve never done it. I’ve never pinched, pulled their hair. Nothing! I haven’t done it.
So because of that one moment, that one action, I took a completely different route, a route that was definitely better for our family, better for my children, better for me as a parent, and so much better for me as an individual who grew up with an abusive parent.
So, if you’ve ever shared an experience like mine when you don’t know what to do or when you don’t know where to go, and you felt alone (I certainly did back then!), please share a link to our show on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, whatever you have available. If you have time, all three, all four, all five!
For links and resources, please visit our website. If you share an imperfect journey to motherhood, welcome to the crew! Till next time! Embrace the joys of imperfection. Toodles!
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