Romper

I Spanked My Toddler — And Here's Why I Deeply Regret It

Courtesy of Latifah Miles

As a child who was raised by a single mother, I distinctly remember being spanked every once in a while. I never felt like I was being abused, or like my mother didn’t love me or my brother. She usually only did it as a last resort after having exhausted other types of punishment, such as setting an early bedtime or not letting us watch TV.

My grandparents, aunts, and uncles shared my mom's parenting philosophy that spanking your children was required to show the child who the boss was and who was in control. It was not only an acceptable way to parent, but also necessary.

When I had my first child, like many first-time moms I used my own childhood and the way my mother had raised me to learn how to raise him. And like many moms, I just knew that I would never resort to spanking my child when he got older, even though I didn’t have an alternative method for addressing bad or disobedient behavior.

Before I knew it, my baby had become a rambunctious toddler, and after months of doling out time -outs and rewards for good behavior, spanking seemed like the most effective form of punishment out there. So one day, when he was behaving particularly badly and absolutely nothing else had worked, I bent him over my knee and spanked his bare bottom with the palm of my hand.

Courtesy of Latifah Miles

Since he was just a toddler, I used very little force; I just popped his bottom one quick time. Yet I almost immediately regretted it. As I pulled my son's pants up, I looked him in the eye and told him that mommy didn’t enjoy spanking him, and that we needed to practice listening more. But that didn't stop me from spanking him over the course of the next year and a half.

Gradually, spanking became one of my primary methods of punishments, the first tactic I'd use in response to my toddler's bad behavior. Most of the time, I'd just threaten to spank him, and the threat alone would cause him to calm down. But when necessary, I did continue to slap him on his bottom and talk to him about why he was being spanked. This year, however, I realized that spanking as a form of discipline had backfired terribly.

One day, while we were at a local store, my son begged and cried for a toy that I refused to buy him. He doesn't typically have tantrums in public, but that day for some reason he decided to make an exception. As he threw himself on the floor and wept, I hurriedly paid for my items and ushered him outside.

As soon as we stepped outside, he kicked me. It wasn’t an "I’m flailing and accidentally kicked you" kind of swing. There was a look of intense purpose in his little eyes and even a glimmer of satisfaction.

Like most things in life, children learn from the examples we provide them. I learned from my mom that spanking was a useful tool when raising children. I then taught my son that hitting someone was an effective way to express himself.

Kneeling down to his level to look at him eye to eye, I asked him why he kicked me. With the same determined gaze, he responded, “Because you were being a bad mommy and not listening." Beyond my shock that he’d actually hit me, I realized how right he was.

Like most things in life, children learn from the examples we provide them. I learned from my mom that spanking was a useful tool when raising children. I then taught my son that hitting someone was an effective way to express himself.

Courtesy of Latifah Miles

That small instance had a large impact on the way I discipline my child now. While I still raise my voice a bit when reprimanding him, I no longer raise a hand to him. I've realized that spanking is just a form of punishment that has proved not to work for me or my family, and it was a hard lesson to learn.

Though parenting methods can be passed down from generation to generation, it is not a requirement to use the exact methods your mother did while raising you, even if you turned out OK. My mother spanked me as a child and I am sure my grandparents spanked her as a child. But that is not a legacy that I want to continue for my son.