Salty tears of anger and regret, sorrow and shame stream down my cheeks. Memories are flooding my mind of a different time, yet it feels all too familiar. For three weeks now, our home has felt more like a battleground rather than a safe haven. It’s funny how easily we forget. The physical and emotional exhaustion that accompanies such intense seasons renders me unable to process anything besides my own anger and frustration clearly.
why you should’nt spank a three year old?
I’m laying here, safely in my room, face planted, listening to the blood-curdling screams of a very pissed off three year old. Thankfully my husband is home to give me some reprieve and assistance. I sometimes wonder if the neighbors can hear her nightly screaming, but quickly dismiss it as though that is any concern at the moment.
I’ve been here before with my oldest and it’s all rushing back to me. The way I handled her caused lasting trauma, shame, and was abusive. I remember reading all of Dr. Dobson’s books on how to raise children. He was the go-to source for fundamental Christian discipline. Spankings were a must to bend their little wills and make them obedient. If the first spanking doesn’t work do it again until they learn to submit. It’s got to be on the bare bottom, otherwise, they won’t feel the pain. Pain, he said, was a good teacher. If it’s not working you’re not spanking hard enough.
I vividly remember the black leather chair I was sitting in. I held my pants-pulled-down child over my knees. She was only two years old. Whack! She reacted with the full force of a two-year-old who felt severely wronged, screaming all the louder, flailing. Whack! She had zero interest in submitting. Whack! Whack! Four spankings later, each one harder than the previous, before she finally gave up, feeling defeated. I’m nauseous just typing this. Did I win the battle? Maybe, but at the cost of breaking my child’s will, I also broke her vibrant spirit. I dare to think about what causing pain to a child in the name of love does to their soul…
self-Discovery rather than Spanking
Here we are again with child number three. My heart is tethered to her cries of distress to be in control of her own life. We no longer believe in spanking our kids. Making a child obey through fear of authoritarian punishment is abuse. Pure and simple.
I lay here going through my mental checklist.
- Is it the puppy that sent her into this spiraling tailspin?
- Am I not giving her enough choices, love, or attention?
- Is there something in me that still needs healing that I’m ignoring?
Forty five minutes night after night is wearing me thin. I’ve tried cutting out her naps, which only makes it worse because then she’s overtired. We’ve tried the most minute dose of melatonin. It helps, but it’s not a long term solution. We transitioned her to a big girl bed, thinking that would do it. I’ve done energy work to remove trapped emotions, but her nervous system still goes into high alert at the mere mention of bedtime. Try teaching breathwork to a three year old who is stuck in full on fight mode.
Is there a more gentle way to parent?
As I’m laying here, I’m doing my own nervous system regulation, with breathwork and tapping to release the stress of our nightly situation. It’s so much easier to just spank a child than to be calm right in the middle of their storm. The release of energy feels so much more satisfying in the moment. Most days I really want to lash out. Some days I do, but what does that teach my child other than to be afraid of me. If I can’t regulate myself how will she ever learn to regulate herself?
There is a more gentle way, although it isn’t easy. Trauma get’s passed down from generation to generation. We learn to suppress our uncomfortable emotions early in childhood, especially if we are punished for having them. Our children act as perfect little mirrors to the still unhealed places within us. Every button they push is an invitation to look inward. Most often we will find feelings of powerlessness, unworthiness, fear, shame, or abandonment. These long suppressed emotions are begging for our attention, to be seen and acknowledged, released and set free. They manifest through our children. Have you ever wondered why the child most like you seems to be the most challenging?
The solution for me has become an excavation, digging up past trauma and pain by the roots. I see the little girl in me who often felt powerless as a child, through a lens of love and compassion. When I find myself in situations where I feel powerless, like an uncontrollable three-year-old, anger and rage are the ways for me to take my power back, even though I’m causing my child harm. Instead, I now ask my younger self what she would have needed in this same situation. The more compassion we hold towards ourselves, the more compassion we hold towards our children. The same is true if we tend to punish ourselves. We then punish our children.
If I am ignoring my own internal world my kids will surely begin to show it. Two years ago, I made a decision. The trauma cycle stops here. I know Shiloh won’t always be three and this phase won’t last forever. I also know that Shiloh won’t have all the shame to unpack when she gets older. For more information on raising strong-willed children without punishment click here.
Oh and if you still have any Dobson books laying around, just go ahead and burn them.