“Mommy, I lied.”
Morgan was four years old. As she skipped off to bed, she assured me she had brushed her teeth, but in a two-minute about-face boomerang action, she again stood before me delivering her confession. I studied her stricken face, anxiety riddling her big blue eyes.
“You lied, huh?”
She looked up and gave me a tortured nod, preserving misty eyed contact. I squatted, leveling the field.
“And how did that make you feel?”
A tear rolled down her cheek and she whispered, “Really, really bad.”
I wiped away her tear and asked, “Do you think you might do it again?”
“Okay,” I said as she hugged me, shed a few more tears and ran to the bathroom to neutralize the lie.
We’d had multiple conversations about the importance of honesty. It never occurred to me to utilize threatening phrases or words like “punishment” or “spanking” when discussing consequences. What she actually learned throughout the course of our discussions was:
- Telling a lie robs us of who we truly are and makes us feel bad.
- Telling a lie creates more lies in order to maintain the original lie.
- Telling a lie sets the foundation for how we will be perceived for the rest of our lives.
How is spanking a child any different from bullying? We are inundated with stories of physical and emotional bullying in schools and the lack of tolerance for either, yet we live in a society where many still believe these are the necessary tools for raising our children.
Is it lack of education that groups racists, sexists and homophobes in the circle of intolerance? Let’s add parents who hit to that list. How hard is it to grasp the concept that violence begets violence? Spanking is archaic and it does not work. In fact, punishment does not work.
There is one of two possible outcomes if you are hitting your children: the creation of bullies; or the creation of victims. Either way those children are ultimately presented with the choice to either spend a lot of time and money chiseling away the emotional scars for the rest of their lives, or to resign themselves to the role you have designated. There are plenty of scientific studies pointing out the alteration of a child’s brain because of the detrimental effects of corporal punishment. Hitting them causes brain damage.
The only responses I have ever felt to being hit by another person are anger, fear and changes in behaviors only as a matter of survival. Not because I learned a valuable lesson that would help me throughout my life. We have similar responses to verbal abuse.
How would you respond to the following phrases?
|Actual Phrase||Actual Meaning|
|Sit down and be quiet!||What you have to say doesn’t matter.|
|What is wrong with you?!||You had better say “nothing,” or else.|
|Look at me when I’m talking to you!||I don’t care that I’m scaring you.|
|Say you’re sorry!||Telling you how to feel totally makes you feel it, right?|
|Clean your plate!||Yay, eating disorders!|
|Because I said so!||I’m not interested in taking the time to help you understand why.|
|Don’t you dare take that tone with me!||Like the one I’m giving you. Yeah, that one.|
|Stop crying or I’ll give you something to really cry about!||Suppress those feelings. They don’t matter.|
|You’d better watch it or I’ll lower the boom.”|
Huh? Was “the boom” hovering there the whole time? What does that even mean? And what is it these parents are trying to teach? If your child makes a mistake because they do not understand the right thing to do, then by all means, verbally abuse them and beat them into submission, but don’t consider the possibility that you may not have done your freaking job. There is no other area or social circle where these types of behaviors are tolerated. Punishment shifts focus. Once enforced, the end result is no longer about truth, lessons or positive goals. We only develop the endurance tools for a thicker skin and the avoidance of further external punishment. We learn to LIE.
Merriam Webster defines “discipline” as a field of study; training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as an activity or experience that provides mental or physical training. Why not interpret that only in the positive sense? Adding physical or emotional abuse to the definition defeats the whole purpose. I hope I have been successful in consistently sending the message to all of my children to never apologize for who they are.
There are plenty of life experiences that toughen us up. Don’t make the back of your hand or the sting of your belt one of them.
Morgan is 22 years old today. She inspires me daily with her level of intelligence and integrity, her sense of self and her capacity for love and compassion. She never forgot the lesson she learned that day 18 years ago. To this day, the lie remains an isolated incident. And not because I knocked it out of her. She is my hero.