To Smack or Not To Smack
Image found here
We have chosen not to smack; but it has been a long hard road to get to this point... it was not an easy decision, and has got nothing to do with the 'Anti-Smacking' law.
When the law first came in we didn't have children, and we decided then that we'd ignore it and bring up our children in a way that felt appropriate for us. I was smacked as a child (we both were, it was the 'norm' back then); but it was done in an appropriate way, appropriate time and for appropriate reasons. I don't believe I have been scarred for life by this; it was always a last resort and my Dad never smacked me - even back then, he didn't believe it was appropriate for him to smack me, as a girl - as his daughter (he did, however, smack my brother). So my Mum always had to administer the punishments when it came to the point of requiring a smack; but once done, all was forgiven and 'forgotten', and we moved on.
So when our daughter was born, we just sailed into the parenting lark and never second-guessed our decisions from back then (sailed - hehehe NOT, if you've read my story you'll know it has not been an easy introduction to parenthood for me)! The first time we had to face this was not until our daughter got to the 'tantruming' stage, while it was a difficult first 12 months due to reflux, her second year was a breeze - she was an easy toddler, and I had really started to relax and enjoy her. But then the 'Terrible Twos' hit, and suddenly we went from easy to 'driving us insane' overnight - we're not just talking tantrums, we're talking full-on scream until we vomit craziness!
Everything became a battle - getting her dressed, eating, sleeps, baths... things that had been easy were becoming battlegrounds, and we were losing left, right and centre. I became scared of crossing her, she had that much power over me - I hate vomit, so I would cave more often than not, in order to keep the peace. Hubby, however, is the strong-willed one; and they would go head-to-head... how he managed to keep his cool most days is beyond me. She never scared him or bothered him, he'd stick to his guns and they'd battle it out until someone caved (it wasn't always her I might add). But of course, there were times when a smack became appropriate...
It didn't take long before we realised that smacking was becoming relied upon though, it was instant and easy - and we were using as our first option, rather than our last. After a few rough nights, we stopped and realised something was wrong, and after much discussion, decided that once more it was to be the 'bottom of the list... tried everything else and nothing has worked last resort' punishment.
I am happy to say that those tantrums settled down fairly quickly - a couple of months of regular 'scream till I vomit' tantrums and that phase was over. Of course, in the middle of it - it was awful, but looking back it was short and sharp! Preparation I wonder... little did we know!
Just recently the next phase has hit us - these ones don't get to the stage of vomiting (she has gagged a few times, but never allowed herself to actually vomit, whew)! However, these are far more intense and it feels like there is more anger behind them - she can scream for upwards of 45-60 minutes, and I mean scream to the point of a sore throat and a hoarse voice (and completely shocking her grandparents, who all thought we were over-reacting *grin*). These ones rile me up something chronic... I was scared of the last ones, but these ones just make me angry; and I have to admit to losing control at times (NOT physically, just yelling back at her - saying things I regret later, when I have calmed down sufficiently).
And again, the smacking came back into the forefront... it was being used more often than we would ever have liked, or believed we'd do again. My lack of control scared me to the point I couldn't smack her, as I wondered what I was capable of; now that is honesty!
After one particularly trying week we stopped and talked again - we spent the whole evening talking about this issue, as it felt like everything was spiraling out of control... if we can't tame a toddler, how will we cope with a teenager?!? We knew we weren't 'hurting' her physically - she wasn't scared of either of us, she always knew why she'd been smacked and could tell us afterwards, there were always hugs and kisses once it was all over, and she'd move on - but we were getting to the point where we couldn't. We were both feeling bad all the time, and hating ourselves and getting upset at each other for 'over-reacting'...
So we made THE DECISION, if smacking was leaving us feeling this bad and turning on each other, then it was the wrong thing for our family...
So - that was it, all over rover. We sat Button down the next day, we apologised for the smacking and promised her we'd never smack her again. We knew we'd be tested - and the following week was pretty horrendous... she pushed us to our limits, and then stretched us some more. But she was also processing it, and every now and then, after she'd been naughty - she'd ask 'Are you going to smack me?', and we'd tell her no... so she'd ask us why (again), and we'd explain once more, that we felt smacking was wrong for our family, and we weren't going to use it as a form of punishment. We also got a few 'stories' that week from her that involved smacking - tales that weren't specifically true, but were obvious to us, that she was processing the changes we were implementing.
I'd love to tell you that everything is rosy now, and she no longer has tantrums - but if you're a parent, you'd know I was lying! However, I am stoked that things have calmed down somewhat... we are still getting tantrums, full-on ones, like before - but they are getting further apart now. I don't know if this has anything to do with our handling of them, or whether it is just another phase coming to an end - I guess we'll never know. BUT I am stoked that we are no longer second-guessing ourselves and each other, I no longer spend the whole day eaten up in parent-guilt (although there are still many moments), and we're no longer taking it out on each other. In fact I trust hubby so much now, that I leave him to deal with her solely when he gets home from work, as I am so exhausted... I don't try to interfere if he is having to 'run the gauntlet' so to speak, and I back him up if she tries playing us (and vice versa); we didn't always do this in the past - but I know it is something we HAVE to do if we want the kids to respect us.
The house, generally, is a much happier and more peaceful place to live these days (says she who had a tantruming toddler this evening, BUT said child is now asleep and caused no problems at bedtime tonight). I hope we can manage to keep it this way... I know we'll have many more challenges, as parents, as the kids get older; but I am very proud of the way we were able to communicate and make changes together (and stick with them also).
We are not anti-smacking, so please don't read this post wrong (there is no judgement if this is something you chose to use in your house)... but we NOW believe that smacking, for our family, is not the way to sort things out. It really did make things worse with Button, and there are so many resources out there to help and encourage you to chose different ways of dealing with conflict - that it is not as hard as it could be, to make these changes. I don't doubt we'll need to discuss this decision again, different children respond to things differently, but I believe we'll come to the same decision next time; smacking is just not for our family. If for nothing else, to clear away enough of the Mummy-guilt to allow me some sleep at night... ;-)!