This is the third of a five part guest blog series by Susan Patton, a.k.a. “The Princeton Mom,” who found fame (and a recent TIME 100 nomination) from her controversial views on marriage in her book, Marry Smart. While you may not always agree with her, you’ll definitely want to hear her (often surprising!) stance on parenting’s hottest topics.
Would you encourage your children to hit you if you behaved badly? Do you want your children to use their fists to resolve a schoolyard disagreement? Well, when you lay a hand on your child in anger, you show them by your actions that a physical response to disapproval is acceptable. Of course, it is not acceptable.
It’s almost understandable that at the end of a long day, a parent’s patience is exhausted and sometimes the easiest response to an unreasonably misbehaved child is a quick swat. But that is never the right response. A child acting out needs something — sometimes the thing they need most is a nap, or a snack. Nothing makes a child (or anyone else) crankier and more unpleasant to be with than when they are too tired or hungry to control themselves. Inflicting physical harm only makes matters worse. Be a grown up about it and try to ascertain the reason your child is behaving badly. If that doesn’t work, or you simply don’t have the mental wherewithal to approach the problem diplomatically, send him to his room until he’s calmed down and you’ve cooled down. Never raise a hand. It’s not just punishment; it’s demeaning humiliation that can stay with them for a lifetime.
Your children want to please you. At a remarkably young age they can discern your disappointment in them — and it is devastating. Throughout their lives, your children will seek your approval, as surely as you will hope that when the time comes they will pick out a nice nursing home for you! Don’t strong-arm them or take advantage of the fact that they are dependent on you. If you do, you’re being a bully. There is an unwritten commandment… Honor Thy Children.
Along with everything else that informs their later behavior, your children learn conflict resolution skills from you. Don’t ever threaten them with a hand or a belt. Parents …use your words!
What’s your stance on spanking — there ever an appropriate time?