Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Breaking the cycle - AKA The parenting decision I have the most trouble sticking to

People are really strange when it comes to parenting. They seem to decide that their way is the right way and everyone should do things their way. I'm not like that, I think that different methods work for everyone, so whilst I have strong opinions on how I want to raise my children, I don't feel the need to impose (or even share), those opinions with others. Today however, I decided to share one of my parenting choices. 

When it comes to smacking, people are either strongly for or strongly against. Those who are for smacking almost always give you the line "I was smacked and it didn't do me any harm". Right. I'm against smacking. I was smacked and it did do me harm. It did me plenty of harm.

Deciding not to smack was a given for me. I am determined to break the cycle of smacking. Surprisingly, it is really, really difficult for me not to smack. I thought it would be easy because I hate smacking and am totally opposed to it, but it's not. The urge to smack is strong and I resist it daily.

I should explain why I am against smacking. As I mentioned, I was smacked every single day. Not a day went past without me being smacked. If I got to lunch time without being smacked for a minor indiscretion it was a good day. I was also spanked. There are three events that stick in my mind to this day. The first was when I was about nine or ten. I had an intense fear of the water so hated swimming lessons. I used to lie and tell the teacher that I couldn't do swimming lessons because I'd left my bathers at home. Mum told me that if I didn't do my school swimming lessons I'd get a belting. My fear of the water was so great that I chose a belting over swimming lessons. I got home from school and went straight to bed because I knew what I was in for when Dad got home. When he got home Mum told him I didn't do swimming lessons so he belted me. Neither of them bothered to ask why I didn't want to do swimming lessons. I still remember how betrayed, hurt and upset I felt and how unfair it all seemed. I also remember how much hatred I felt towards my parents. That hatred did not go away.

The second event that sticks in my memory is one day on school holidays. I was about twelve at the time and was helping Mum hang out the washing. I felt really proud of myself and remember thinking that I must have been a very good girl because I hadn't been smacked all day. It was 11am.

The third event that sticks in my memory was the last time I was smacked. I was about 13 or 14 and as per usual, Mum smacked me. I looked her in the eye and told her that if she ever hit me again I would hit her back. She slapped me across the face and told me I was a nasty little bitch. I glared at her and told her that was the last time she was ever going to hit me. And it was. 

There are many, many other smacking stories I could tell, but those are the ones that really shaped my opinion on smacking. They also affected the way I felt about my parents. When I think about being smacked I still feel angry, upset and betrayed. I also feel hatred towards my parents for treating me that way. I look at my little boys and wonder how my parents could have treated that way. As a child I thought they smacked me because they didn't love me. I didn't benefit at all from smacking, it taught me nothing positive. It also didn't modify my behaviour. I still did the same things and often I'd do them a second time after being smacked as an act of defiance.

But back to why it's a struggle not to smack Chai. He's at an age where he's all about defiance. He yells, scream and hits. All perfectly normal things for a 3 1/2 year old to do. All difficult for me to handle. My instinctive reaction to that type of behaviour is to smack him. But not because I think it will teach him a lesson, because it'll make me feel better. I've noticed that the times I want to smack him are the times that I'm feeling angry, irritated, tired etc. I want to smack him to make myself feel better. That is not a reason to smack. It will not teach him to control himself, it will teach him that when we have big emotions we use violence to resolve them. That's not what I want him to learn. That's not the type of man I want him to be. 

It scares me that the desire to smack is so strong in me. It shows me how deeply ingrained it is in me. But I will break the cycle. I will not smack my children. It's the hardest thing I've done to date, but I will not be a product of my childhood. The cycle will be broken with me.

So in those heated moments when I've had enough and I want to hit Chai, do you know what I do? I cuddle him. Or tickle him. Or pick him up and "throw him away" (a game we play where I swing him around then throw him on the bed or lounge suite). When I want to smack him I make sure I connect with him physically in some sort of way, a positive way. That's how I'm breaking the cycle.

What's been your most difficult parenting moment?

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