punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Non-productive punishing blows

I was watching this thing on CBS about abusive nannies caught on tape. When I worked in the mall, I saw people beat their kids from time to time, and I have come to this conclusion:

Beating crying children only makes them cry harder.

I would think, that if you wanted your kid to shut up, and beating him didn't work, you'd stop beating him. It seems like common sense. Maybe threatening a spanking will work on someone who's 5 or 6, but when they are 2? It never works. My theory is that most parents who beat their kids do it for a form of revenge, and that's not parenting, that's a tantrum in response.

I think back to the only public display of a tantrum CR ever had. He may have had others, but this is the only one I remember. He was 3 or 4, and we were at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. It was time to go, but he didn't want to go, so he did that rubber-leg/spinal slide thing all kids do at that age. So I just picked him up. He screamed, howled, shouted, and beat my head with his fists, forcing me to take off my glasses. I just hauled him out of the museum, and while he howled outside, I asked him if he thought he was going to get what he wanted by screaming. I pointed out that all the people there were looking at him, and asked him to wonder what they were thinking? Of course, he was beyond reason, so I threw him in the sewer.

No, not really. But he was beyond reasoning, so I just let him beat my head, because I knew he was smart enough to eventually stop when he felt it wasn't working. And he did stop after about a minute, while I held him and walked to the Metro and he cried and cried. I felt, "Hey, I banged my head a lot as a teen, this isn't nearly as bad. His fists are at least softer than a mental pole, a stage, or a door jam." He calmed down after a few minutes. And by the time we got to the Metro, he was fine.

Anger sometimes just has to be let out.

And he never did it again. In fact, his public behavior has never been a problem, even with the ADHD. The key to parenting is to understand the form of diplomacy your kid is used to. When your child loses control, give at least the illusion you are in control. Any fights I have had with CR is when I lost control, and while I regret them even to this day, sometimes I am just too human to control my emotions all the time.

When I look back to that one day in DC, I muse what might have happened had I done what I saw a lot of parents do at the mall.

- Give in. He would run around the museum, bothering other people, and have eventually worn himself, and myself out. Then we'd both be cranky and rude.
- Ignore him. He wanted attention, and he'd get it some other way, like hitting strangers.
- Beat him. He would have just screamed longer, because now in addition to being cranky, he would have been scared, and in pain. Making your child scared and in pain doesn't cancel out the crankiness. It builds on the Foundation of Cranky. "Don't cry, or I'll give you something to cry about!" is the dumbest thing I ever heard a parent say. I mean, look at that statement; logically. Would you say to a waiter, "Don't spit in my food, or I'll have someone else spit in my food?" To a mugger, "Don't take my wallet, or I'll find more money to give you!"

So if your kid is screaming, doing the rubber leg thing at the line in the bank, or just smeared butter and Koolaid mix on the cat... don't beat him. Don't even yell at him. If you can control your frustration, just understand their point of view, and use that to get the behavior you actually want.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000660.html
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