I am currently the parent of a 2 year old. My kid is the most vibrant, hilarious, and polite toddler you will ever meet. It really amazes me how surprised people are at the things she will say and do. They can’t get over how she can use the phrases “Please,” “Thank you!” “You’re welcome!” “Bless you!” and “I’m sorry.” in the proper context. Her ability to know and use those phrases excites me way more than her knowing colors, shapes, letters, or numbers. She has between now and kindergarten to know school facts, and I want to spend this precious time of her early years teaching her about character and emotion.
I became adamant about my parenting choices when I was still a small child living at home with my parents. I remember sitting in my room many times after receiving a whipping, verbal lecture, or both. I would have the *hiccup cry along with a painful lump in my throat. I would sit in my room, rocking back and forth on the bed, whispering to myself that I would never treat my children the way that I was treated.
Looking back now, I know that the symptoms I experienced after punishment were no different than the panic attacks that I now have as an adult. It makes my heart ache for the younger version of myself, but the past cannot be changed, can it?
Corporal punishment is still a very big part of a lot of the lives of children all over the world, and that breaks my heart, every single day. You see, when I have a panic attack as an adult, it’s because I feel as though I am about to “get into trouble.” Getting into trouble is synonymous with physical and emotional pain, hence the panic attacks.
The other day, I was scrolling through Facebook (a habit I need to give up completely), and I saw a meme that showed a coiled belt and some words about how this was the answer “to ADHD back in my day!” I was triggered, I am not going to lie. The instruments my parents used to inflict punishment on me as a child varied from belts, a wooden paddle my dad made with three holes drilled through, one of those twisty things from mini blinds, and the cream of the crop, the treasured razor strap my parents found when going through my grandfather’s storage one time.
But, we are not hear to talk about my childhood punishments. We are here to talk about something much more disturbing to me. This particular meme was shared by someone who has marveled over my child’s accomplishments more than once. Instantly, my panicked brain starting coming up with a million and one scenarios. Did they think that she is the way she is because I punish her? Do they really think that all children should be beaten with a belt? Do they truly feel so angry at today’s youth that they felt this was truly the answer to our world’s problems? I could go on with all the questions going on in my brain, but I am pretty sure that you get the idea.
Sure, my kid has her share of tantrums, but it’s always when she’s extremely tired, hungry, or both. She is getting more opinionated about things, and she can be pretty rude or mean when she’s not getting her way, BUT, she’s TWO. She has no impulse control, and she is learning about life by watching those around her. She is modeling her behavior after what she sees. So, if I start inflicting painful punishment on her when she is doing something I don’t like, she will think that hurting someone is the way to get what she wants.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of days when I get so frustrated with motherhood and parenting that I want to just throw in the towel. My first reaction when she is doing something I don’t want her to do is to yell or hit. And I HATE that about myself. But, so far, I never have acted on those impulses. Whenever I think that’s the way to handle it, a vision of myself as a little kid, rocking back and forth on my bed flashes in my mind’s eye, and I remember that the best kept promises are the ones you keep to yourself.