A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Not So Gentle Parenting

By guest blogger Terri

Like most things in life, the things we do are cultural. I believe you either do exactly what your parents did or the exact opposite of what they did. Either way, the way you were parented will affect the decisions that you make in adulthood….right down to the type of toothpaste and cereal you buy. So it is no huge coincidence that when I became a mother, I picked and discarded the staples of parenting that had been present in my childhood.

Some things my grandmother, who raised me, did I absolutely refused to do. However, I adopted her mode of discipline which was spankings or “whoopings”. Please note there is a difference between beating and spanking. They both walk a fine line within the other, but I was spanked not beat. I spanked my children. I did not beat them. Nonetheless, in my journey of spanking and NOT beating I begin to question that “so called” fine line I had in my head.

I realized my children only received spankings when I was angry. Discipline had nothing to do with the behavior and everything to do with how I was feeling. So, discipline was inconsistent which translates to none existent. I also realized that they were receiving the same punishment for every behavior. Being disrespectful…you get a spanking. Biting your brother…you get a spanking. Pouring water on the laptop….guess what…you get another spanking. Thus, discipline was indiscriminate of the behavior. The punishment never fit the crime. The last realization came when I thought about the 4 spankings (they didn’t occur often) I’d received in my youth. I didn’t appreciate them. I didn’t learn shit from them and it didn’t make me want to be fourth coming with information to my grandmother. I feared her reactions to my behavior. So I just became sneaky and dishonest with her about things. The behavior didn’t stop. I just learned to not get caught doing them.

So after all those thoughts, I decided I did not want to spank anymore. I don’t want to hit my children because I’m angry. I want discipline to be consistent and effective. If I was going to affect negative behavior, then discipline methods had to match up. However, this mode of thinking requires a lot more effort than a spanking. It means that consequences aren’t always administered in the moment. I need time to think about the behavior and react to it accordingly.

And because I am African American and I live in a predominantly African American community, not everyone understands this and I have to defend my position a lot. As I said about the decision to spank is a cultural one and I’m not saying it is a right or a wrong one. However, African Americans need to understand how it became a cultural decision for us. During slavery, we were kind of forced to beat our kids to demonstrate that our children were receiving proper discipline so that someone else wouldn’t come and kill our children. It was our way of saving and loving our children. During the plight of the civil rights era we had to beat the spirit out of our children. So they would not be perceived as a threat to white people. It was imperative that black children maintained the upmost humility and respect in order to save their lives. Once again, spanking was our way of saving and loving our children.

I say all of this to say, I understand why my grandmother, born in 1939, spanked me. I love her dearly. She did an amazing job raising me and my siblings. But I am not my grandmother. I grew up in a totally different era. I don’t have the same societal pressures of racism and discrimination they she and her parents before her endured. Right now, African American parents have the opportunity to do something generational different with our youth. We have to determine a new method for saving and loving our kids. For me that is more of a challenge than the decision not to spank.

I need my boys to be men of integrity. I want them to be able to effectively communicate their thoughts. I want them to speak up and out when they hear something that is not right; even if it comes from me. I cannot get them to do all of those things if I disciplining through spankings. Spankings don’t teach. Now that I have the time to think and get really creative/petty with consequences, I feel like they are learning.

Get a D in science….you have to do additional science homework/worksheets every evening until the science grade is higher.

Being disrespectful….no television, video games, computer or toys until you come back to your senses.

Throwing  a temper tantrum in public…I record you on my cell phone and share it with my friends so we can laugh at you.

I find this mode of discipline less stressful for myself than spanking because it’s no longer personal. I’m not disciplining out of anger. I am addressing a behavior: Additional chores, writing assignments, not going places on the weekend, push-up, etc. There’s an endless list of things I can do beside spank. And I’ve found they are more effective than the spankings they were receiving. Additionally, because I’ve allowed my boys to communicate and advocate for themselves, they have an increased vocabulary and both are reading 2 grade levels above their age.

This is no shade to anyone who spanks, but is spanking going to help your child develop into the person you envision them being? I am not trying to be mother of the year. For now I’m just trying to keep them happy, healthy, and alive.


ertj“I am married and with two children. I have two degrees that mostly has nothing to do with my views of the world: One in psychology and a Masters of Non-Profit Management. I try to lead a life happiness and fairness, but I am human and fall short. When not fulfilling my calling as a social worker,  I am a relationship blogger. You can visit and follow my blog at sipoft.com, or follow me on Twitter @sipoft or Instagram your_sipoft.”


  1. I love this point. I grew up in a very similar situation, one where my mom would spank us with wooden spoons until they broke (and then made us get another if she was still in the mood to spank). She spanked out of anger and then some. It made me sneaky to the point that, if I wanted to do something that I knew would get me in trouble, I figured out how to blame it on a sibling. The spanking was so traumatizing that I actually don’t have many memories of being a child because I’ve blocked them all out. Our son is still very young, but we are not planning on spanking at all. I 110% agree that it comes from a place of anger and not a place of teaching or betterment, and there are definitely more productive, positive ways to discipline a child and enrich their lives.

  2. Elisabeth says

    Your four spankings that you remember, I had the same experience. I had two I can recall and threats of spanking more than I can count. I also learned nothing from them. We don’t spank either. The kids are still very young too but so far my daughter who is 2 and a half has proven that she doesn’t need fear of pain and humiliation to do the right thing.

  3. My home life during those tender childhood days were also filled with endless spankings and beatings with belts. Those did nothing for me but create resent towards my mom. I understand her logic, but as a mom I am certain that I will never follow her example. I just don’t believe that physical abuse is the way to discipline, I now that kids need limits but there’s other ways to prove your point without Damaging their psychological safety.

  4. There are so many ideas in this post I had never thought of and am grateful for you sharing your perspective! Thank you for opening ignorant eyes like mine!

  5. PLEASE do some research into shaming. Everything in your article was great…
    right up to the “record and post so we can laugh at you” that is a different form of abuse and bullying (potentially more detrimental than spanking) and will not help you meet your goal of having men who will learn to express their feelings effectively. Imagine what it would be like if someone caught you at a moment of overwhelming irrational emotion and you lost it, then they post it for all to see. Leaving it open for others to comment and contribute to more shame and bullying. If you think that spankings taught nothing, public shaming teaches even less.

  6. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace.

  7. Tiff+ I agree with you, but I don’t think that that particular comment was meant to be taken too seriously.

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