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.”