Social Question

pleiades's avatar

Wife and Mother in Law believe in spanking while I'm 100% against it, how do I deal with this?

Asked by pleiades (6597points) September 27th, 2014

So this pisses me off. My MIL and wife believe spanking is an appropriate discipline. I firmly disbelieve in physical discipline. I believe a parent can effectively communicate what is right and wrong without physical discipline all it takes is a lot of patience and repetition. I feel like use of tone can be a little too harsh already.

Anyways, how do I get them on the same page as me?

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107 Answers

snowberry's avatar

Just my opinion, but a lot of it depends on the personality of the child. Some kids simply don’t respond to spanking. I had one.

Buttonstc's avatar

There is plenty of research to back you up on that. It shows that children raised with violence tend toward more violence.

I’m on my old iPhone so can’t do links but this info is not too difficult to find.

For starters, I’d recommend the excellent poem, Children Learn What They Live.

You may also need reinforcement from your family pediatrician. Your wife and MIL might be more inclined to accept this info from a professional. Perhaps he can also recommend some good books on the subject.

I don’t know how old your child is, but it is imperative that you and your wife find an agreement on discipline ASAP. Children have a finely tuned instinct for playing one parent against the other and being raised with INCONSISTENT discipline has actually proven to be more damaging than either too strict or too lenient.

If your wife proves to be adamant about her pov on the spanking issue then it is imperative that you two agree beforehand on the limits of this method.

A good rule of thumb is to never use physical discipline when angry at the child. Take some time to cool of and approach the issue with a clear head and calm demeanor.

If any type of physical discipline is used, it’s extremely important that it not be done merely to relieve frustration on the part of the parent. I know it’s easier said than done but it is important because it can easily get out of hand bordering upon abuse.

I personally don’t believe that all spanking is automatically abusive but the potential is there. Sometimes a quick swat on the bottom to prevent a pre-verbal toddler from electrocuting himself putting his finger in the outlet, does serve its purpose. (but putting in plastic protector prongs beforehand is clearly preferable.)

This entire thing is a hotly debated issue and some people are just not going to be swayed. But you need to try.

Pandora's avatar

It really depends. If you take a course in how to discipline a child at what age and you can effectively discipline them with out resorting to spanking, than you may be able to convince them. Problem is, I’ve dealt with parents who don’t believe in spanking when in reality they don’t also believe in disciplining their child and end up with a child that is out of control.

Spanking isn’t always effective as @snowberry points out but doing nothing is also ineffective. My first born was soooo stubborn. Spanking didn’t work well, and punishing (time out) didn’t work. It ended up being a little of both work with patience and understanding and talking to him when he was better able to verbalize his frustrations.
For my second child, a disapproving glance was all it took to break her down and get her to behave.

When I did daycare, I met parents who didn’t want to spank and often they couldn’t discipline the child long enough before taking them in their arms and loving them, and spoiling them. The kids were quick to pick up on the guilt and use it to get away with anything they could. They often turned out to be the most abusive kids in daycare. Now, some where not like that and didn’t need discipline. Like my second child, they lived to please and a firm no was enough to make them stop.

So the best way to deal with it is get informed. Practice other forms of discipline and be firm. If the child does respond than they your MIL and wife can be convinced to try those methods. If it doesn’t work than talk to your wife about spanking and what may be an acceptable and not acceptable form.
I had to have a talk with my husband that spanking would never be done in anger and can only be done after trying and alternative and it didn’t work. Trust me that was hard even for me. Don’t know how many times I had to count to 10. It must be followed by explaining that you are punishing them for not listening and misbehaving. Spank appropriately for the age.

Under 1 a small and light slap to the hand is often enough to get them to realize that their behavior wasn’t appreciated. At 2 is where it gets tricky. A quick swat or two at the bottom will usually suffice, but often time out don’t right will be most effective. But at 2 they can really protest and have already learned how to manipulate you.

When it comes to child rearing you must all be in agreement. Children need for all the adults to be consistent in their discipline or they will not get the message of what is acceptable behavior. They need discipline. It isn’t something used to make your life comfortable, it is used to help the child to control their outbursts and makes them feel secure in knowing that you will teach them and keep a watch over them, so you can protect them from dangers they are not aware of yet. Like anything mammal. They need to know who is the alpha in control. It helps them feel safe and loved.

cheebdragon's avatar

Is this your first kid?

St.George's avatar

Family counseling. Do it for your kid. The psych will back you and will help your wife process it. Who cares what MIL thinks. Let her know what you and your wife have decided, and that you won’t leave the kid with her unsupervised if she won’t respect your choice of how your child will be disciplined.

Also, good for you. You can raise well-behaved kids without spanking or hitting or slapping or any other sort of violence.

Buttonstc's avatar

I so agree with what Pandora just pointed out about not allowing a no spanking policy end up as no discipline at all.

That’s really headed for disaster. Kids raised like that end up having a horrible time as adults because life has a way of imposing the type of necessary limitations that the parents didn’t have the guts to.
Plus they’ll end up with a lot of people hating them for their spoiled, privileged attitude.

It is so important that children be raised with clear limits and expectations, regardless of which methods are used. Interestingly, a child raised with clear limits and boundaries is a happier and more productive child because they are secure.

There are so many really excellent books available nowadays. Start reading.

gorillapaws's avatar

Yeah, you don’t need violence to discipline children. You can be firm without hitting.

Tell your wife you’ll consent to spanking your kids as long as she consents to being beaten everytime she does something wrong. Same deal for the mother-in-law.

Adagio's avatar

My first question is “What has it got to do with your mother-in-law?”, my second “Is this something you and your wife discussed prior to the birth of your child?”

zenvelo's avatar

As @Adagio said, Your mothwe in law’s opinion has absolutely nothing to do with this. It is an issue between you and your wife.

I have two great kids, and we never spanked them. I agree on talking to a family therapist about it, or you and your wife taking some parenting classes together.

And if the MIL ever babysits and spanks your child without your permission, have the police come talk to her about child abuse and don’t ever leave the child with her until the child is 18 an scan visit on their own.

whitenoise's avatar

From my experience on discussing this topic, both in real life as on Fluther, it will not be easy to convince anyone to change their minds on spanking.

There is an awfully big amount of scientific evidence supporting your POV, but I don’t think that will change your wife’s mind.

Talk to her and aim to reach an agreement, though. You don’t need to agree fully on the merits of spanking, in order to agree on a shared approach on how to discipline your children. There are other ways of disciplining your children than through physical or emotional punishments.

Your priority should be in reaching an agreement with your wife on how to create a safe environment that helps you to raise the kind of person you’d both like to raise.

A joint visit to a family counsiler may help. Please be aware, though, that religion may play a role in this debate as well. For that reason, you may want to discuss with the counselor in person before going there, if you want to consult a religious counseler, eg a priest.

pleiades's avatar

@Adagio Just so you know, parents can agree to want to raise kids and be loving parents without discussing every single freaking life phase and in betweens bullet by bullet. We’re human, not robots on paper.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@pleiades, involving an independent person may be your only hope of influencing your wife’s parenting ideas. Whether she will go will depend on how you frame the suggestion. Perhaps if you can suggest a parenting counsellor as a way for you both to develop your skills and find ways to work in unison to discipline your child. I wouldn’t mention changing her mind about spanking. Genuinely make it about you both improving your parenting and making sure you’re consistent in your approach. Then you can broach the subject of discipline as part of that discussion and as part of genuinely finding ways to work with your child as a team.

As to your mother-in-law, I’m aware there are some cultures where parents are heavily involved in family decisions. If that’s the case in your situation, then it’s even more important that you find an independent person to help you to provide your wife with a different perspective. Does your mother-in-law look after your child?

JLeslie's avatar

I guess the only thing you can do is get her information on other ways to discipline so she feels she has an alternative option. This will show you do care about behavior modification, you just simply don’t believe in physical punishment. A lot of people who believe in spanking think parents who don’t spank don’t “discipline” their children in any way shape or form, and that isn’t true.

If that doesn’t work then if you both are willing to talk to your friends or family members who have older children and hopefully some ofthem never spanked, maybe she will begin to understand it isn’t necessary. You get stories about how some of them were spanked and they are fine, but there will be stories of people who weren’t, and they are great top. Hopefully, she will get the point that if you have a choice why hit? Fear of punishment is a lesser desired attitude than wanting to behave well because the person is simply good. We want our children to treat others well, because they have a conscience, and because they want to please their parents, and because they feel good about doing the right thing.

If she believes in spanking for religious regions you might really have an impossible path, because she will care about their behavior and their relationship with God, and if she thinks that Jesus believes a swat makes them better people then that will be difficult to fight. Sometimes people need to believe their parents were good people and so they believe their parents did the right thing, including hitting. We can still believe our parents are good and parent differently than they did.

If you are willing to be the disciplinarian in the house then you can change her mind by doing things your way, and she will see how it works. I have told the story many times of a woman I know who taught school in MS and then moved to MO and she was very impressed that detention seemed to work just as well as corporal punishment. Before moving to MO she just though corporal punishment was the way to go for disciplining students and now she thinks differently by spending so much time with people who don’t agree and seeing the results.

Hopefully, your children will be well behaved overall and the issue won’t come up often. If you have the attitude of fostering respect, they will want to please you, and will respond to your tone as you mention, and when they are old enough to understand why a rule or behavior is unacceptible then when you explain why they will care about what is right and wrong and change their behavior themselves.

I don’t know how often and readily she thinks spanking should be done. I know people who spank their kids all day long on their hands. They kid reach for something they shouldn’t and the parents slaps the child’s hand then the kid acts up a little in a store and the parent swats their butt, and on and on. It can be constant. I know parents who only use corporal punishment for severe infraction in fear of the child’s safet, and it mihgt happen only 2 times while growing up, but the child has the threat of being hit looming.

I feel for you. I can’t imagine having my spouse disagree with me on something like this. It would be very upsetting to me.

I know you will be bothered if she does spank your child. Will she be frustrated if you don’t? Will she feel like you are not doing your part, not helping her with the kids, not being a good father? That you are actually causing harm by not physically disciplining them? I think it’s a possibility, so you might want to dig deeper with her and see exactly why she believes what she does and why.

I don’t think you have to be on the same page as your wife on the issue. I think it would be best if you are, and I hope your wife comes around, but if she doesn’t the kids will learn how you react to bad behavior and how she does, and both reactions will be to deter bad behavior and encourage good behavior, and that will just be how their home is. Unless one of you can’t stand to watch each other parent as you do, then you have a marriage relationship issue that could be a real problem.

ragingloli's avatar

Tell them, if they want to spank your children, they must be spanked as well.
christian domestic discipline style

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli I liked your answer so I googled and tons of stuff came up. Here is one short article if you or anyone is interested. I don’t know if the OP and his wife are practicing Christians, but I did used to know a man who told me that in his church they were advised to hit their wives. He wound up leaving that church eventually.

canidmajor's avatar

Have you discussed with your wife what she means by “spanking”? The word has such a broad meaning now, everything from a beating to swatting a child’s hand away from a hot stove. There are so many shades of grey that you need to define exactly what each of you means.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

there is still some debate Your mil does not get a say in this but it sounds like your wife is using her for backup. I personally don’t have a problem spanking as a last resort. I doubt there are lasting long-term effects from a few mild spankings in a childs life. I do think it’s much better if you can find a way around it.

hearkat's avatar

I agree that it is absolutely crucial that both parents use a consistent approach to parenting. Even if one does something that the other does not agree with, that disagreement should never be discussed within earshot of the child. They do catch every inconsistency and learn to play parents against each other from a very early age. Presenting a unified front is key.

As many have noted, physical discipline can be defined in many ways, from swatting the hand to beating with a switch, as in the recent pro-athlete controversy. Many have also noted that there is no one technique that is effective for ALL children, so if you have more than one child, the methods might need modification.

In my experience, I had to learn to separate my emotions from discipline. I reacted to each infraction as though it was a reflection on me being a bad parent, and I took it out on the kid. I also took my frustration of him repeating the same bad behaviors out on him – but it just meant that my disciplinary method was ineffective.

When my son was in elementary school, someone introduced me to the program called “1–2–3 Magic” which taught me a way to approach parenting like the job it is, and to be objective about the process. This made a big difference for us, and I wished I had learned it when he was a toddler.

Another important tactic is prevention of the bad behaviors by teaching the desired behavior. For example, if you want your kids to clean up after themselves as teenagers, it starts by teaching them that as early as possible. When they want to start a new activity, say, “OK, let’s put all this away first.” We even put our son’s stuff in a closet where he couldn’t get it until we saw that the other stuff was cleaned up first. Being true role-models of the desired behavior is also absolutely key. “Do as I say, not as I do,” never works.

Another key to managing behavior is to predict what issues might arise, and taking steps to prevent them or having means to distract or redirect attention. Examples are eating a meal or healthy snack before going to the store; bringing quiet activities with you when going to the Doctor’s so they’ll have something to do in the waiting room instead of terrorizing the other patients and staff; etc.

Developing a proactive “behavior management plan” will hopefully help prevent the need for the reactive discipline of time-outs (which are also controversial) and physical punishment. See if presenting this proactive vs. reactive approach might help shift your wife’s perspective.

johnpowell's avatar

My parents never spanked me and now I know how to fix your computer. I turned out cool without a spank.

That said.. I did a lot of babysitting for my sisters twin girls. When they were asses I made them crawl under their beds for around 5 minutes. Claustrophobia runs in the family.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@johnpowell My parents spanked me and now I design microcomputers.

It depends on the situation and what works for the child

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jca's avatar

Do you have kids or are you planning to have kids?

I ask because if you do not have kids and are not planning to have them, then it’s not really an issue.

gailcalled's avatar

^^ OP has a little boy, 2 or 3 years old.

jca's avatar

@hearkat: Swatting with a hand is technically not child abuse as long as it does not leave marks (open hand). Hitting with a switch or any other object, whether it leaves marks or not, is child abuse (at least in NYS it is).

I am not saying hitting with a hand is acceptable, I’m just trying to clarify your statement.

hearkat's avatar

@jca – I never used the word “abuse”; I used the phrase “physical discipline”, which is what the OP also used; so I don't know why you directed that comment to me.

We aren’t discussing the legal definitions of child abuse; and some of us are trying to get some clarification from the OP as to what degree of “physical discipline” his wife might deem acceptable.

jca's avatar

@hearkat: I didn’t say you did anything. I said I was clarifying your post. That’s all.

kritiper's avatar

Give in. Spanking is an appropriate punishment if not overdone. It should begin early in life, applied with a rolled-up newspaper. By the time the child realizes that it doesn’t hurt, the point will have already been made and thus programmed into their little brains.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I know a young couple who doesn’t believe in spankings OR timeout. As a result, when the kid pushes them to their limit, there is a lot of yelling and screaming, which results in a lot of yelling and screaming on the part of the kids. The mother will often resort to violence in another way, like yanking the kids arm and shoving and screaming. But…they don’t spank.

When I was young, my girlfriend and I discussed spankings. She said she would never spank her kids. As far as I know, she never did. But I did see her slap the shit out of her son once, when he was about 8. I don’t consider that a spanking. It’s abuse, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m with @canidmajor on the fact that there are so many shades of grey as to what constitutes a “spanking.” Violently yanking the arm isn’t spanking, but it IS violent. Far more violent than any calmly administered spanking.

Screaming is another form of violence, and can have a lasting negative effect on the kid, too.

It’s all about consistency and calmness.

Can you tell us what your wife’s idea of spanking is, and under what circumstances she’d administer one? Would there be any formality about it or would she just haul off and whang the kid?

longgone's avatar

Good for you. Stay strong on this. While most of the US may not be with you, a huge part of the world is.

I’d suggest reading something by either A. S. Neill or, for a more contemporary view, Jesper Juul. Their comments on physical punishments may help you convince your wife.

Has your son been hurt at all, up to now?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Can you tell us what your wife’s idea of spanking is, and under what circumstances she’d administer one? Would there be any formality about it or would she just haul off and whang the kid?

tinyfaery's avatar

As an abused child all grown up, I can tell you 100% spanking does not work in the long run. It might stop your child immediately, but the inner abuse last forever.

You should have talked about this before having a child. To me this is a situation that could lead to divorce. I recommend counseling. Don’t succumb. Your child needs to know that no matter what, his/her parents would never hurt them.

canidmajor's avatar

That ^ right there is why the definition of “spank” is so important. I was raised by strict ‘50s parents and spanking occurred from time to time. I never considered myself abused, the effects didn’t linger, rage wasn’t involved, there really wasn’t an angst component. I was never afraid of the parent who spanked and I always knew why it happened. It didn’t teach me to react with violence, I didn’t spank my own children, I used alternative methods.
That said, I did slap the hands of the two-year olds away from the hot stove, the strange dog, the sharp thing. My children are grown now, and I see no indication that they carry any scars from that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was spanked. I don’t feel abused. My mother screaming at me, and saying rude, hurtful things is what stuck with me. She never spanked me, though. We always had to wait until Dad came home. That was the worst part of the deal.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@pleiades Here’s a list of common arguments for spanking children. Most of them have actually been used in this thread, which I guess is either amusing or worrying, depending on your perspective. Perhaps some of the responses will resonate with your wife. Good luck.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@dappled_leaves That looks suspiciously like propaganda to me. I simply do not get how some people can classify it as abuse. It sure does not resemble abuse when done properly and for proper reasons. In the end I think it falls into “what’s best for the particular child” It’s up to the parents to decide what is best and only if it crosses over to abuse is it anyone’s business. It’s between @pleiades and his wife. If they disagree with each other then they need to get it resolved quickly before the time comes and the child is confused or worse on to the discrepencies between mommy and daddy.. At that point nothing is going to work well if the child is unruly. I don’t think this is a yeah or nay thread but one on how to get the issue resolved between parties.

canidmajor's avatar

Oh, dear, this seems to be turning into a debate about spanking/not spanking. @pleiades, I hope you can sort through all of this and maybe find something helpful in resolving the dilemma initially stated in your Q.
If your wife and her mother are close, all of this will, ultimately, involve your MIL as well, having a general family understanding of what this issue entails is crucial.

I wish for you all the best in working this out.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I do hope they can come to a compromise of some kind. If there is continued disagreement I pray it doesn’t come out in front of the child.

I wish I knew more about the temperaments of the people involved. Is your wife or MIL hot tempered? Are they prone to just lashing out in the heat of the moment? If so, I’d definitely be with you on the no spanking thing.

Also, was there a specific incident that prompted this discussion?

Someone said the child is 4 or 5? I didn’t spank my kids after that age because I’d learned other methods of behavior modification in teacher school.

whitenoise's avatar

You can always emigrate to a more advanced country, where parental corporal punishment is forbiden by law.

You could choose from a lot of European countries, for instance.

gailcalled's avatar

“I did slap the hands of the two-year olds away from the hot stove, the strange dog, the sharp thing.”

This is acceptable (usually because it is reflexive) but otherwise, i cannot imagine striking a 2-year old under any circumstances.

hominid's avatar

This is a tough situation. I feel for you.

It’s one thing to say that you should have discussed this with your spouse before having children. But the fact is – you didn’t. So now what?

We can all offer our own opinions or provide you links to the medical literature. But whatever you do will likely be very challenging.

I’ll offer my perspective. I am completely opposed to corporal punishment. There is no gray area. None. Hitting your wife gently so that she won’t disobey you again is hitting your wife. And it should be illegal. Hitting your child gently is also unacceptable. I actually feel that it is worse. Yes, hitting a child is worse than hitting your wife. Why? Because children are completely helpless and under your care. You are also interacting with them at critical development stages. Teaching them to hit and betraying their trust is really disgusting.

If my wife ever hit one of my kids, I would call the police and get a lawyer immediately. I wouldn’t let my wife hit my kids any more than I would allow my neighbor to hit my kids or my wife.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sorry, but comparing wives to children just doesn’t fly, IMO. You have no responsibility to instill any sense of right and wrong into your wife. She’s an adult, and she is what she is.

Like, “You wouldn’t put your wife in time out, so you shouldn’t do it to your kids!” or “You wouldn’t take away the computer from your wife for a week, so you shouldn’t do it to your kids!”

You also wouldn’t get a babysitter for your wife when you go out of town.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Whoa, comparing spanking to beating your wife. Give me a break, that’s not even in the same universe.

longgone's avatar

^ “Comparing spanking to beating your wife.”

@hominid‘s comparison is perfectly valid. His “hitting gently” is even making the distinction you find so helpful – “beating” vs. “spanking”.

@Dutchess_III If you tried accepting children as people, as opposed to considering them “people-to-be”, you’d be surprised how seldom they need anyone to “instill a sense of right and wrong”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Don’t get condescending with me @longgone. You have no idea how I viewed my children or my grandkids now.

I don’t believe they are born with a sense of right or wrong because that can vary so widely in different cultures.
They aren’t born with a sense of what’s dangerous and what isn’t because that too can vary.
The only thing they are born with is a sense of self preservation.
That’s why a toddler will take another toddlers toy away.
That is why some toddlers bite other toddlers.
That is why a toddler would run out into the street.
That is why a toddler would stick something in an outlet.

Parents and family and society determine a kid’s values when they are very young. Either it’s done with love and thoughtfulness, as @pleiades is trying to do, or it’s done with thoughtlessness and immaturity. Either way, they end up with some set of values, for better or worse.

Feral Children

pleiades's avatar

I’m leaning on going the route of asking about statistical outcomes with the behavioral therapist while my wife is present in the room of course!

longgone's avatar

@Dutchess_III Hm. Not sure why you’re arguing with me. You very obviously consider children unfinished, in need of being taught. This is not unusual, and you don’t even deny it… You simply don’t agree with my saying so. Why is that?

Your link is very confusing to me, too. I am not advocating letting children grow up without adults.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Of course they’re in need of being taught! My kids don’t automatically know how to behave, in, say, Iraq.

Why would you think they don’t need to be taught and guided? We teach them how to talk. We encourage them to walk. We teach them not to take. We teach them to share. These are not things they’d do on their own, except walking, and even that can be a problem in a severely abused child.

My link just proves what happens to a child who grows up in a void. Your argument seems to be that we don’t have to do much of anything to wind up with a good kid. Simply not true. Whether you know it or not, you are teaching them, everyday.

A feral child (also called wild child) is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has no (or little) experience of human care, loving or social behavior, and crucially, of human language. Feral children lack the basic social skills that are normally learned in the process of enculturation. For example, they may be unable to learn to use a toilet, have trouble learning to walk upright after walking on fours all their life, and display a complete lack of interest in the human activity around them. They often seem mentally impaired and have almost insurmountable trouble learning a human language.

So what is the difference between a feral child and a normal child? Teaching and instruction in very early years

longgone's avatar

@Dutchess_III This is going way off topic, and I just realized we’re in general. Very quickly: I am all for children learning. Learning can happen without active teaching. I am against adults “teaching” anything using punishment. Our views are polar opposites, so we probably won’t agree.

“So what is the difference between a feral child and a normal child? Teaching and instruction in very early years.”

Actually – as per your link – , the difference seems to be the presence of “human care, loving or social behavior, and crucially, of human language.”

Adagio's avatar

@pleiades “Just so you know, parents can agree to want to raise kids and be loving parents without discussing every single freaking life phase and in betweens bullet by bullet. We’re human, not robots on paper.” As a parent myself I’m well aware that couples often don’t discuss the details of parenting before it happens, I don’t remember if my husband and I had that specific discussion, but my daughter was born 28 years ago and people are more aware and inclined to discuss things these days, my question about discussing the issue with your wife was a simple one and implied nothing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, my ex and I didn’t discuss it before hand. During the marriage I got frustrated over his yelling and told him he had to put more thought into his parenting.
He said, and I kid you not, “Parenting isn’t something you think about, it’s something you just do.”
In the end, I raised the kids by myself, so it was probably for the best.

jca's avatar

I think your wife and in-laws were probably raised with corporal punishment, so logical arguments, statistics, etc. are not likely to sway them. IMHO, people who were raised with corporal punishment often justify by saying “I was hit when I was a kid and it didn’t affect me. Look at me! I’m ok.” I think you’re in a spot because you’re up against two people, one being the child’s mother, and as long as her doling out of punishments are not too aggressive, she’s doing nothing wrong legally (so calling the police on her, as someone suggested, is not likely to be helpful).

Perhaps a therapist may help you both find some common ground here.

gailcalled's avatar

@pleiades:the behavioral therapist while my wife is present in the room of course! You have an impartial mediator in your therapist. Use him…with you both present, of course. Your wife may listen more carefully to an authoritative voice, who is billing you, than to you.

Cupcake's avatar

I only skimmed… so sorry if this is a repeat.

I would make it clear with your wife and mother-in-law that discipline will be managed between parents and she is to never use physical discipline with your child. Ever.

If your child will ever be left alone in her care, she must be on-board with whatever guidance you give her about discipline.

I’m glad you will discuss with your therapist and wife. Sounds like a very reasonable approach.

jca's avatar

@Cupcake: But what should the OP do if the mother and MIL refuse to be on board with the OP’s not wanting to use corporal punishment?

Cupcake's avatar

The MIL may not refuse to be on board.

Even if I would “allow” my husband to spank if I was completely opposed… his mother would never lay a hand on my kid and see the kid again. Period.

The hardest part is dealing with a spouse who has different parenting values because they are the child’s parent. The MIL is not a parent and may not spank.

Just my opinion, obviously.

jca's avatar

@Cupcake: Yes, I didn’t mean that the MIL would spank, I meant that the MIL would back up the daughter’s (mother of the child) opinions on corporal punishment. So the OP could demand that his wife be on board with his attitude on corporal punishment but still be up against a brick wall.

Dutchess_III's avatar

(I got spanked by my friend’s mom once. I was totally outraged because I HADN’T DONE THE DEED! Her daughter did. That’s all I really remember about that, being SO MAD because I was INNOCENT!)

Cupcake's avatar

@jca Well, I don’t believe in making demands of my spouse… but I get what you’re saying. They both need to be on board. They need to make rules for themselves and for each other. My point, though, is that they need to make a rule about the MIL.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Raising a responsible kid CAN be done without the use of corporeal punishment. She needs to know that. It takes more time and a lot of consistency. But from your description your wife would be issuing “gentle” spankings. I just don’t see how that can hurt anything.

longgone's avatar

^ “Raising a responsible kid CAN be done without the use of corporeal punishment. [...] It takes more time.”

Source, please?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Logic will tell you that, @longgone. A swat is immediate and you’re done. To do other things, such as reasoning or discussing or grounding or whatever, takes longer. But it’s worth it.

But I shall search for something concrete to show you.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Here is this from the American Psychological Association.

Very last line reads, “Part of the problem is good discipline isn’t quick or easy,” she says. “Even the best of us parents don’t always have that kind of patience.””

longgone's avatar

^ “A swat is immediate and you’re done.”

This sentence is confusing me. Do you mean to say that just one swat will eradicate a certain behaviour?

Thank you for the article, and for the quote. I couldn’t find any research to back it up, but you’re typing – so that may change.

Dutchess_III's avatar

One time, on the playground at recess, a couple of boys got into a scrap and came running over to me to tattle on each other.
I stopped them and said, “OK, here is the deal. I want you to go stand on that wall over there until you figure out how this problem was caused and what you should have done differently. When you have it figured out you can come back to me with your solution. You don’t have to even get my permission to come off the wall. If you figure it out in 10 seconds, you’ll be back at recess in 10 seconds. If you still haven’t figured it out by the end of recess, we’ll start all over tomorrow at recess.”
So they walked away in earnest conversation. By the time they got to the wall, about 10 seconds, they had it all figured out. They both hit the wall at the same time, as a token of standing at the wall, and bounced right off it, and came back to me.”
“OK, I said. “What was the problem?”
Kevin says, “Well, I hit George.”
George says, “So I threw sand at him.”
“OK, what could you have done differently?”
Kevin says, “Well, shouldn’t have hit George. I should have tried talking to him.”
I said, “George, say he hit you anyway. What should you have done differently?”
George said, “Well, I should have just come and told you instead of throwing sand.”
“Very good! Now, you have two choices. Either you can kiss and make up, or shake hands.”
That got them giggling. They quickly shook hands and were best of buddies once again.

Took a long time! But it really is better than swatting. Of course, as a teacher, I wasn’t allowed to swat anyway.

longgone's avatar

^ Interesting. How come you tried that?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@longgone Might take a couple or three of swats over a period of time for the same offense (such as running out into the street,) but yes. It will eradicate the bad behavior.

Why did I try that? It’s what I learned in teacher school. I was just really, really good at it. It’s all about giving kids choices.

Another example, there was a kid who wanted to throw a wad of paper into the wastebasket from his desk. I said, ‘Fred! Tell you what. You can throw that. If you make it, good for you. If you miss you have to stay after for a few minutes and help me straighten the classroom.”
He considered his choices…and took the shot. He missed.
I said, “Nice! Now I’ll have someone to keep me company!”

Dutchess_III's avatar

After learning that form of behavior modification I never spanked my kids again. They were given time out, or, depending on the infraction, those same kind of choices.

JLeslie's avatar

@longgone I don’t know the actual statistic, but I don’t think most of the US employs corporal punishment to discipline their children. I think enough still do that it is worth noting and hard to ignore, but most people I know out in real life don’t do it. The exception is my friends from the south (part of our bible belt) they tend to think it is ok and I find it stunning. Even I can understand a fast reaction when a child might be in immediate danger, although I prefer it be handled a different way, but the actual well thought out spanking as punishment I just don’t understand. It would have to be some unique unlikely circumstance for me to understand.

ragingloli's avatar

morality based on a fear of punishment is not true morality.

longgone's avatar

@JLeslie That’s nice to hear.

@Dutchess_III Well, I guess we’re talking past each other. For me, parenting is not about eradicating behaviour.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What kind of spankings does your friend administer? Is it rough and mean? Or like, when I was a kid. My Dad was the designated spanker. Sometimes we had to wait in our rooms for half a day before he got home from work. Just the thought of getting a spanking was awful. Then, after the spanking, we had to go back to our rooms to think about whatever.

One day, when I was about 11, I realized….it doesn’t even hurt. Not even a little bit. So I didn’t cry. I just walked out of the room in dead silence and, with a whole lot of attitude, leaned on the door jamb of my bedroom door, in lieu of actually going in my room. After the required 5 minutes I said, stonily, “May I come out now.”

i never got another spanking.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@longgone So running into the street or sticking things in a light socket are not behaviors you would want to eradicate?

hominid's avatar

I don’t mean to be that guy, but this is far off topic. We’re discussing spanking rather than the OP’s situation (which is in “general”). While I’d love to re-visit this again~, I think it might be best to start another thread.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s absolutely true, @ragingloli. Up to about the age of 5, kids don’t do certain things because they’re afraid of getting in trouble. That’s called “external control.”
After that, you want them to understand for themselves why it’s wrong. That’s “internal control.” Some kids never do understand it, and grow up to be adults with a bad moral compass. Lot’s of folks who are in jail never developed any internal control.

You can tell how mature a person is by asking them one simple question: “Would you every steal a car, and why or why not.”
If they answer “Cause I’ll go to jail,” it’s time to leave.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@hominid I think we’re continuing to give the OP some ideas, maybe some arguments he can use.

longgone's avatar

@hominid You’re right. I’ve tried to shut up several times.

@Dutchess_III If the thread isn’t moved, lots of this will get modded. If you like, I’ll start a new thread. Any idea what our question would be, though?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t think it should ALL be modded. i still think many of the answers are useful.

hominid's avatar

@Dutchess_III: ”@hominid I think we’re continuing to give the OP some ideas, maybe some arguments he can use.”

Remember, he has already decided how he feels about hitting people. He’s trying to figure out a challenging parenting problem (that also involves his MIL).

@pleiades: “Anyways, how do I get them on the same page as me?”

As tempting as it may be to give anecdote after anecdote about some kid that was hit but turned out fine, I think it’s drifted fairly far.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But I think I gave him some concrete “For examples,” that he could use. OK. I need to find the official link to what what they taught us in teacher school. It’s named after some guy. BRB.

@hominid All my examples were ways that I handled situations without physical discipline.

Dutchess_III's avatar

This looks pretty good.

Dutchess_III's avatar

From this article.
Encourage him to explore consequences to decisions.

“Ok, Fred. You chose to hit Mary. What did you hope would happen by hitting her? But what actually happened? What would have been a better way to handle it? Think about that next time you feel like hitting someone because you’re frustrated.”

JLeslie's avatar

@pleiades Let us know how it progresses. I wish you success.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@hominid All my examples were ways that I handled situations without physical discipline.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I would try to change your wife’s opinion by first showing her that your discipline technique can work just as well, if not more effectively than her spanking technique. Explain why you are so against spanking and come prepared with statistics to back you up. If she is still unwilling to change her ways, try counseling. Maybe a neutral mediator will help her be more open minded.

muppetish's avatar

[mod says] This question has been relocated to the Social section from General with the OP’s permission.

pleiades's avatar

Thanks everyone! I have an opportunity this weekend to discuss it when therapist is here. These answers are great and come from all walks of life so I didn’t think it was a problem at all for the request to be moved to social. :)

Seaofclouds's avatar

@pleiades Do you know for sure your therapist feels the same way you do? I only ask because if that is your plan for changing your wife’s plan for raising your children, you want to be sure they are going to say what you want them to say. What will you do if your therapist says it’s okay to spank sometimes? I’m not trying to put a kink in your plan, just make sure you have thought about it completely.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Seaofclouds “What will you do if your therapist says it’s okay to spank sometimes?”

Is that even possible? Good grief, what passes for therapy these days?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sure it’s possible.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@dappled_leaves Yes, it is possible. There are still those in the medical community that feel spanking has a place. They are the minority and don’t speak out much due to concern about their public image, but they are still out there. Here’s one article where a pediatrician states he believes others agree with him but are too intimidated to say so. While we have a pretty large consensus here about spanking, there are still a lot of people that spank their children. Here are a few recent survery/polls with some numbers of parents that still spank. Yes, spanking is on a decline, but it is still out there and there are those that support it. Our family doctor has never once told us we should not spank our children when we have discussed how we discipline our children.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Seaofclouds Well, public support is meaningless. You still haven’t shown any examples of therapists advocating spanking.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@dappled_leaves I don’t have time to sit and look for a published article that states a therapist will support spanking. My comment to @pleiades was simply to make sure the therapist will say what he wants them to say so his isn’t surprised but something unexpected. I cannot show proof of personal conversations I have had with professionals that still support spanking. Public support may be meaningless. My point was simply that a private conversation between the therapist and these two parents may not come with a strict, no spanking point of view and that @pleiades should be aware of what his therapist’s position is before he puts the therapist on the spot expecting him/her to tell his wife that he should not spank.

hominid's avatar

@dappled_leaves – Unfortunately, I suspect it is possible – just like there are “scientists” who reject evolution or climate change. It’s important, however, to point out that medical associations oppose spanking.

If @pleiades ends up stumbling across a therapist that rejects the literature on the negative effects of corporal punishments on children, I doubt s/he would be much help in helping to negotiate the family struggle that he is going through.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@hominid…you never responded to my PM. Did you go back and read the examples I posted of how to discipline without corporal punishment? Those were the examples I hoped would stay if this got modded.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Seaofclouds I get it, I just don’t know why you wouldn’t say “I’ve spoken to therapists who advocate spanking” to support your point (which you now seem to be saying that you have), rather than post non-sequitur links. Everyone knows that a lot of Americans support spanking. One can just read this thread to see that.

@hominid Exactly – it should be an exceedingly rare thing for a therapist to support it. That’s all I was saying.

canidmajor's avatar

@dappled_leaves: “Everyone knows that a lot of Americans support spanking. One can just read this thread to see that.”. Are we reading the same thread? I only see one person that supports spanking here (unless I missed something). I see a few people who say they (we) weren’t damaged by spanking, but we also said we didn’t spank.
What did I miss?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@canidmajor Well, five GAs on this comment will do for a start, but several of the people commenting here are advocating hitting on some part of the spectrum from light to hard, yourself included.

canidmajor's avatar

I advocated a quick reaction to save a young child from a serious injury. Standing a few feet away explaining the ramifications of touching an open flame tends not to have such a positive outcome.
As an adult I have had another adult slap my hand away from something that I didn’t know was hot. I appreciated their intervention.
You likening that to “hitting on some part of the spectrum…” Is silly.

ragingloli's avatar

let them burn their hand. It will heal, and it will be the one and only time they touch something hot. If you just slap their hands away, they will try again.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@canidmajor I have no idea why you are picking a fight with me. I didn’t initiate a conversation with you about this.

hominid's avatar

@canidmajor – I think @dappled_leaves“advocating hitting on some part of the spectrum” is fairly accurate from what I can see. Here’s a quick sampling from the top part of this thread:

- “Just my opinion, but a lot of it depends on the personality of the child. Some kids simply don’t respond to spanking.”

- “If any type of physical discipline is used, it’s extremely important that it not be done merely to relieve frustration on the part of the parent.”

- “Sometimes a quick swat on the bottom to prevent a pre-verbal toddler from electrocuting himself putting his finger in the outlet, does serve its purpose.”

- “Spank appropriately for the age.”

- “Have you discussed with your wife what she means by “spanking”? The word has such a broad meaning now, everything from a beating to swatting a child’s hand away from a hot stove. There are so many shades of grey that you need to define exactly what each of you means.”

- “I personally don’t have a problem spanking as a last resort. I doubt there are lasting long-term effects from a few mild spankings in a childs life.”

- “Give in. Spanking is an appropriate punishment if not overdone. It should begin early in life, applied with a rolled-up newspaper”.”

- “I’m with @canidmajor on the fact that there are so many shades of grey as to what constitutes a “spanking.””

- “In the end I think it falls into “what’s best for the particular child” It’s up to the parents to decide what is best and only if it crosses over to abuse is it anyone’s business.”

canidmajor's avatar

@hominid Your 4th, 6th and 7th quotes are the only ones advocating spanking.

@dappled_leaves: I was asking for clarification as I didn’t see your point.

I still maintain that a definition of spanking is important. You two obviously believe that the swatting-as-immediate-injury-prevention-technique constitutes “spanking”. I, and apparently some others don’t.

@pleiades: I hope you can work out this dilemma. Good luck.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@canidmajor Kindly refrain from calling me “silly” when asking for clarification. Thanks.

And though I completely disagree with this statement: “Your 4th, 6th and 7th quotes are the only ones advocating spanking”, at least it helps me understand why you didn’t understand my comment.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The same friend that said she’d never spank a child decided that the appropriate response to her toddler going out into the street was to “spank” the top of his feet. I didn’t think that would have much impact, especially concerning something so serious.

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