Act #264: Teach consequences.
You are well into the first grade and you probably didn't even notice that I've never once spanked you. Not even during those terrible fours. I typically don't feel a need to talk about or preach this to the world, because this really has always been between me and you. Another thing you probably didn't know, is that I was spanked as a child. Alot. You're probably not too terribly surprised that I pushed some limits, even at an early age. Of course I love my parents, your grandparents, and looking back, I respect and am thankful for the parenting choices they made with the tools they had at the time.
I'm writing to you today because I thought you should know exactly why I chose not to discipline you with corporal punishment. I didn't want you to think it was because I was some sort of liberal, hippie parent. Or because I had an advanced degree in counseling. Or because I worked in the anti-violence movement. I chose not to spank you simply because I didn't have to. Now don't go off getting too big of a head. We both know you're no saint and that you've been known to push a few boundaries yourself. But each time you did, there seemed to be an easier, less volatile way for us to resolve the matter. Like the time you threw a temper tantrum at TJ Maxx (why on earth would anyone display toys in a pile at toddler-reach?) Ah, those terrible four's. I guess I could have spanked you so you would remember never to do it again. But it was so much easier to pick you up, remove your newly developing little mind from the lure of the colorful, shiny toys and show you the consequences of your hissy fit. A consequence simple enough for even you to comprehend: crying for toys equals no toys. That was the only temper tantrum you ever threw in your entire life.
And remember those few weeks of the terrible fours that you became disrespectful towards your grandmother? You began pushing her and blatantly disobeying her? I guess I could have shown you how utterly disappointed I was by spanking you. Maybe I should have let you feel physical pain so that you might consider not hurting others. But instead your grandmother and I put our heads together and worked up a plan to nix this issue head on. She would firmly tell you to stop every time you pushed her. She would tell you that it made her sad. And if you refused to turn off the television after your half-hour show was over, you wouldn't get to watch it again for the rest of the week. Your grandmother would report every incident to me and when you got home, you had to deal with even more consequences. I would reaffirm that you did indeed hurt your grandmother, and I would ask you if you'd rather be placed in a public daycare facility. Because if you wanted to stay with your grandmother, you would have to treat her with the same kindness she extended to you. That was how the world worked best. The pushing and disobeying stopped after about two weeks and these days you just can't get enough of your grandmother!
And here you are, six years old, and such a well-mannered, respectful first-grader you are...for the most part. And I wanted to thank you, for continuing to be the kind of kid who understands that in life, there are consequences. Even when you don't like them. Like just last week when you refused to pick up your action figures after I told you to at least three times. And I finally picked them up for you.....and I brought them to Goodwill. There are a million reasons why parents reject spanking - the argument that corporate punishment actually teaches violence, the studies that show that it isn't really effective in reducing "bad" behavior, the fear that kids will never really understand the consequences of their actions, if they are always spanked away. These are not the reasons I choose not to spank you. I simply don't spank you because I don't have to. Because there always seems to be a better way that works for us. Because when you are able to see the actual consequences of your choices: crying for toys = no toys; pushing = sad grandma; not turning the television off = no television; not picking up toys = toys going to someone who will.........it seems to really sink in for you. Thank you for getting that. In exchange for your cooperation and understanding, I promise to always remember that you are still a little guy, who's testing your boundaries and perpetually trying to figure out the extent of your own power. And that in this big, scary, unpredictable world, you can always count on at least one person to never lay a hand on you.