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To Spank, Or Not to Spank, Part 3

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Five Moms, five discipline techniques... a three-part series.


One day in the Mom•Logic offices, we got to talking about discipline. Each Mom had a different technique—some spanked, some gave time-outs, some yelled, some threatened. (One Mom even admitted she did all of the above!) The only common thread was that we all wondered if our way was the right way, and were constantly questioning our discipline choices. We decided to ask five of our favorite Mom-bloggers to weigh in on the subject of discipline. Their responses were enlightening, and as varied, as the women themselves.

Today, we hear from Rebecca Barry, The Main St. Diaries:

"Liam has been a little defiant lately. It started a few weeks ago when he started yelling at me. I know this is my fault—I yell at him a lot. I don’t mean to, but he’s a speedy kid and so a lot of times I have to act quickly. Like, “Don’t jump off of that, DON’T JUMP!


(I do think mothers of boys do this more than mothers of girls. I was at the municipal pool the other day and the girls were all playing by the rules, but the boys were running around screaming and jumping in the lap lanes. It wasn’t like they meant to be bad, necessarily, they just had to be told no to everything at least three times. The lifeguard, a frazzled looking 16-year-old girl in impossibly short shorts would say, "Don't jump in the lap lanes," and they'd say okay, and then three minutes later they'd swim into the lap lane and she'd say, "Get out of the lap lane!" and they'd say okay, and then two minutes later they'd push each other back into the lap lane until she screamed, "DON'T JUMP ON THE WOMAN IN THE LAP LANE OR I”LL KICK YOUR LITTLE BUTTS OUT OF HERE!" at which point they burst into hysterics because she said the word “Butt,” and jumped back into the lap lane.)

Anyway, lately Liam had started yelling back at me, so I brought this up at the meeting with our Montessori school teacher. She suggested (in the nicest way) that a) I stop yelling at my son, and b) that we try a technique she knew of, where you connect with the child’s feelings, then set a boundary, and then try to come up with another way for them to express their feelings that doesn't overstep said boundary.

In other words, I was to say, “I hear that you feel angry right now. But it’s not okay to yell at Mommy/hit your brother/pour water on the cat. Maybe we can figure out a better thing for you to do the next time you feel frustrated like that.”

So we’ve been working on it, and I think it’s working all right. I often find myself at a loss for the thing to do the next time, but it was at least getting him to calm down.

Then the other day I let him stay home from school because he was a little sick, but it was on the condition that he play quietly for an hour and a half while I worked. And he was really good for about an hour and fifteen minutes, but then he kept climbing up on a child-sized chair and knocking it over. He did it three or four times, the chair crashing to the floor, him falling off it, until I finally yelled, “Liam, STOP that!!!”

“DON’T YELL AT ME, MOMMY!” he said.

I felt bad then, because he was right, I shouldn’t have yelled at him. He’d been really good all morning, and it wasn’t his fault I had too much to do.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you. But you need to settle down.”

Liam looked at me and then looked back at his chair.

“Maybe you can come up with a better way to talk to me when you’re mad,” he said slyly.

I didn’t know what to do with my face. I mean, on the one hand it was so funny. On the other hand, it was terrifying.

“For instance,” he said, “You could say, ‘Oh, Liam, I’m so sorry you fell! Are you all right?’ That’s what you could say when you get mad.”

(Only because of the way he talks, it went like: “Fow instance, you could say, ‘Oh, Wiam, I’m so sowwy you fewl. Aw you awwight?’”)

What could I say? He had me over a barrel. The real question is, what are you supposed to do when they’re smarter than you are? And that will probably make some very rich in the next few months.

So, this sums up our How We Discipline Roundup... At Mom•Logic, we think each Mom has to use trial and error to find out what works (or doesn't) for her kid. As for us, we're still experimenting to find that magic formula that will transform our rowdy, sometimes bratty, kids into obedient little angels. C'mon, help a Mother out: What's your discipline style?

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