Thursday, April 16, 2015

We Don’t Hit

This week Huffington Post ran an older post of mine about a fit that Duchess threw in the parking lot of her daycare. For the most part it was well received. The post was actually a year old when they ran it, and it was incredibly interesting to read the comments, most which fairly assumed the fit was recent. From my experience the first time I ran the post about the fit, I knew that some commenters would remark that I should have immediately spanked my daughter. What was new this time around was the extent to which they suggested it. Some even suggested that I should have spanked her so hard that she “couldn't walk for a week,” which I am fairly sure is illegal in every state.

A lot of folks told me that by not immediately hitting my daughter I was sending her down a bad path in life. One even said she would end up exactly like alt-rock singer, Courtney Love. Now leaving aside the fact that Love is a pretty talented and successful woman in spite of her struggles with addiction, I really don’t think that not hitting my child is going to set them on the path of becoming a drug-addicted musician. Now if I bought her an electric guitar and some heroin, that could be trouble.

But like I said. the post was a year old, and I was afforded the unique perspective of reading the comments while knowing this: my daughter hasn't hit her mom or I or anyone else (that I am aware of) since that incident. Sure, she had some struggles before that. I documented them well, which, if we are being honest, is much more likely to lead her down the path of female garage-rock-band lead singer than any ass-beatings I have failed to provide.

Here’s the thing. I've said this before and I will say it again. And again. And again… just like I do with my toddlers. We don’t hit.

Sure, we want to at times. And sure, it is probably effective. If I had taken my daughter and hit her hard enough to scare the daylights out of her the first time she slapped me or her mom, perhaps that would have immediately curbed that behavior and the daycare fit would have been prevented. But what folks don’t seem to understand, perhaps because I haven’t explained it well enough, is that curbing the behavior has always been a secondary or even tertiary goal to Stevie and I. Helping our children become emotionally healthy, teaching them to understand their emotions and be able to cope with them, those have always been our primary goals. We believe… we hope... that good behavior will come from teaching our kids empathy, not out of the fear of consequences for bad behavior.

It doesn’t always work right away, but seeing how my daughter behaves now and how she behaved then, makes me think that perhaps we are on the right track. Because now, when Captain whacks Duchess upside the head, you know what? She doesn't hit back. She looks at him and says. “We don’t hit, Captain.” Then he whacks her again and laughs. OK fine, It’s a slow process, but it is a process we believe in. It is what is right for our family.

Of course, as always, I could be totally wrong. We’re just winging this shit and pretending to know the answers. Maybe I’ll hold off buying her those toddler guitar lessons for now.

Thanks again for reading. I truly appreciate all of your feedback, even when you tell me I’m wrong. And if you spank your kids I don’t think you are horrible or that I am a better parent than you. We’re all finding our own way. Spanking is just not for us. Please come say hello on Facebook and Twitter!


  1. From the way you described the incident it sounds like you handled it perfectly. I have no idea how spanking a child who was unable to control her own emotional state could have helped matters. You did the right thing. Yes, I have spanked each of my kids, I'm not perfect, but I have done so when they were in imminent danger of death or injury, and needed to have an instant, extremely negative reinforcement of the activity...when they ran into the street or grabbed for the stove. But yes, we don't hit. You "hit" it right on the head.

  2. It's very refreshing to hear another parent speak out with this point of view. My wife and I made the decision with our daughter that we wouldn't discipline her with spanking. We took the view that she takes her cues for us, and if we deal with a situation that we are not happy about by hitting, then she'll learn to deal with things in the same way.

    I didn't share this point of view until a couple years ago when listening to a routine from a comedian that really stuck with me. Why is it that the only people in our society that we are allowed to hit are the most defenseless and most likely to be damaged by being hit? Why do people think its okay to hit someone 1/3 of their size who look to us for protection?

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  4. I've reached a point in life where I'm trying to find my own path. The post on the tantrum was the first "Ask Your Dad" post I read. It gave me a lot to think about. It was one of the first experiences I'd heard about a tantrum from the point of a view of a parent that doesn't spank. Or at least the first experience I chose not to completely write off because it didn't fit neatly into my world view. I'm begging to realize just because something has worked in the past doesn't mean it's the best way, and I always need to keep my eyes open for a better way.

  5. Every parent has the right to parent their own way BUT that right does not take away my child's right to be safe and unharmed when playing in the same playground as yours. While your son learns not to hit others and your daughter now happily laughs while being whacked by him, my child may not appreciate the little life lesson you are teaching your son. My children were never allowed to hit or hit back - so I would always say to the parent that I do not care which way you choose to discipline your children but they cannot 'whack' my kids' ever. If there was a physical altercation in the playground by an aggressive child I would ensure they could not get with two feet of my playing children. Discipline however and as little and as much as you choose but do not let your choices impact on the safety and well-being of someone else. Your right to choose does not lesson someone else's right.

    1. I think this is a really good point. Thanks for making it.

      I'm not saying that we don't discipline our children for hitting. We do. I'm saying we don't hit our children for hitting. If my child hit your child on the playground, there would be swift consequences. I would remove my child from the playground immediately, and we'd go home.

      The anecdote about my son whacking his sister upside the head was more to show that her reaction to a toddler being rough is not to be rough back. Worry not. My son is not running around the playground smacking kids upside the head. He prefers the slide.

  6. I love this. I'm actually working on a post on the same topic (partially inspired by your republished post and the comments on it... but mostly stemming from comments and conversations I've seen/had elsewhere on the topic). May I link to this post? I've been enjoying your blog very much since I discovered it recently. :-)

  7. I appreciate that you are able to take comments with a grain of salt and not let it get to you!

    I am a huge proponent of using positive behavior supports to prevent problem behavior.

    Check them out here: