In which I threaten a spanking

I only have two real rules in my house.

1. Respect.
2. Obedience.

And that pretty much covers EVERYTHING.

We’ve had some….ahem…discipline issues these past few weeks. Namely around bedtime. Our tinies share a bedroom and, despite previous success, Anne recently decided that she did NOT want to go to bed on time and what’s more, what she wanted to do was read her books, yell at Joe to “WAKE UP, JOEY!” after he’d finally fall asleep, turn on the light and generally be a hooligan.

After a few nights of 9 o’clock-and-the-tinies-are-still-up, I was, shall we say, LOSING MY EVER-LOVIN’ MIND.

I was frustrated because not only was she disobeying but she was doing it with a grin, like it was all a big game. I was frustrated because Annie is a good and obedient girl, quick to obey most of the time (certainly not all of the time….). I give her a lot of lee-way and try to remember that she is, in fact, two. Not ten. And still learning. But to see this escalating was making me sad and angry.

It seems so silly to say it made me angry. But it did.

It made me angry because Joe was the victim in this, often weeping with exhaustion because all the poor lad wanted was to just go to sleep, please, dear Jesus. And again, she’d turn the light on, holler at him and laugh hysterically at our repeated “GET IN THE BED NOW!”

It made me angry because I don’t like being disobeyed. There, I said it.

I prayed about it. Oh, I sought Jesus. Give me wisdom, I said.

I am dangerously close to spanking that child, I told the Creator of the Universe.

You see, Brian and I have made a commitment that we will not spank our children. There are a lot of reasons why we don’t spank. We have researched it and prayed about it. We made our decision and not lightly.

Yet, that being said….

It was the fourteenth time that I had stormed into her room to find her hanging off of Joe’s crib, laughing. Brian stood behind me. I got down on my knees, grabbed her arms and looked her in the eyes.

And very slowly, for emphasis, I said it:

“If you don’t stop getting out of your bed…..

….your Dad will spank you.”

And Brian gasped out loud as I tossed him under the bus.

She had no knowledge of spanking. I might as well have said “If you don’t stop getting out of your bed, we will bamboozle you.” for all the impact that the word “spanking” had on her.

Thankfully, she went to sleep right after that and we didn’t have to follow through. We had another emergency summit family meeting about corporal discipline. We prayed again. Because the thing is this: neither one of us will hit our children. Period.

So now what?

One of the main reasons we don’t spank is because we believe it teaches violence as a solution. And I see that Anne is a very literal mimic. She breastfeeds her Blankie. She carries her bears in a sling. She asks me to do something, pauses for effect and then, to the tone, states “RIGHT NOW!” just like I do, I’m sorry to say. She imitates everything.

During this week, she was playing in the hallway. I heard her yelling and slamming the door. She was putting her Minnie Mouse in the bed, stomping out of the door, slamming the door, then opening and yelling “MINNIE! STAY IN THAT BED!” Then she would do the whole thing over again.

Hello, Mirror, not so nice to see you.

I revisited our techniques. I realised we were being too wordy for her. I was yelling. I was losing my cool. I took some deep breaths. We had too many injectures: don’t get out of your bed, don’t bother your brother, don’t read your books, stay in your bed, if you get out again, we will take away your books, we will take away your bed, we will take away joe and make him sleep in our bed….. (You get the idea. A little verbose. Who me? Too wordy? Nevermind…)

And the greatest parenting advice I’ve ever received was from my mother via my grandmother: “No two year old is going to boss me.”

So we went back to basics. We got creative. We took a long-term view. We practiced during the day. I praised her good behaviour. We lavished quality time. We practicised some more. I got it down to three words: STAY IN BED.

And then I felt God tell me: REMEMBER THE BLANKIE.

You see, Annie loves this Blankie like it is family. She has slept with it every single night since she was born. It is tattered, grey and greatly beloved.

So at bedtime, I tell her: “Annie. If you get out of this bed, I will take away your Blankie.”

She thought I was bluffing.

As she found out at 7:28, I was not, in fact, bluffing.

I took that Blankie away. I told her that she could have him back if she stayed in her bed for two minutes. And she sat in that little bed, in the dark, crying like her heart would break in two. I gave the blankie back after a minute. And she stayed in that bed all night.

She stayed in that bed all the next night.

And as I type this, she is, once again, staying in her bed, fourth night in a row.

I love that kid. I love her so much, it aches.

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  • jill rosalie

    good for you! We found the merits and power of positive reinforcement at about Anne’s age, and it really works .. that and finding their currency. Austin loves making and having money … so I just threaten to not pay him ….and he jumps! I don’t have to do it often, he’s a pretty good kid, but it’s nice to have something in my back pocket! We did spank a bit when he was younger, but it didn’t have any affect at all, so we had to find something else.

  • Brittaney

    I love this story. It sounds like a story my parents could have told about me at that age. In fact, I distinctly remember my Dad finally planting himself in a chair by my bed and telling me that if he saw me open my eyes, that I would get a spanking. (My parents had to spank, mine and my sister’s wills were so strong that no other form of punishment worked, althoug we all turned out okay.) I remember turning my face to the wall and thinking “Ha, ha I fooled you Dad, I’ve got my eyes open and you can’t see it.” Not realizing that staring at a blank wall was a sure way of ensuring that sleep would come upon me. My mom insists I would have been drugged up on Ritalin for ADD if she and my Dad hadn’t disciplined me.

    AND…I was finally persuaded to give up my own blankie when my husband decided it didn’t belong in our bed. But I still pull it out on occasion when I think he isn’t aware.

  • Sara

    This made me giggle. Then, it made me think long and hard about how I’m going to discipline. As always, a very well-thought out argument!

  • Walking to China

    We once told Elisabeth that if she didn’t cooperate and get in bed, she would have to go to bed with out stories. That scooted her cute little heinie into bed!

  • Anonymous

    Oh wow, I hope I can be as patient and wise. Sometime I can’t wait to have a child because most our married friends have one or two already, but then such articles like this show me I have a lot to learn and I’m so grateful I can learn from all our parenting friends. You guys are doing such an awesome job! I loved the part “your Dad” is going too =)

  • Anonymous

    P.S. that was Shannon above, I wasn’t certain how to post on your new site sorry! Which by the way is awesome! That picture up top is the neatest thing!

  • Suzanne

    I was spanked as a child and have not turned into a psychotic I-must-hit-someone person (yet, anyway)

    We've spanked our kids in the past when they needed it (they are too old for that now) and they don't go around hitting others either.

    Just a thought.

  • Melissa Wisley

    This is something that I am battling with in my walk with God. I am praying, searching, reading, asking, observing other parents etc for all the wisdom I can possible get on this subject of Discipline. I have friends who spank and don't spank. My husband and I were both spanked as kids and I never gave a second thought about whether or not we would spank. Luckily my baby is still far from needing to be disciplined so I have time to pray about it a little more. At this point, I feel that I will probably use spankings as a tool for discipline but not, "The" tool. I will try everything I can try before I would ever spank. This is such a hard decision to make and now that I have a child even harder for me. Having your own changes it all. I used to judge parents who didn't spank until I had my own and couldn't imagine what it feels like to spank your own child. I don't want to spank him. I guess I still have much more soul searching on this one. Oh boy!

  • Kamille

    in the midst of a child struggle our thinking & reasoning skills tend to fly out of the window. And then, when we step back, as if we’re in the Matrix and see everything happening (and can actually stop it–well, possibly), and pray, “Sweet Jesus clear my mind and let me see!” I love those little reminders God gives us. I have encountered many early mornings like this with my oldest waking the youngest and have used the blankie card. consistency–that’s what discipline is about, so our kids know we will truly follow through.

  • Jenn

    Hello, Mirror, not so nice to see you”

    Um yes?!? Like everyday!