Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It is Not My Job to Persuade Her Not to Spank

Doodles in Pen
Image credit michelle brunner on Flickr
My dreams rarely make sense, but last night, they did.  I was back where I started first making the decision to turn away from spanking.  I was earnestly trying to explain to some parents of my K -12 students why we no longer supported corporal punishment.  I pulled out my copy of Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy by Sam Martin, only to see that someone had doodled all over the covers.  I recognized the handwriting as someone close to me in real life who doesn't get our decision at all.  In the dream, as I flipped through my book, I was dismayed by all the damage, but I soon realized that it was only on the outside.  The person to whom I had lent the book had never even read it.  She had simply used the covers for scratch paper.

We have had so many conversations about this.  And to be perfectly honest, not very grace-filled ones.  I get so incredibly frustrated that no matter how many times we have discussed it, each time seems as if we are starting from scratch.  Any of the documented negative consequences of spanking and all research are ignored.  The sexual damage that spanking can cause is met with shock and disbelief.  Pleas to examine the Scripture are shut down because the Bible must always say exactly what a person from our culture casually skimming the KJV would assume.

Her side of it consists of the exact same arguments.   She praises pro-spanking authors like Dobson and Gothard for all of the great good they have done for families.  She reiterates that spanking is only harmful if done in anger.  She brings out the instant obedience in the face of danger argument.   If the conversation is still going at this point, she will add that my kids don't always obey, with the implication that whatever I am doing isn't working perfectly, and maybe they need a good old fashioned spanking.  She argues that God spanks us.

Why do we even bother to have this conversation?  Partly because each time she would give the appearance of listening and a degree of openness, and promise to read more links and info if I would send them.  Partly because her approval matters to me.  Partly because our relationship is close, and this issue is so important to me that I want it to be important to her, too.   Partly because I am stubborn and get tunnel vision all too often. Partly because we are family, and have long established patterns that we still fall into even after recognizing that they aren't healthy or beneficial.  I wanted so much to think that if I somehow said the magic words they would sink in.   I wanted to believe that deep down, her defense of spanking was really protesting too much--that she didn't fully believe all the things she was saying and that a part of her didn't want to spank but was simply parroting all the things she has been taught.

Somehow, the dream made clear to me what any outsider would have seen long before:  she really does believe what she is saying.  She genuinely believes that spanking is beneficial, and any pretense of being interested in alternatives or reasons why spanking is harmful is simply misguided courtesy.  She will doodle on the covers of my beliefs regarding spanking because she has no desire to delve into the book, and doesn't really consider it important to begin with. 

I am slow sometimes.  When it comes to strangers, I am quick to remind myself that I don't have to persuade them.  I cannot be the Holy Spirit to someone else.  Whacking people over the head with our views is rarely productive.  I know all this.  But I forget so easily, especially when it comes to family.

Frankly, the bean dip approach is not who I am.  I don't think it will ever come naturally, because as much as I loathe confrontation, I blurt and feel compelled to talk back, even when my brain is shaking its head no.  I fully believe that there are times when we are called to speak up, particularly on issues like spanking when the victims have no power to speak for themselves.  But maybe, just maybe, there are also times when we are called to let go of things that were never our right or responsibility, like changing someone else's mind.  So I am not going to stop blogging about spanking or gentle discipline.  But in this particular relationship, I am purposing to let go of the compulsion to convince her (and I am blogging about it to help me remember).  It is not my job to persuade her not to spank. 


Pippi said...

It will probably be a while before most Christians who choose gentle discipline don't go through the same thing. Hopefully one day, in a future generation, the tune will change. And blogs like yours help, so keep up the good work!

Melissa said...

Your blog is very persuasive, thank you for your hard work in writing about gentle parenting. I dream about this issue too, but it is usually nightmares about being back at home in my parents house and getting spanked, or watching/hearing siblings get spanked and feeling like I need to do something to save them. The worst dreams of all are when my parents are spanking my children, and I sit passively by in submussion and obediance while inside I am raging and desperate to stop them. I always wake from those dreams in a cold sweat with my heart racing.

dulce de leche said...

(((((Hugs)))))). Thank you. I am so very sorry about the nightmares. I have them, too. I hope yours fade, and I admire you tremendously for all the ways that you have changed the reality for your family. <3

April J said...

Thank you for this post. I Really needed it this morning. Am feeling alone these days, in my gentle parenting path. Even in my own home. My husband believes many of those beliefs, and he also is not interested in hearing another view. He is willing to curb his spanking in respect for me - most of the time. But he strongly feels that he is somewhat crippled in his ability to "train" his children the way God has called him to. No conversation has seemed to help him on this. I just keep praying, and although I am not a perfect mom by any means, I think we have some wonderful children.
Thank you for sharing your heart. You are such an encouragement to me!

Samuel Martin said...

Hi Dulce,

You remind me that I need to do a video.

I remember giving a summary lecture for an hour in Chicago in 2007 to 125 mental health professionals and after my hour, the feedback was from those that I talked to plus those who had commented to the conference organizer was that between 5-10% were convinced completely over to my position.

Maybe if I do that on a video I could get a similar result of those who watched the video? I have to get myself together and get it done.

Thanks for the reminder.


Chantilly Patiño said...

Beautifully said amiga...and it is so incredibly hard to let go, especially when it's family, because we know that being a family means loving and protecting each other. There's only so much that you can do to help though, and then that person must choose the path before them. So upsetting though and I totally agree with you. This has been one of the hardest things for me to remember also...especially when talking about 'race' in my family. I never seem to be able to get a step ahead and it's crushing at times. <3 Just keep on trucking with your beautiful heart and be open whenever they decide to bring their questions to your door. <3

Sarah said...

Oh Dulce! Meeee too! I imagine it will get worse when this little guy gets here. And people will point at him and say "If you would just spank him, he would listen to you!" ... And I will bite my lips until they bleed and bean dip... or (more likely) I will freak out and tell them there's no way in a million years I will hit my son!

(must practice bean dipping... must practice bean dipping... )


Leslie said...

Totally get you on this one, 100%. I do the same things and need the same reminder. It's hard to find that place - where I speak when feel prompted and don't just remain silent all the time. But also recognize when I need to just shut my mouth - like you're saying, when there really is no interest on the other side. Good thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Education is the key though, like most other issues (racism, womens rights etc) it seems to get better with each generation. If its not talked about, it won't change.