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Better Than the Belt | Unlearning What I’ve Known About Discipline

As I navigate the ever-changing terrain that is rearing a child, I remind myself that parenting is not a one-size fit all situation. Along with trying to keep up with the learning curve, I’ve found myself having to actively unlearn some toxic parenting habits I was conditioned to believe are correct. However, that old adage, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” creeps back in. The system of corporal punishment is broken and has resulted in some broken individuals, self-included. Therefore, my parenting has become a practice in challenging myself and my husband to figure out healthier ways to discipline our 3-year old son.

I admit not hitting my child in an attempt to discipline him is easier said than done, especially when I was disciplined that way. While I would like to believe I am a functioning adult, as a result of my parents putting their hands on me, I am not comfortable enough to continue that cycle of parenting. Laying hands on a child seems effective, and sometimes it is because it gets instant results. However, I’ve had to remind myself, if my child does not understand why he should not do something, then how could he possibly make a correlation if I hit him?

My 3-year-old has not been in this world a long time, and he is trying his absolute best to learn and navigate it. While he may be able to communicate better than he did a year ago, that doesn’t mean he fully understands concepts in the manner I do. As his parent, it is my job to help him. Hitting creates fear, and fear gets in the way of him growing up to trust himself and me. I don’t want to instill fear in my child. Thus, my husband and I take the time to figure out different ways we can correct him when he needs it. Some days, this is utterly exhausting because of the limitations of a toddler’s ability to process concepts; but we know how important it is to his growth, as well as ours, to figure it out.

As far as what we do, we try some of everything. Again, children are forever changing. There are days when explaining works and days when time-out or taking away a toy works. Other days, a combination of these or another method works. As trying as all these methods may be, the alternative to hitting has been worth it. Our son is still fearless while learning to understand boundaries and rules. He does follow directions, and his ability to process what we are telling him improves each day. Most importantly, he is not scared, and his lack of fear helps us to cultivate a safe environment at home. The world is tough enough; I don’t see a reason to add to it when there are methods for us as parents to correct him in ways the world will not. I want us to earn our respect from him; respect that grows from love instead of fear and pain. Our child is not his parents’ property — he is a unique individual, and he deserves our respect.


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