“Mr. Bradley is in the building” our principal said over the intercom. That was our cue in this drill if there were ever someone in the school that wasn’t supposed to be, or if we were ever in danger from a shooter. We were instructed to stay in our classrooms and lock the doors. A bit unnerving at eleven years old, although I understood that it was good for us to prepare if God forbid anything happened. I convinced myself that it was a normal drill despite my nervousness. Fast forward 16 years and here I am with two young children wondering what I am going to do when they start school. My older one attends an MDO and sometimes I still get anxiety even though he is less than 2 minutes away.
This morning another child brought a gun to school in Cleveland, and shot himself. The Facebook live comments were flooded with statements like “this is why we should spank bad kids!” And “If we were allowed to discipline our children things like this wouldn’t happen.”
They say “If you want to change the world than you should start with yourself.” So I’m starting with myself and the little extensions of myself; my children. When my older child hits his brother I don’t hit him back, because I don’t want him to learn that violence is the answer to violence. Sure sometimes I have really bad stressful days when this two year old won’t listen to gentleness and I think I should raise my voice and yell. I come back from my madness to earth and remember there are other ways, compassionate ways, gentle ways. I have seen far greater results from using compassion than yelling my way out. I try to talk it over with my son, yes he is a two year old and this isn’t always going to work but sometimes it really does.
“You hit your brother and you made him cry he is hurt!”
“I feel sad” he says
“It’s ok to feel sad, but we shouldn’t hit people”
He kisses his brother on the cheek and remembers my words “be gentle.”
This touches my heart when it happens and I believe is ten times better than scaring the daylights out of a two year old for hitting when he doesn’t understand what hitting is. Sometimes talking doesn’t work and my child insists on hitting or biting. On rough days when I am really tired being a gentle parent is hard. Spanking is the easy way out, a slap on the cheek and bam that toddler will be out of sight. But I haven’t done it, not once. I keep trying even if I think of spanking I ask myself, why would I do this? Because I’m really tired and my son has woken up his brother for the third time in a row? Then I remember that he has feelings too, feelings that he doesn’t even know how to express, and that there are some feelings he is still completely unaware of. And I ask him how he feels, or I try to separate him from his brother, I just keep trying different ways. Sometimes I yell and regret that, but I try my best to be gentle. I do this so when he gets older he is able to ask himself these questions, why do I feel this way, and why am I reacting this way because of my feelings? Spanking doesn’t cause us to think this way, it’s more of a way to get someone to shut down completely.
I understand people are upset and it is so difficult to understand how to deal with these things. But usually people who hurt themselves and hurt others don’t do it because they are inherently evil, but because they don’t know how to love or maybe no one ever loved them gently. I am definitely not justifying their actions, they are most definitely heinous, but to insinuate that if a child was spanked more often would prevent them from hurting themselves or others is not right.
There was a study released not too long ago on the effects of spanking, it was conducted over a period of 50 years and it showed that spanking affect children’s behavior more negatively than positively, and can also lead them to act out violently as an adult.
We don’t need more violence, we need more compassion. And in the words of Mr.Rogers who just had his 50th anniversary of his tv show we need more “helpers.”