Poor Jack-jow

September 18th, 2009 by Dionna | 13 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

We are entering the hitting phase. It started a month or so ago, and I cannot wait for it to be over. I’ve searched several places for help, only to come to the conclusion that hitting seems to be a fairly common part of toddlerhood. I noticed during my reading on the subject, though, that while hitting is a typical phase, the main difference is in how parents react to it.

We are a non-violent family. We do not believe in striking/spanking a child for any reason, just as we wouldn’t hit another adult. The studies that have been done on physical punishment are overwhelming in their conclusions that spanking does not work.

A blogger I respect compiled a great list of resources on why spanking doesn’t work, I’m going to share some of those links along with our reasons for using gentle discipline here, too.

1) It has a detrimental effect on the parent-child relationship. Imagine it from the child’s perspective – “mama and/or papa, the most important person in my universe, the one who kisses my booboos, tucks me in, feeds me, bathes me, etc. also chooses to hurt me.” It erodes the trust that should be ever present in the parent-child relationship, and gives children lasting memories of pain and heart break. Spanking isn’t something that just stays in childhood – both the effects and the memories are forever imprinted on a child’s heart and mind.

2) As detailed on this site, spanking can have long lasting effects on a child’s (turned adult’s) sexual development, brain development, and behavior.

3) Hitting only promotes more hitting (by children and by adults in the form of further and more troublesome abuse) and anger (again, in both children and adults). (The previous link also has a great discussion on why spanking is not biblical. From my upbringing as a Southern Baptist, it makes me ill that any Christian would use Jesus as a justification for striking children. It’s also funny to me that there exists an unspoken agreement between spanking churchgoers – I’ve never heard a pastor preach that violence toward children is part of the path to heaven, but people who believe it sure can point to a few select verses that they *think* support their actions.)

4) Spanking simply doesn’t work – it actually tends to increase kids’ aggression and misbehavior. So what’s the point? And since toddlers/preschoolers haven’t even developed impulse control (regardless of whether they’ve internalized whether a behavior is “right” or “wrong”), spanking just isn’t fair. They cannot help themselves! (And let’s be honest – teens and even adults sometimes have poor impulse control. Are we going to hit every person who does something we don’t approve of? No? Then why hit a defenseless child?)

I have been shocked on more than one occasion out in public when I see a parent strike a child. Too often, it’s not only casual (the assault is so ordinary to them that they can do it in front of strangers), but the look on their faces is often one of anger and barely controlled violence. Traditional spanking advocates advise parents not to spank from a place of anger, but when does that ever happen? Anger is the root of spanking a vast majority of the time. And can you imagine how a child perceives the anger twisted onto their parent’s face? It must be terrifying.

Anyway – I digress.* Kieran is hitting. And the unfortunate object of his disfavor is usually my sister’s cat that we are keeping while she is in Spain for a year. Poor Jack-jow (Jack-jow is Kieran-speak for Jasper) – most of the time he and Kieran are best friends. Kieran is the first one to notice an empty food bowl and make sure I help him fill it, he’s constantly going over to give Jasper hugs and kisses and cuddles, he plays with him nonstop . . . and then something clicks and he wants to turn the kitty toy into a kitty whip. “Like a train, Kieran!” is a common phrase in our house – Jasper’s kitty stick with feathers attached by a string should always be pulled like a train, instead it is often slicing through the air as an instrument of torture.

Per the above reasons, we refuse to hit our child for hitting. For various other reasons, we aren’t planning on using traditional “time-outs” (that’s a post for a different day). We’ve settled on a few different tactics to employ while we ride this phase out.

First and foremost, we are much more vigilant – we try to intercede on Jasper’s behalf before anything happens. It can be exhausting, but isn’t most of toddlerhood? The same thing goes during play dates – I make sure to watch for signs of frustration and then step in before another child gets walloped.

Along with vigilance is talking about it. We constantly remind Kieran to “use the toy like a train,” we explain in plain language why we use gentle touches (hitting is ouch, we like gentle touches, etc.), we talk about Jasper’s feelings (or the person’s feelings, if he hits someone else), and we help Kieran think of alternatives to hitting (“Kieran, I see you wanted to play with the truck. Let’s ask our friend if you can have a turn in two minutes.”)

The partner of talking is modeling – we model how to ask for toys/turns, how to use things in a gentle way, how to use gentle hands, etc.

Those things do the trick, for the most part. If Kieran is especially tired or cranky, they may not. As a last resort, we will have him give us whatever he has hit with (so if he continuously isn’t using the kitty toy like a train, we’ll ask him to put it up for awhile). Or if he’s hitting during a play date and I can’t calm him down, we’ll move to a different area and play with something new.

And because we’re not perfect, we’ve raised our voices at him; but we’re constantly trying to practice a more gentle form of redirection.

Kieran + Jack-jow = BFF (usually)

I hope some of these ideas will help someone else one day when their gentle baby turns into a toddler with a heavy hand. Sometimes the most helpful thing, though, is to remember that “this too shall pass.” Things that seem so frustrating in the moment will only be a memory very quickly.

Have a gentle day,


*One more comment about spanking: I understand that discipline techniques are always evolving. I do not condemn the parents of past generations who were taught that spanking was an effective and acceptable form of discipline. I hope that every parent makes educated decisions about how to raise their children in *this* generation. There is no reason to keep making the same mistakes when we now have so much information available to us on the detrimental effects of the practice.

13 Responses to:
"Poor Jack-jow"

  1. Goodson Family

    Good luck retaining sanity in the household, Dionna! I think you're doing great. :)

    It is so hard sometimes to be gentle. (Wait, was that last statement direction to the children or to the adults? Both, I guess!) :D

  2. Mindful Life

    Walter has reached an age where he thoroughly enjoys playing with his sister and will get a bit rough on occasion. More than once I have seen Sofi gently take his flying hands in hers and tell him, "Gentle pats, Walter! Gentle pats!" while using his hands to gently touch her face. It is amazing how imitative and loving they can be. Surely we can do the same, right?

  3. Mandy

    You are raising your child very compassionately. I am certain that your son will appreciate that his parents respected him as a person when he is older.

    When my oldest was 3 1/2 years old, we had to quickly leave a store because another customer was threatening to hit her 1 1/2 year old, and I didn't want us around that. My son asked why we had to leave so suddenly. That was the day I had to explain what the word "spank" meant and that some people hit their children. He was appalled.

  4. Jill Cook

    Spanking is for people who aren't smart enough to figure out an effective way to discipline. There is no justification for hitting anyone, especially someone small and defenseless who thinks you are the sun, moon and stars above. What lesson is a child whose been hit going to learn?

    A family member and his wife "spank". We just don't see them any more. They aren't open to change, and being around them is too stressful. Their kids are aggressive and sad. The last time we saw them was 3 years ago on July 4th. Their then 6 year old son was doing something dangerous outside with a stick, jabbing it at other people. His father said to stop it, and my nephew said, "Are you going to hurt me if I don't?" My heart just about broke. These people don't "beat" their child, no DCFS would remove them for the level of spanking they do. Obviously (to me at least) that level is still too much. ANY hitting is too much.

  5. Lilly Rose

    It's a hard path to walk, it's so easy to give into baser instincts and it's all just so frustrating some times. And I feel that way, too, a lot of days ;) But you summed up very well why we've made the same decisions–although largely, it was also that my husband was raised without it and raised to consider violence wrong while I came to the conclusion that my own violence issues stemmed from the violence in my childhood. My husband is waaaaay better behaved than I am ;)

    It can be hard to break the cycle, but, "If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children."

    When I started, I thought I was alone in my feelings that violence against children, no matter the name we use for it, was wrong. Then I found study after study had shown that my feelings were valid. Then I found people like you and it was such a relief to know I wasn't alone.

    Oh, and to address the kitty thing–Lilly outgrew it! She's very nice and gentle with kitties now (she went through the same phase) and was never punished for being rough (unless you count the natural consequence of the cats avoiding her). She's only two, almost three, but she's already learned to be more gentle with the animal world.

    Now we just have to convince her that just because the boy on the playground pushed her, it doesn't mean she should push back *rolls eyes* It's an open-ended journey–raising these little ones!

  6. Abby

    Dionna, I coudn't have said it better myself! You outlined exactly why we also employ gentle discipline and will never raise a hand to our precious little girl. I too believe that in the long run it will help our children (and our relationship with them) develop into one of respect and maturity. Keep up the great work!

  7. KansasMom

    It is really interesting to see how generations evolve and change. My Father never hesitated to apply the "rod of education"…which was normally his belt…to "my seat of education"…but it was never done in anger…never out of control that I remember at all. He always explained to me what I had done wrong, what was expected of me and I never doubted that he loved me with all of his heart. I do remember spanking you and your sisters from time to time, unfortunately I as more of a "yeller" as I am sure you remember…sadly. I would love to be able to go back and do it all over again and hopefully do it better this time…but…as we both know that is impossible. That being said…I think that you turned out pretty durn good!!!! As I have told you many times before,I am in awe of the wonderful way you and Tom are raising that precious boy!!! I love all three of you so much!!!

  8. Rebecca

    This has been a topic of conversation lately around all my parenting haunts. I have friends who spank, friends who don't spank, friends who are completely anti spanking, and friends who think that each person has to make parenting decisions for themselves. I have friends with each set of beliefs who fall into almost all socio economic spheres.

    This summer, while we were out camping with family, Amelia and I went off to the toilet, and one the way back, she decided to hit me, not such a good plan, and she ended up directly in time out (a different topic for a different day). When my family asked me what had happened (I had aunts and uncles and cousins and such sitting around in a big circle at the time we got back) I told them that she had hit me…to which I got in stereo "Did you hit her back?" UMMMMM, no I did not hit her back, what does that teach her, that it is okay to hit if you are bigger? I can hardly say we don't hit if she has seen me hit.

    Obviously, we are not spanking folks, I came from a non spanking home (I remember my dad hitting my sister one time, when she tried to run away and once hitting michael because he decided to wake dad up from a nap by hitting him in the stomach, I am fairly certain that dad was not awake when he socked michael in the face for that one).

    We don't have the benefit of separating our child from all the "bad" of the world, we discuss that other parents are not nice to their children and give bad touches. I mean, how else do we explain to her what mommy and daddy do at work. There is not a way of getting around it. Plus, in the end, I hardly do her any service by teaching her that everyone will treat others the way we think people should be treated. I was never so proud as the day I told her about a small child we were working with whose house had burned down and she had no clothes, so we were packing up her clothes that she had outgrown and taking them to the office, and then, I asked her to pick a toy. Instead of picking one she never played with, she chose one that she liked, a baby doll, packed up the doll, and then packed up a diaper bag with diapers, a sippy, a toy, a diaper, etc. and sent it with me to give to the little girl. If I teach her that the world is a white bread, homogenous, everyone treats others and does to others the way we think that they should, then I miss out on an important set of lessons.

    "A strong man stands up for himself, a stronger man stands up for others"

  9. Tammy

    Holy crap, Rebecca, I just about started crying at your story. Amelia is going to grow up to be an amazing human being.

  10. MamaRae

    sounds like she already *is* an amazing human being. :)

    dh and i discussed today that we are recommitting ourselves to positive parenting. plus khary's old enough to sit down and talk about what he thinks his consequences should be in certain situations. love that!

  11. KansasMom

    Rebecca…I already knew what an amazing little person your Amelia is…and you can take pride in the fact and you and George have set her off on the right path in life…just like Dionna and Tom can be proud of the way they are raising Kieran. Give Amelia a big hug and a kiss from Grandma Ruth!!!!

  12. Tammy

    MamaRae, right after hitting 'post' I seriously considered deleting and rewriting my comment to say that Amelia already is pretty special :)

    You're right, though, she's already an amazing person!

  13. Yeah, I think you’re totally right on all counts.

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