Confessions of a Reformed Spanker

January 2nd, 2013 by Dionna | 40 Comments
Posted in Consensual Living, Gentle/Positive Discipline, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting

  • Email This Post

As a passionate advocate for children, it is hard for me to see certain parenting practices flourish. It is my belief, though, that every parent is working with the tools they have at the moment. Our compassion and kind attempts to share information, not our criticism and judgment, will usually do more to change a person’s mind and heart.
In today’s guest post, my friend Destany shares a story that illustrates the above. It took the gentle example of some non-spanking families to convince Destany that she could parent effectively without hitting. Now, Destany hopes to be a kind example for the next person.
You can read more about Destany at the end of the post. If you feel so moved, please leave a comment of support here or at Destany’s site.


it's called parenting, you should try it

I’m going to admit something here that I rarely tell anyone, and I’m going to be blunt. I used to spank my kids, but now I don’t.

Before I go into why I changed my mind, let me explain why I spanked them in the first place. It wasn’t because I am a neanderthal or that I didn’t have self-discipline. It wasn’t because I’m a brute who has no idea how to parent. I believed in spanking for the same reason up to 90% of parents choose to spank: I truly believed I was doing right by my kids. I considered it my parental duty, that if I didn’t, my children would grow up and have serious behavioral problems.

Many parents today grew up in a spanking culture. Spanking is a parenting practice that has been around for . . . well, for a long time. Ours is not the only culture to have considered corporal punishment not only acceptable, but necessary for the upbringing of stalwart human beings. I am not justifying spanking in any regard. I am only pointing out that those who practice it often do so with heavy hearts, not because they are terrible parents with no coping skills, because they believe that they have to. Most of the people I know spank their kids, and most of them are wonderful, loving, caring parents who are truly trying to do what is best for their children. For the record, I do want to say that I did not spank my children often – and only, I felt, as a last resort when all of the other strategies I had tried weren’t working. Nonetheless.

Changing mentalities of an entire culture – and nixing practices that have been in place for as long as anyone can recall, is an incredible feat. We have the smoke screen of our culture to contend with, the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, neighbors, even perfect strangers who feed and nurture an idea.

I had, indeed, heard word from experts telling me that spanking was not a good idea, and that there are better ways to teach young children. I compared their information against (what I thought was) thousands of years of (supposedly good) parental wisdom and chose to go with what I considered “tried and true” methods. Their arguments had little impact on me because they did not live in my world. As far as I was concerned, they were the ones whose children would throw themselves on the floor and beat their fists against their parents’ legs if they didn’t get a candy bar at the grocery store. Those were the kids who were going to come out messed up in the end. Honestly, I used to think that by the time those kids became teenagers, their parents were going to regret not being harsher with them while they were young. Keep in mind that the majority of parents still believe this.

So what changed my mind? It wasn’t an article, a book, a television show. It wasn’t anything anybody told me. It came from meeting some members of a local Attachment Parenting group and interacting with several children whose parents have never spanked them – not just when they were melting down in the check-out line, but spending time with them on a regular basis and really getting to know them. And it was these children, ages three, four, five and six who taught me one of the biggest parenting lessons I could ever learn. They taught me that children are so much more capable than most adults give them credit for. Children as young as three can rationalize their way through a conflict, if they are taught to do so.

I learned that un-spanked children are not undisciplined children, and that spanking does not equal discipline.

When I was first getting to know these kids who were the same age as my children, I could hardly suppress my surprise when they would have an argument and instead of yelling, screaming, hitting or pushing (all common reactions for most preschoolers), they would express their feelings in a distinctly mature way. “I was playing with that, and you took it from me.”

My kids didn’t know what to think of them. The calm and rational manner of speaking, from a five year old – particularly when she was extremely angry – was surprising to them as well. These children did occasionally use force with each other, but it was very uncommon. The reason was glaringly simple and plain: their parents had worked with them from infancy to articulate their emotions and work on solving problems in a logical, level-headed way. They didn’t boss them around, and they most certainly did not spank them.

My children soon began picking these habits up, and so did I. It wasn’t just my views on spanking that were changing, but my attitude towards parenting in general. You see, these parents not only never spanked, they practiced consensual living. I’d never even heard of it before, and the concepts were completely foreign to me. So even though I rarely spanked, I still used time-outs, threats, taking away toys and other privileges, and otherwise felt that it was my duty as a parent to make my kids behave. That’s a really prevalent idea in our society, that parents are responsible for their children’s behavior. When children are acting in ways that others find frustrating, the parents are always blamed for it.

So these new little kids . . . In all of my years as a parent, a daycare provider, and auntie – I had never met anything like these kids. To see a child on the verge of melting down stop and give careful thought to a matter before coming up with a solution all on her own was astounding. And rather than running to their parents every five minutes to ask them to solve an issue or a dispute, these kids normally solved their own conflicts, even the three year old. They compromised with each other, they took turns, they worked together, they acted in a cooperative, consensual way.

I began looking at my children in a whole new light. I still didn’t consider spanking to be harmful or damaging, but I had come to the conclusion that there is a better way to discipline than in the traditional authoritarian manner. Infinitely better, I will add. So I started checking out different kinds of parenting books. I put them to practice and slowly watched my children learn to solve conflicts with positive discussion rather than bopping each other over the head in frustration. It’s hard for them, as they are new at this. It isn’t something they have been taught since toddlerhood. This also takes greater patience on my part.

Learning that discipline does not equal spanking, time outs, punishments – especially so late in the game as I am, makes for some unique challenges. My oldest is 15 years old. I have spent the last year relearning how to parent, when I thought I was doing it the best way all along. And then an incident occurred which brought about a profound moment of clarity that truly devastated me.

My two oldest boys got into a fight. These are boys who are adult sized and now bigger than my husband and me. So when the younger one hit the older one, I was powerless in that moment. I was even more so when the older one doubled up his fist and slugged the younger one square in the jaw. I watched my young son crumple to the floor, and I was certain his jaw had to be broken. And I knew right away that the entire incident was all on me.

Fortunately, there was no real physical damage, but I was faced with the undeniable realization that I had failed my children in a significant way, and that my spanking them did indeed cause them harm. I sat my sons down and explained to them that we need to practice not hitting, no matter what. This is what I told them:

“When you were little and you would misbehave, I would hit you to make you listen to me. I didn’t teach you why or how, I taught you that you had to listen to me because I’m bigger and stronger, and I hit harder. Therefore you learned that to make others comply and solve disputes, you have to hit them harder.”

That was one of the most difficult conversations that I have ever had with my children. I apologized to them for being so mistaken. I cried and told them that I did the best I could at that time, and that I never guessed I was hurting them in some way. I told them that I was grateful I figured it out while they were still young enough to to learn from me. By relearning to parent my younger kids in the way I now wish I had parented my older kids, my older kids are in fact learning to do it right and will carry the lessons with them when they are parents themselves.

I’m not going to lie. This stuff is hard work. When my children used to argue, I would often tell them to go outside or take away the item they were fighting about. I would separate them or distract them. Now, I try to help them find solutions so that they can learn to solve their own disputes more often. In the past, if my children took apart the sofa and dumped Fruity Pebbles all over the inside of it, I would yell and send them to their rooms. Now I explain myself – how they have made more work for me, how they wasted all of the cereal and now we won’t have any for breakfast in the morning, and I ask them to help me clean it up. Sometimes they say no. (Okay, usually they do.) Instead of threatening to spank them, I have to look for other ways to deal. I still struggle with the notion that children must always be compliant and that insubordination should not be tolerated.

I am also dealing with an awful lot of guilt. When I do lose my temper and start the yelling, I see my children flinch and fear pass into their faces. I hate myself for putting it there. In the past year, I have also had to convince my husband to change his opinion on discipline. He has not had the benefit of seeing first hand how children raised with consensual practices interact with one another and deal with confrontation. However, a few weeks ago when he and I were having a heated argument, and when we began raising our voices, our six year old walked up straight up to us with his hands up and said, “I need you guys to calm down.”

My husband simply gaped at him in disbelief, and we did most certainly get our voices under control. My husband is not completely convinced yet, but he has agreed to defer to me when issues arise rather than spank. I believe that in time, he will see the merits of taking the gentler more consensual approach, through our own children.

So we are learning, but it takes a lot of effort. I also feel terribly judged. Both by parents who spank, and those who do not. When I see or hear comments that children who are not spanked are what is wrong with the world, I shake my head in frustration. If only they could see. But I am also very honest with myself and realize that it wasn’t so long ago that I felt the same exact way. I have made many new friends recently, and they are assertive about their belief that spanking is abuse. That’s so hard to hear. One friend recently told me that she covers her children’s ears when the “S word” is said, because she doesn’t want them to know that some children are spanked. That really hurt my feelings, but I know it wasn’t her intention.

As hard as this is, and amidst the judgement, I keep at it. The pay off is just too huge to give up. I’m not kidding. I know I’m on the right track, because I was blessed enough to see what the result of parenting in a consensual way truly is. Not the child who is freaking out in public while the spectators tut and tsk at the mother for her child’s lack of discipline, but the child who is mindful and capable of handling stress most of the time. And I’m seeing this in my kids, although we are all still learning. It’s not an overnight switch.

I know it is going to take a lot to change attitudes. Most of the time, seeing is truly believing. Most of society believes vehemently in corporal punishment, and they are not going to be convinced by science, research or a child psychologist on the Dr. Phil show. They are not going to be convinced by the child screaming for cookies. They will only be convinced if they are confronted point blank with proof that is undeniable. I can’t give them that, I can only tell my own story and hope that it helps a little.

Here are some online places I go to when I need help, or when I need a reminder to be more lenient.

Presence Parenting
Living Peacefully with Children
United Family” at Natural Parents Network
Punishment Perspective” at Our Mindful Life


Destany is an old-young mama to four and married to her high school sweetheart. Whether she is making something tasty in the kitchen, something pretty of her walls, or a sentimental treasure for a friend, she strives to bring beauty and peace in her life and those she shares it with. She shares her love of life and family at They Are All of Me.

Photo Credits for Collage, clockwise from top left: hortongrou; Ben Earwicker; wonders777; agastecheg; NateOne (also credit for third picture in post); 0Odyssey0; asifthebes

40 Responses to:
"Confessions of a Reformed Spanker"

  1. Angela   EarthMamasWorld

    This is a beautiful post. Such courage for Destany to open up and talk about spanking and her decision to stop. This is such a great parenting resource, I have to share!

  2. Kirstie

    This is where I am, too. I suppose that I am ‘lucky’ in that my eldest daughter, who is autistic, quickly taught me that spanking and threats were a sure route to WORSE behaviour, forcing me out of my comfort zone and into the thickets of parental theory :P. I am glad that I ‘found’ attachment parenting, although the sanctimony of the true-believer crowd can drive me crazy (even though I truly believe myself that it is the best way to parent, I feel that judging parents who do not parent this way is a very unhelpful, hurtful thing to do).

    This phrase in particular resonated with me:

    “I still struggle with the notion that children must always be compliant and that insubordination should not be tolerated.”

    I have more or less let go of the ‘I am responsible for my children’s behaviour’ thing in favour of ‘I am responsible for my children’s understanding’, but I can’t get past the expectation that that understanding will lead them to always agree with me and do what I say. Which on the face of it is ridiculous, and I’m sure I’ll get past it…hopefully before they are parents themselves .

    Keep on doing your best, mama – it’s all that any of us can do.

    • It is so comforting to find people who relate to me. Knowing I’m not the only one to change my views half way in.
      I love this: ‘I am responsible for my children’s understanding’

      That is so beautiful, and definitely something I’m going to take with me. Thank you!

  3. Thank you, Destany, for having the courage to change your mind and the courage to share it with us. Your children are very lucky!

  4. Amber

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Destany! It takes a lot of courage to make that sort of change as a parent.

    I made a commitment to never spank my children when I was a child myself, but one of the hardest parts of that was determining “then what?” You have the added complication of changing your family culture, but what a huge difference you’re making in all their lives :)

  5. Thank you all very much for the encouragement and support. It was a difficult article to write, but I truly hope that others may benefit from the lessons I’ve learned.

  6. Dr Laura Markham   DrLauraMarkham

    I’m so grateful to you for writing this. It’s so important to remember that all parents want what’s best for their children, even when we disagree with their parenting choices. I wish we could figure out a way for every parent to have the experience you had, of seeing that even toddlers and preschoolers are capable of empathy, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and self control — if we raise them to be. I’m sharing your post on Facebook and Twitter right now. Thanks for your courage, and for teaching the rest of us.

    • My goodness, thank you so much! Sharing this was amazingly difficult, but I believed (hoped) there would be good from it.
      Today I have heard from other parents who are going to consider a more gentle approach with their children, and I was able to have some very calm and healing discussions about our roles as parents. I hope others will continue to benefit in their own way.

  7. JImmy

    This is a good post. I appreciate the non-spanking position/sentiment. I don’t judge anyone who doesn’t spank. I have yet to be convinced by anyone that advocates for it that it is the best (or only) way. Frankly, the arguments for it leave something to be desired.

    We spank our kids when appropriate, usually as a last option. I’d hold my kids’ behavior next to any children their age (spanked or not) as exemplary. We’ve seen first hand in public the way children behave whose parents are openly non-spankers and have been for a while–not impressed. My kids have never acted that way in public. I’m not saying all non-spanked children behave that way, but that’s my personal experience.

    I was spanked as were my siblings. My older brother and I fought as kids/teenagers because we were selfish boys, not because we thought our dad was on a power trip when he spanked us for breaking serious rules and that’s how we ought to act if we wanted our way.

    We love our kids and they know it. We spank sparingly. They aren’t afraid of us, they know what’s expected through repetition and education and they do it happily (most of the time). Do I wish I handled discipline issues perfectly all the time? Sure. Do I wish I had more patience ALL the time? You bet. To frame spanking as abuse in ALL cases is ridiculous. Without context and eyewitness perspective of what led to the spanking or how it was administered, it is impossible to say with validity or rational thought that all spanking is abuse.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thank you for the thoughtful, respectful comment. I think, when advocates of gentle parenting equate spanking with abuse, that they are referring to the fact that if an adult hit another adult the way they are allowed to hit a child, it would be a criminal offense. It is hard to justify that kind of force on a defenseless child, especially when there are so many other ways to parent. And I agree – in the heat of the moment, spanking can seem like the most “effective” way if that is what you were raised with – I’ve had to stop myself from spanking, because that is how I was raised. I agree with Destany that this gentle parenting gig can be hard, but I feel like it’s working for our family, and it’s totally worth it to me to have the trust of my children that I will not physically hurt them.

    • I had a really hard time with the “spanking is abuse” notion as well. In my opinion, I had been following the rules – spanking in the proper way, with intent and purpose in mind.
      My preconception of what qualified as abuse was different than it is now. Part of what began to change that for me was the acknowledgement that it was once commonly accepted practice for a husband to “discipline” his wife in a physical way and this was deemed a necessary thing for the benefit of the family unit. What Dionna says about how hitting another adult (or even a child which is not our own) is illegal and considered assault rings true. The only reason it is not assault is because the child is our own – does that really make it less brutal?

  8. annie

    you should be so proud of all the work you have done. there is entirely too much judgement in the parenting community, and it can be a lot to contend with, but a they say the proof is in the pudding!, so, keep up the go od work. sometimes it hard to remember that children just want to be heard, and know that they have someone to trust just like all of us :)

  9. Laurie

    I am a trying-to-reform-spanker. I have been reading this blog for the better part of a year and wanting desperately to change our family dynamic. My husband is a spanker, hands down. We “tried” the no spanking thing when my son was about 3 1/2 and “it didn’t work” according to him, so right back where we started. This post has given me the resolve to try and convince him to give it another shot. I’m going to share it with him. Our lives have changed so much in the last 6 months, moving to a new town, new job for him, staying home for me. And I feel helpless and out of control most days when I’m home with my girls. I NEED to get balance into our daily lives and learn how to parent my almost 4 yr old. She’s smart, sassy, a little out of control, and somewhat infuriating. But i think its me that needs to change, not her. Thank you for sharing and giving me the courage to try again.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Laurie – if it gives you some small comfort, those three year olds are *hard*, whatever form of discipline is used at home. I’d highly recommend Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy by Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D. If anything, it helped me realize that what I was going through was normal. I seriously thought I was doing everything wrong. But now that we’re on the other side of three (well, he just turned 5!), I realize it was a normal bump in the road.

    • Laurie, you have my total sympathy with a spouse who has a different philosophy. My husband and I are very opposite on many issues, and I constantly have to remind myself that I am not responsible for his beliefs or actions.
      I am so very lucky that he is committed to not spanking the kids, even though he disagrees with my ideas. He is choosing to simply trust me on this, and I give him so much credit for that.
      My daughter is also very high-needs and head strong, very similar to how you describe your daughter. One book that helped me tremendously was “The Highly Sensitive Child,” by Elaine Aron.
      It validated a lot of my feelings about my daughter and helped me learn to take the softer approach. Very amazing. Thanks for reading, I hope this will help you and your husband find a common ground.

  10. Lindsay401

    Thank you so so much for sharing this. I too am a reformed spanker/yeller. My 3 girls are 4,6 and 8 and you give me hope that it’s not too late for them to grow up and not be angry. I’ve recently decide I yell too much and have given that up too, already I feel a calm descended upon my home, there is less tension. I didn’t spank all the time but when I did it wasn’t pretty, I feel EXTREMELY guilty for losing control of my anger with my children and can only take comfort in the fact that I can do better now because I know better. I took a triple P parenting course and it was amazing, I wish I would have taken it a long time ago. It showed me there is a way to parent without violence. Thanks again for sharing, you made me feel like there are others out there like me :)

    • I am really enjoying the less tense atmosphere as well. And I am often amazed at how calm and comfortable my kids are now that I have worked on developing that in myself. I wish I would have started a long time ago too, but you’re right – it’s never too late to start!

  11. Cheryl

    Our compassion and kind attempts to share information, not our criticism and judgment, will usually do more to change a person’s mind and heart.—> very true.

  12. Jane

    Thanks for writing this heartwarming story Dionna! Our family stopped punitive parenting about 3 years ago and everybody is a lot happier and more loving. Although I loved my children more then anything in the world realized that we (hubby and me) really did not respect them as a human beings.

    Dr Laura Markham found your site two years ago and it has really helped me improve the relationship with my children and friends. Thank you so much!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thank you for stopping by and reading! I cannot take credit, though, I am hosting the post for my friend, Destany. She is the inspiration :)

  13. Victoria   StorkBabyGifts

    I tend to agree with what Jimmy is saying. I too, still believe in spanking, was spanked myself and do not have a bit of animosity or anger toward my parents for it. I too have seen first hand some behaviors in non-spanked children. I have also seen my child’s life possibly spared because I had previously occasionally spanked him.

    A good friend of mine dealt with her child hitting her, biting her and throwing horrible tatrums at home and in public as a toddler. It was very difficult to watch this kind of behavior and watch my friend try to talk her way through it without spanking. She did the time outs and she was always very calm, her voice loving yet strict, she even left her cart full of grocery’s once to take the child home because she was having a meltdown and nothing she said or did was working. I really think one little spank on the bottom once or twice probably would have spared her years of torment. As a teen ager, this young girl still displayed this horrible behavior whenever she didn’t get her way until my friend finally got some counseling for the both of them. Things have now gotten a little better now (she doesn’t hit her mother anymore at least) but whew…I really think so much of the years were spent with my friend being constantly frustrated by her child’s behavior that she missed out on a lot of the joy she could have had if she had disciplined with spanking.

    I think what parents sometimes need to realize is that sometimes, it’s necessary and there is a difference between a controlled swat on the bottom and beating a child.

    Also, you never know when life may pose a serious situation when it is imperative a child know that you mean absolute business (it could literally save their lifes). This happened to me when my son was 3. We were at a very busy downtown art fair and festival, my child got upset over something and took off running and I mean at full speed. I literally ran after him for a block or two and could not catch him! In horror, I saw him heading straight for the road with oncoming traffic…all I could do was scream….Joey…Cars…Stop!! In that instant, he did stop. My heart pounded from extreme fear (and running my butt off of course) but looking back, I think his life may have been spared that day because he knew he had to listen or there would be serious consequences from mom (a spanking maybe). And I wonder, what if I hadn’t taught him the consequece of a spanking…would my talkings or time outs have convinced him that day…would he have actually stoped?

    • I have to say that as a former spanker, I completely understand where you are coming from and how you reached your conclusions. I also felt that I had seen “proof” that spanking was a preferable tool, because of the siblings I grew up with that were spanked and had a stricter upbringing appeared to be more stable than my younger siblings, who had not been spanked.
      I have since reached different conclusions, and realized that it was lack of teaching and presence of parental support that caused my younger siblings to struggle as they did.

      It’s quite possible that your friends daughter has an underlying behavioral issue, is high needs/high sensitivity, sensory processing disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, etc. that brought about her outbursts. If that is the case, spanking could have made her much more difficult to reach. I must say that I applaud your friend for maintaining her gentle approach when dealing with that level of stress. It’s good to know that she is getting professional help.

      As for your incident with your son, I wouldn’t wager to guess about things that I was not present for, but it’s a good thing he heard the fear in your voice when you shouted his name and that he stopped.
      I know that with my children, when in a highly charged scenario they would be more likely to respond to my tone of voice, rather than work through the process of a memory and consider the previous action/consequence in order to make a choice, particularly as toddlers.

      Thank you for reading and considering what I wrote with an open mind.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I think Destany summed up much of my reply, but I do want to reiterate what she said about hearing fear in your voice. I have never hit my children, but I have had to stop them from dangerous situations. The urgency in a parent’s voice is usually enough. And I can pretty much guarantee that in the 2 seconds it takes for a child to hear and stop, that they aren’t mentally calculating their chances of getting hit (or remembering past instances).

  14. amy


    Very interesting article.
    This comment you made:“I still struggle with the notion that children must always be compliant and that insubordination should not be tolerated.”
    pls put it into perspective for me in this situation because it ruffled my feathers but maybe i am wrong.

    I have 2 stepdaughters 10 and 13. We have a good realationship, i am always doing for tehm, they help but very minimally. Yesterday we went out for our weekly grocery shopping which i do plus i take my 2 yo along while husband and kids go off doing their thing which means sometimes having coffee. Yesterday however husband did some stationary shopping for them so we ended up with 2 carts. I was tired so i asked 13 yo to push the trolley but she refused coz according to her she has helped enough. That is inorrect – a family is a team and she is lazy and didnt feel like it.

    So now according to your statemnet, should i allow such attitude, dismiss it, i undesrtand kids generally do not like helping much but they got to do it oz everyone needs to play their part, right?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Hi Amy – ugh, I had a huge comment typed out, and my computer ate it. Frustrating!! Let me summarize. I highly recommend Respectful Parents Respectful Kids. It is a great intro for parents into consensual living. One of the first concepts they talk about is that cooperation cannot be mandated. They also discuss how to get family members into the mindset of approaching conflict as a problem that everyone can help solve. You can read some summaries of the book on my site, starting here.

    • Consensual living is something I am also still trying to wrap my head around. I can also tell you that it means different things to those who practice it. What it means to me at this point in time, is likely different than it is for another parent, or even what it will mean to me a year from now.

      So, I am speaking strictly for myself. I try to determine my goals, and prioritize them. In the case of the cereal: Is the most important goal to clean the cereal, or is it get my children to be more respectful of our belongings? OR is my most important goal to teach them to be empathetic to MY needs? I separate my goals and recognize that one is not contingent on the other. Their cleaning the cereal does not win me real respect if I am forcing them to do it against their will. It will achieve the first goal, do nothing for the second, and actually be detrimental to the third.

      I identify my needs, and equally as important, the needs of my children. Most power struggles engaged in are a direct result of a parent wanting to feel appreciated, valued, not taken for granted. I don’t want to feel put out having to clean up the cereal myself. It would make me feel used. I want my children to appreciate me. My need to have my children help me clean the cereal stems directly from myself.

      Often, if I explain to them that I feel sad because they made a huge mess that I don’t want to have to clean it up all by myself, they will actually WANT to cooperate and help me. Really.

      But I recognize that even if they don’t want to, it’s not because they don’t respect(appreciate) me, it’s because cleaning is boring and they want to continue their play. When I am empathetic, I can more easily see from their perspective.

      Finally, I recognize that they threw the cereal because they were bored (something that can be remedied) not because they meant to be disrespectful.

      In the case of your stepdaughter I glean that you feel a lack of respect? When you said, “i am always doing for tehm, they help but very minimally,” it sounds like you feel under appreciated.
      Teenagers are especially trying. I have a couple of them myself, and I know just what you mean. My 13 year old son and I often butt heads. I read “The Power of Validation,” by Karyn D. Hall and Melissa H. Cook, and began using empathy and validation to help relate to him. I cannot tell you how much it helped us to reconnect and begin communicating more effectively. Disputes still come up, but much more peaceful and easily resolved.

      Thank you for reading, and best of luck to you!

      • amy

        Firstly, as a stepmom I am not responsible for them, they are my husbnds resposnibilty. What i do for them i and i do quite a bit is out of the kindness of my heart. It goes to the extent that i have to push aside my plans with husband to accomodate them. On top of this she wanted me to make a special dish for her friend the next day and i wanted to because i know it meant alot to her. i am always a very kind person to them,always taking care of my relationship with them, i speak with alot of respect and understanding, here and there i slip up, i have surprised them by how nice a stepmom could be. My step daughter is flat out lazy, she lies in bed till 10am with her blackberry, i feel reluctant to ask her anything as she is lazy. I am always making excuses…looking for reasons…but laziness is also a reason. I am fed up with being nice….what happened to listning to your parents and doing what they ask of you simply becasue they run their butts off for you, trying hard to give you the best life.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        Amy, it sounds like you are feeling disrespected and needing more help. Have you talked to your husband and stepdaughters about this need? Have you asked them for solutions about how everyone can work together to make your family function smoothly? I’d start with that. Instead of name calling (“the girls are lazy”), make the focus on your needs (“I need the house to be clean, and I need help doing it”). The girls are more likely to pitch in if they’re given input into how to do it, and they’re more likely to want to help if they know it’s meeting your need, rather than to get out of being called lazy or disrespectful.

  15. Amy, you certainly have some extra challenges, being a step parent. The family dynamic as it is, apparently isn’t working for you. It’s a perfect opportunity to adapt and modify at this point.
    I am not a step parent, and I recognize that your situation is different from my own.
    From an authoritarian standpoint, you lack the “authority” that you seek in a traditional parent-child relationship, anyway. I hear you want your stepdaughter to listen to you simply because you are her parent – yet your first sentence denies responsibility of being her parent.
    That would be a key point to explore. Defining your role and what your expectations are for yourself, and then for her. It may be time for you to sit down with your family members and discuss this.
    Because you already lack authority, it is even more crucial that you consider a more cooperative, consensual route.
    You won’t find a perfect scenario. Regardless of your ideology, your tactics, your attitudes, your status as a stepmother – parenting teenagers is rough. To be honest, what you describe in your thirteen year old is quite normal for their age group and nearly every parent I’ve read about or spoken to has the same complaints you’ve described. I would urge you to determine the importance of changing this behavior: On a scale of one to five, how important is it to get her out of bed before 10am on the weekend, and most importantly, WHY is it important that she not sleep in? What purpose does it serve to make her get up? Assess every situation by asking yourself these questions.

    I really recommend reading some literature, particularly on standard teenage behavior, and how to navigate these years. It might make you feel better to know that there are millions of parents out there who relate to you at this point, including myself.

    This would be a good place to begin reading:

  16. amy

    Thanks for all your advice. I sat down with them, had a heart to heart. We’ve decided to draw up a chore list so they know what their expectations are. they dont need to do them pronto – they have a choice – as long as it gets done before they leave the house if they going out for the day.
    We alos having rules – they get to decide on 3 of them.
    Our mantra is: a family is a team!
    I am glad this happened – it pushed us to do this.

    Sorry, with a toddler i am a bit pressed for time at the PC. Is onsesual living in a nutshell where everyone gets their needs/desired understood and hopefully met. seeking to undesrtand them….and making yourself undesrtaood?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      That is an awesome start, Amy! I’d say that is a pretty good summary of consensual living. I hope you can get a copy of RPRK, it sounds like your family is ripe for a new, healthier dynamic!

  17. Destany,

    What a beautiful article! You are so brave and genuine, and I know you will be an inspiration to other parents. Thank you so much for your honesty and for sharing what changed your point of view. I will be sure to post your article to my site.

    I am a grandmother now. My daughter and I raise her together, non-violently using the attachment-oriented style. She is so incredible, verbal, and sophisticated. But when I was a young mother, I raised my children in an authoritarian manner, because that is what I knew. I tried my best and always wanted the best for my children. Later on, we learn and there is much regret. But we are learning together as a society. And stories like yours will serve as a role model and inspiration! Thank you.

    Robbyn Peters Bennett, LMHC

  18. Kendra

    “Children Must not always be compliant” is a nice idea if you are a middle class white family. but what about when you are a minority and the cops harrass your Black son for just being in his predominantly white neighborhood? what then when he is not sufficiently subordinate? How can I justify allowing my kiddos to experiment freely with “limited insubordination” in the safe environment of our home when the minute he steps outside the door he is in an unsafe hostile enviroment? For my Black children ther are real life negative consequences for a lack of compliance. How can i justify teaching my children in this manner when the rest of the USA hasn’t caught up? When he is at risk of dwb ( driving while black) ina few short years just because we live in nicer area?
    On the other side i am working on spanking less and getting my children to talk instead of hit. we’ve come a long way and have further to go still. However accepting responsi bility for your sons fist fight is just mommy guilt. they have been brought in our violence loving country and combined with the hormones of adolesence. Even amongst the gentlest ap anti-spanking parents teens break out in fights. They love each other, are forced together, and live in enclosed spaces and conflict will arise. You need to stop blaming your self for their problem and just work on solving them.

    • Hi Kendra, thank you for reading and commenting.
      I would first like to address the fact that while many parents who practice consensual living are white and are middle class, there are families who are not white and are not middle class who practice it as well. But I do get what you are saying, and I appreciate that your children will have a different experience than mine growing up because of our skin color. It’s a very sad fact, but I don’t believe it must determine your relationship with your children – that is still very much your choice and in your power to control.

      The fact that the world is in some ways harder for your children is even more of a reason for you to be soft for them. I know that my children enjoy a certain comfort in their race that others don’t, but it is still a hostile place for us all – as you pointed out when you mention our “violence loving country.” As mothers, our role is to prepare our children for the outside world. Some seek to “toughen” their children up so that they can match the brutality they may be exposed or even subjected to. I argue that such methods create emotional calluses which are temporary and eventually fall away – leaving the tender soul inside exposed with less ability to cope.

      For instance: I have studied quite a lot on bullying. I have come to the conclusion that many of the children who bully at school often do so because they are bullied at home. Likewise, some children are bullied more at school because their parents have conditioned them to be accepting of it.

      The world outside is harsh. All the more reason to be the sanctuary and instill the confidence and security in your children that will be that inner flame to carry them through their trying times. Make it bright so the world in all it’s hate cannot stamp it out.

      As for my “mommy-guilt,” as you say, I politely disagree. I am not feeling guilty for what they did, but I owning my part in what may have led up to it and taking responsibility for that. It’s a good thing to model, in my opinion. If I had taught them better coping skills from a younger age, they would have been more able to resolve their dispute verbally, without it escalating to violence in the manner that it did.

      Raising children in a way that they feel their needs and emotions are addressed, is not the same thing as catering to children and giving them their way. They are not learning that the world is always going to work for them. But it does teach them to find amicable solutions when they are faced with conflict. They are quite likely to be respectful to adults and to authority, because that is how they have been taught to react, when things aren’t working for them. They are simply taught by example rather than by punishment.

      I am hesitant to use my white sons as examples when what you are speaking of is a separation of culture, but I am only able to offer you my opinions based on my own experience within the boundaries of my circumstances. I can tell you that when I was more authoritative, my sons were more rebellious. Since becoming more cooperative with them, this is being reflected back to me. I have earned the respect genuinely that for years I demanded and expected. My sons are also learning to communicate effectively with other adults, including their teachers. They are more confident and adept at vocally expressing their needs in a polite manner, even when they are quite outraged at what they feel is their teachers lack of fairness. This elicits more thoughtful responses from their other authority figures. (I am referring specifically to a conflict resolution between my 15 year old and his social studies teacher).

      Any instance of your sons being targeted in a discriminatory way is going to be very ugly and unpleasant and bring up feelings of degradation and shame that I personally cannot relate to (except in the capacity of a woman who often experiences rampant sexism that is also prevalent in our society) and I cannot possibly offer advice on how to teach or council your children in that regard.

      However, I appreciate that you have an added challenge to how you parent and base your choices off of. It’s great that you are working spanking less and taking a gentler approach. I also appreciate your honesty and giving us more to think about.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I echo Destany’s reply on not being fully able to relate/empathize, since I am white. I do want to clarify, though, that consensual living does not promote noncompliance or questioning authority in a disrespectful way. It simply means that children are encouraged to vocalize their needs, that family members are encouraged to consider everyone’s needs/wants when problem-solving.

    • Check out Asadah Kirkland’s book, “Beating Black Kids.” She works in Harlem, is an African American woman, and she doesn’t EVER hit her daughter. She tells you why. I think this little book she wrote might really change the way you see hitting your children. She is amazing. Here is her book:

      Here are a few video clips where Asadah talks as well as others.

      The research is clear by the way, spanking hurts black kids just as much as any other ethnic class.

  19. Thank you. I needed to read this this morning.

  20. Samuel Martin   byblechyld

    Hello from Jerusalem.

    Really enjoyed this.

    I do quite a lot of activism and work with blocker communities among religious advocates of spanking kids.

    I have a free ebook which has a specific track record of helping many sincere believers in God who believe it is a religious mandate to spank their kids better understand some of the ancient religious texts in a more comprehensive way.

    I have some excerpts on my blog ( and anyone who wants my free ebook (40,000+ words) where I comprehensively cover many associated issues is welcomed to write me.

    To check out some scholarly assessments of my work, please feel free to check out –

    For some perspectives by mothers in particular who have read my book, please see:


  21. Hi Hope you can sign the petition and also click like on our facebook page. It is time we put a stop to corporal discipline in Australia.
    Many thanks and your blog is also a great eye-opener and I have put it on the facebook page. Hopefully it will make other parents aware that smacking does not work and that there ARE other and better alternatives to discipline the children.

    Cheers Mariska

  • Grab my new badge!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Visit Natural Parents Network
  • Display & participate!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Carnival of Weaning

    Carnival of Weaning