Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

There’s been a lot of outcry based on a celebrity’s opinion that spanking is just fine. It’s a difficult topic to navigate, because everyone happens to have an opinion on it. Some will insist that they were spanked as children, and they are perfectly functioning adults, and others will claim that spanking leads to a cycle of violence without addressing problems.

Even before I had children, I had already decided that I was never going to use spanking as a solution. As a parent, I still hold tightly to that opinion. I’ve had to give Hallie’s hand a good smack every now and again for her own safety (trying to touch the oven or some other danger), but otherwise I’ve never felt the need to resort to physical interventions.

Now let’s say my opinions were different, yet Hallie was the same. We would be in trouble.

Hallie is not deterred by anger, and unfortunately, that is what spanking looks like even if it is meant well. There’s no way to deliver physical blows to a person without looking somewhat menacing, I don’t care what you say. You’re hitting somebody. It’s an aggressive action, regardless of intention. So, in a child like Hallie, you would have to escalate the spanking for it to have any affect, and by that point all you’re teaching is fear. What’s the point?

Some children can take a pat on the butt and move along, with tears and remorse. A child like Hallie would laugh in your face. A child like Hallie giggles at raised voices and wants your angry reaction. For example, one of Hallie’s favorite hobbies is pinching her dad. She knows it will get him to yell out (in pain, not at her), especially when she catches him by surprise, and she will run away laughing her little butt off. When he tries to reprimand her, she’s all smiles. Imagine trying to spank a child like that. You would have to beat her into submission, and while you’re trying to show a child who’s boss, you just look out of control.

Spanking doesn’t teach anything. In terms of psychology, pain and fear are one of the worst teachers, and whatever behavior you’re trying to fix isn’t eliminated. You change nothing with fear and you don’t eliminate behaviors. Instead of changing a behavior, your child gets better at hiding it. You want to know what works? Positivity. Positive reinforcement is praised as one of the most successful strategies for changing a behavior, and this means ignoring what you don’t want to see and praising what you DO want to see.

Here’s what that looks like. When Hallie’s being a gremlin, which is common, we will put her in timeout. Depending on the day and her mood, this can be anywhere. The floor of her bedroom. Her bed. Our bed. Whatever it takes to get the message across that she cannot move from her spot until she has had a conversation with us about her behavior. What’s important though, is how we speak to her. We are serious, but calm. Neutral helps. When Hallie is really tearing things apart, I don’t say a word to her. My facial expression says nothing. I don’t even tell her to get back in bed. I place her back where I asked her to wait, and I silently walk away.

She hates it.

I’m not giving her any response, and that’s what she’s looking for, even if it’s negative. And then the most crucial piece of this strategy is pointing out when Hallie is doing well. I thank her for coloring on paper, not walls. I applaud Hallie for playing nicely with others, not hitting. I tell Hallie what a wonderful job she is doing, in moments where she isn’t asking to be praised. Hallie loves this positive attention, and then keeps doing the positive actions that I’ve praised, and I see less of what I don’t want to see.

It sucks, because it takes time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had Hallie clean up the floor where she has spit water, but yelling at her or spanking her isn’t going to change anything. She laughs, and runs away. We have had a million conversations, but here we are. So now, I hardly respond, and if something does need a response, it’s disappointment. I remind her gently not to spit water, and then I hand her a towel. Next, when she’s drinking her water without spitting, I practically crap myself out of excitement. We will get there, but this is what it takes.

I can’t tell you to not spank your child. I can only point out that pain and fear don’t work well, and asking for cooperation instead of obedience creates a better relationship and a more capable child. Do what you will, but if you’ve got a child like mine, spanking isn’t going to get you anywhere.