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I Say, Only Spank When You’re Angry


I was talking to a friend – a childless friend – and she was saying that spanking kids was child abuse. My body bristled at her words. I had never had someone inadvertently imply that I was a child abuser before, so I sarcastically replied, “Oh, I don’t believe in spanking,” and I paused for effect, “except when you’re angry.”

My friend was aghast. She went on a long spiel: “No that is exactly when you shouldn’t because you will only hit harder and blah, blah, blah.” I rolled my eyes and wondered if my friend had no sense of humor, or was hitting children really not funny? [i]

I tried to explain why I said what I said. “I’ve only spanked two times and it was when I was extremely overtired, overwhelmed and out of my mind.”

“Well, that’s child abuse” my friend reiterated.

Then call DCF, because I’m guilty.

Like my friend, before I had kids, I said I would never spank. Not that there is anything wrong with it. I was spanked. I never felt abused[ii].  My parents thought they were being easy on me because they didn’t use a switch or a belt (just a wooden spoon). And their parents thought they were being easy on them because they never sold them to a child labor camp.[iii]

Punishment is a personal choice. It should be discussed before you have kids. Then re-evaluated when your sweet baby turns into a demonic 2-year-old, because seriously, some kids only listen to spankings. If you do choose to spank, the one thing that they always say is: Never Spank in Anger. Of course, I see the reason that they say this, but I could literally never conceive of hitting my child at any other time.

The first time I spanked my oldest son, he was 1½, and we were out of town. My youngest son was 2 months old and was freaked out about being away. He wouldn’t nap. He wouldn’t let anyone hold him. He stayed awake until 10 o’clock every night, and then he would wake up every hour to feed.

I    w a s   l o s i n g    m y    m i n d.

I was tired and hysterical and trapped. Finally, on the third day, I got my baby to nap. All three of us, my oldest, the baby and I, were in the bed, but my oldest was still crawling around. The baby was sleeping in my arms, so I was afraid if I moved I would wake him. Instead I whisper-screamed, “Get over here. Come lay down. Please lay down. I am so tired. I need you to nap. Please.” Then he found the TV remote. “No! Don’t touch that! Get back here.” Then he turned the TV on — full blast. And woke the baby.

My eyes turned red, my head spun around, and Beelzebub screamed, “You lay down right now!” I grabbed him and spanked him hard on the back of the thigh.

I’ll never forget the horrific look of surprise in his eyes. My son lay in my arms and cried. I held him and cried. The baby cried, too. And nobody slept, the darkness of my actions swirling over us, slick like a thunderstorm. Never hit in anger.

A few weeks later when we were at my pediatrician office, she asked how things were at home. “We are surviving,” I guiltily joked, “but there’s some screaming.”

She looked at me with no judgment and said, “It is OK to make mistakes with your children. One of the most important lessons we can teach them is that it’s OK to mess up and how to ask for forgiveness. Use your bad behavior as an opportunity to sit down with your child and explain to him that you did something wrong and ask him to forgive you.”

But I hate to admit I am wrong, I wanted to whine. I spend my free time inventing reasons why everything I do is right. Yet, if I took my doctor’s advice, I could take a wrong and make it a right. Right? And then I would keep my flawless reputation of perfection. “Well son, I only make mistakes to teach you humility.”

Since that day in the doctor’s office, I try to practice her advice. Each time I suck down my pride, admit to being wrong, and ask for forgiveness, I tell myself I’m demonstrating a valuable skill. And while I do hope that my children are able to easily forgive me of my mistakes, more importantly, I want them to be accepting of their own faults and that asking for forgiveness will become a lifelong habit.[iv]


[i] (My sense of humor lies pitch-perfectly between raunchy and lame, so it had to be the former.)

[ii] (lie)

[iii] Admit it. There are some teenagers out there that you really want to slap. A literal reality slap.

[iv] Boys, if it’s 2032 and you are reading this after discovering an ancient portal to the fossilized Internet, please know this is all fiction. … (No. That is a lie. I’m sorry I lied. Please forgive me.)


Published inPen Name Jane


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    Scott Harrington May 30, 2012 at 12:18 PM
    Once again — always hilarious Chris aka Pen Name Jane — you crack me up. True — who spanks their kids when they are not angry at them. Thats ridiculous. That sounds like abuse.

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    rebecca broadway May 30, 2012 at 12:58 PM
    GREAT article!!! My son ran into a busy Lowes parking lot 2 weeks ago mid saturday rush hour….and as a non spanking mom I grabbed his arms (nearly out of socket), hoisted him directly in front of me which is likely 5 feet off the ground, held him up in front of me and yelled wildly while shaking probably too hard….. I’m sure there is a youtube video from that lowes parking lot and a crazy woman yelling at a flailing doll baby. but hey, I’m not a spanker. thats so much better (not). Its instinct. a mother bear will bite her cub in the ear when he needs correction. Why are we so hard on ourselves when we primitively insist that our children follow protocol?

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    Pixie Conrad May 30, 2012 at 01:23 PM
    Accepting our faults and asking for forgiveness, a hard lesson we all need to learn. Thanks for the reminder

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    Dave Holden May 30, 2012 at 01:38 PM
    We spanked our children and they grew into excellent adults. Maybe there needs to be a little more loving discipline these days.

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    Heather May 30, 2012 at 01:58 PM
    I can totally relate! Same feelings, same reAction, etc. I think I saw that incident in the lowes parking lot Rebecca wrote about. I just couldn’t believe the girl was texting on her phone when the kid ran into the parking lot! Then, the mom punished the kid for her own mistake, pay attention to your kid and you might not have to punish them!!!

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    q0rban May 30, 2012 at 02:09 PM
    Wow, this is so great, and honest, and funny. I love this line, “I only make mistakes to teach you humility…” God help us.

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    Mason Gehring May 30, 2012 at 03:54 PM
    LOVE THIS!! Great and insightful as always! Keep up the great work!

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    Albert P. May 30, 2012 at 04:01 PM
    I was spanked as a child (and am a parent) and I can tell you it is never, ever ok to hit a child. You may call it spanking, but it is hitting. I hate when parents say their children grew up ok and they were spanked. Perhaps they grew up ok dispite the fact that you hit them. Would it be ok to say to a husband: ” Its ok to hit your wife, just not in anger.” No, it is not. And it is the same for children. And saying youre sorry after you hit (without learning the lesson to never hit again) reminds me of the abusive spouse who hits and then comes back so sorry only to do it again. That is not a good lesson to learn for either party. I don’t believe children should not be punished or that there are not consequences for bad behavior. But hitting and screaming are not the way. Sorry, I cannot even see the humor in it. Hitting a child , no matter what you call it, is horrific. It would be horrible for you to be hit as an adult and as horrible for a child.

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    Mason Gehring May 30, 2012 at 05:32 PM
    I don’t understand what’s wrong with putting the fear in your childs eye that there are consequences and your mom might kick your ass. Worked for me! I still think my mom could kick my ass and she’s in her 60s. Kept me in check throughout my reckless teenage years.

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    Rae May 30, 2012 at 06:46 PM
    Chris, I love this article. As someone who was never spanked, married to someone who was often spanked…we agreed we wouldn’t spank our kids but I know there will be times when we are challenged. You captured that time perfectly. Actually pretty much the same thing happened to me, except I kinda sorta hit my dog when she barked and woke the baby…she couldn’t believe it and I felt so so so awful. I know its a dog and not a baby but I know I will be tested in the same way with the baby. Thanks for being honest and pointing out the true lesson here 🙂

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    Shelly Maslak May 30, 2012 at 08:12 PM
    Love the article…I do not have children, but watch as some need more dicipline than was given.

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    Molly May 30, 2012 at 09:22 PM
    I still remember the two times I was spanked.. Except my mom called them “love pats”!!! Good one mom!

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    Laura martins May 30, 2012 at 11:14 PM
    Great story! this is the price of being human. Making mistakes, recognizing that, admiting it, and resolving the issue is the the way nature teaches its children. Lead by example!

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    Chris Sansbury May 31, 2012 at 09:41 PM
    Dear mother bear rebecca, I’ve always wondered if I could growl and bite my children as a way to ween them like mother dogs do. Put that on the cover of Time.

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    John Dolac May 31, 2012 at 11:51 PM
    Another good one. I know I am better off for the spankings administered to me when I was too young to effectively reason.

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    Chris Sansbury May 31, 2012 at 09:42 PM
    Dear g0rban, your compliments only make me more humble.

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