I grew up as an abused kid. Constant beatings with the belt or chancla. It was no fun being a kid for me. I vowed that I would never do that to my kid. I would never hit or hurl abuse at them. I wouldn’t treat them the way I was treated.
And for the most part I have been a non-abusive parent. But I admit to spanking TJ a few times when they were younger. There are no excuses for that. So I won’t try to. I was wrong and while not abusive in general, I did abuse my power as a parent. I felt so ashamed of myself but rather than wallow in self pity I decided to be better. This is where gentle parenting comes in.
But what is gentle parenting? Gentle parenting is the conscious effort to raise children free of violence. With love and understanding and grace. It’s the idea that children are people and as such they deserve the same grace you’d give an adult. Speaking from Latino culture, children are to be seen and not heard, “disobedient” children get hit with the chancla or worse. Society at large does not respect children. Children aren’t seen as full, individual people with needs and wants.
So, I’m trying to combat that. First, I stopped spanking TJ. It made no sense. I did it out of anger but felt horrible about it afterward. It didn’t teach TJ anything other than to fear me. It was just not a good parenting strategy. Anybody that says that it works is a liar. Anybody who insists on continuing to hurt their child, even after presented with the evidence that spanking is harmful, is an abuser. The idea that I could be as bad as my abusive ex, TJ’s father, repulses me. So I just stopped. I get angry of course. All parents do, but a good and effective parent will channel that anger away from their child.
I can honestly say that in the years since I’ve stopped spanking TJ, we have grown closer. They trust me, they come to me with their problems. They trusted me enough to tell me their new name and pronouns. I’m pretty sure if I still physically abused them they wouldn’t have shared that with me. So I’m so grateful that they trust me enough to share that part of themselves with me.
Like I said, gentle parenting IS choosing to be non-violent. Honestly, it is much easier to yell and hit, you don’t have to think about it. You just do it. It’s much harder to step back and try to analyze the situation, especially if you’re angry or otherwise agitated. But for the love of your children, you do it. Because the alternative is abuse and a broken relationship with your child.
I am by no means a perfect parent. I still make mistakes. But I can say that choosing to be gentle has made me a better parent. I was not a good parent before. I was a single mom and sometimes I was out of treatment for my mental health. None of that was an excuse to abuse my authority as a parent. I was struggling but I could have made different choices. But I’m trying to give past me grace too. I was wrong but I learned. I’m in a better place now. I believe that any parent who currently uses corporal punishment can also learn not to. You just have to WANT to be better.
It’s possible. If I grew up in a culture that normalizes child abuse and no longer use corporal punishment, then anybody can. Because our kids should be worth it. Because your own inner child is worth it. I think some parents who use corporal punishment are like me in that they do so because they have inner child work to do. Change is possible. I hope if you’re struggling, you can see this as sign to reach out and become a better parent.