Asadah Kirkland, mother of a 6-year-old and author of “Beat Black Kids,” explains why hitting isn’t helping.
My daughter is 6-years-old; I’ve never hit her and I never will. Now I’m not a mother who thinks her child is perfect; I’m also not a parent who’s so lenient that I’m not in control of my household. However, I do believe that hitting youngsters in order to get your point across is a direct contradiction to what I’m trying to instill–patience, self-control and respect–as a parent. As an educator I’ve always had to get the children I worked with to listen–and spanking isn’t an option in the public school system. Both my students and I received a crash course in the art of communication during my early years. I know “talking it out” seems so new fangled and “mainstream.” Sadly since many people in our community have bought into the notion that we should keep kids silent and make sure they stay in their place we’re missing valuable opportunities to get to the root of children’s problems by simply swatting them into complacency. I can only recall being spanked twice when I was a child. Once was because I wrote a fresh letter, which graphically detailed what I wanted to do to a boy, in elementary school. When I got home I was summarily spanked but no one asked the elephant in the room: How the heck did a 6-year-old know this? As a child my heart ached to share my dirty little secret, I was being molested by a trusted family friend, but I was too scared to talk. Now I’m in no way trying to suggest that all kids who act are being abused. I do believe that consistent misbehavior can often be linked to emotional unhappiness–and it’s up to the parental unit to find out why. I know this can be hard. But if you’ve been blessed with a child, one of the calls to duty is selflessness. In between processing a hard day at work and life’s issues there has to be time carved out to consistently parent; don’t be too scared or lazy to communicate, investigate and navigate your child’s life. When I was fresh out of college I remember watching one of my best friends parent her cantankerous son and thinking she had the patience of a saint. He was misbehaving but instead of reacting to him she stayed in control, waited for him to calm down, and figured out his issue. Her method taught him that his thoughts were valued and reinforced his mom’s expectations. In my opinion the investment of her time had priceless results: a reassured kid who knew his boundaries. Becoming a mother was a huge charge for me. I knew I was responsible for molding a person who would be a benefit to her community and world. I also knew I didn’t want her memories to include me raising my hand towards her. I have many tools in my arsenal to instill discipline. The first is patience. I understand that I must exercise it with my child, who’s learning, and I, who’s also learning what works for her. The second is teaching choices. Instead of using “consequence,” which has a negative connotation, I tell my daughter she has a choice. For example, she can do her homework immediately afterschool on a Friday or later–but there’s no TV until it’s done. It’s her choice. Now the hard part is keeping to the standard I’ve set, which means no TV even if she pleads or cries. Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve learned to pay attention to who my daughter is. For example, she loves to do hair, so maybe she’ll be a stylist or salon owner. It’s my job to expose her to as many things as possible to help her utilize all options. In the end, we all want out kids to be great. As a parent my job duties are connecting with, guiding and nurturing my child. Spankings are not included. Read more: