By BASSEY IKPI
When I was a kid, I was always in trouble for doing something stupid. I don’t have the space to go into detail, but just trust: If there was an absurd way to break a rule before it was even a rule, I found that way. (“No luging on the front steps!”) I was threatened with beatings um... I mean spankings. I was never grounded because well, I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere anyway so what were my parents going to do? Ban me from the kitchen? (“You can’t open the oven!”)
While spankings worked on me, they didn’t for my youngest brother. On the rare occasion that my other brother would get in trouble—usually inspired by something that was the baby’s idea—he didn’t need spankings. A stern word or yelling would send him into an avalanche of apologies and “I’ll never do it agains.” I don’t remember my sister ever getting a spanking or even in trouble.... I’m going to have to investigate that further. Mostly, my friends were grounded, given time outs, or deprived of their favorite toys or activities while they were encouraged to “think about what they did.” When I became a parent, I was so dazed and confused that I didn’t really read up or study various punishment methods. I just figured, like my parents did, that I would know based on the personality of my kid.
And then Boogie happened.
Let me start off by saying that generally, my son is a good kid. He doesn’t throw tantrums just for the hell of it. As a matter of fact, his tantrums consist of him frowning, folding his arms and giving me the side-eye. Sometimes if he finds the matter particularly troubling, he will also add an, “I’m never going to be your friend, mommy. Never ever ever ever ever.” He will then eventually find a grandparent to sing his tale of woes to, and I’ll usually respond by asking him, “Are you grandma’s friend?” He replies, “Yes. But not yours,” and I respond with, “Well, good. At least you have somebody.” And then I leave him to get over himself.
Still, I struggle with the disciplining. I’ve tried time-outs but I have to be honest and say, well... I don’t really know what the point is. I sit him in a chair and tell him not to move and tell him how disappointed I am in whatever it is that he did. But my son is 3. By the time I get to the “think about what you’ve done” part, he’s pretty much forgotten what he did. I now use time outs to calm him down when he’s crying but not really as punishment.
I did hit him once. He was cranky because he was tired, but he was still refusing sleep. I don’t get this. You’re tired, that’s why you’re acting like a crazy person, but instead of just going to sleep, you want to carry on like the Tasmanian Devil on that narcotic. I yelled at him and threatened to throw all his toys in the trash. That just made him more upset and he started screaming. Screaming. (Something you should know about me: I don’t do screaming. I don’t care if you’re a three-foot toddler or a six-foot grown man, you ain’t gon’ scream at me.) I couldn’t believe what was happening. I wanted to break down and cry watching this demon child scream and throw toys around instead of just laying his little ass down and going to damn sleep! I ran over and grabbed him by the shoulders and yelled, “What is wrong with you?!” Bad idea. My son paused in shock for a second and then resumed screaming.
That’s when I made the executive decision: I decided to spank him.
I didn’t want to do the whole pull down your pants/lie across my knee/BAM BAM BAM thing. First of all, he was a strong ass little boy. Like, I’m pretty sure at night, when the rest of us are sleeping, he’s lifting weights in the basement. I’ve already seen him do four push-ups in a row. The boy is not human. Second of all, that just seems so dramatic and more about submission and domination than discipline. In my opinion.
A quick smack would do. Boogie’s been potty trained since he was two, so there was nothing between my hand and his ass but a pair of monkey pajamas and Spiderman underwear. So I whipped him around really quickly and “Pop!” right on the butt. There was a silence after that. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to say something like, “And there’s more where that came from!” or “I wish you would!” or “Say somethin’! I dare you!” Yeah, I had no idea what to say. Boogie was stunned, too. He turned around and gave me this “What in the hell did you just do?” look. He didn’t cry. Honestly, he kinda looked like he was going to hit me back.
The whole situation just felt… wrong.
I’ve never hit anybody in my life. To be honest, I’m not very good at it. I realize it was for disciplinary reasons and to get his little butt to calm down, but while Boogie was looking at me, I started feeling a little ashamed of myself. Like I had to explain. Sure, technically, it worked: Not only did he stop screaming, he put himself in the bed and said, “I’m sorry I was screaming, mommy.” But beyond the spanking, he was more crushed when I told him that because of his poor behavior, I was canceling our date at the park.
Boogie’s whole face fell but he nodded like he understood. I honestly don’t know if he does or if he doesn’t.
What I do know is that though I’m not for or against spanking in anyway, I have to find another way to discipline my child. If it works for you and your family, go for it. But time outs seem to work well for me, and telling him he can’t do something he wants to do seems to work best. Boogie doesn’t like to NOT do things or have his stuff taken away so I think that may be the go-to punishment as he gets older.
As for the screaming and crying when he doesn’t get his way, I’ve learned to walk out of the room, shut the door and turn up the TV really loud. Eventually, he stops. He comes out of the room and apologizes. I hug him and tell him that he cannot act like that because he will never get his way that way.
I’m not sure how all of this is going to work as he gets older and bigger than me. I’m hoping that at the end of the day, what I have is a good kid who won’t give me too much trouble. But if it ever gets to the point again, that the only thing I can think of is to spank him, well, I’ve got an emergency bag packed. I’m going to gather my favorite shoes and some money and leave. He can have the house. I’ve always wanted to be a Soul Train dancer.
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About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Bassey Ikpi's "Bringing Up Boogie" is a new weekly feature, exclusively at MyBrownBaby. Bassey Ikpi is a Nigeria-born, Oklahoma-bred, PG County-fed, Brooklyn-led writer/poet/neurotic who is the single mother of an amazing man-child, Elaiwe Ikpi. She's half awesome, a quarter crazy and 1/3rd genius... the leftover bit is a caramel creme center. A strong advocate of mental health awareness, Bassey is currently working on a memoir about living with mental illness and producing Basseyworld Live, a stage show that infuses poetry and interactive panel discussions about everything from politics to pop culture. Get more Bassey at Bassey's World.
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