One morning I took the kids to preschool and was on my way to work when my mom called to see how her babies were doing? While I was tempted to give her an update on me, I knew she was asking about her grandbabies. I told her I just dropped them off at school and they were doing fine. Then she asked how my son was doing in school. The question was in reference to some behavioral challenges we were facing with him.
“Well, I got a call from the teacher earlier this week about his behavior, so I went up to the school and handled it,” I said.
“What do you mean by handle it?” she asked.
“Well, his teacher called and said he was running around the classroom acting silly, he wasn’t doing his work and was disrupting the class. So I went up there and spanked his butt.”
Silence took over the car and for a split second I thought the call dropped, but then I heard her say, “Why?!”
“Why, what?” I replied.
“Why did you spank him?” she asked.
“Because I wanted him to understand his behavior wasn’t acceptable,” I said.
“So there was no other way you could have handled it?” she asked. “And what did spanking him accomplish?”
Then I volleyed back a long silent pause while my mind filled with confusion.
“What do you mean? He stopped acting up in class,” I said.
“Yeah, but did spanking him teach him how to regulate his behavior?” she said.
At this point, I was completely confused and slightly irritated. Who was I talking to? Is this my mom? Because my mom was from the era of “I brought you in this world, and I’ll take you out,” when it came to behavior, so I was confused by her line of questions.
We talked further, and while owning she once advocated for spanking children, her perspective changed during the years she worked in youth services. She took hours of child development courses, where she learned about the different stages and phases of how children and adolescents develop. She also learned about effective strategies for understanding what a child’s behavior means, communicating expectations and setting boundaries with children.
Even after learning how a child develops and reading the statistics on the negative effects of spanking, she still battled with the ideologies she was taught all her life. From black culture to church culture, everyone was advocating for hitting children. She decided to study the Bible more in-depth, and during her research, she took into consideration the context of the time and culture for which the scripture was describing things. Armed with a deeper understanding of context she decided it was time to do things differently.
My mom has the spirit of a teacher. Growing up she always said, “As I learn, I’ll teach you what I know. When I learn a new or more advantageous way, then I’ll teach you how to do things better.”
Armed with a deeper understanding of context she decided it was time to do things differently...
Over the next few years, yes years, I continued to process these new ideas in parenting and discipline. Like my mother, I began to do my own research. One of the first resources I found was the book, The Awakened Family: How To Raise Empowered, Resilient and Conscious Children by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Like the title, I truly had an awakening after reading this book. Slowly my mind began to shift, and just like my mom, I began questioning traditional parenting and discipline methods.
My transition didn’t come overnight. There were still times in my frustration I resorted to the traditional method of discipline. Then one day, everything changed. It was a note from his 1st-grade teacher stating he was playing around, not doing his work and had to be redirected several times. My frustration was on 100 at this point. I’d had enough with the talking method, so I went back to what I knew.
This time was different, as I stood over him swatting his bottom he didn’t cry. Instead, he turned his head towards me with a look of deep sadness and confusion. As he looked at me, one tear started rolling down his little brown cheek. My eyes locked with his eyes and immediately I stopped. At that moment I didn’t see my little boy, rather my mind flashed to the scene from the movie Glory when Denzel Washington’s character Trip was being whipped and he never says a word, he never cries out in pain, but rather his stoic glare and the one-tear streaming down his face says everything.
That was the day I was officially done. That was the moment I decided - I need, my children need, and future generations need me to do something different. I had to change my parenting pathology. My search for knowledge continued and led me to the book, Spare The Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America by Dr. Stacey Patton. In this book, Patton, who holds a Ph.D. in African-American History, explores the history and impact the practice of whupping has had on black culture. I was especially moved by Chapter 5, “You Always Were a Black Queen, Mama,” where several black men shared their stories of how whuppings had a negative impact on them.
After reading the chapter I had a conversation with my now 7-year-old son to see if he remembered the incident from preschool when I spanked him. Surprisingly, he remembered. He also remembered the time I spanked him and he didn't cry. When I asked him how I made him feel he sadly said, "Angry." This broke my heart, I immediately apologized to him and I explained I was in my ego trying to prove myself as a good “black mother” who knows how to get her child in check. The truth - I was frustrated and just wanted immediate relief without considering the negative long-term effects of this method.
I need, my children need, and future generations need me to do something different.
Through research and study, I’ve learned better ways to connect with my children. It’s no longer about whupping or spanking, but rather it’s about understanding the underlying cause of the behavior. Children don’t always have the right words to communicate what they’re feeling, so they act out as a way to express themselves. After talking to my son I learned his behavior in school was because he was bored. I learned he’s a kinesthetic learner and did better with hands-on learning versus sitting in a classroom and listening to a lesson. The solution was in communication and connection.
Parenting is challenging. You have the tremendous responsibility of caring for and raising another human being while feeling like you haven’t finished raising yourself. You don’t always know what to do. But don’t feel alone because there is help. There are books, websites, parent coaches, videos on YouTube, counselors, mentors, and others who you can reach out to learn how to manage the journey of parenting and motherhood.
As mothers, we need each other. I’m so thankful my mom was willing to admit she made mistakes along the way but was committed to teaching me a better way. I know I’m going to make mistakes, but I also know I’m committed to finding the best ways to raise my children to be conscious adults who are connected.
About the Author: Hi, I’m LaShonda Walker, a mother who’s on a journey of redefining generational parenting methods by becoming more conscious about myself. I love and appreciate all the things my ancestors did to bring me to this great place and space in life and I want to continue to honor their legacies by doing as they requested of me, “Do better than the generations before you.” I recently started sharing my journey and the things I’m learning on my Instagram page @MomsDoingItDifferent and my blog MomsDoingItDifferent.com.