When my great-great grandparents were growing up, chances are they were disciplined with corporal punishment of some kind: spanking with the hand, with a belt, a switch, a metal spoon, or a shoe. When they grew up, and married each other, they had children (my great-grandparents).
When those children misbehaved, they punished them with physical pain – just like their parents did to them. Why wouldn’t they? That’s what people did. Plus, a child needed to be “kept in line,” right? My great-grandparents carried on the legacy with my grandparents, who then amped it up on my parents, to the point of abuse. Let’s just say that bruises and marks were left.
This is the troubling truth and the potential blessing of parenting – without reflection, your parenting is likely going to look just like your own childhood. If your childhood was happy and blissful, you’re likely going to pass on the legacy of positive parenting that you were gifted. If your childhood was traumatic, you’ll likely pass that on as well.
Somehow, my parents had the fortitude and self-reflective capacity to attempt to change the intergenerational pattern in our family. My brother and I were spanked, but it was moderated and softened. It didn’t happen frequently, and I’m sure they held back their full force on us when they did it. That said, the legacy was still there. I was hit with a metal spoon a few times, as well as a belt and a hand.
Nonetheless, my parents started a new cycle. Rather than mindlessly carrying out the same abusive pattern that had been building, they decided to try to reverse the story. Their legacy is why I (with my wife’s agreement) made the decision to take corporal punishment off of the table. I strongly believe that spanking is ineffective and immoral, and I want my body of parenting work to be dedicated to inspiring parents to switch the narrative in their own families.
To that end, I humbly and excitedly present to you this recent podcast with Ms. Anna Seewald, which is part of a free online conference called the “No Spank Challenge.”
Ms. Seewald has her own podcast, called Authentic Parenting, where she talks about how our parenting experience can give us opportunities for “healing from our traumas, making sense of our stories, breaking free from our patterns and triggers, finding our authentic voice in parenting, living our truth, befriending our emotions, managing stress, cultivating compassion, self love, empathy and becoming more mindful in order to show up greatly in our parenting.”
Take charge of your family’s legacy! You have the power to turn the course of history. Nobody’s parents were perfect. With reflection and courage, you can improve upon the childhood your parents left you, and set the stage for your children to raise your grandchildren in a way that will make you so proud.
I look forward to your comments and insights. Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your support.
Dr. John D. Rich Jr. is an educational psychologist and associate professor of Psychology at Delaware State University, a retired United Methodist minister, a full-time husband and father of two sons. His articles appear in Psychology Today, and you can hear Dr. John every other Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. on the Matt Connarton Unleashed radio show on WMNH 95.3 FM. Also, check out drjohnrich.com for more info. Got questions? Dr. John will help you navigate. Reach him directly at email@example.com.