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Is Yelling the New Spanking?

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Spanking is making a comeback.

In the news at least, as Kansas considers a law allowing "controlled" spanking as a disciplinary alternative for teachers and caregivers.

The legislation would allow for "...up to ten forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm against the clothed buttocks of a child..." and while I have to admit that in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind a little part of me is jumping up and down shouting, "GOD! That would feel SOOOOO GOOD!" I just can't get 'behind' spanking.

Unfortunately, Dr. Phil was recently on the TODAY show to tell us (again) how we're ruining our children by yelling at them because it makes our kids "shut down." He suggests we "whisper." That their curiosity will quell them.

Do you know what whispering does to children? It pisses them off.

What I'd like to know is what's a reasonably sane (and slightly "frayed") mother supposed to do?

When I grew up in the '70s, we got spanked. This wasn't shocking. Everyone got spanked. In fact, if you didn't get spanked, it was understood that you were the product of liberal hippies and chances are your mother didn't wear a bra and your lunch contained natural peanut butter.

Believe me, I didn't like it. In fact, I hated my parents for it. I was embarrassed, humiliated and emotionally scarred by the experience. So much so that I vowed, like the millions of other parents who grew up in my generation, that I would never strike my own children. And I don't. Not ever. For any reason.

So I yell. All of the time. I'm not saying it's significantly better than my parent's more "hands-on" approach, but it's certainly effective.

I'm not proud of myself for yelling. In fact, I start each day with the notion that I'm not going to yell... ever again. I'm going to be "easy-going" and "keep my cool" and impress upon my children that their mother is peaceful, serene and just.

But inevitably, after being with my three children through 20 minutes of wrangling, dressing, brushing, serving, feeding, making lunch, bagging snacks, finding library books and locating their backpacks, my patience begins to wear thin. "I am asking you again, could you please pick up your plate and brush your teeth?!" "Why didn't you tell me I had to fill this out last night! " "You need a diorama of the polar ice cap TODAY?!"

I know what you're thinking. "This is your fault. If you prepared your children the night before and left a little extra time in the morning for 'breathing room,' you and your children wouldn't feel so stressed out and you wouldn't need to yell."

Let me tell you. I've tried this. I've spent the half hour before bed laying out clothes, making lunches "to order," placing homework inside of backpacks by the front door -- and it does makes things easier. But it does not solve the problem. "The problem" being the three children who decide they want something for lunch other than what I packed the night before, or that they're hot and need to wear a different shirt, or that they want their hair in braids, or a different lunch box, another muffin, the "good" syrup, more milk, less milk, no milk, or maybe even a pony -- all before they go to school.

I smile for as long as I can, forcing the edges of my mouth upwards through the tensing muscles that want to make all things on my face furrow and frown. I use breathing techniques I learned in birthing class and I say things like "It doesn't look like we have time for braids today. I'll braid your hair tomorrow." And "We don't have anymore of that syrup. Why don't you try the Mrs. Buttersworth." and "I'd love a pony too, but it's just not going to happen today. Come on, we really have to go."

And they'll ignore me. The clock will be ticking and they just keep right on arguing with me about braids, shirts, and ponies. "You guys? Could you please put your lunches in your backpacks and put on your sneakers? Seriously. We're going to be late for school if we don't leave right now!"

And they continue to ignore me. And the clock is still ticking. And then I'll catch one of them watching me out of the corner of their eye to see just how close Vesuvius is to eruption, and they'll smirk -- and that's when it happens.

"YOU GUYS AREN'T LISTENING TO ME!!!! I'M LEAVING WITHOUT YOU RIGHT NOW!!!!!!" (Of course I wouldn't, but a mom can dream.)

And THAT'S when they line up. They grumble and moan and say things like "Mom's in a bad mood... again." Nice.

Dr. Phil says that if I speak to my children quietly, reason with them, and address whatever issues they have in a calm tone, I will raise happy, well-adjusted children. But here's my concern. Isn't it entirely possible that if I stick to those rules, my children will happily live in my home until I stop making their lunch to order... or I die?

So, it looks like my kids are going to grow up thinking their mother is a banchee. But I think I can live with that. Just as long as I'm not still making them lunch.

Who's with me?