Welcome to the Parenting Corner Blog, where parents can share questions and reflections on raising children. All questions will be read by licensed clinical social worker and licensed creative arts therapist, Karen Bagnini. Responses to selected questions will be posted, with names omitted. Questions are edited for space.
Responses will be framed in the context of child-centered and developmentally appropriate approaches to parenting dilemmas. This is not an advice blog. Rather, this forum is meant to serve as a place for dialogue. We welcome your comments below.
Please send questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A parent writes: I am firmly opposed to spanking children, even when they are hitting a parent or sibling. I simply believe that hitting is wrong, no matter who does it and sends the wrong message about how to treat people. My husband, however, will occasionally spank our kids. He doesn't cause bruises, but he nearly always acts out of anger and is reacting to their behavior. He feels that hitting them is a justified and appropriate way to respond when they are acting out. Neither of us is willing to compromise and this difference is causing a lot of conflict in our home.
Different styles and approaches to parenting are very common – perhaps more common than encountering parents who are supremely aligned on their parenting practices.
With regard to discipline, the law in New York State regarding child abuse states the following: It is within the law to strike your child with an open hand, below the waist. Any strike above the waist either with a hand or an object is against the law. There do not have to be bruises for a charge of abuse. Any questions about the law can be addressed to the State Central Registry in Albany.
Parental philosophy on formative issues such as discipline, eating practices or how feelings should be expressed are fundamentally shaped by how the parents themselves were parented. When one parent is firmly opposed on any childrearing issue, tension is inevitable and can feel intractable. Resolving the issue can take many forms: couples or family therapy, structured conversations after the children have gone to bed, consultation with a trusted person of faith in the community, and/or talking with friends and family. Honest, thoughtful communication between both parents is key.
That said, the culturally-bound practice of self-reflection is useful in expanding our repertoire of response to our children. Many parents have experienced trauma in their childhood and, until worked through, the impact of the trauma can continue to manifest in the ways they express feelings and needs and how they respond to the need for control, dependency and fulfillment. Every person, family situation and attempt at health and resolution is different. Flexibility (and forgiveness) with how we approach this is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. It can feel like work in the fullest sense of the word.
Here are some guiding questions to consider in a self-assessment of parenting choices: Is the intervention having the desired impact? How do I understand the purpose of my child’s behavior? What do I want my child to learn from me about how to cope with this situation? How do I use language to talk through what I expect and why? What are my expectations of my child and are they clear and appropriate to his/her ability and stage of development?
Some authors and books to consider: "Trauma-Proofing Your Kids" (Levine and Kline), "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting" (Gottman, PhD) or anything by Daniel Siegel, MD.
Karen Bagnini, MA, LCAT, LCSW has 25 years of experience working in the field of human services and has been working with children and families as a therapist since 1998. She is a certified school social worker with experience in New York City public schools. She is currently Adjunct Faculty at the Hunter College School of Social Work and maintains a private practice in Brooklyn. She is also a parent.