and embarrassed. Even though I no longer practiced corporal
punishment, I regretted that I had ever done so. Humiliation
of my child was never my conscious intent. Because I had not
seen emotional connection modeled in a healthy way, I did not
know how to come alongside my son when he was in
emotional distress, I sometimes defaulted to physical
punishment. This practice certainly broke bonds and interfered
with our mother-son relationship.
Why had I repeated a parenting practice that I myself
hated when it had been applied to me as a child? I remember
feeling helpless and then a furious anger when I was the
recipient of corporal punishment. The only answer to my why
question is that it requires a great deal of self-awareness and
intention to change such patterns. My son’s honest words on
that day held up a mirror and gave me a chance to see myself
more clearly.
Recently, I visited with my friend Beth who lived with
our family one summer while she was in college. In exchange
for room and board, she occasionally cared for our young sons
so that Mark and I could go out and spend time together. As
Beth and I sat on the couch, catching up on each other’s lives,
she said these words to me. “I am afraid that I messed up your
son.” Curious about what she was referring to, I asked her to
explain. She recounted that one of our boys, around three years
old at the time, was often particularly whiny and emotional.
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