Parents are not equipped to care for their children full-time for long periods of time, and this lack may lead to increasing stress levels and spanking in families with young children.
Lack of connectivity and skillful parenting did not use to be an issue, since children spent most of their year in school and/or summer camp. Family vacations rarely last longer then three weeks, and school breaks are filled with extracurricular activities. Even during summer and winter breaks, parents struggle to cope with their kids and silently count down the days until school starts again. Apparently, a few hours a day, weekends, and vacations are all some parents can handle with their children.
Now, with schools shut across the country and colleges and businesses going online, families are stuck together at home with no options such as eating out, going to the theatre, or daycare to relieve the stress, since social distancing is advised right now.
What to do? Watch TV and play video games nonstop?
With most parents ill-equipped to entertain and engage their kids, self-quarantine makes the weeks ahead look grim. Stories on Instagram and Facebook go to show even some of those parents who have taken it upon themselves to make sure their children continue to learn at home are struggling as much as their children to stay dedicated to the task. Most of the posts I see now in parenting groups and on parenting blogs are now suggestions on how to spend this “challenging” time with your kids.
On the flip side, spending weeks with their parents for the better part of the day is enough to make most children moan. Why? Because their parents are not inviting people.
I recently looked through my bookshelf for something to read and picked out a student handbook to writing I bought on a whim at a library book sale months ago. Targeted at teens, the book painted a compelling image of a typical school day involving breakfast, school, homework, and TV. No mention of parents. No mention of family save “your annoying little brother”. How different would that picture be if you enjoyed spending time with your little brother!
Families will survive being under the same roof 24/7 but I fear that impatience and stress levels will skyrocket in households where parents are unused to spending days directly in contact with their children and are becoming increasingly aware of how much of their lives depends on school and full-time work. I think spanking will increase in households where parents are not accustomed to spending the whole day with their young kids.
Is spanking simply a drastic measure or does it come from parents who are content to allow the schools to raise their children and do little to no teaching themselves?
When you do not practice teaching your children, you cannot hope to find new ways to teach, much less discipline. In fact, why bother finding a new way to discipline when spanking already resolves most problems with as little as a few slaps?
When children spend half of their day in school, and half with their parents, it becomes hard to balance out what is learned where. Often, school becomes the atmosphere that shapes most children’s behavior (or misbehavior) and sets the standard for connection.
Parents become the people children come home to. Parents become the people who make sure chores and homework are done and set limits on screen time. Parents turn into reinforcers; not teachers but rather the law. And the law does not encourage connection or honesty.
Many parents do put in an effort to engage with their kids in the meager time school days and a full-time job afford. Even a little bit of connection between parent and child means there is some connection. Since it is the only connection families have known for perhaps generations, it is not seen as shallow connection but rather as what connection is, even though I believe true connection runs much deeper.
If it is all you have ever known, it is enough.
If it is all you have ever known, strive to make it better!
If you already spend time with your kids, great! You know how the engage with your kids and are all set to spend even more time together without spanking. But if you do not spend much time with your children, and regret the lack of connection in your household, coronavirus has given you the opportunity to bond, to see what family is if only parents and children enjoyed each other’s company instead of winding up frustrated, fed-up, or full of dreamy eyes at the lives in Family Fun.
Bond by playing games and working over schoolwork together. Bond by watching meaningful shows as a family, building with Legos, or doing small arts and crafts. Bond by talking. Bond by cuddling. Bond by not spanking.
And when this is over, maybe your kids will not run to play video games and watch TV after dinner and homework is done because maybe you will have become a real person who treats your kids with respect, who recognizes their value, and gives them a foundation to lay down their dreams and fears on. Maybe you will have become more engaging to them then (dare I say it) TV or video games.
Who knows? Maybe.
Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash