DEAR ABBY: I will be having my second child in a few weeks. My mother is coming from her home in Malaysia to help for the first month I am back from the hospital.
I am grateful for her help, but I am also worried. She strongly believes in spanking and slapping her children and grandchildren. I was raised that way. In Asia, spanking is a common form of discipline in schools and homes. I am against it.
Last night, I was talking to my mother on the phone. My 3-year-old daughter was tired and began crying. I told Mother I would call her back after my daughter was asleep. My mother told me to slap her. I was horrified.
I told her I do not spank or slap my child. My husband and I believe in "time-outs." My mother doesn't think they are effective. I told her that slapping a child could cause damage to the eardrum and deafness. I even told her that when she spanked me as a child, I hated her for weeks. It made me a more rebellious kid. Naturally, she disagreed. She said she had spanked my nephew with a cane a few days earlier.
Abby, what do you suggest I do to "knock" some sense into my mother's head? I don't want her to spank my 3-year-old when she cries. -- DESPERATE MOTHER IN TEXAS
DEAR MOTHER: A good talking-to is a far more effective way to discipline children than hitting them. Corporal punishment not only destroys a child's self-esteem and trust, but it also enforces the idea that "might makes right."
Hitting a child when he or she misbehaves means that the adult has "reacted" instead of using the situation as an opportunity to teach more appropriate behavior. Children learn best in an atmosphere of cooperation, through teaching, discussion and observing adults who display responsible, loving, self-disciplined behavior.
When your mother arrives, you and your husband must make it clear that you will not tolerate hitting or slapping. Explain that you want your daughter to love her grandmother, not fear her and dread her arrival. If the child should misbehave, make it clear that you or your husband will handle the discipline -- and then show her how you do it.
Contrary to popular belief, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Perhaps your mother will learn from your example. If she doesn't, she must not be left alone with her granddaughter.