Spanking & Better Options with Deborah Farmer Kris from Parenting 365 — Episode 152

spanking and better choices

Is spanking a good option for kids? What can we do to not spank, but still get kids who we can help raise to be successful people.

Today's guest is Deborah Farmer Kris, founder of Parenthood365. Deborah is a parenting columnist for PBS KIDS, she writes about education for NPR’s MindShift, and she is the author of two new children's books, "I Love You All the Time" and "You Have Feelings All the Time." Deborah has taught almost every grade K–12, served as a school administrator, and presented to thousands of parents and educators around the country. Deborah and her husband live in Massachusetts with their two kids—who love to test every theory she’s ever had about child development. For more information, visit her website:

This episode was inspired by my post on spanking.

Big thanks to our sponsor Family Routines -- it is the course for you if you're looking to be able to handle those crazy moments better, this is the course for you. Getting your family in a routine is one of the best ways to be able to handle the crazy times.

In this episode

Why we spank (or consider spanking)

Best types of discipline or consequences

Becoming an "emotion scientist"

The other options

Why is my child in charge?

Saying you're sorry as a parent

The parenting M&M -- what are we going to do

What to do if you're struggling

Other things that might interest you

Logical consequences for teens.

My mom shaming episode.

Producer: Drew Erickson

Mommy's job is to keep you safe, so what are we going to do next time?


[00:00:00.130] - Hilary Erickson

Hey, guys. Welcome back to the Pulling Curls Podcast. We are talking about a hot button topic, spanking. So let's be realistic about when it might happen, why it might happen, and what we can do to prevent it. Let's untangle it.

[00:00:23.970] - Hilary Erickson

Hi, I'm Hilary Erickson, the curly head behind the Pulling Curls Podcast: pregnancy and parenting untangled. There's no right answer for every family, but on this show, we hope to give you some ideas to make life simpler at your house. Life's tangled, just like my hair.

[00:00:46.750] - Hilary Erickson

Just a quick reminder to subscribe. Get on your favorite podcast player and hit the subscribe button so you don't miss an episode.

[00:00:53.250] - Hilary Erickson

Today's guest I think I met in 7th grade, actually. It's so fun to have people from Hilary's past life on. We did AP Calculus together. Lots of English classes. She is the founder of Parenthood 365. Man, I feel like I parent even more than 365 days a year, but that's all it is. She is a parenting columnist for PBS Kids. She writes about education for NPR's Mind Shift. She has two books. I love these titles. I love you all the Time and you have Feelings All the Time, which I think are awesome. She has taught almost every grade K-12. She's also in the school administrator. I want to introduce today's guest, Deborah Farmer Kris.

[00:01:36.350] - Hilary Erickson

Are you overwhelmed by all there is to do around your house? As a new mom, I felt overwhelmed at every turn. Fortunately, I turned to systems to make a change. Whether it's mornings, dinner time, or even just to climb out of a pile of kids clothes. My course Family Routines, can save you. I hold your hand as we smooth out these rough patches, making every day easier so we can more easily handle when your preschooler tells you they can use their urine like a lightsaber. Parenting is always going to be a wild ride. Routines are just your seatbelt, and they can support you. Use coupon code UNTANGLED to save 15% at checkout, link in the show notes.

[00:02:13.290] - Hilary Erickson

Hey, Deborah, welcome to the Pulling Curls Podcast.

[00:02:15.780] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Oh, Hilary, great to be here.

[00:02:17.560] - Hilary Erickson

This is way better than AP Calculus.

[00:02:19.800] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Oh, my goodness. Exactly. Although I kind of expect you to be carrying around a trumpet or something.

[00:02:24.930] - Hilary Erickson

It was just a flute and it would fit in my backpack.

[00:02:27.660] - Deborah Farmer Kris

That's right. It was the flute. That's right.

[00:02:29.880] - Hilary Erickson

Yeah. And then in college, it was a piccolo, which was really easy to carry around. So I make good choices on instruments. My husband plays a trombone. He makes bad choices on instruments.

[00:02:39.960] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Oh, yeah. We feel like a bass or a cello or something.

[00:02:43.000] - Hilary Erickson

That's true. Okay, so today we are not talking about AP Calculus, thank goodness, because I have swept all that information out of my brain personally. Maybe you use it frequently.

[00:02:52.720] - Deborah Farmer Kris

No, I calculate tips. I think that's what I use math for.

[00:02:55.940] - Hilary Erickson

So today we are talking about spanking and my website ranks for how to spank how why, which veered really badly. So I had to take a lot of the words out of it to make it more like a parenting spanking than wink wink spanking. So just because I wrote a post because I think parents feel bad if they do spank and I do think that the majority of parents who have a kid who's probably at least four has probably done a SWAT at some point just in talking to people because it's hard. And our parents probably did that.

[00:03:32.500] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Right, right. And we go to those and see places. I get it.

[00:03:35.740] - Hilary Erickson

Yeah. What did my mom do? I'm constantly thinking like how would my mom fix this? Because I turned out great.

[00:03:42.870] - Deborah Farmer Kris


[00:03:43.800] - Hilary Erickson

Yeah. And I also feel like there are times that it might be important, like when you see the kid just like running through the parking lot. I'm always like that kid needs to learn that you can't do that. And I don't know the best way to teach it, but my kids usually would get a really hard hand squeeze initially and if behavior that was really like going out to a pool obviously is a big one here in Arizona, those types of things sometimes I would do something that would remind them that that could really hurt them. Right.

[00:04:11.980] - Deborah Farmer Kris


[00:04:12.400] - Hilary Erickson

So I don't know what are the alternatives there. So first off, I don't believe in spanking when you're angry. Right?

[00:04:17.900] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Right. Yeah. It doesn't really matter what it is. Almost any discipline you're talking about doesn't work well when you're angry because it's activating your child too. So if you're really angry that's almost the time to step away if you can and put them in the same place if you can. But the funny thing about this is I actually just the Washington Post contacted me a couple of weeks ago and said we would love you to do a deep dive on the science of discipline strategies. So all I've been reading the last two weeks is about discipline strategies. So I'm in the no spanking camp but I'm not about shaming parents who do I am so not about shaming parents because when we have kids and they're activated and they trigger us, honestly, we're doing the best I can. So I will offer this that if you want the outcome to be that your child can be self managing, which I think we want to be healthy and make good choices and be kind, the research says that punishment, which banking falls into that category because punishment is basically doing something that the kid will not like in order to be a deterrent.

[00:05:17.750] - Deborah Farmer Kris

It tends not to be as effective as consequences. And consequences are of a natural kind. But obviously you don't want the child getting hit by the car. That's not a natural consequence you want for the child. But it's not so bad if their hands get really cold because they refuse to wear their mittens. And then there's, of course, the logical consequences, which are parent engineered consequences that you do this, I'm going to do something that is related to that, that is going to show you that this is a consequence. And so consequences, because they're connected to the action, tend to be more effective. Also because the issue with banking is even if you are calm, it tends to activate the child. And so when a child goes into their fight or flight mode, their problem solving, your ability to talk to them about it tends to really go out the window. And so the ability to spin and then have the conversation, that's really hard for the kids, because when I talk to kids about the glitter jar that you shake up when they're activated, there is no logical conversation you're having, even with your most logical four and five year olds who you think, oh, they're normally very calm.

[00:06:22.190] - Deborah Farmer Kris

So, I mean, there's always like, there's the emotional component to any piece of discipline, which is, I was just talking to Mark Bracket, and he's the director of the center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale, and his big comment is behavior doesn't give you enough information that your kid may be screaming and yelling at you, and what may be underneath that is fear or loneliness or they got bullied at school or something else that happened. Where the behavior you can get curious about it, but it doesn't necessarily, necessarily tell you what's happening to them psychologically. So his big platform, his soapbox, is that we have to become emotion scientists and get really curious about why a kid is doing this versus an emotion judge, where you're kind of judging this. But I found that when I'm talking to parents, that one little piece of information which is so usable is that the one form of discipline that is related to the highest outcomes for things like developing empathy and kindness and responsibility is called induction. And it's inductive. Discipline is simply when you take it and you take that extra step to show them how their behavior affects another person or another creature or something else.

[00:07:31.680] - Deborah Farmer Kris

So it goes from quit being so loud to when you're loud, your dad can't concentrate on his work podcast, and then he's going to be cranky later, or you let the candy wrappers out to the dog when he eats. Those could get really sick. We often, as parents, imagine that our kids know more than they do. They're like they should know better. And the truth is, often they don't know better. I can't believe they were so rude that they didn't say thank you to their grandma when she handed them this. And we've been isolating them from people for two years because of COVID. So there's so much like, teaching that needs to happen. So index of discipline is really just once they're in that calmer state, if they are activated, maybe they're not, is to connect. Like, I did this because when you did this, it made me feel this way. It made somebody else feel this way. When you put your legs out and I step on them, it really hurt me. And the converse of that is true. To be able to show the positive of when you did the dishes this morning and I didn't ask you, that really made the morning so much better.

[00:08:31.640] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Because kids can feel out of control so easily. When you think about a three year old, they're not choosing their clothes, they're not choosing where they go to school. They're not choosing anything. But they want to choose their Red Bull and you don't give it to them and they're going to explode. Because what else can they control in their life? And so when you have these moments where you're talking to them about how what they do influences somebody else, really, like, this is the cause and the effect. There's real research that those are the kids who developed higher levels of empathy and higher levels of responsibility. So that's my little soap box there. But then I'll also throw out that is tough.

[00:09:12.600] - Hilary Erickson

I think kids really want everyone to feel good around them. I don't think most kids come out wanting other people to have hardships concentrating like you were talking about, or step on a Lego, and that hurts them. I don't think kids come to us wanting someone to suffer. Maybe teenagers, but yeah, I really liked that idea. But I will say, with tiny toddlers, a lot of times I had one that just went for every light socket, right. And just want he knew how to pull out the little thing.

[00:09:45.090] - Deborah Farmer Kris


[00:09:45.540] - Hilary Erickson

And I was like, and he's going to be an engineer now, so that's fine. But what would you do in a situation like that? I think preloading, right? Like, if you're going to the parking lot, you're going to say, we don't run around in the parking lot. You could even take your Hot Wheel and hit one of your action figures and be like, this action figure died.

[00:10:04.910] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Exactly. No, I mean, exactly. I think that if you know that this is an issue with your kid, there's a role playing that happens before the situation. Right. Part of it is like, oh, I can actually control putting the socks in or doing that experiment. Like, let's make it visual and big of, Oh, no. And even dramatically, when the cars coming, they haven't run. Like, see how fast that car is? If that car had hit somebody, really showing that and explaining it over and over and over again, and there may be kind of those natural consequences, like, they didn't hurt themselves pulling that out to say, because you pulled this out, this belongs to Mommy, then we're going to take what's the consequence of the thing that you took out something of mine. So we're going to take something of yours right now. And that doesn't feel good, does it? And so it's almost like, I'm going to show that empathy when you pull this out, that's something that belongs to the house. And so there's going to be a consequence that connects to it, because when it doesn't connect, you didn't finish this. You can't do this thing.

[00:11:06.820] - Deborah Farmer Kris

You like the kids like, what does dinner have to do with Paw Patrol or whatever? It doesn't make logical sense in their mind, so they just think, my mom's mean and not fair. Even as a little kid, it doesn't become internalized. It becomes, I'm really mad at me mom in that moment. And that's not what we're aiming for. We're aiming for that. But I think the other big thing for parents to remember, and it's so hard when they're young, is that when they do lose control, it has nothing to do with it's, nothing personal to you, and you can't control it. Meaning you might be able to control some of the environment, like if, you know, they're triggered and when they're really hungry, blah, blah, blah. But their bodies are going to lose control, and they learn self regulation by watching you. And so if you can take that deep breath with them, if you can do the time in with them, if they let you right? If they can let you do that time in where you're showing them the breathing, you can help them calm their body down. Kids don't learn to self regulate on their own.

[00:12:07.770] - Deborah Farmer Kris

If you have an adult who's really upset, you're going to say, I don't want to be for a while. I'm going to walk away. But kids haven't learned how to do that yet. And so when they lose it, what they're really looking and needing is for us to be that calm and so that they can borrow it, they can see what it looks like. Some kids, they respond to that really well. Others, if they start to get more violent because they're high reactors and their bodies really lose control, there are other options. And if you want a really good book, the best if you have a child like that, is a book called Why Is My Child in Charge by Claire Learner, because she spends all of her days working with parents of highly reactive toddlers and preschoolers who go outside the norm, who don't respond to the script. And she has really great methods for being a truly loving parent when you have that kind of kid. And those kind of kids are going to grow up to be awesome, empathetic, passionate people. This can be really hard to raise them when they're two and three.

[00:13:03.700] - Hilary Erickson

Yes, it is really hard to raise every two and three year olds because they all feel like you always feel like they're in charge at some point.

[00:13:10.870] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Yeah. Is that a great title of a book? Why.

[00:13:16.470] - Hilary Erickson

Have I orchestrated my whole day.

[00:13:18.950] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Around making sure they don't have the 04:00 meltdown and then they have it anyway.

[00:13:23.660] - Hilary Erickson

Yeah, I get that.

[00:13:25.200] - Deborah Farmer Kris


[00:13:25.500] - Hilary Erickson

So because my kids are really old, I definitely did time out because that was the thing. When they're little, I usually just have a playpin set up and I would put them in a Playpen and it had safe toys because there's nothing you can do with a two year old that's freaking out other than help them to calm down.

[00:13:41.540] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Exactly. If they respond to you on the rocking chair with them, great. If not creating a safe space with the toy and the weighted blanket and the nerf ball, the storm is going to pass. And part of the question is what's the language you're using during that time? Is that you go to your room because you're being a terrible little blank or is it your body's really out of control right now? So we're going to be here and when your body calms down again, I'm going to help you because that's my job. So a lot of it I have no problem with timeouts as well. The question them again, is this being done kind of shame and anger of like you're being banished from the kingdom because of this or is it right now you're hurting your sister? And I can't let you do that because your body is still out of control. And so we're going to first try to see if you can do some deep breathing. Me. But if you can't, then we're going to put you in that safe space for a little bit, maybe that play pen and let you calm down and then we can talk about what happened but you can't do the reasoning.

[00:14:36.760] - Deborah Farmer Kris

I mean, when their brain is glittering, that's not the time to talk about kind of choices and consequences.

[00:14:42.270] - Hilary Erickson

Well, I usually said mommy needs some time to calm down. Especially it was like a big thing because I probably wasn't ready to hold them and deep breathe in certain situations.

[00:14:51.090] - Deborah Farmer Kris

That's huge, actually. And that's the thing when I see all the dental parenting stuff on Instagram, which is like great, it's the ideal, but it's also kind of expecting me to be superhuman and ever have reactions to my kids reactions and that's not going to happen. And so if being with your child at that moment means you are going to lose it with them, then go check out and sit in the car and have somebody else or put them in that safe crib if they're young enough and go take the breather. Because I think we have parents who feel like I can never take a break. It means I'm a bad parent. That's ridiculous. Like we all need breaks sometimes you got to circle back to your child. You got to make sure that you're not leaving them in the pool by themselves, but they're going to be fine for a few minutes while you go and take your breather and get yourself collected. And that's actually an awesome thing to model for your kids. I mean, I say it sometimes I'll be like, you know what? I'm really cranky right now. I'm not going to respond well to you and what you just said, so I'm going to take a walk with the dog around the block, and we'll come back and talk about it.

[00:15:47.050] - Deborah Farmer Kris

They're older. I can do that now. I couldn't always take a walk around the block by myself. That's a total privilege, I realize right now. But that's fine for my eight year old to hear me say that and to say, we'll come back and talk. But right now I'm feeling upset and I want to have a calm conversation with you, so I'm going to go check out for a little bit. And that's one, that he realizes that his words affected me, but he also sees that I'm coping. I'm not blowing up at him. Hopefully, I'm doing something to cope. And then we're going to come and circle back.

[00:16:14.840] - Hilary Erickson

Yeah, but you're definitely going to have those blow up times.

[00:16:17.480] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Oh, my gosh. Of course. And here's the thing. If you can forgive yourself, then you like, you forgive your kids, too, right? Right. They're going to have blow up times. You're going to have blow up times. And sometimes you're going to say you're sorry as a parent, which is a great three words, just keeping your parents in Arsenal.

[00:16:32.520] - Hilary Erickson

Yeah. I always talk about in the hospital when something goes, like, really wrong. We have what's called a morbidity and mortality meeting where you review everything. Everyone has the same weighted opinion, so a doctor's opinion doesn't come before a nurse or a text or the pharmacist. Everyone is on the same level, and we all get to give our input as to why we think this happened. Right. And sometimes it just happens because of Mother Nature. Like, people just die. But what could we have done to prevent it or act swifter or all those different kinds of things. And I'm such a big fan of, like, coming back with your M and M, where we're all on the same plane. My kids opinion is valued just as much as mine, and we decide how this could have been handled better. And obviously it's really fast when they're a toddler. Right? You ran into the parking lot while we were at Target. And I love you so much, I don't want you to die. How are we not going to have that happen again?

[00:17:22.090] - Deborah Farmer Kris

What are we going to do next time? Exactly. This is what happened, because you have to have these conversations. You have to draw these boundary lines of kids because it's our job to keep them safe. And I say that to them all the time, even when they're really little. Like, Mommy's job is to keep you safe. So what are we going to do next time this happens. And I feel like sometimes kids have really, even young ones, really amazing ideas when you bring them a challenge. Like, wow, this morning we were all really cranky and you couldn't find your shoes, and Mommy got really mad because she was late for work. And I'm sorry I got so mad. What do you think we can do tomorrow morning? And then I remember I did that once, and my son was three. He's like, My shoes are next to the door, and he ran and he got them. So he was being responsible. But then my daughter, who was six, said, could you put an alarm clock in my room? Because I realized she didn't have a clock. So I was like, you're not getting up, you're not getting up.

[00:18:15.010] - Deborah Farmer Kris

But she was completely dependent on me, and she didn't need to be, at age six, completely dependent on me. And the minute she said, you could get me an alarm clock, I was like, because I sell those morning around. Like, mom has to get everything right, and if you don't do it, it's like, I was the hub of the wheel. And it was and this is hard. As your kids get older, that shift can happen pretty fast, and we're not ready for it. Right. We're like, I'm doing everything for them, too. Oh, my gosh. Not only can they do it on their own, they should be doing it on their own. And so that's really great to have that family meeting to say mornings aren't working. Like, what are two small shifts that we can make? Let's get your ideas.

[00:18:56.320] - Hilary Erickson

Yeah, I love that. So I think what we've learned in this is mom's going to sometimes get out of control. Hopefully you don't spank. Hopefully you're not in that habit. And if you are in that habit, it's always okay to change, right?

[00:19:06.860] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Yes, absolutely. And try something new and to ask for help. Yeah.

[00:19:10.850] - Hilary Erickson

And preload.

[00:19:11.610] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Get ideas for your friends, right? It is a village. Talk to somebody, vent and say, I don't know what to do about my three year old is doing blank. Get ideas from somebody.

[00:19:20.710] - Hilary Erickson

Yeah. And here if it's normal and if your friends are like, my kid does not do that, like several kids. There's always that mom in the playground that's like, "Oh, my kid never does that." And you're like, "oh I hate you."

[00:19:30.070] - Deborah Farmer Kris

I need to find a new friend.

[00:19:33.210] - Hilary Erickson

But if you're finding that really everyone else kind of doesn't struggle with this, then talk with your pediatrician, obviously, because there is a whole spectrum of kids behavior and stuff like that, and there's so many resources out there for parents that I think people just aren't aware of. Yeah. Find good people on TikTok and podcasts and good friends, because I think it helps when you're at that play date at the park and all the moms are like, yes, I shoved my kid right into that car seat while he kicked the bejesus out of me the other day.

[00:19:59.800] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Yes, exactly right. And yet he was safe and he was buckled in, right? Yeah. I want that one.

[00:20:05.610] - Hilary Erickson

That was, like, the worst of a parent, especially when you were already at the store and so people were, like, watching you as your kids screamed.

[00:20:12.190] - Deborah Farmer Kris

I know. There's so much judgment toward parents, and that's so much of my work as a parent educator and a parenting columnist. There's great research out there. I try to translate it to these bite size pieces because I think there is a lot of stuff to learn. But also, no shame if you're struggling. We've all struggled. There are resources out there, but it's like self compassion. Like, really give yourself a lot of compassion, because this is the hardest job.

[00:20:42.380] - Hilary Erickson

On Earth, and it's 24 hours a day, every day, forever.

[00:20:45.120] - Deborah Farmer Kris


[00:20:45.670] - Hilary Erickson

Let me be the bearer of bad news forever. Mine is 21.

[00:20:50.310] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Well, I remember before I had kids, I was a teacher, and I had a principal who said, before parent conferences, just remember that when a parent has a kid, their heart is walking around outside their body for the rest of their lives. And so when you're having these parent conferences, just remember these are vulnerable people in front of you because you are taking care of their heart. And I was like, Oh, that's real. I get it so much more now.

[00:21:17.670] - Hilary Erickson

It's so hard. So big fist bump to all the parents out there. I think discipline is so hard in teenagers and toddlers in school age, and it's always changing, because, just like you were saying, these kids advance, and we're not prepared for it. We don't have ideas. We've always done XYZ, and then that changes.

[00:21:36.570] - Deborah Farmer Kris

But having good conversations with kids and paying attention to their emotions, that doesn't change. That's a great guide. Post all the time.

[00:21:44.350] - Hilary Erickson

An emotional investigator.

[00:21:46.540] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Exactly. Be an emotion scientist.

[00:21:49.290] - Hilary Erickson

I'm not very good at that. These kids need to move out. All right, Deborah, where's the best place for people to find you?

[00:21:56.990] - Deborah Farmer Kris

So if you go to Parenthood 365. Com, you'll find all of my social channels and my books and links to my articles.

[00:22:03.830] - Hilary Erickson

Yeah. And tons of good advice that really tempers how hard it is with also, you can do this. You can be better.

[00:22:11.840] - Deborah Farmer Kris

And it is Parenting 365, because it is 365 days a year.

[00:22:16.560] - Hilary Erickson

I actually think it's like 370 days a year. I feel like that I threw in some extra days, especially when they were sleeping.

[00:22:22.280] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Right. 366 of them.

[00:22:24.630] - Hilary Erickson

Well, you get a sleep regression, and it could be 400 days a year, I feel like.

[00:22:29.230] - Deborah Farmer Kris


[00:22:30.310] - Hilary Erickson

All right, thanks for coming on.

[00:22:31.660] - Deborah Farmer Kris

Thank you.

[00:22:32.430] - Hilary Erickson

I hope you guys enjoyed this episode. I hope none of you felt shame from it, because that was definitely not our reasoning behind this episode. But sometimes you just feel like you need a helping hand, right? Like, what else can I do? And hopefully this episode gave you some ideas for that.

[00:22:48.390] - Hilary Erickson

Don't miss next week's episode. We are talking about my study on birth fears and what it showed, what people are afraid of. And the week after that, we're going to be talking about zoning your kitchen. What kind of zones can you have in your kitchen and how can it help you make dinner easier? Because personally, there was rarely a time that I got more frustrated with children when I was making dinner. So, yeah, these go hand in hand. Stay tuned.

[00:23:12.450] - Hilary Erickson

Thanks so much for joining us on today's episode. The Pulling Curls podcast grows when you share us on social media or leave a review. If you do, please tag us so that we can share and send you a virtual hug, which, frankly, is my favorite kind of hugging. Until next time, we hope you have a tangle free day.

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