About 30 minutes before, the three of us began watching a Disney movie to help induce their afternoon naps. I was tending them for just a few hours while our daughter—their mother—went to a lunch appointment with a friend. Obviously, I was the only one to fall asleep.
My first instinctive reaction was to grab Cooper and somehow teach him a lesson. But then reason took hold of me, and I began to laugh. Cooper was too young to have any comprehension of what he had done. He was just playing innocently. Grandparents don’t have to punish anyway; they get to leave that to parents. The vacuum sucked up nearly all of the black stuff leaving only a couple of small light gray marks that certainly could be easily washed up.
This incident reminding me of a newspaper article I read. It stated that a recent survey showed that about 40 percent of depressed fathers spanked their one-year-old children compared to only about 13 percent who were not depressed. The article went on to say that many child development experts warn that spanking children may be harmful at any age, but spanking one-year-olds is especially troubling as they are unlikely to understand the connection between their behavior and the punishment.[i]
Now some may question the motivations and validity of a study such as the one cited. But I think it makes sense that individuals who are not feeling well—especially about themselves—tend to be less in control about how they treat others including or even especially their children. I feel that within myself at times. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the survey results are yet another reason why it’s important for people—and especially fathers of young children—to be aware if they experience depression, and to take steps to combat it. Depression not only reduces the quality of life of individuals who suffer from it, but it may also impact the quality of their parenting.
Reading this newspaper article reminded me of my journey related to disciplining. Occasionally my father spanked me, and I followed that pattern with our children. However, about fifteen years ago I heard a speech by a respected religious leader who discouraged this practice. I determined at that point that I would no longer discipline our children this way. Spanking may work well for other parents and their children, but I concluded that for me and my children it wasn’t the best alternative.
The other day I was reminiscing with our youngest daughter about my change. She said she remembers receiving her last spank from me when she was six years old. I was amazed and taken back that she would remember! I checked the internet for the date of the speech. It was in October 1994, and sure enough, this daughter’s sixth birthday was about that time.
It’s also interesting that just a few years before that point in time was when I began psychotherapy. Back then I was not aware that I suffered from episodes of depression. That realization came a little later. Other issues had pushed me into counseling sessions. Nevertheless, I wonder if I had not begun those treatments, which certainly already had had a positive impact on my mental health, if the speech would have had the same impact on me. Would I have changed my methods of disciplining our children when they were young?
While I may not be able to answer these questions, I do know that becoming aware of and being treated for depression has helped me to be a better father—and grandfather. Just ask our children—and in a few years when he becomes more aware of things— our dear innocent grandson Cooper.
[i] “Sad dads are more likely to spank tots,” Deseret News, March 13, 2011,