Okay, so I fought every desire in me to tell her to go straight to hell... and composed this....
I was very saddened by your article on spanking. I was saddened because I truly believe you love your child and it seems, also believe that there is no other effective way to dissuade him from acting in ways that you find undesirable than to strike him.
It saddens me that someone who seems so intelligent would think themselves so incapable of an alternative solution to dealing with your four year old's very normal, and very age appropriate behavior.
Also troubling, is the fact that I am sure you would throw yourself in front of a bus to protect the life you brought into this world, yet at the same time see no issue with putting your hands on his body in a way that is neither loving, gentle, or really does anything to accomplish your greater goal --- to have him understand why taking lights off of Christmas trees and the like are not acceptable behaviors in your home or in society.
All spanking does is instill fear into a child. It sends the message that physical retaliation is an acceptable means of communication. Sure, in the short term it is effective in making children "obey", but they are doing so out of fear of being hit and no other reason. It does nothing to teach the greater lessons I am sure you seek to instill in him -- respect for others and their feelings, personal belongings and most of all, their right to exist without fear of physical retaliation.
In no other place in society is someone allowed to reprimand you physically. Your husband does not strike you when dinner is not on the table to his satisfaction. Your boss does not hit you when you are late with a deadline. The police are not allowed hit you if you have broken the law. All these actions would be considered violent, or at the very least, demeaning. I fear you are setting up a dynamic of fear in your relationship with your child that you make grow to regret when he gets too old, or too big for you to hit.
Sure, we all know people who were spanked and claim to suffer absolutely no mental or emotional pain from it. I wonder though, how is it possible to not be affected negatively in any way when you realize that the people who love you the most in this world thought nothing of striking you and instilling fear in you when there are perfectly gentle and effective alternatives.
You may wonder why I keep using terms like "hit" or "strike". That is exactly what you are doing. Sure, you (with society's help) can mask the real term for putting your hands on someone else to cause pain or fear as "spanking". In reality though, if you were committing the same action to anyone else but your child, it would be considered assault...even if it were on a "padded butt".
You can most certainly reason with a four year old, I have done it myself. Sure, it is not the same interaction as one with an adult, but it is possible. In your described situation, I would have said to my four year old..."I would appreciate it if you didn't play with those lights because I am afraid the tree will fall down." I would then redirect my child to something else pleasurable to play with. Sounds simple, but it usually works.
You are probably thinking, but I have to teach him a lesson! He has to know playing with the lights is bad bad bad!!! That is untrue in my opinion. Think of the same situation in the real world. You are at a friend's house and you see a lovely vase on the table. You pick it up and begin looking at it. Your friend doesn't want you to touch it because it is an antique from their dead grandmother or something. Your friend would not slap your hand and yell at you to put it down. Most likely they would say "That was my grandmother's and I am scared you may drop it." You would put the vase down. You weren't punished for showing interest in the vase, you weren't chastised. Much like your little boy and the lights, you thought the object was fascinating, and you wanted to look at it.
You are probably shaking your head and thinking, that would never work! I challenge you to this: You can go back to your method after you have tried mine for even 3 days. Are you up for it? Three days to see if the way I have described makes everyone's life more pleasurable.
The next time your son is doing something you don't want him to do, I challenge you to stop and think. Use the intelligence you have, coupled with the love you have for your child to look at life through his eyes for a moment. Instead of saying "NO!!" and hitting him on the butt, why don't you try the crazy, out there reasoning stuff? Why don't you trying saying "sweetie, I know you want to play with ____ but mama thinks you may break it/get hurt/make a mess/etc....but I know something fun we can do instead!" .... and redirect him to something you are okay with him playing with...
In my humble opinion, that teaches children the art of solving conflict with positive solutions that meet everyone's needs. It helps to build positive communication. It helps to build trust. It helps to create empathy for your feelings towards your belongings because while you may deny him one thing, you are attempting to give him another which meets his needs or wants. Aren't those the things that you want to be teaching instead of what you are teaching him now? Which is that he will get punished for taking interest in things that every four year old are attracted to...things like pretty lights.
He is not being bad, he is being four. Please remember that.
Captain Crunchy (real name though)
( I tried to be nice instead of calling her all kinds of expletives like I wanted...)