What should a mother do when her husband spanks their infant? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 05:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is my first post. I am at a loss for what to do about this. I noticed something strange when we were in the hospital a day after Camille was born. Late at night she was cluster feeding - awake every hour - I was exhausted, but did what I could to keep her content. One time when she cried she woke my husband, and instead of picking her up to console her he snapped his fingers in her face trying to get her to stop crying. I pushed him away and picked her up and held her. I asked him later what he was trying to do, and he said that he was tired and didn't realize what he was doing, so I let it go.

The first time I saw him spank Camille she was only a month old. She was crying uncontrollably, as infants often do, and instead of trying to figure out how to get her to stop he gave her a firm swat on the bottom as if to say 'hey, snap out of it.' Remarkably she stopped crying for a moment, but then started up again and he swatted her again. I told him to stop spanking her, that that was not an acceptable way to treat an infant. He nodded, and said he would stop. But, he did not stop. I caught him doing it again less than a week later.

Now Camille is 6 months old, and I had not seen my husband spank her in a few months, but yesteday morning I heard her crying loudly in her room, so I ran in to see what was the matter. He was changing her diaper on the changing table and gave her a hard bare bottom smack. I shouted "WHY DID YOU HIT HER?!?" I was scared for my daughter, I don't want her to grow up thinking its okay for people to hit her. Especially the one's she loves. She is too young to be spanked. In fact, no one should be spanked for crying.

I don't understand why he does it. He has never hit me, and never seemed like a violent person. In all other ways he is a great father. He spoke to me later and said that when he spanks Camille he feels bad about it. He does not mean to do it, it is instinctive. He told me that he is trying not to do it, but cannot seem to control it.

Does anyone else relate? What would you do if this were your husband and child?
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#2 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 05:56 PM
 
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I would remove myself and my child from the household immediately. After getting to a safe place I would find a good divorce lawyer.

Spanking an infant is NEVER ok or excusable, period.

ETA. I would also take pictures of any marks that were left if they would be need for divorce proceedings or a future CPS case.
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#3 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 05:57 PM
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I would leave my husband if he hit our child. That is what I would do. I would do whatever it took to prevent unsupervised visits. I am an abuse survivor, and will not tolerate abuse in our home.
No one should be spanked or hit for any reason. Your husband is abusing your child, he needs to stop immediately, and get help -- if not, I would be so gone. While he was getting help, I would not stay in the home.
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#4 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 05:58 PM
 
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I'm sorry, mama. Even in mainstream parenting circles, that's just not normal. And it's totally not acceptable. What he's doing is extremely inappropriate not just because hitting a child isn't ok, but because she's an INFANT. He clearly has no comprehension of normal child development if he thinks she could possibly learn anything from being hit or react in the way he seems to want her to react.

What would I do? Well, I'm not the quietest person in the world, so take this for what it's worth, but I would throw the biggest hissy fit in the world and let him know that he needs to take parenting classes pronto and if he lays a hand on her again, he's out. No compromise, no negotiation on this one. Big red flags are going up here. And I wouldn't leave him alone with her for a minute, ever, for a very long time. I'd be doing a lot of talking and listening with him to try to figure out why he thought it was ok to hit a newborn, where that behavior's coming from, and why he thought it was ok even after you told him not to. Is this situation correctable or is this a warning sign that you and your child need to get out? I don't know. You're going to have to sleuth that one out.
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#5 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 06:00 PM
 
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If you do not leave him, you are contributing to her abuse. If you care for your child at all, you will keep her away from this man.

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#6 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 06:03 PM
 
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You might also want to check out the gentle discipline forum: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...splay.php?f=36


Amy loving DH 5/04, raising DD 2/05 and DS 11/09; missing my mom& my babies 6/07, 12/07; and on the side
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#7 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 06:06 PM
 
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This is not normal. What he is doing is abusing your child. If crying is triggering him then he should not be left with the child at all. Please get out of that situation. Know that you are doing this for the safety of your child. You are the mother and you need to protect your baby. Just because you are not seeing it very often does not mean that it is not happening. It is happening. Please protect your child.
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#8 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 06:08 PM
 
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My evil grandparents used to spank babies. The abuse never stopped -- it only STARTED when they were babies. If your husband is spanking a baby then he will continue to abuse her.

You have to leave this man.
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#9 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 06:11 PM
 
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But if she leaves..who will protect the baby when the father gets visitation rights? I think you should tell him he is never allowed, under any circumstances, to hit your child. Tell him he can call you if he gets the urge, and you'll drop whatever you are doing and be there, and get him into counseling. Normal people do not think hitting a newborn is ok, he needs to come to terms with whatever is making him think he can do that. I would also do everything in my power to not leave him alone with her, but that includes not divorcing him, because at some point he'll get overnights, and judges won't disallow it when a toddler is getting smacked.

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#10 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 06:12 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amylcd View Post
If you do not leave him, you are contributing to her abuse. If you care for your child at all, you will keep her away from this man.
:

I'm so sorry you are even in this situation. Protect your baby. Get away from him.

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#11 of 90 Old 06-01-2009, 06:19 PM
 
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I'm not anti-spanking, but spanking a newborn?? That added to the fact that he is telling you he can't control himself would set off huge alarm bells. If he can't resist spanking an infant, what is to say he'll be able to resist shaking it if he really loses it.

I wouldn't want the baby alone with him until the issue was fully dealt with and resolved and I was 100% sure my child was safe in his care.

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#12 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 04:50 AM
 
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This is just a friendly reminder to please try and stay calm. The primary need in this thread is to help the OP.


odester, this sounds like an extremely dangerous situation. I cannot imagine a how someone could possibly find it "instinctive" to hit an infant.

Please discuss this with your pediatrician so you can start to leave a paper trail.

We are all very worried, please update us on your intentions.

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#13 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 04:56 AM
 
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:

If my husband ever did such a thing and survived my initial reaction, I'd leave within the hour for a shelter, where I would find the best possible divorce lawyer.

I don't have any experience personally, but I doubt that most family court judges would grant unsupervised visitation to a man who hits newborn babies.

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#14 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 05:04 AM
 
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If he knows it's wrong and "can't control it," it sounds like he's one of those people who just can not handle a baby crying and who lose it when left with one who does. He really should see a counselor, maybe take some parenting classes and/or anger/stress management classes, and should not be left with your baby at all until he does and shows that he's learned appropriate ways to cope.
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#15 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 05:14 AM
 
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The fact that he keeps telling you he will not do it again, and then does do it again, would really concern me. At the very least I would insist he takes counseling. Only you can tell if your DD is in real danger, but I might remove myself from him while he takes counseling. If none of that works, I would leave, period. So sorry, mama .

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#16 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 05:48 AM
 
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It's difficult. Likely he has read/heard somewhere the idea that you have to "start young" with discipline. One PP was somewhat incorrect in stating that even in extreme circles it's not normal. There are people out there who claim to be parenting experts who teach that even very young infants need to be spanked. It's disgusting but it's true.

At this point, I think leaving would probably be the last resort. I am guessing this is your first child, which means that like you you DH is still learning. More importantly right now would be to try and educate your husband about what he is choosing to do and what he can do instead.

Councelling is a good option. If it truely is instinctual for him, then he needs to find a way to help over ride that particular instinct.

If he refuses to find help to overcome this instant reaction, or doesn't change, then I would recommend leaving.

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#17 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 06:27 AM
 
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I agree leaving would be a last result. He may have grown up with a family that spanks and in the back of his mind in the instant of frustration, he resorts to it. He knows it is wrong and needs to go to anger management or something similar. in the meantime I would not leave him alone with her. If he goes to counseling and it doesn't get better, I would leave.
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#18 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 06:31 AM
 
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Tell him that what he is doing is child abuse and all the things that could happen if he doesn't stop it.

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#19 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 06:33 AM
 
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Some men have zero tolerance for the sound of an infant crying. Personally I think this is a signal they have their own deep seated issues and would really benefit from therapy. I (briefly) dated a guy who would flip out and actually leave a restaurant if a a baby cried for more than like 30 seconds!! But I know from talking to other friends some men have a really hard time with it- one friend's husband can't handle the crying either, and will refuse to drive anywhere with the baby in the car if it might mean being trapped with a crying kid. That man was never allowed to cry as a child and can't deal with the raw emotion of a crying baby. He has never layed a hand on her kids, but knowing his emotional state she never leaves him alone with a baby.

Your partner obviously cannot handle being left alone with the baby, at all. He is telling you he can't control himself- please don't put him in a position where he has to try and may fail. His reaction is not normal- from Day 2 when he snapped his fingers in her face, to saying he feels bad about it but does it anyway.

I have no idea what your situation is- if you have to work at hours which require him to watch the baby or if you are the baby's main caretaker. This child is depending on you to keep her safe. As a mother, what do you think you need to do to offer your baby this safety?

Your partner is new at parenting and is admitting (even if round-aboutly) he really needs help. It sounds like a lot is required of you right now, and *you* could use some support to help you through it, too? At the very least can you call an abuse hotline in the phone book and get some clarity on what this behaviour truly entails and ask about resources/services in your area?
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#20 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 07:14 AM
 
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I hope the OP is reading. Listen, a lot of these women are saying leave your husband, but likely that won't be your first step. You have to understand though that this is a very dangerous situation, a slippery slope if it continues. My take is that he just doesn't know what to do when she cries and his false logic is telling him that hitting her will make it stop. Talk when you are calm and point out that the hard facts are it just doesn't work. Tell him if he ever gets frustrated or angry with the baby he needs to hand her to you or put her down somewhere safe and walk away, that it isn't her fault and baby's only cry to communicate, not to annoy their parents. Show him what you do that works to calm her down and practice with you in the room while he deals with her. Give him some information via the internet or books on why hitting can be harmful to children and is absolutely meaningless to babies.

I also think that saying he doesn't know why he does it and he doesn't mean to are red flags to pshychological issues. Maybe he was abused as a child and does not know it. That part is a little frightening as maybe someday he might not mean to shake her.

I very much agree with the comments of "momma_unlimited"

Quote:
1 - Get Calm

First, if you feel angry and out of control and you want to spank or slap your child, leave the situation if you can. Calm down and get quiet. In that quiet time you will often find an alternative or solution to the problem. Sometimes parents lose it because they are under a lot of stress. Dinner is boiling over, the kids are fighting, the phone is ringing and your child drops the can of peas and you lose it. If you can't leave the situation, then mentally step back and count to ten.

2 - Take Time for Yourself

Parents are more prone to use spanking when they haven't had any time to themselves and they feel depleted and hurried. So, it is important for parents to take some time for themselves to exercise, read, take a walk or pray.
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#21 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 08:09 AM
 
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Sounds like a man who I would never leave my child alone with.

My dh is not anti spanking but it would never, never, never occur to him to smack a newborn, or even a 6 month old. :

Your dh needs some help. Lots of good recommendations in that regard. I would also agree that just leaving him probably won't help, because if he gets visitation, that means your baby will be alone with him/his family and you won't be there to rescue her. Do start documenting, if you can, in case he does become dangerous. It's hard to say at this point if he's an outright, intractable abuser or if he has problems that can be fixed.
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#22 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 09:12 AM
 
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First, as someone else said, never leave your baby alone with this man. I would make it clear that he is never to hit my child again, under any circumstances. I would tell him that if he does I will be calling the police and have him removed from my home. And if he hits her again, do it. The excuse that he just can't control himself doesn't fly. If he has such a lack of control that he can't stop himself from striking an infant then he needs some type of help and shouldn't be in her presence. You can't let him keep doing this, I can only imagine what a wreck my little four month old would be if I started slapping him when he cried.
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#23 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 09:15 AM
 
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I am so very sorry you are in this situation.

He does not seem to be able to control his behavior and does not seem to recognize how serious it is. He needs help right this moment. Not next week, next month, "soon"...he needs help today. He is a serious danger to your child. The spanking is bad enough. What if next time he shakes her? Google shaking baby syndrome. It just takes one time, one snap, and the baby can be brain dead.

You need to leave this situation. Not necessarily forever but until you know your daughter is safe. I know that the idea of leaving is scary and might seem like overkill. However, please take strength from the fact that you are doing what is best for your child. Also, take strength from the fact that there are hundreds and thousands of women and men on these boards who will support you.

THe other thing is that you need to leave for your husband. He doesn't realize it, but he is on a very slippery slope. What if he does really significantly hurt her or even worse. He will be in jail for decades or longer. Do you want that for him? You need to remove your daughter from the situation to protect both of them. Your daughter from his abuse and your husband from the consequences of his actions.

Good luck to both you and your daughter.

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#24 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 09:29 AM
 
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You need to stay calm, gather your wits, document everything that's happened, and then leave him. The leaving him will be the hardest part- he may want visitation, and you've got to do everything possible so that if he does, it's not unsupervised. Do not stay. If you stay, and anything happens to your baby, your baby will be taken away from both of you, by CPS, because you were there and didn't remove your baby from the situation. He's losing control and then lying about not doing it again. If you don't intervene NOW, then tomorrow might be too late. Who's to say he's ONLY hitting her? Also, bring her to the pediatriion immediately to have her checked out, and ask for advice. That will hold alot of weight in court if need be, even if there's no physical damage.

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#25 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 09:30 AM
 
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That is so unacceptable in mainstream circles that I would expect supervised visitation.
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#26 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 09:50 AM
 
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He needs help. I would not be surprised if that was how he was raised. He sees nothing wrong because that was how he was treated. I would give him an ultimatim. He get help or you leave.
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#27 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 10:37 AM
 
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odester, I want to tell you about the tenderness of fathers and newborns because I want you to have a sense of what is normal/usual.

I worked for a number of years in maternal-child health, in the mother-child unit of a hospital. Those early days as a family in the vast majority of cases are about as tender, about as sweet as they get. Men are brought to tears when someone comes to poke and prode their sweet newborn babies...when the babies cry, the daddies want nothing but to rush to pick their children up and comfort them. If ever there was a time when first-time mothers fall in love with the fathers of their children in a whole new sense of the word, it is in these early days of having a newborn together. There is more than a joy, but truly a reverence for this new little life that they have helped create. Reverence inherently precludes the possibility of violence.

*This* is instinct. Instinct generally encompasses those things that help propel a species toward survival.

Of course, there are plenty of us who have trouble with babies crying...who find that for some reason, we have a low tolerance for it. We need to take breaks, to ask for help from our partners, to plan survival strategies for those late nights.

But those tiny little cries early in the morning/late at night when a child has first been born? It is not usual or typical to have an irresistable urge to snap our fingers in our babies faces as soon as the cries start. And it certainly is highly unusual not to be able to control that impulse (notice I say impulse, not instinct).

I say all this because I think it would be easy, especially with the responses regarding leaving your husband, to think "perhaps it sounded worse than it is," or to otherwise need to return to a sense of normal and brush off the real concerns expressed here.

I really understand why some here are cautious about advising you to leave your husband for this alone. Indeed, even with highly abusive parents whose children are in foster care, I know as a foster parent that the plan is never supervised visits *forever.* As the child grows to an age when the parent behavior is less risky (for example, as shaken baby is less of a risk), and/or as the parent demonstrates that during supervised visits he can control himself, visiting restrictions are weakened. Eventually the plan is always for normalcy in this parent-child relationship, which would mean custodial care or at least unsupervised extended time together.

And even though hitting an infant is not even accepted in "mainstream" parenting, as your baby grows in the months to come, a greater and greater percentage of people-- including judges, social workers, etc.-- will see the practice as more and more "normal," even if not ideal.

So I do think leaving, if for this reason alone, is a decision that should be considered with great caution.

That said, I wouldn't leave my child alone with him ever, at all, for even a few minutes. And that is a terrible burden for you to face over the longterm. Hopefully in the meantime you can influence him to seek some therapy and parenting classes. I encourage you to think about what approach you might take in that regard...to what kind of approach might he be most receptive?

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#28 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 10:49 AM
 
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Thank you, sierra, for a very helpful post.

I'm worried about OP, and wanted to say that there is support here even if you don't immediately spring to action and leave your DH. Please don't disappear.

I would seek professional help--start perhaps with your pediatrician, or a women's center in your community. There are people who in your community who are devoted to helping families in tough spots or with very difficult and painful issues. The first steps are difficult but certainly much less tough than what you are trying to deal with all on your own.

I would also not leave your baby alone with your dh--even for a few minutes. I think what I would do in your shoes in the short term is go visit a loving relative or friend with your DB while you sort this out. There is no need to alert DH as to why you are doing this.

Please send us word.

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#29 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 10:55 AM
 
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If my baby was an infant, I would definitely be worried and not leave the baby alone with him.

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#30 of 90 Old 06-02-2009, 10:58 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stellimamo View Post
I would remove myself and my child from the household immediately. After getting to a safe place I would find a good divorce lawyer.

Spanking an infant is NEVER ok or excusable, period.

ETA. I would also take pictures of any marks that were left if they would be need for divorce proceedings or a future CPS case.
I agree completely. I would have done it the first time I saw him do it at a MONTH OLD. Holy cow. I can only hope that he has no idea that spanking means nothing to her right now other than that someone she loves and trusts is hurting her.

He would need some parenting classes, at the very least, before I would consider reconsiling.

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