Nasty, ugly debate

I happened across a really troubling blog post on spanking and keeping kids in line and it made me wonder: with all the evidence that spanking makes kids violent, self-loathing, and diminished as human beings, why are so many people still advocating spanking as a discipline solution for their children?

One blogger talks about how children these days don’t know their place, and most of the appended comments recommend spanking. The blogger and commenters make the mistake of conflating spoiling with not spanking. There are plenty of parents who spank, yet spoil; and those who don’t spank, but don’t spoil. The two are not the same issue, despite the single line in the Bible (which can be interpreted to mean gently guide as a shepherd with her crook, rather than beat as an adult with a switch).

Another blogger writes about going against her culture’s insistence on spanking, with fabulously well-adjusted results. She argues that consistent, firm, well defined boundaries work much better than barbed wire for children.

It seems that spanking versus not is being touted as a disciplined versus undisciplined debate. But  discipline means “to teach” and there are many ways to teach.

Hitting teaches people to hit. That being afraid of authority is the way to survive. That might makes right. A survey of spanking studies shows spanking hurts kids long term, but gets them to comply short-term.

Drawing clear boundaries and insisting on respect teaches boundaries and respect. Seems pretty clear what parents and children all need to grow the next generation of thoughtful and respectful citizens.

Maybe not spending enough time together is the issue. Maybe a violent culture is the problem. Maybe not understanding the future consequences of an easy choice is the heart of our problems. Maybe cultures, social, religious, and otherwise, that teach negative consequences for negative behavior instead of positive consequences for positive behavior is wherein our dilemmas lie.

I just think that needing children to do what you tell them, especially on safety issues, is vital. But spanking isn’t the only way to get there.  And wailing about  “kids these days” without looking at how adults these days behave is ridiculous. What does our culture value? Celebrity, scandal, reward with minimal work, money over happiness, good people gone bad (or wild)…if parents sing these tunes, especially while their kids are in the other room using technology in which social boundaries are exploded and consequences are few, no wonder children are out of control.

*Among the respondents without a history of physical or sexual abuse during childhood, those who reported being slapped or spanked “often” or “sometimes” had significantly higher lifetime rates of anxiety disorders (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.43, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04-1.96), alcohol abuse or dependence (adjusted OR 2.02, 95% CI 1.27-3.21) and one or more externalizing problems (adjusted OR 2.08, 95% CI 1.36-3.16), compared with those who reported “never” being slapped or spanked. There was also an association between a history of slapping or spanking and major depression, but it was not statistically significant (adjusted OR 1.64, 95% CI 0.96-2.80). INTERPRETATION: There appears to be a linear association between the frequency of slapping and spanking during childhood and a lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorder, alcohol abuse or dependence and externalizing problems.”  source Canadian Medical Association journal Oct. 1999

7 thoughts on “Nasty, ugly debate

  1. Amen. Amen. But I’ll admit, I did spank when they put themselves in danger like walking into a street. But I don’t think it should be used for every offense. I don’t think it should be used offend. I don’t think it needs to be a threat. I cringe every time I hear my cousin say to his kid, “Do you want a spanking?” Now the husband is doing it, and it pisses me off because I was sure we agreed to never say that. My family rolls their eyes at me. Sure I have a friend who has a great kid but he’s terrified that she’ll spank him or have the police take him away for being a bad boy. (Yeah, freakin crazy.) I don’t want a well minded boy enough to terrorize him. I think it breeds a mistrust between the child and parent as the child will always fear that authority and hide misdeeds, which is how my husband got into so much trouble in his youth.

    Did I just hijack your comments? Sorry. I feel nearly as strongly as you do.

  2. Sorry. Just had a thought. Did you ever see The Simpsons where they had George Bush Sr spank Bart? And Grandpa Simpson argues that Marge and Homers lack of spanking is why their no-good kids are running wild and he points to Lisa who is just sitting there reading a book.

  3. I’m from the South, where spanking is par for the course (it seems to me), so nearly everyone I know has a story about picking his or her own switch off a tree. I think you’ve succinctly pointed out valid points, and I think that lots of people don’t know what else to do. You are so right that many people I know of all ages think that “discipline” and spanking are the same thing. Any other form of punishment or consequence seem to be the same as doing nothing. Plus, it’s hard to reject a method that was used with you.

  4. @faemom, funny you mention George Sr. because whenever I think, how the hell am I gonna stop that behavior but honor this child, I ask “What would Barbara Bush NOT do?” and then I do that.

  5. I totally agree. And I’ll tell you what: I’ve spanked my kid. It was not a proud parenting moment. It came out of frustration, anger and exhaustion. The lack of discipline was on my part entirely.

  6. My mom spanked me 4 times as a kid. I remember every single one of them.

    1 of the 4 was a safety issue–I ran into the street (3 years old) and almost got hit by a car. She beat my butt the entire way home, and I really understand that one.

    The other 3 (and my mom admits this) was more about “Mommy has had a bad day and has hit her limit” rather than the offense performed. And I understand this too.

    God, why is parenting so hard? But hitting ain’t good, at least for me. Because if I start smackin’ them, it’s gonna be hard to stop.

  7. I really don’t get the “only hit when you’re not angry” advice. If you’re not angry, you *have* to know there’s a better way. If you are angry, especially after being hit or kicked or bit, then I see how humans can just lose it. Everyone makes mistakes, and “oh my god i can’t believe I slapped my child when I don’t ever think hitting is okay but I just lost it” is something I have a feeling most parents have either done or gotten damned clsoe. But why would anyone plan to hit their kid after they’ve cooled down? I just find it weird.

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