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

Ah, perspective.

After getting so far in the weeds I couldn’t see the sky anymore, I grabbed my copy of Elizabeth Pantley’s The No Cry Discipline Solution.

I’m feeling much better now. A bit of perspective, a few new techniques, some reinforcement for our AP style, and a welcome reminder that all the stuff I used to do was very well grounded in child development and therefore might work again.

Sigh. Pantley brought some welcome help for our sleep issues (not a solution, by any stretch, but some help) and is now my new best friend for getting back to teaching and away from yelling. She might just be my Valentine this year.