Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Much Ado About Spanking

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Have you been following the latest news stories about spanking causing mental illness? I've seen links to the story all over the Internet, on Twitter and facebook. I wanted to ignore it because it seems like every year there is a new study that tries to definitively declare that spanking is bad. Or good. And of course, that definitive answer is always debunked and debated until the next study comes out. (By the way, the study that says spanking causes mental illness is very misleading. Read this article to understand why.)

I have never wanted to out myself as a spanker. But, there I just said it. I have spanked my boys. I don't spank on the regular or very often. I'm kind of a spanker as a last resort. In fact, before my first son was born, I swore I'd never lay a hand on my children. I even wrote a story about the dangers of spanking for Essence magazine and believed every word I wrote. But then my boys stopped being adorable little babies, and spanking joined my toolbox of discipline tactics. You can stop reading right here if the idea of Ms. Meltingpot spanking is too distasteful. I apologize. But I think we should talk about this out in the open.

This is such a difficult topic to discuss. And it is so fraught with race, class and culture issues. I think many people believe spanking is an evil confined to the poor and colored communities. But we all know this is not true, especially if 50 percent of Americans admit to spanking their children sometimes. But there is a difference between spanking and abuse. But the problem is trying to legislate  the difference and then implementing those rules. Many countries, 32 in fact, have outlawed spanking, including Spain, Israel and Sweden. But, I can attest to the fact that I have seen many Spanish mothers beating their kids with a bedroom slipper, so the laws may be in name only. El esposo tells me his mother slapped her three boys whenever they got out of hand as did many of his friends' parents, and hair pulling was another favorite method of discipline.

El esposo doesn't spank our children. He won't. But he's good for a hair pull to keep them in line. I think hair pulling is crazy. He thinks spanking is ridiculous. Our kids dislike both methods, but, that's the point. And here's my point. Can't good parents choose their own methods of discipline? The ones that work best for them and their children? Spanking has been used since the beginning of human existence to deter bad behavior. I hate to use the "I was spanked and I turned out okay," logic, but if you use that to consider how many generations of folks have been spanked the world over and humankind is still churning, that says something right?

Make no mistake. I don't endorse spanking. I don't like spanking. I don't think it should be used in most situations. I just think people shouldn't feel like their going to make their kids grow up to be bi-polar or sociopath killers if they choose to spank. Discipline is one of the hardest parts of parenting. And it's one of the things many parents aren't willing to put the time and energy into, because it is so hard and so unpleasant. Perhaps if we could speak more openly about our trials and tribulations with discipline we might discover better ways than spanking to keep our kids on the right track.

What do you do about discipline in your homes? Time outs? Taking away toys? Grounding? Spanking? I'm so listening and taking notes.



Anonymous said...

I have experimented with spanking. I don't like it. But what I dislike more than spanking is how judgmental we are about what goes on in other families. Is the child being abused by a swat? NO! Is the child the child being neglected by a swat? NO!

Being a parent is a hard, hard job. The last thing that we parents need is self righteous a-holes micromanaging and criticizing everything that goes on within a family. Worse than a swat? I can think of a few things, fear mongering, the spiritual abuse of a few religious sects, but you don't see people talking about "abusive" it is to be raised in a fundamental church were you are an unworthy earthling.
I digress.....

Professor Tharps said...

Preach on! I am so with you. Thanks for sharing. I hope more people join in the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Teaching racism, homophobia and intolerance? Abusive!

Tony Conrad said...

If it is done in love and wanting the best for the child it is good. If it is done in sudden anger or curuelty then of course it is wrong. Chilren do need discipline at time and if you really love your children you will do it.

Tony Conrad said...

If it is done in love and wanting the best for the child it is good. If it is done in sudden anger or curuelty then of course it is wrong. Chilren do need discipline at time and if you really love your children you will do it.

lifeexplorerdiscovery said...

I think spanking is violence and that its a cop out, a lazy way out of finding the right way to discipline. Its right up there with forcing kids to apologize but not teaching them why to be sorry in the first place!

My aunt was a believer in spanking, problem is she kept doing it as I aged. I got used to the pain and would grab the belt. You see, my aunt is also abusive. She hit me with a remote once, and this was when I was 19 years of age, 4 years ago.

Spanking makes me uncomfortable. I mean what does putting a child through physical pain going to give you. All it does is make them fear you. It makes you an authoritarian parent that resorts to violent to get what they want. Most of the time, the kids being spanked were never properly raised to understand right from wrong in the first least from my observations.

Professor Tharps said...

Anon #2,

I think you make a good point. One thing is spanking and the other is hitting in anger. THere is a difference.

I completely and totally hear you and respect and thank you for sharing your opinion. And in many ways I agree with you too. That's what makes this so difficult to discuss...or even to admit. This is why we need to speak openly about this topic.

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