Spanking: Love or Abuse?
“I’m afraid of a world run by adults who were never spanked as kids and got trophies just for participating.”
This post appeared on FaceBook the other day, and it piqued my interest. I responded by commenting, initially, “I’m OK with the never having been spanked. I have never thought that hitting a kid taught him or her to do anything but express anger in a similar manner.”
The person who originally posted the saying, let’s call him Fred, replied with a long anecdote, about having done a babysitting job, back when he was a teenager. He was responsible for children, among whom was a young boy who kept hitting his sister. He had tried everything he could think of to change the behavior; finally, he resorted to spanking the young boy. He said that after the spanking had been administered, he’d hugged the boy.
I appreciated that he had tried alternative methods, but what I really wanted to ask him was, how effective he thought it would be, to teach that hitting children was inappropriate, by hitting this young boy. The fact that he did not see the irony, made me cautious of offending him, so I responded by writing,
“Everyone should apply the disciplinarian elements, as he or she deems appropriate; I only mention that spanking seems so unnecessary. A time-out, and some basic expectations for behavior are all that I found necessary to make it happen.” This seemed like a good start, but I decided to elaborate.
I continued, “In my household, if you hit your brother, then you probably had a great deal of pent-up energy, and needed to fill the woodbox, or stack some firewood, or wash the truck, or gather kindling, or do the dishes, or clean your room, or sweep the leaves off the deck, or any one of a hundred other chores. There are some who think my sons are reasonably responsible and respectful community contributors. I don’t know too much about that. You can ask them, though, if they feel not being spanked helped them to their current status, or not. Consequences can be taught in other manners than by physical violence...It’s just my opinion.”
My stance on spanking is not the result of having been spanked excessively myself. I can only remember being spanked by my father a half-dozen or so times, and all resulted from unsafe actions on my part, like running into the street, without stopping and looking both ways. No, I simply believe that violence in all forms, should be avoided.
On the middle school campus, at one point in the late nineties, we had a spate of increased violence on our little campus of 120 students. I was responsible for student council at the time, so we brainstormed ways of dealing with this issue. The kids decided to try and raise awareness, by doing a survey, to be filled out during homeroom, with no names, and focused on different types of violence. One question asked, “Did you know that yelling at someone is an act of violence?” Another inquired, “Were you aware that calling someone a name, or cussing at someone, is also violence?”
The results of the survey were unpredictably successful, with a great deal of discussion being conducted, and a corresponding drop in discipline referrals occurring. Student Council was as amazed as I was, and that survey came into play for the rest of the school year, with kids reminding others of various elements, as they arose on campus.
Ultimately, spanking results when tempers flare, and judgment fails to produce reason. For me instant fear produces instant anger. Hearing a kid storming down the stairs, unsafely, followed by a tremendous thump/bang/crash, produces one on the heals of the other: first fear, and then anger, when it is determined that no one is hurt. The rule is no running on the stairs because one can get hurt. With a steadfast rule about no spanking, it simply is not an option.
I found it far better to have the expectations for my own behavior, clearly evident, than to leave it up to chance. Knowing that to hit one of my sons, was to send the message that hitting was acceptable behavior, I avoided it at all costs. I could thus use the line, when appropriate, “When I start hitting you, then you can hit your brother; until then, knock it off.”
Of course, I know that my decree did not stop all the violence among the three of them, but I also know that they learned something from the whole experience that I hope they apply in their own families, when the time arrives. They learned that violence was unacceptable, and that three boys could make it out of kid-dom, alive and well, without having been spanked. It’s up to them to determine which method works best. I have a sneaking suspicion I know which route they’ll take: the one that’s most familiar and has worked so well so far. Then they can borrow my line which worked so effectively for them, “When I start hitting you...”