I’ll preface all of this by saying that I have spanked children. I have smacked the bottoms of children I loved. I’ve held a squirming child up by his forearm, the better to reach his rear end, and delivered swift blows intended to tell him that I meant Business.
This was before I had a son of my own. If I lied to you, I would say that I was just following the example their mother, administering discipline in a way she saw fit. The truth is, anytime I spanked them, I was angry. I had lost my patience. I couldn’t breathe. I had to Do Something. Anytime I spanked them, it was an impulse. A reaction to their behavior. They had gotten the best of me, and I took it out on their backsides. After having my son two years ago, I suddenly realized how very wrong I’d been.
There is a particular group of people who share a popular belief: the Kids These Days belief. You know what I mean. People who think Kids These Days wouldn’t be so out of control if someone would just reach out and smack the crap out of them once in a while. People who say “Kids These Days don’t know what it means to have respect for their elders,” or “the trouble with Kids These Days is that they don’t have a healthy fear of their parents.” You know. The kind of people who post this stuff on Facebook:
I cannot roll my eyes hard enough. The funny thing about people who believe this crap is that they haven’t done the research that will tell them over 90 percent of parents admit to spanking their children.
90 percent! You can’t get 90 percent of people in this country to agree on ANYTHING. Except hitting their kids. How terrible is that? And if Kids These Days are so terrible, AND we’re already hitting 90% of them, doesn’t that say something? Like, maybe hitting kids doesn’t work?
Except it does work. Yep, I said it. Spanking works for sure. Teacher Tom says,
“If I disagree with you, shouting you down works. If I need money, stealing works. If you’re standing in my way, pushing you works. Indeed, spanking may work, but there are better ways. They just take more effort.”
Well that’s just a shot straight to the guts, isn’t it? Sure. Spanking works. But parenting takes effort. There is no effort required in spanking a child except that very small bit of effort you need to make sure you hit them hard enough to get your point across, but not hard enough to leave a mark, right? You don’t exercise extra effort to reach out and hit someone when their behavior doesn’t satisfy you. There’s no self-control necessary to smack a child. You need not have respect for a kid in order to smack them around. You never have to “try harder” to beat a child. There is no patience involved in it. No virtue. No tolerance. There is no love in spanking.
Argument #1: Spanking is the only thing my kid will respond to.
I hear this in all its various forms. Essentially, people claim that because children are small, and because they lack the proper reasoning skills to improve their behavior by logic alone, then physical punishments are the only thing that produces results. Most often people use this argument when talking about particularly spirited kids (the kids with ADHD or other high-needs children).
To begin with, I think this is a pretty crappy thing for a person to say about their own kid. He’s not smart enough to understand anything besides a beating? You mean like a farm animal? Part of the reason this argument doesn’t make any sense is that we don’t use it unilaterally against the rest of the population. If we have adult family members with mental handicaps who are functioning with the cognitive abilities of a 3 or 4 year old, do we also spank them when they misbehave? Should we also hit our grandparents who are victims of Alzheimer’s disease because they can’t understand anything else? That’s the only way this argument makes any sense. Can’t people see that?
Argument #2: My parents spanked me and I turned out just fine.
This is the hardest one for me to talk honesly with people about. Part of the reason is that I don’t want to embarrass the person I’m talking to at the time. I rarely discuss subjects as sensitive as spanking with people I don’t know well, so when someone says, “I was spanked and I turned out fine,” the response in my head is based around my knowledge of them as a person. I had a female friend respond this way to a comment I made about spanking on Facebook. She said she had been spanked several times and turned out “just fine.” In my head, I wanted to point out that she was over thirty, severely withdrawn as a person with no close friends. She had never had a relationship with anyone that lasted more than a couple of months. She allowed the men in her life to treat her poorly, and she treated herself pretty poorly too. But these are things no one wants to point out to a person face-to-face. No one wants to be the person to put it all out there and say, “Look at you! You are NOT fine!”
This isn’t to say that “fine” people were never spanked. My sister, for example is enviably fine. She has an amazing marriage (her first and only one), a career she loves (without having to try 6 other ones), has always been successful at everything she tried to do, and has completely owned her own life. She was never held back by anyone. She traveled abroad (boyfriend be damned) for long stretches of time, unafraid of the world in front of or behind her. Even as a young girl in her early twenties, she never waited around for something to happen to her. She went out and snatched her dreams, plucked them right out of the sky and made them happen. So yes, she’s just fine. And she was spanked. Repeatedly. Unfairly. She was humiliated in front of friends on playgrounds and sent to sit quietly in her room while our father allowed the foreboding to overwhelm her almost as much as the beating would.
So maybe she’s fine. But how much work did she have to do to get there? I won’t go into details about how “fine” was not always so for her — that’s her story to tell. But before you use the “I was spanked and I turned out fine” argument, ask yourself if you’re really “fine.” And if you are, ask yourself what “fine” even means, and if “just fine” is good enough for your kid. At the end of the day, I would like to think we’d all want a little bit more than “just fine” for our children. “Just fine” is a terrible, lazy, meaningless goal.
Argument #3: You have to show them who’s boss! You have to make them respect you!
Okay. Let’s break this down first.
Respect: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.