In the world of parenting, there are a lot of hotly debated topics. In most of them, I don’t fall heavily on one side or the other. I prefer the stance of “do what works for you and your family” with most things – breast or formula, co-sleep or don’t, public or private school (or homeschool), screen time or no screen time… but there is one subject on which I land firmly on one side of the fence. Hitting is unacceptable in our house. It doesn’t matter who’s doing it, it’s not ok.
One caveat: I was spanked occasionally as a child. I love my parents dearly, and I do not judge them or hold it against them whatsoever. In the time that I was raised, it was what was done. They were fantastic parents, but I believe they would have been just as successful at raising two respectful and productive members of society if they hadn’t spanked.
That leads perfectly into the first “pro-spanking argument” that drives me nuts. “I was spanked as a kid and I turned out fine.”
Ok, maybe you did turn out “fine”. Good for you. Maybe you turned out amazingly, but unless you had no interactions with your parents other than being spanked, how can you attribute it to that one thing? Maybe it had NOTHING to do with the fact that you were spanked. For me, it wasn’t being spanked that taught me to respect my parents – it was basically everything else they did. They sent us to a good school, and made sure we knew that we were going there (non-Catholics in Catholic school) because they felt it was the best school. They set forth high expectations for us, and made it clear that it was because they had confidence that we would live up to those expectations. They taught us to pay attention to the choices others were making and what the outcomes were, and learn from what we saw. They gave us room to make mistakes, with the knowledge that they were paying attention and would be there to help us see where we went wrong. They gave consequences that were appropriate for the offense. Anecdotal evidence:
When I was a pre-teen, my dad grounded me for 2 weeks because I said “Dad, don’t be stupid” to him in a public setting (my older brother’s baseball game). He wanted me to know that I had been disrespectful and it wasn’t acceptable. I was upset because there was something (not that I remember what it was now) that I wanted to do the following weekend. This having been the first (and only) time he’d ever grounded me, he compromised – I could shorten my sentence to one week if I went on a “date” with him. I remember we went to the movies, but don’t remember what we saw. What I remember is “proving” to my dad that I could be with him in a public setting and be respectful and pleasant.
Point is, I knew where the boundaries were and I didn’t cross them in that way again after that.
I digress… back to the post. If you look out there in internet land, there are all kinds of articles and blog posts and memes in favor of spanking, and they honestly believe they’re making strong and valid arguments. Like the above, these trigger a reaction in me. And that reaction is not a desire to implement spanking in my home. Here are some of the most common ones:
“Children need to learn respect.” I agree. 100%. Where I disagree is in the idea that spanking teaches respect. Fear is not respect. Children learn what they see. They will learn respect by seeing adults behaving respectfully, both toward others and toward them. If you were managing a staff in a professional environment, would you get their respect by smacking them when they messed up? If it’s not ok to hit another adult, WHY is it ok to hit a child, who is smaller, weaker, and has less ability to self-regulate than an adult?
“Children need to learn to make good decisions.” Again, I agree completely. Again, what I don’t understand is how spanking is necessary to teach this… Children learn to make good decisions by being allowed to make decisions and discovering for themselves (with guidance depending on age and maturity) the outcome of those decisions. The only decision they learn to make by being spanked is the decision to do whatever necessary (including lie) to avoid being spanked.
A direct quote from one article that just killed me: “Children have the option to obey or face the consequences, and they need to know consequences hurt.” Seriously? This sounds like a parenting cop out to me. Children need to understand how to function in the world. Where exactly in real life is the appropriate consequence of a bad decision having someone you love hit you? If you have a daughter, it just seems to me that you are encouraging her into an abusive adult relationship, no?
“Children need to learn self control”. This is another one that gets me. Yes, they do need to learn self control. However, what kind of self control are you demonstrating here? If you spank in anger or fear, that’s a lack of control. If you are one who “calmly” spanks your child, I feel like that’s almost worse. Because you are showing your child that you are making a conscious and rational decision to cause them pain. If you’re calm enough that the spanking is not “in the heat of the moment”, you’re calm enough to solve the situation another way.
“Spanking your child ‘properly’ is not going to damage their self esteem”. Can someone explain to me what this even means? What makes it “proper”? You are hitting your child. How does it make you feel if someone hits you? Does it make you feel good and strong and confident?
There is more out there, and I could go on for a while, but even if you’ve read this far, you’re probably sick of my ranting.