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An essay donated by "Wired"

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To spank or not to spank?

This appears to be an inherited "trait." Unless someone who was spanked, stopped the cycle, and didn't spank their own kids, it continues throughout generations without question. Some will even defend it with adamant defiance that it is the only affective discipline tool with children to "keep" them in line. What never ceases to amaze me is how selective memory has afforded many the ability to actually re-invent what spanking felt like as a child and interpret it to mean so much more than the demeaning act that it was. I hear:

bullet" I was spanked and I turned out fine."
bullet"Yes, I spank my kids because I love them enough to do it." (wow think I'd rather be loved less, how about you?)
bullet"I don't beat my kids, I spank them and there is a difference." (Hum? Hitting less harder makes hitting ok?)
bullet"If my parents didn't spank me I don't know how I would have turned out." (No, you don't. You may just have had a much more open relationship with your parents)
bullet"My kids aren't out of control because they know I'll whip them if they are." (Yes they are living in fear and taking notes now on what not to tell you in the future)

Ironically some of us don't look back at those spankings so fondly. Some of us remember the real fear and the real pain involved, and remember the message of what the spanking was for, was lost through that fear. Some of us don't agree with the reasons for continuing to demean children in this way. Teaching a child through pain will not make them remember why. Rarely will they remember what the spanking was for, rather they'll remember the look on the parents face, the tone in their voice and the feeling of helplessness with someone 3 times their size using pain as a discipline tool. Discipline means to "teach." Not punish. That to me is far greater of a difference than a spanking verses a beating.

Kids became very smart and realized that any admissions of guilt would result in a spanking. Deny, deny, and keep denying, was the rule. So you see selective memory and creative writing may be able to rearrange what we thought were the benefits but only to be later revealed as scars.

Children are not subhuman, they are innocent, and they feel and absorb everything they see and hear. They depend upon us to protect them. They will make mistakes and they will fail. But they will only succeed if they are free to try new things. This is not to be confused with allowing them to misbehave intentionally. But we don't discipline for a first offense. We use it as a grounds to teach and lay down healthy boundaries. Can any of us just imagine what it would be like to work for a boss who yelled at us, or hit us, when we made mistakes on the first day of a new job? Children are on that new job. Everyday is a new opportunity for learning. Instead of punishing them for making mistakes we need to seize the time to teach them what we expect of them. All children feel much safer in environments where they know what is expected of them. To hit first and ask questions later is being punished for your mistakes. I don't have to yell at my kids. I save a raised voice for when the moment is vital and because they are not immune to hearing me scream they stop and listen. e.g. When they are about to walk into the street.

I hear religious dialogue exchanged to reinforce one side or the other. "Spare the rod spoil the child." Not unlike our own constitution we have interpreted the Bible to mean whatever fits our life in so many areas.

I also hear so many say they never hit out of anger and they use spanking only as a last resort. There's that selective memory again. If you have to make excuses, then is it really the right thing to do? NO!

Yes, many children will grow up and spank their kids too. Children do learn what they live. They will use the same selective memory to minimize the true devastation and fear they endured to enable them to continue this with their own kids. Some of us remember how it really felt and found other methods that were just as affective and not near as painful for us or our children.

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Other related essays on this web site:

bulletSpanking children: all points of view

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Originally posted: 2006-FEB-04
Latest update: 2006-FEB-04

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