Thursday, March 6, 2008

S is for Spanking

I imagine I'll get some p0-rn seekers on that one!

I saw a news clip the other day that was about some 25 year study on the long-term effects of spanking children. I didn't hear the actual news story, it was on a TV in a little Japanese restaurant where I was waiting for my take-out lunch. The thing was that the videos they showed to go along with this teaser ("Story at 11" kinda thing) were not videos of spankings. They were videos of slaps and punches and hitting babies with wooden spoons and outright beatings. There's a big difference here.

I've got no problems with kids being spanked. I was spanked growing up and so was my husband. We turned out OK. So have many other upstanding, mostly well-adjusted people I know who were also spanked as children.

In my playgroup in Tucson, there was 12 moms and babies. 2 of the moms had older children (2 years older then the babies) and one of those - her older kids were twins (one boy/one girl). We'll call the woman with twins E. There were differing opinions on the spanking issue but most agreed it wasn't that bad. Except E. She was a little nuts on the issue, insisting that it was the worst thing you could do to a child and it should never be done under any circumstance. I think most of her issues with it stems from the fact that her mom used to smack her around when E. was a child.

One day we were on the subject (yet again) and E. was riding her high horse (again) saying how you should never hit a child in anger and if you did, you'd damage them for life and blah, blah, blah when I finally had enough of her righteousness.

Me: You're right E., you shouldn't ever hit a child in anger, but there's a difference between spanking as a consequence to bad behavior and striking out in anger. What we're talking about is a smack on a well-padded, diapered bottom as a consequence and we all seem to agree that 3 years old is the age where they will understand why they are being punished and that it is just that - a punishment.
E.: Well, I just don't think it's ever acceptable to hit a child.
Me: Well, what do you think is an acceptable form of discipline, because I don't really seem to see you ever use any.

Here's where things got ugly and, yeah, I started it. And I have no problem with that. See, E. seemed to be so adverse to "punishing" kids that her children had no discipline in their lives at all. The twins were holy terrors and would constantly. Tear. People's. Homes. Apart. It got to the point where we had to tell her that the twins were no longer welcome on our Tuesday playdates. The worst part is that she'd watch them breaking toys, making the babies cry and various other mischief and all she do was a rather useless and hollow warning, "Oh, H., stop doing that."

One particular playdate, we were all at N.'s house and the twins were causing havoc as usual. E. was wondering around this enormous house, looking at the artwork while her older boy was in the living room, jumping, trying to catch balloons while there were babies at his feet. I asked him twice to stop and when he finally succeeded on tromping a baby's little hand, I told him to knock it off. He looks at me and says, "You're not my mother." I took him by the arm and said, "Well, fine. Let's go find her." As per usual, she did nothing and it was after that when she was tactfully told not to bring the older kids anymore. (Obviously, the tact was handled by someone other then me.)

Kids need boundaries. I don't think anyone disputes that. Whether it's spanking or time-out or whatever works in your family and is within the limits of the law. I spoke last time about the consequences of letting children go crazy with no guidelines or consequences. I almost feel bad for E.'s kids and some of the kids I see in my son's class. I feel like they have a bad start and will be sorely disappointed in life when they finally realize that they can't always have their way.

Our boys have had many spankings and seem none the worse for wear. They will be 7 and 5 soon and now when they are doing something wrong, we only need to count to 2 and they straighten up. Some would say it's out of fear of discipline but isn't that why most people live a crime free life? Isn't it fear of jail or whatever (LYS banishment?) that we don't steal those yarn skeins from the back of the store when no one's looking? Just kidding. I know that most of it is just wanting to live a life of integrity but for some - it really is just the threat of jail that keeps us from ramming our car into the asshole that just cut us off in traffic.

Instilling discipline, Ruth!


sophanne said...

I'm thinking a publisher will soon be seeking you out for Ruth's Alphabet rules of Life.

Nell said...

Spanking is SO different than beating. But however you want to do it, discipline is necessary. Otherwise you're going to have all the self indulgent problems when your kids grow up.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100% on everything you said. I'm no parenting expert -- mostly I got through those years with common sense and lots of luck -- but my husband (bless him!) actually IS a parenting expert. And he says exactly what you did -- never strike a child in anger, be firm and consistent, etc. We never needed to spank our kids, we used other methods of discipline (tootpicks under the fingernails was particularly effective ;-) but that doesn't mean that the occasional well-placed swat is never a reasonable consequence.

Kristyn said...

Well said. Yesterday I was at a local coffee house for knit night and there were two ladies with their kids. As these two hellions were running around, opening and closing the door and generally being a nuisance these two were sitting there oblivious. Finally one mother told them to get away from the door because it was a danger". WTF?!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ruth
Alison here from New Zealand, we met playing backgammon a while ago now. I enjoy reading your blog from time to time, and I'm sorry I haven't been in touch.

I fully agree with your spanking post, in New Zealand the government have now made it illegal it spank your own child.

"The purpose of this Bill is to stop force, and associated violence, being inflicted on children in the context of correction and discipline."

Good parents fear the law when trying to sort out their kids and keep them on the straight and narrow IYKWIM.

Since this act has been around I can honestly say the it has not stopped those that beat/hit/thrash their children - and I don't think it will!

Anyway, as you said DH and I were both spanked when required growing up and we know the difference between right and wrong and have respect for other people and things.

Sorry of the saga. Keep up the blogging!


Anonymous said...

I work with a social agency for parents and young children. As a social worker and child developmentalist, I cringe when i see parents punishing their children physically. See the issue with spanking (even the kind of light tap on the hand or behind) is that the parent is not demonstrating verbal skills to their child that will help them change the behavior. Spanking is a sort of quick fix, spur of the moment and the effects aren't long lasting. Using our words takes time but the point is made and can be reflected upon in time (really, we need to be realistic about how a child can be reflective. Impulsivity is the middle name of spirited children but that doesn’t mean we should underestimate them)

Now, is the solitary act of spanking going to ruin a child for life? No. But we have to be aware of what else we say and do around our children. If a child is never spanked but is verbally berated obviously the damage is great.
Our children learn from everything we say and do, or even the things we don't say and don't do!

Olga said...

Ok, gotta give my two cents!
I spanked my kids but it had to be a HUGE CAPITAL OFFENSE. Not because they dropped something or snached a toy from their sister, it was willful intent to hurt or distroy and then they 'bought the big one', but we would make them go into their room and wait, while I got my fury under control, and then when I could calmly talk and explain the punishment-then they got it on the bee-hind. I've had to drag kids outta stores and take them home for a bit of a time out before they got a spankin for how they acted in the store or somebody's home. But the thing was, usually that only took once for them to get it that I was very serious about dropping everything and taking them home. The good part is I never spank now because One- they don't do stuff that requires those measures and two- they are all over 10-cept one-shes 9.

Yarnhog said...

I don't spank my kids because the two times I tried, they laughed.

I have no problem disciplining other people's kids. If I see a kid behaving badly on the playground or in my house, I do exactly what I would do if it were my own kid. I tell him to stop, and if the behavior continues, I stop it and give the child a timeout. If someone is in danger, I don't give warnings. The very few times a parent has objected, I've responded calmly that someone needs to be the adult.

CarrieM said...

I have to completely agree with you Ruth. And too few people do that any more. No boundaries, no consequences to actions, no nothing. I had an acquaintance like E. Her children were out of control. And she, too had a very strict upbringing. But you know what? No excuse. My parents did not "spare the rod," and by today's standards may seem abusive, but my brother and I have grown up into respectful adults willing to accept the consequences of our actions. And so have most of our peers. I do spank my children. It is sometimes the only thing to get through my son's thick little skull. My daughter had the occasional smack to the butt and unlike many of her peers, she does recognize boundaries that have been set for her. She is respectful of her elders and others, and is well mannered. Nothing wrong with being a "little strict."

CarrieM said...

I hate to say this--I finally read through all the comments--but reasoning with a 4 year old and having them reflect on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of their actions? Yeah. Right. Quite frankly, I am the expert on my children. As the one that is most concerned and vested in their care? I KNOW my children. I need to get these kids to grow up into productive members of society and guide them as they ask when they are adults...Society does not need a couple more self indulgent little twits. I do concur that one should not randomly spank them--I ask my son if he knows what he did wrong. I use redirection, etc... And if he keeps doing it? Well.... There are consequences to your actions. And after I have "used my big girl words" and I apply my open palm to butt? Guess what? 9 times out of ten the boy doesn't do it again. When applied judiciously, it is not --in my experience--a quick fix.

Sharon said...

I agree one hundred percent about kids needing limits! I knew someone who just refused to be an adult with her kid. You can't calmly reason with an unruly 5 year old, but you can pick him up, put him in his room for a time out, shut the door and let him shriek his guts out. He needs to know that you are the parent and he is the child. Setting and enforcing the boundaries is so important for kids to know they are safe and loved. And to learn how to function as useful members of society. These mothers who couldn't be bothered to teach their kids the most elemental of life lessons aren't doing their kids any favors. It's sad and unfortunately, all too common.