All my life I was told that there are two basic things never to be discussed in mixed company; politics and religion. You never know what other people are thinking and you can’t be sure who you will offend with your point of view. I would submit that there is one more category to consider; spanking. People have very different points of view on spanking and saying that you feel it is a bad idea is often misconstrued as calling someone an abusive parent. This is not the case. Everyone is doing their best with their kids, and believe it or not, that gets you a certain amount of points from start. I have decided not to spank my kids and I feel it is for the best. I made the decision after my son, (middle child) decided to stop listening to pretty much everything I said. The spankings for misconduct went on and on. After a hard day of fighting with him I turned to my wife and simply said, “ Spanking isn’t working, I spank him for the same thing over and over again and it has no effect, I’m done hitting him.” That was that. Then I researched spanking to try and understand if I was making the right choice or not.
I Was Spanked as a Child
Let me explain first that I was spanked as a child and firmly held that it was the best way to discipline children. I spanked my first two children when they were bad and everyone was amazed at how well behaved my children were. It was a constant point in conversations amongst our friends and family that our children were so well behaved. Other people looked at me approvingly when I dragged my terrified children into the bathroom at McDonalds to receive their punishment. In short, I felt that it was right.
I like to look at things logically, so I want to examine spanking logically first. Though there are many ways to raise and discipline, everyone is sure theirs is the right way. There is a very good reason for this I mean we turned out ok, right? Never mind that the worst judge of how you turned out is yourself.
I think that if I could work some magic, then we could see this more objectively. You see, if I could develop a phrase that could instantly cure any childhood misconduct, it would destroy all other forms of discipline instantly. Child talked back? Cured forever with one phrase! Child made a mess? cured forever with one phrase! Child hit their sibling? Never again! Over night there would be no time outs, spankings, slapped hands, groundings or restriction of privileges, world wide! No such phrase exists though and if you are a parent you have tried all of them. Spanking does not work. If it is the best form of discipline there is for a child, then the truth is, you would never spank your children. They would instantly be cured of any misconduct. But that isn’t the truth. The truth is, people who spank, spank often and for the same things, over and over again. Because spanking does not work.
If I told you that the steps required to riding a bicycle were to sit on the seat, hold the handle bars, pedal and sing a Lady GaGa song, it wouldn’t be long before you realized I had added an unnecessary step. If I said raising an intelligent, balanced person from birth to 18 years old took hard work, discipline, mentorship, leadership, coaching, love and physical violence, you might reach the same conclusion. How can I say that? Simple, there are people who were never spanked that are hard working members of society, and people who were spanked that are as well. That alone proves that spanking is not the answer we wish it was. Shouldn’t there be a marked difference among people who were spanked? Well there is.
In the population of a prison there is every socioeconomic and racial category accounted for. What is the one thing that ties these people together? Spanking. I’m not kidding. People who are spanked are more likely to become alcoholics, specifically binge drinkers. Children who are hit are more likely to enter into physically abusive relationships, emotionally abusive relationships and have no idea how to get out of them. Go to your circle of friends or people who you know well. Find the hard drinkers and the really angry people. You know who I mean, the people who can always find a reason to be mad, no matter what. Ask if they were spanked as a child. Consider the idea, “ The first man who ever loved me hit me, so… men who hit me love me”. Go to an abused woman support meeting, sit in the back, listen carefully. Large scale studies of countries that have outlawed spanking vs countries that encourage it, shows a five point difference in I.Q., (the higher I.Q. is in the non spanking countries).
When I started to consider these points and think about how I act and how my friends act, a trend started to emerge. People staying in relationships that are completely toxic, for way too long. People who have a hard time controlling their alcohol. People who are ready to fight over literally anything and at anytime of the day. I started to question my methods while listening to my oldest daughter threaten to hit her doll if she wasn’t quiet. Those threats are gone now, as is the violence in my home. What changed? Me. I was challenged on this once by someone who said they spanked, but after some questioning I found they spanked maybe once a month. I said, “So the thing you barely do is the most important part of your discipline plan?” That is like saying that finding change in your couch cushions is the reason you are a millionaire. Not your job, not investments, not inheritance, good ole couch cushions.
Emotions are internal functions that we all have. Your emotions are none of my business and vise versa. If you are sad today, that is not my fault, deal with it. If you are feeling angry, figure it out. Again, not my fault. We have to figure out our emotions so that we can function in society later in life. Many people attribute adult emotions to a child’s behavior, saying that “he is just being a jerk” or “he always acts like this.” When in truth, children have no idea how to react to the things they are feeling. It will never be ok to tell a child that they cannot have a cookie. It causes them physical pain to be told no. Left to their own devices they learn that it is ok to be disappointed and can regulate their sadness. When a parent interferes with this natural process through spanking, it interrupts a child’s ability to learn how to deal with it on their own. Rather than figuring it out internally, they react to external stimulation, (spanking). Now they need someone to tell them how to act without you there because they never learned any different. So when they are older and they drink, they tend to over drink because it helps to numb the mind. Here is the real question, how am I sad? (I’ll give you a reason to cry!) How am I happy? (Quiet!) How am I mad? ( You don’t speak to me that way!) How am I confused? Many people do not know because they were not allowed the chance to learn. They turn to friends, boy friends , girl friends and alcohol to help them with emotions they have no idea how to deal with.
When I Stopped Spanking It All Stopped
My kids hid things from me and lied to get out of trouble. My kids were violent towards each other. Arguments immediately flew out of control and tantrums lasted for hours. The children were unsure of what was going on and were terrified as to how I would act. They were all over the place because they were being natural kids, and I was mad at them for it. They weren’t trying to ruin my things or make noise or spill stuff or dread bath time when they were having fun, they were just little people trying to interact with their environment. It brought stress on the whole family. My daughter had no threshold for stress of any kind, everything made her cry hysterically. My son was a chronic bed wetter and ran from me when I called him and he was in trouble. Keep in mind, I never left a mark on my kids or hit them too much or too hard. I was very careful in how I spanked, it took some time to realize that all hitting is violence. But I had destroyed the trust that existed between us. The trust and belief that I would protect them and never hurt them. It made the kids not trust me. Here is the worst part, when I stopped spanking, it all stopped. Hitting, bed wetting, hour long tantrums, hysterical crying; all of it existed because of how we (the parents) acted. We were hot emotional messes and so were our kids.
So I decided that what my kids really needed was not a good spanking, but a role model. Think it is important for your kids to go to school? Better get in night school and get a degree. Studies show that educated people are much more likely to have educated children. Think your kids need to be honest? Take a long look at yourself and start being honest in everything you do. Think your kids should be brave? Get ready to stand up for what is right, even when it scares you.
Want to know how I can really justify all this? My family still fights and disagrees and wrestles for toys. We have kids who sometimes talk back and hate taking baths. And if you spank, so you do. Children will not listen to a single rule you set, but they will follow every example you show, including violence. In short, you should become the person that you want your children to be, they are going to anyways.