Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Explain it to me

Today's NHBPM prompt is to write about something taboo. I believe this fits the bill.

I am writing this with full knowledge that this is a highly sensitive and often polarizing topic for many parents (and people in general). I have no desire to offend anyone. But I, truly, do not understand.

Why is it okay to hit our children? Explain it to me.

Why are a a tap or a pop or quick slap on the bottom acceptable? Why are these locations okay, but no where else? Where is the line that differentiates between spanking and hitting? Or is it just semantics? Explain it to me.

Why is it okay to use your body (or an implement) to attempt to change a child's behavior? And where is the line between what's acceptable to use, and what crosses some imaginary line? Is, as the old law said, anything smaller in diameter than your thumb okay? So, then, is it alright for my husband to use something bigger than what I'm allowed to use, you know, because his hands are bigger? Explain it to me.

What is it about the relationship we have with our children that gives us permission to hit them? Is it okay to do so with a spouse? Is okay with your subordinate at work? Is it okay for a police officer? Is it okay with someone else's child? Explain it to me.

Where is the line between spanking and abuse? In my state, line between legal and illegal is leaving a mark. But what constitutes a mark? Is it a mark if it turns red for a moment but is gone a minute later...15 minutes later...2 hours later...a day later? Does it cross the line when the same exact action that causes a mark on your child, leaves no visible one on my brown-skinned boys? Explain it to me.

Does it really matter if you spank your child in anger or when you're calm? It is scarier for a child to be hit by a parent who loses her cool and does so out of anger, or by a perfectly calm and seemingly rational adult who knows exactly what she's doing? Explain it to me.

Why is it that you having been spanked growing up and now being a healthy, functioning adult justifies spanking? There are many things that happen to us as children (parental substance use, death of parents, molestation, etc...) that we don't say are "okay" just because we survived them. And we certainly would never say that it would be okay to perpetuate those patterns with our children. Why is spanking different? Explain it to me.

There are many things in life I don't understand. But our societal belief that it is acceptable, and at times expected that we hit our children is at the absolute top of my list. Explain it to me.

Today's Lesson: In my professional and personal experience and opinion, corporal punishment teaches children that it is permissible and acceptable for bigger people to exert control over smaller people, and that using our bodies in a violent way is an acceptable way to get others to do what we want them to do. Physical discipline does not help activate a child's internal locus of control. It instead teaches a child to be  behave only when the parent is watching. Spanking does not teach a child to respect his parents. It teaches her to fear them. And the two are not at all the same thing. One is necessary (respect). The other is not (fear).


GiGi said...

I feel you here! I was spanked as a child and my instinct is to use physical force and scare my child into obeying.

Luckily, I've been in enough therapy, that my husband and I agree on an unconditional parenting/attachment parenting approach - which we've seen produces lovely results (thus far).

I live in San Francisco with a community of educated folks who believe more in science than tradition and I think that really helps. I read a lot of southern mom blogs where spanking is totally okay - and I think it must be tradition and culture since no one in science says it is okay.

Peg said...

Amen. I have never understood the logic of reacting to a child's behavior with physical force. Just doesn't make sense.

fullbed said...

As a child, I had very different experiences with spanking and reactions to it based on the way my parents approached it (one calm and thoughtful, one frantic). That being said, I'll never think it's okay to hit a child, and I can't imagine why spanking could or would be thought to be a more effective form of discipline than anything else. Actually, I can imagine: spanking is easier in the sense that it gives the parent a fast and illusory sense of control, while other methods of discipline require follow-though. That says something right there about how effective spanking is likely to be.