Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Spanking, hitting, swatting, .... it's still violence

The majority of Americans still ask, "What harm does ‘a good slap’ or ‘a well-deserved paddling' do? It didn’t hurt me, did it?" One answer to that is, It has made our country the most violent in the "civilized" world, and it has made you the kind of person who would physically assault a child. Think about that for a while.                         ~Parenting without Punishment~

Spanking......   This post has been sitting in draft mode for quite a while.
This topic has come up a lot lately in homeschool circles I frequent or used to frequent,  from traditional homeschool forums to Christian unschool forums and even facebook walls. Really makes you want to hit that unfollow button on Facebook when you see so many pro spanking posts. I don't know about you, but that's not something I enjoy reading. Parents who seem to get such joy out of hurting someone smaller and dependent on them, joking about how they deserve it. I'm sorry, it just bothers me. Do I sound a bit judgmental? Yes, I might just a tad bit. It's not that I'm judging. It's just that I've reached a bit of a limit with how much of this pro spanking stuff I can handle. I have been asked for my feelings on the topic and I always try to remain pretty benign and graceful in my responses. So with that said, since this is my blog, just for the sake of getting it out of my system and sharing my real feelings on spanking ..... so let's see what comes of it here. 

I know a lot of parents who say, well I'll raise my kids my way, and you raise your kids your way. That's all well and good, of course. But when you make remarks implying I'm less than a Christian, or less than a Mother and my kids will run wild if I don't spank. Then that's not really us agreeing to raise our children our own ways. That's more like, you saying, you are doing it wrong Melissa, and you should see the error of your ways. I don't dislike parents who spank. I don't dislike other parents period. If we have something we connect over, in the huge realm of other interests in our lives, that's great. I don't see someone who spanks as a person I cannot be friends with or as a lesser parent or lesser person in any regard. But 
it is my belief that with all the choices a parent has before us,  hitting a child, makes the least sense to me. Yes, I have used hitting or spanking, or whatever way you wish to frame, it so it's not as if I have no idea what mindset a parent who spanks has. And it wasn't because I was in control of myself.  It is by the sheer Grace of God that I realized the flaws of my thought process and changed the type of parent I wanted to be. I am ashamed that I behaved in such a fashion with someone who I love so much.  I apologized to my son and humbly asked his forgiveness and that was the end of that chapter of spanking as well as time outs for our family. 

It's very hard to parent differently when you are surrounded by those who parent the exact way you don't want to be. You definitely start to feel like the odd woman out, fighting against a huge tidal wave of opposing viewpoints. In some cases folks find it offensive and even unbiblical that you are not drinking the same cool aid they are anymore. It sort of reminds me of being unplugged from the Matrix and seeing things in a completely new way. 
Discovering the gentle respectful parenting method practiced by families in the radical unschooling world, was like finding a life raft in rocky seas. Finding inspiration and gaining strength from them. Feeling encouragement from their stories of their teens who rarely have the teen/parent struggles that you so often see parents so forlorn about. When typically the general belief is teens go wild. And there is a huge gap between parents and teens, as if they are worlds apart. But when you read about unschooling families, you see that wonderful connection. As I said in another post, I realized they were in on a huge secret, a way to treat your kids with respect and kindness. And to have a great relationship and friendship with them, all the way through life, done without punishment. Now if that's not something amazing to strive for and aspire to,  I don't know what is. 

The most common response of Christian parents who spank their kids is: 
  • It's biblical. (My bible is clearly missing the pages where Jesus opened up a can of whoop ass to get folks to follow him.) 
  • We do it in a calm and loving manner. We don't spank in anger. (If you are in control, and still hitting, why would you still spank? Why not find an alternative?) 
  • Spanking is an important tool in the Christian Parents toolbox. (Is that in a rule book I missed? Cause I know it's not in the bible.)
I'm not diving into a verse by verse bible analysis here. But the wonderful folks at Parenting Freedom have taken the time to do that very thing for your reading pleasure. They have done a smashing job, admittedly much more thorough than I would be. So I hope you will click on over and spend some time reflecting on their wonderful article. 

You can't hit your neighbor (even if you want to). You can't hit your spouse (even if you might envision it in your head because they drive you nuts). Domestic violence is the most prevalent call Bry goes on here in our city. He is constantly taking folks to jail for hitting each other. Teens hitting parents, husbands and wives hitting each other, other family hitting one another, but not for a parent hitting kids, that's not against the law. Unless the officer feels it's abusive or excessive and calls in CPS of course. But that's extreme cases. 

Very rarely do you see parents hitting their kids in public. Is that because most people actually find it distasteful? Probably.  Do parents think hitting in public is going to result in a call to the police? Probably. But if spanking is so great, why not do it in public and let the world see all your biblical spanking glory? Chances are because it is going to open up a whole can of worms for the family with the police and CPS and people don't want to take the risk I guess? If spanking is something done in secret because it's so offensive to others, then isn't that some kind of indicator of it not being the greatest parenting tool, whether it's legal or not? If it's not something you'd do while a police officer is standing there watching, then maybe it's not such a great way to "train up" a child after all. What about if Jesus was sitting next to you. Do you think he'd be all for you spanking? 

Some parents act as if their children are their property, to be treated any old way they choose, respect be damned. I remember a good Christian Mom making a comment that kids don't deserve respect or privacy. She went on to tell another Mom to install video cameras to prevent her son from using the computer. Yes this is a true story. 
I have had many parents email me and say that's so great for you Melissa that this kind of parenting works for you, but it could never work with my kids. Why wouldn't it? I'm not doing something foreign and magical here. 
I am treating my kids the way I would like to be treated. I do not punish them, yell at them, force or control them. I respect them. I stay ahead of behavior melt downs by being present and staying attuned to their needs. 
Your kids wouldn't like to be treated with respect? And they wouldn't like to have the safety and security of knowing that they would never be so demeaned again? Yes, I find smacking to be demeaning.  If my husband smacked me I would feel mortified. Doesn't a child feel the same sense of shame? I can't help but wonder if the folks who are pro spanking have purposely avoided reading all the studies that prove what harm it does.  And were talking some biggies. Spanking does some big time damage down the line. Why would a parent keep on doing it? If you love a child, why not do anything in your power to avoid spanking them instead? Anyone can spank. A toddler spanks and hits. Don't we tell our toddlers that hitting is wrong? 
Great book and great studies linked here if you like reading studies (It's a free Ebook):

And then you have this:
Here is a well written article by Dr. Michael J. Marshall, P.h.D
The 13 Ways Spanking Harms Children

1. Creates aggression. Children who are spanked engage in more hitting and fighting than those who are not physically punished by their parents.

2. Lowers self-esteem. Spanking sends a message to kids that says, "You are a bad person who deserves pain and you are not valuable enough to protect from being hurt," which is incorporated into their self-concept.

3. Creates negative affect (bad feelings). Physical punishment results in feelings of fear, anxiety, humiliation, and depression. In extreme cases it can lead to such personality disorders as sociopathy and multiple personalities. Children become very confused emotionally when the person they expect to love and care for them periodically flip-flops and deliberately hurts them.

4. Alienates the child from the parents. People naturally try to avoid a source of physical punishment, resent the perpetrator, and generally do not like or feel good about the person who is responsible for it. Likewise children may come to associate the punisher with the punishment and end up being fearful of and try to avoid the parent.

5. Creates suppression effects. Kids who receive a lot of physical punishment are less spontaneous, more reserved, and afraid to try new things out of fear that it will result in more punishment.

6. Contributes to antisocial behavior. Spanking teaches children that the motive for desired behaviors is concern for the consequences to one’s self, that is, to avoid pain, rather than be concerned for the effects of one’s behavior on others.

7. Creates masochistic tendencies. Through the conditioning process, children who are hurt by those who love them will come to associate pain with love.

8. Hinders learning and achievement. Children who have had a lot of physical punishment do poorly in school, perform more poorly on tests of development, graduate from college at a lower rate, and earn less money.

9. Models undesirable behaviors. Children of parents who use hitting as their primary means of controlling behavior learn that "might makes right" and are less likely to acquire and use nonviolent conflict resolution skills.

10. The undesirable behavior is not eliminated. The unwanted behavior is only temporarily suppressed in the presence of the punisher. Through discrimination learning a child quickly learns that she can get away with engaging in the wrong behavior whenever the punisher is not present to act as an enforcer.

11. Makes children more likely to engage in the forbidden behaviors. Children brought up with physical punishment have higher levels of reactance, which is the desire to engage in those behaviors which are prohibited, than those who are disciplined nonphysically.

12. Raises the punishment threshold. Children can eventually adapt to a given level of punishment and it will lose its intended effect. This forces the punisher to constantly increase the intensity of punishment in order for it to have any effect. The increased level of physical punishment then makes them become jaded to being struck by others and more likely to accept abusive relationships as normal.

13. Causes physical injuries. Pediatricians are alarmed at the number of injuries they see like radial arm fractures and shaken child syndrome, which result from parent's who physically strike or shake their children.
The above article is copied from, the direct link is:

So why keep on spanking?  

Oh and just in case, here is something else for your reading pleasure. This one is pretty short and sweet:

Here are some great places to do some reading: 
Parenting in Jesus Footsteps
Here is a great book by Jessica of Bohemian Bowmans. 
And some other books I recommend are:
Parental Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon. 
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn 
Connection Parenting by Pam Leo. 

Message boards and forums: (They also have a public facebook page and a private facebook group) 
The point of view of this list is that punishment may control a specific behavior but that it interferes with the long-term goal of promoting self-control and that alternative nonpunitive ways of relating to children are preferred. Punishment includes hitting, spanking, swatting, shaming, ridiculing, threatening, using harsh or cruel words, penalizing, holding back rewards, or other methods that assert adult power or vent adult frustration. We are seeking alternative approaches that provide guidance to our children that will encourage self-control, thinking before acting, learning to take responsibility for their own behavior, and especially that will promote a lifelong warm, close, and open relationship between parent and child. 

As for me, I'm shooting for the goal of long term loving respectful relationship. For loving my kids as much as is humanly possible. Following Jesus as my example of unconditional love, showing value and love to the children as Jesus did himself when here on earth. I'm shooting for a friendship with them through out their lives, where they enjoy me and want me around, not because I have the title of Mom and they feel obligated, but because we are truly friends and they really just like me as a person.  When our kids are grown, they don't have to have us in their lives. They could choose to exclude us. It happens all the time. Adults who were treated badly as children opt to discontinue relationships with the parents who hurt them, when they have the power and freedom to do so. 


Chris said...

oh yes yes yes! wonderful post! i was pro spanking with my two oldest kids because it was all i knew. i came from a home where i was whipped with a flyswatter, a belt and a horse paddle. my girls would still misbehave, even after the spanking. when i learned to *talk* to my kids and treat them like people, their behavior straightened right up. happily, i've never even had cause to spank my other four girls. because i treat them better, the behavior difficulties aren't there in the first place. :o)

Melissa said...

I am so sorry for what you went through. Thank you for sharing your wonderful testimony of change.

Anonymous said...

great challenging post again Melissa.
What I find interesting is when we say 'we don't spank' how defensive people get. I didn't say anything about them (and what they choose). I didn't say we didn't discipline, I have just simply found things that are much more effective both for the correction and for self-esteem/character building. Are kids are not brats (although my 4 yr old is challenging at the moment, lol) and are actually somewhat mellow compared to what people expect when they realize we have 6 kids. Our teens are having/had a great transition into adulthood.
Keep shining the light...

Melissa said...

Sheri, all I can say is Amen sister! People do get so angry don't they? Thanks so much for sharing : )