To Spank or Not to Spank?
On two of our shows this week, we have what I think, is an intelligent and thought-provoking debate about an age-old question: To spank or not to spank. Big question, and one that the answer to can have a profound and lasting impact on your child. I have seen surveys that tend to be split, with about half of parents believing if you spare the rod, you spoil the child, and the other half saying no way does it make sense to hit your kid.
Not one to waffle around on issues, I won’t hesitate to weigh in with my opinion: I believe spanking genuinely confuses children. I believe they think to themselves something like, ”OK, let me get this right. You are supposed to love me, nurture me and protect me from harm, and now you are standing there, five times my size, and hitting me and inflicting physical pain? Hmmm … I don’t get it.”
Will spanking suppress behavior in the short term? Yes. Does it teach a lesson that can be internalized and used later in the form of self-discipline? I don’t think so, and even if it does, it’s highly inefficient compared to other options. And is it really wise to teach children that hitting is OK?
I got spanked once, and I am still mad about it! HA! In the sixth grade, I snuck off to swim in a pond about 10 miles from our house in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. No supervision and lucky someone didn’t drown! When asked about it, I started to lie and deny doing it. Even though I was young, and based on my choices at the time, pretty stupid, I quickly realized, mid-lie, that I was standing there with bloodshot eyes and a good case of swimmer’s ear. It wouldn’t have taken MacGyver to figure out what I’d been doing, so I just ‘fessed up — not because it was the right thing, but because I was busted, and I knew it.
My father spanked me with a belt for sneaking off and swimming without supervision in an uncharted pond. Five minutes later, he came in and gave me a dollar to reward my decision to tell the truth. Now, a dollar to a poor kid circa 1961 was a lot of money, but let me tell you, I stood there and ripped that dollar bill into a million pieces so tiny you couldn’t even almost tell what it used to be! I “got” the stupidity of what I had done and didn’t need to be hit to solidify that knowledge. It wasn’t the physical pain, because honestly, it was a pretty wimpy and half-hearted whuppin’. It was the indignity of it and the sense of betrayal I felt. If anything, it made me feel righteous, defiant and rebellious (please hear chants of “ATTICA! ATTICA!” building in the background. HA!) I felt the relationship I thought we had was now, in my opinion, violated, which to my 12-year-old brain meant I owed him nothing going forward. It was every man for himself! (Sooo, I have the bias of personal experience, but I confessed it, so don’t hit me!)
On this week’s shows, however, I have some guests who strongly disagree with my opinions, as I bet many of you do. They insist that an occasional swat across the behind or even a good spanking is not anything close to a physical beating, and that it does indeed teach respect. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t stop with the swat or controlled spanking and can go too far.
So what do you think? Do you think you can get results with physical punishment? Does fear work, or does it backfire?
I’d like to hear all of your stories. Have you ever spanked your child? Do you think a teacher or school administrator has the right to paddle your child for misbehaving? What about a babysitter? And what methods of discipline would you use instead of spanking?