Spanking comes out of the cultural idea that children are property, not people, and should submit by use of physical force. To people that adhere to that ideology, subtracting spanking from a litany of other discipline tactics means all authority is gone, that all your adult power is rendered useless, that all the logic and reason and ‘common sense’ is being thrown out the window… And that, my friends, is bullshit.
Let’s ‘adult’ better, folks.
Making a stink about spanking wasn’t going to be my thing. I was going to let it ride. And then someone set me off early in my children’s lives…
I hadn’t brought the kids home for more than a few months before we went out to eat and a woman decided to give me some unsolicited parenting advice while she came over and ogled my kids. We were tired, hungry, and I really just wanted to be left alone but I let her speak because I try, at least occasionally, to be polite. She told me to remember to hit them early and she followed through by paraphrasing Proverbs 13:34: Spare the rod, spoil the child. I could hardly chew my food I was so angry.
First off, I’m an atheist, if anyone needed reminding, and it’s super offensive when people think every white person they meet is Christian, to begin with. But besides how ruthless I feel regarding religion, I respect people’s ability to believe in the holiness of their fair garbage. Just don’t shove it down my throat. Don’t fucking assume. And, of all fucking things, don’t tell me to assault my daughters.
I wanted to throttle that woman and as new mom of twins who was running on little sleep, PTSD style crazy (literally), and was suffering an existential crisis in a big package of uber-protective maternal nuttiness, plus hormones, it could have happened. But for as rude and terrible as it was, nobody fucking hit the bitch on the ass for it. That would be a crime.
We stewed the whole way home.
While people bang on walls to save a bundle of cells that has no viability outside the womb they are fully set to scream about their right to open a can of whoop-ass on Little Johnny; “It’s not ‘abuse!” they say. Yeah… I like how convenient that nuance is while there aren’t nuances in other matters of discussion…
But, seriously, if you’re going to quote how your religion is about peace and love regarding your god please realize even striking small children with anything, even your hand, is not, in fact, peaceful or loving. It’s a contradiction built to indoctrinate using fear of physical assault, not reason or redirection or communication can justify that when your life isn’t in immediate danger.
I will not hit my babies for a book or god or man or woman because it is simply not right, it does not achieve what you want, and it harms.
Realizing that pretty much ended the discussion regarding physical punishment for me. Sure, it been on my list of questionable things since we became parents but I had never been so clear on it until then. I’m not saying there aren’t times hitting another person is required in self-defense or defense of another in immediate physical danger. But spankings don’t even come close. That was the moment, though, that I realized I had to step away from being on a fence and just take a side.
Hitting a kid on the bottom is a task bent on the brute force of a bigger person controlling a child long enough to dole out the swats. The same time a lesson can be taught without that overshadowing the scenario in a series of painful ass-taps. This isn’t about a kind of physical defense but about immediate frustration release of the person/adult doing the hitting.
If you can achieve the upper hand you can sustain a hold long enough to subdue a child and get to the root lesson. And you NEVER should raise a hand to an infant.
To a toddler, though, a spanking detracts from any lesson and is proven no more effective than telling a child no or using other communication strategies, the best of which are positive parenting methods out of the gate. In fact, spanking itself is detrimental. Whereas entire modern nations ban spanking to no detriment of their populous.
Also, the act itself is a hypocritical act. “Don’t hit but I can hit you!” isn’t sound logic and it doesn’t work well in this society where adults and children should share the same courtesy and protections as adult people. Even more startling is that the meaning of this act to a child doesn’t even make sense because… IT DOESN’T FUCKING MAKE SENSE. Plus, you’re shutting down a kid to very basic survival mechanisms in hopes of controlling them merely with fear and only for the moment. They will question whether or not they are just going to randomly get struck. I know. I did. You don’t learn or move forwards in a state of fear; no, you find a place to hide, a way to protect yourself… even from people you love.
“Yeah, but if you hit them every time that’ll teach them that’s wrong.”
Except you’re not there every time. This is not like when you touch the stove and you get burnt. You are not an element of consistency to that caliber; you can’t be. Alone time with a sibling will prove you wrong the minute you can’t figure out who did what – so spankings all around! Doesn’t matter who is wrong! We just hit. That was the dumbest adult logic I ever endured. And it made me hate the very people I love.
How stupid does that sound? Do we just hang everybody if someone else kills or steals? No. Be fucking practical for once. Lose the hyperbole and understand we all have limits. Are you trying to teach kids reason? Then be fucking reasonable.
“ADRIANA! For real, you were spanked.”
Yes, my parents spanked. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: They talk a big talk but my parents weren’t as intense as they are in their rhetoric recitations and they weren’t always ‘in the right’ either.
First, I never got a spanking as an older kid – even when I put my foot through the wall of our house. My intent wasn’t to break the wall but I accidentally did and I had to do a lot of chores to make up for the $200 repair and I was embarrassed it upset my father so much. My remorse was real and my effort in fixing it was enough to correct it; I did not need to be struck. All that would have done would have been to incite me against my parents for no good reason and it would have been creepy as all hell.
Yeah, you heard me; after spankings become ‘not so painful’ the strikes become incredibly incestuous. And before you’re like, “No, that’s humiliating and it doesn’t do that!”
Fact check yourself…
Spankings can stimulate your naughty bits. Rather effectively, too.
Even rape victims are often stimulated by their attackers. Ergo, you spanking your kid may produce non-consensual sexual arousal.
I hope you’re sufficiently uncomfortable with that. If not, seek help.
Anyway, my parents were spanked, hit with rulers, struck with wooden spoons – far-far worse stuff than they ever employed and that was a great departure for their own upbringing. This is my departure.
“Okay, but didn’t it teach you something?”
My most vivid memory of a spanking was when it was an actual injustice and it was not a spanking I should have received. Even as a kid in kindergarten I knew that and as an adult now I stand by that little kid.
“How was this memory-banked spanking so unjust? Really, you were a kid.”
First, uh, kids remember awful shit adults do. First trauma is pretty fucking brutal, too.
Second, CUE THE BACKSTORY!
In my first year of kindergarten at a catholic school, I had summoned the courage to finally defend myself from the evil girl who sat next to me. During our little heads-down-thumbs-up thing to calm the class down Evil realized it was often an excuse for the teacher to leave the room, nap, go talk on the telephone, etc.. So, she’d pull my hair and smash my head in the desk and remind me to be quiet. I did report the hair pulling and head smashing but the nuns kept telling me to make friends with her. She usually just grabbed my head and smashed it into something nearby so that really wasn’t working out. Finally, one day, I snapped. I shouted for her to stop and demanded to know why god and the nuns let her keep hurting me because it really hurt; I was the one sent to the principles for yelling and crying. They asked me to calm down and I said I wanted to talk to my mother — nobody was helping me. I wanted to articulate that to my parents because they were just and reasonable. They would listen.
Or so I thought.
Only my mom was unreachable. My dad, a well-beaten catholic boy to any nun he faced even as a full-grown man, was called. He blistered my ass in the principal’s office, threatened to do it again if he heard anymore of it, then left. He never let me explain. His eyes were empty – his own terror bent on the same Catholic protocols he’d endured, except now he had to do the same thing his parents did… Indoctrination is dangerous shit.
Anytime anybody ever asked what was going on, for years after that, I refused to answer. I was never sure if I would get in trouble and it was better to just never say shit. It was so bad that when I was sexually assaulted in 3rd grade by a fellow classmate my first real childlike thought was that I was going to get in trouble and get a spanking for that if a teacher sent home a note — so I didn’t struggle or make noise or cry out for help.
Obviously that was a child’s inability to understand complex situations (like the meaning behinds spankings or the arbitrary reasons we give them to kids but not adults or that adults make mistakes too or why we don’t hit victims in cases of sexual assault or beatings). I told my mother what had happened; fully prepared to get a spanking and not comprehending the situation. I remember telling her because that area wasn’t supposed to be touched and I figured I had to – at least to her. Her spankings weren’t as painful, anyway, I figured.
She handled it well, informed the school… and they forced me to read a letter from my assailant that downplayed the assault and ask me to make friends with him if I came out to the monkey bars at recess… I won’t even get into that. ::Sigh::
Anyway, parents and people and society and schools, even, make mistakes. I will make my own. I won’t, however, spank my kids or ever tolerate the bullshit I went through.
“Okay, but spanking does solve real problems when justly applied, you know!”
Spanking is a scientifically proven problem creator in the long run with 100 studies to back that up. Go to google. Do some footwork. There is rarely that level of consensus in behavior analysis studies. It is, frankly, a societal parenting mistake held onto because of tradition, not actual proven outcomes.
Nobody wants to upset people they love who will take your change of ‘normal’ as a personal attack. And you know what I say to that? It’s time to grow up.
“You believe those people? They probably don’t have kids that turned out right. Fucking liberals.”
Plenty of kids turn out fine without spanking. The reality is spanking is a damaging habit. It creates anger and resentment. It’s often a crutch we use versus the harder aspects of real, proactive parenting where we handle our adult selves and stresses better. It builds relationship walls where nobody wants to talk about stuff. In the long run it deteriorates a child to abusive tendencies towards others and thus breeds its own dysfunction.
I’m not saying we all need to kumbaya about our feelings but feelings are real they just need to be managed and expunged through effective communication. I’ve heard everyone who had quick-to-whip parents have some memory of the act being applied in the wrong and the hostility and rage it made them feel. They are yellers, they are adult tantrum throwers, they don’t manage pressure well and they get ragingly upset even at small things. It’s burnt in our memories, in the humiliation and the applied act of submission. We can con ourselves into feeling it is right all the time, but fools are apt at fooling themselves, now aren’t they?
Spankings ultimately never translated into anything other than ‘Parents hit – they just get away with it’. Kid logical conclusions are pretty straight forward and describe blatant contradictions.
“Really, Adriana, what could one unjust spanking do to really affirm that?”
What I learned from that a spanking was not respect for authority but humiliating submission, unjust fear, and unquantifiable rage. That sticks with you. That was the kind of submission was not helpful as I aged. Adults were going to hit you even if you had logical reasons for reacting; like needing to use the bathroom or non-physically defending yourself. I became a very mute child about reporting home what happened at school for years, on the mere notion I could get into trouble for the littlest thing; even things I probably should have reported home about. My reactions weren’t rational, but the response I assumed I was going to get wasn’t rational either, it was just learned repetition. I wanted so badly approval from my parents that I took every threat as a real one until I was old enough to see the farce.
In the end, I could trust no one but myself and I had to gauge what was important to keep myself safe. I had to make myself disappear; being noticed was the issue – for good or for bad. I, as a kid, wanted to disappear into the veil of others around me for that very reason. I became a very good bookworm at that point in time and that’s where I found freedom.
As we got older, post puberty, spankings stopped. I remember the last spanking given involved a laugh and I think that’s when my parents knew the gig was up. It would have taken on a bizarre twist. And I was to the point of not giving a fuck. Once it transgressed that boundary it was too late to step back; the stick had gone to burn and we could communicate.
What I found out from all of this is that, ultimately we were more afraid of really disappointing our parents as kids than anything else in the world. Their wrath I did fear, but it was more the disappointment that bore such anger. The fact it was unreasonable and hyper-threatened made me feel less and made problems when it could have been so different. Their love and attention was our world, but I always felt it was at a distance because of the spanking policies. I could never fully trust them until I could see it all from an outside perspective, as a real adult and a woman with a discipline in understanding human behavior. Spanking was nowhere near as motivating as other tools of discipline – and nothing was as powerful as positive parenting.
Our way is both legal and it is to be respected.
Our reason is personal and meant to be preventative.
This does not mean there are no strategies for good discipline; it just means to void a vapid punishment that produces shitty results.
“So, you’re judging everybody then and saying they made a mistake?”
I judge what I know and experienced, so the answer is yes and yes. The reason I am finally drawing the hard line is that I am sick of adding a filter for people’s comforts. I’m not about to sit around pandering. I am going to do every damn thing in my power to protect my kids and give them proper growing-up guidance my way.
Anybody who disagrees never has to be alone with them if they can’t handle or respect that. And if it’s ever hidden from me that someone hit our kids then they will have a major problem — not just with me, but with my husband, and potentially law enforcement.
That’s the only warning I’ll ever give.