spare the rod
“What is done to children, they will do to society.”
Karl A. Menninger
We’ve been smacking and spanking our kids for ages. Is it effective? Is it ethical? Is it anyone’s business?
Even though studies reliably show and experts agree that corporal punishment often has direct negative effects on children that will affect them for a lifetime, apparently hoards of American parents would rather not put the work into reasoning with their kids or utilising punishments that don’t involve child abuse.
Like, who do those entitled brats think they are; they can just go right on getting hit like the generations before them!
Actually, Georgia, we could be raising the first generation that is not introduced to violence by the hands they trust the most as children.
Let’s take apart some of the most common arguments for abusing children as means of “punishment” I am always hearing:
“Spare the rod and spoil the child” (a biblical passage)
The Bible, or any religious text for that matter, is a not a moral guide for modern America. While there is wisdom to be found there, ignorance abounds as well. (Read my thoughts on religious faith in In a Vacuum.)
It’s another example of cherry-picking, choosing Old Testament verses that justify beating kids.
Y’all hit your kids because the Bible says its OK and actually soul-saving?
Why these verses and no consideration of what Christ had to say:
“It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:2)
Can you picture Jesus whipping a child?
So, yeah, enough of that BS.
“The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” Shakespeare
“With some kids it’s the only way”.
There is never a child deserving of being hurt. It fosters distrust, anger and resentment. In young children, still learning the difference between right and wrong, corporal punishment will cause a state of extreme distress and confusion which makes it difficult to ponder their behaviour with clarity. In older children physical punishment is likely to provoke resentment and further misbehaviour.
If a child is too young to be reasoned with and punished with another method, they are too young to understand why they are being hit. And if they are old enough to be reasoned with and understand other punishments, then use those methods Georgia!
There is always a better way. There are whole fucking books of other methods.
“The Case Against Spanking: How to Discipline Your Child Without Hitting”
“Corporal Punisment Handbook” by Adah Maurer
“To Spank or Not to Spank: A Parent’s Handbook” by John Rosemond
“Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Children”
Odds are you will find something more effective. Yeah even for that trouble child.
Psychologist H. Stephen Glen:
“Corporal punishment is the least effective method [of discipline]. Punishment reinforces a failure identity. It reinforces rebellion, resistance, revenge and resentment.”
Going back to the Good Ole Testament it is interesting to note that “spare the rod and spoil the child” Solomon’s beating of his own son was ineffective and may have contributed to his infamous brutality as a dictator.
“I got hit and I wasn’t negatively affected” (the most ironically inaccurate statement I have ever heard).
Perhaps the most common and certainly the most annoying argument in favor of corporal punishment is the “It worked on me” BS.
If you’re fine with causing children physical pain because you were hit and it “worked”, it did not work. You now codone violence against children. Wake up! There are better ways to parent, Georgia! !!
Often abused children grow up defending their abusers. To do otherwise is to admit that as children, they never deserved the pain inflicted upon them and in turn address emotions over being hit by loved ones who were supposed to keep them safe from harm So instead they defend and continue the method on their own children.
The anger that children are not allowed to express is repressed, saved for later. The abuse has more immediate effects too.
Dawn Walker, executive director of the Canadian Institute of Child Health:
“We know that children who are under the threat of violence or aggression develop a fight-or-flight response system that has an impact on creativity and imagination, both of which could influence their IQ…”
What about the “reasonable force” argument? Spanking can easily escalate to abuse. If it becomes a standard response to any misbehavior, severity of spanking may increase and exceed the “reasonable force” threshold and become abuse.
Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, University of Michigan:
“Even minimal amounts of spanking can lead to an increased likelihood in antisocial behavior by children.”
While not explaining your reasons for a beating results in terror, explaining that even a little violence is ever an acceptable form of human interaction is confusing and damaging as well. And can you really teach a disrespectful child a lesson while treating them with so much disrespect?
A spanked child will not be sitting there in tears thinking about the error of her ways after a beating. She’s humiliated and betrayed, building up resentment that cannot be resolved at the time but may lead to serious behavioral issues in the future.
Corporal punishment often over-responds to innocent child behavior. In many cases of alleged disobedience the child is just responding in the only way she can, and should not be expected to demonstrate the self-control of a mature adult. She’s hungry, tired, hot. She can’t meet her own needs or always communicate them.
Distracted, self absorbed parents punish children for responding in a natural way to having important needs neglected, making punishment ineffective in the long run, as well as unjust.
From Irvin Wolkoff’s 1999 “Spanked child can become self-loathing adult,”article:
“The message a toddler gets from a slap or spanking is that a parent or other loved and trusted adult is prepared to induce pain and even do physical harm to force unquestioning obedience. That’s terrifying to a little kid…However well-intentioned, a slap registers as the shattering of the whole deal between parent and child. Young children are left awash in feelings of fear, shame, rage, hostility, self-destructiveness and betrayal that they can’t yet resolve or manage.”
Hitting your child is the ultimate betrayal. Spanking does for a child’s development what wife-beating does for a marriage. You should not hurt the ones you love. How is it that I actually have to say this?
“I only use corporal punishment as a last resort” reasoning teaches children that it is acceptable to use violence as a last resort to getting their way or to solving a difficult problem. This teaches that violence is the solution to frustrating situations.
Murray Straus, an influential researcher on violence at the University of New Hampshire’s Family Research Lab, writes in his book Beating the Devil out of Them,that corporal punishment increases rates of depression and suicide. Corporal punishment fosters criminality and delinquency. Dr. Ralph Welsh, who has given psychological exams to over 2,000 delinquents has said:
“…it is now apparent that the recidivist male delinquent who was never struck with a belt, board, extension cord, fist, or an equivalent is virtually nonexistent. Even after 10 years, the full impact of this discovery is still difficult to comprehend.”
There is no excuse for hurting children. Consider the child psychology touched on here and the surmounting evidence against corporal punishment of children collected upon study of former victims of child abuse perpetuated in the name of punishment.
This cycle of violence needs to be broken. It’s ineffective and its consequences are detrimental to the individual and to society. It’s not punishing and it’s not parenting. It’s lazy and it’s child abuse.
Spare the rod.
Robert Green Ingersoll. “Is Corporal Punishment Degrading?”. Desert News. May 9, 1998
“9 Things to do Instead of Spanking”Jan Hunt.
“Ten Reasons Not to Hit Your Kids”. The Natural Child Project
Laurie A. Couture, M.Ed. “10 Pro-Corporal Punishment Arguments & 10 Commonsense Answers”. Child Advocate. 2000-2003P.
Greven. “Spare the child: The religious roots of physical punishment and the psychological impact of physical abuse.”
Knopf, (1991)Jane Gadd. “Spanked children suffer intellectually.” The Globe and Mail. Toronto ON, 1998-JUL-30
Elizabeth Crary. “Without spanking or spoiling: a practical approach to toddler and preschool guidance”. Parenting Press (1993)
I.A. Hyman. “The case against spanking: How to discipline your child without hitting.” Jossey-Bass Publishers (1997).
M.M. Lefkowitz et al. “Growing up to be violent: A longitudinal Study of the Development of Aggression”. Pergamon Press, New York, NY (1977).
Jerry Wychoff. “Discipline without shouting or spanking: Practical solutions to the most common preschool behavior problems”. Simon & Schuster. (1985).
J.K. Ni. “Spanking denounced as ineffective, harmful — Expert at ‘Families Alive’ [conference] urges positive discipline.”.
Ken Gallinger, “The Bible is simply wrong on spanking,” Toronto Star, 2007-DEC-15.
“Spanking Strikes Out,” (1999).Maurer & James S. Wallerstein.
“The Influence of Corporal Punishment on Crime.” The Natural Child Project. (1987).