Spankers Can #Suckit

It’s been awhile since I’ve jumped into the traditional parenting wars. With my mind usually on politics and how that affects my family, and those diaper and breastfeeding days long behind me, it’s been easier to ignore the usual tiffs that pop up in the parenting blogosphere.

Until today, when I came across this new study basically saying hitting your kids can have some benefits.

I’m guessing hitting your wife can have some benefits too. Keeping her in line, and what not. Hell, I would probably vacuum more often if I thought my husband would hurt me if I didn’t. Smacking your dog around probably has some benefits too, I mean…I bet you that mutt won’t pee on the carpet again if you give him a really good whack! So why not, Jr. too?

After all , you are much bigger than your child. Much more intimidating. And your little bundle of joy no doubt trusts you more than any other person on earth. Trusts you with a love and devotion only a helpless child can. So why not purposefully inflict pain upon that sweet face? Right?

Yeah, I have some strong opinions on this.

I will admit to having whacked a child on the butt once, out of frustration and anger. And it not only served zero good but also served to make me feel like a rotten bully. I broke our trust. I’m my child’s protector, not his monster. And the example I set by intimidating with pain and violence and fear isn’t one I want emulated.

This really isn’t one of those issues where we’ll agree to disagree or anything, and that’s ok. I’m never going to believe threatening or inflicting pain on a child as a way to keep that child in line is ok, and you’ll continue to see no harm (emotionally or physically) in the occasional spank that “doesn’t leave a mark.”

So why bring up this study? Because I’m afraid it will give abusers backing to keep doing what they are doing. Because I’m afraid it will keep up that traditional idea that a good spanking is your God given right to dole out as an American parent.

And I’m afraid it will negate the piles upon piles of other studies showing just how harmful your little whacks really are to your child’s heart, mind, and body.

But never mind that, because you’ll continue to do how you do and I’ll continue to do how I do and we won’t agree. And as a respectful adult I’ll have to suck it up and say things like “I guess we just parent differently” and “well that’s just not how we do things in our house.” And you will go your way thinking I’m crazy and I’ll go mine. Such is life, right?

However, I would ask that you remember when my kid makes the right choice, stays out of trouble, or otherwise does the right thing…it won’t be out of fear…it will be out of love.


  1. Sigh. I really didn’t want to weigh in on this, then I read the comments. In a perfect world, where there is time enough and energy enough, AND the child’s temperament is such that talking and time out all works, that’s just wonderful.

    My mother spanked me one time. We were driving in the car, on the interstate, and I got myself into a tizzy about something, and I was kicking the back of her seat, over and over. She talked to me, reasoned with me, and warned me, and then she pulled the car over, pulled me out of the car, and gave me a solid whack on the bottom. No matter how hard I try, I can’t see that as abuse. I was endangering both of our lives for goodness sake! What I was doing needed to stop, immediately, and I needed to understand that I wasn’t in charge, she was.

    When I had my two children, I was dead-set against spanking (completely unrelated to the above incident, it had everything to do with all the parenting books I was reading). I reasoned with my children, put them in time outs, and they were, for the most part well-behaved. Then divorce happened, and adolescence happened. My son got WAY out of control, and when he started to come out of that, he said to me, “you know, I never feared you, what were you going to do? When I have children, I’m going to spank them if I need to.” That threw me for a helluva loop.

    Someone here commented about how she was shocked at how children are talking to, and treating, their parents and teachers, and it’s true. I live in an affluent, highly educated, middle upper class town and the kids here are out. of. control. THEY are abusive to their parents. I’ve been to parent meetings where the parents are sitting around fretting about what to do about their out of control children. I remember the issue of Facebook coming up, and whether we parents had a right to go into their accounts, and there were some parents who were AFRAID to go into their child’s computer because the child would be ANGRY.

    I blame this on posts like this, and books, and misguided laws, and Dr. Spock. We have become a parenting culture that is too child-centric, and very very guilt inducing towards parents. And these kids know it. They know they’re in charge, and once they hit adolescence, it’s just a few boats shy of Lord of the Flies. Teachers are talking about it, law enforcement is talking about it, parents are talking about it, but no one knows what to do. All these parents, by the way, are highly involved, and were of the “time-out” ilk.

    When we judge others for teaching their children that the parent is in charge, when we even go so far as to pass laws around it, we run the risk of endangering our children even more. Children do need to be protected from actual abuse, whether that be emotional, physical, or sexual, but aside from that we need to get our noses out of each others’ parenting. It’s not a joke. We are raising generations of children who feel entitled to whatever they want (read any articles on Gen Y). They are spoiled, lacking in self-discipline, and immature AS A GENERATION. Do you think it’s a coincidence? Do you all think that your kids aren’t headed there too? And never mind the increasing shocking acts of violence we’ve witnessed.

    Not long ago, a group of teenage boys from a small town here in New England went on a late night killing spree. For the hell of it. They were not abused. They also had no fear. Of anything. So bravo to protecting our kids from ever fearing an adult. Look what we’ve done.

    Abuse is something that is unwarranted, that scars the child and it is not done out of love. Discipline, even in the form of punishment, is always done in the child’s best interest, and THAT is the difference. THAT is where the line is.

    I feel like there’s more I could say here, but I’m spent now.

  2. Actually, I do need to add something. I probably should’ve just written a post. I’m not trying to raise anyone’s hackles, I just think it’s really important that we begin to understand that we are not helping society by making discipline such a mine field. Parents end up feeling paralyzed and helpless.

    There are many factors influencing children and young people today, and so it is ever more important that parents have the right to limit their child, to say no, and to do so forcefully when necessary.

    I realize when I bring up examples of teen violence, that many are going to be quick to assume that there must be SOMETHING those parents did wrong, or that those kids were just all mentally unstable. But when you consider that narcissism has been on a steady rise in college age students since they started measuring in 1982, and this coincides with the “self-esteem” movement, which more or less dovetails with the child-centric movement, you begin to see a pattern that looks awfully like our good intentions are going seriously awry.
    .-= Velvet Verbosity´s last blog ..100 Words on Hope =-.

  3. I’ve been reading a number of parenting/mom blogs in the last few months (I’m expecting my first baby in four months), and I’ve seen this discussion come up several times. As a kid, I wasn’t spanked routinely, but the few times I was, I remember those moments clearly. It left an impression, for certain. But as I’m preparing for the arrival of my own little girl, I’m unsure of how I’ll reprimand her, and reading these posts and comments has my husband and I deep in a discussion about parenting.

    Ironic, seeing as how we’re not quite “there yet.”

    But in any event, thanks for opening my eyes to several different perspectives. I have a LOT to learn in the next few months … years … ahhh! 🙂

  4. In college a professor once mentioned to our class that he and his wife made the commitment to never spank before he had children and that he felt it was the single most important decision he had made in regards to parenting.

    I will never forget him saying that and brought up years later to my husband once I was pregnant.

    We both agreed and in the nine years that I’ve been a mom, I have never hit my son.

    A few years ago, in a moment of frustration, I told him that I was so mad I wanted to spank him. He looked absolutely crushed and asked me why I would ever want to hit him.

    I realized then, without a doubt, I had made the right choice. I am raising a boy who believes that hitting someone you love is not okay. Under any circumstances. For any reason. Ever.

    It’s interesting being a “non spanker”- seems like we are the minority. People can talk all day long about spanking their kids and no one says a word. I say we don’t spank in our house, and somehow I am criticizing their parenting.

    As a camp director, I work with hundreds of children a year. Sometimes, I have to re-direct negative behavior. With a spanking? Ah, no, of course not.

    So, why wouldn’t I afford the same time and patience to my own child?
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..The Domestic Dork is doing a Valentine Exchange! =-.

  5. I, too, didn’t intend on commenting, though I’ve found both perspectives on this issue quite interesting. A quick story, though…When my oldest son (now 6) was 2, we picked him up from daycare one day and his teacher told us he had hit a kid in his class. She normally wouldn’t have said anything but it had happened twice in one week. Seeing as he was an only child at the time and was as sweet as could be, that was something that I had never experienced with him so I told her if he did it again that she should put him in a timeout and call me. “We can’t put him in a timeout,” she said. I asked why. Her response was basically that seperating him from the class (still in the classroom, but apart from his peers and within full supervision of his teacher) would be emotional abuse. Though I don’t use timeouts, I was perplexed by this statement. I’m curious as to how many non-spankers use timeouts and whether they consider themselves emotional abusers.

    On a side note, he’s never gotten in trouble for hitting since. I highly doubt it had anything to do with the daycare center’s utter lack of discipline during that matter and much more to do with myriad other lessons we were teaching him about how to act appropriately.
    .-= EmmieJ´s last blog ..Resolved =-.

  6. It’s important that we use physical ways and means to communicate limitations to children. If you never use some kind of physical reprimand, kids will never know if you can…and that can help them feel unsafe.

    I worked with scores of teens whose parents forgot how to use physical strength to limit poor or downright nasty behavior. Many of those kids put themselves through tough times simply searching for someone that had enough physical power to say “you are not allowed to do that.”

    It’s a weird issue, frankly. The weird part is on the two extremes though: there’s the don’t hit your kids faction that imagines that every “hit” is a devastating, life-threatening blow. And the other end that imagines gangs of unruly kids who usurp the authority of all adults because they’ve never been hit. Somewhere between is a good spot.

    Learn to strike gently.
    .-= S.Smith´s last blog ..Kick Your Balance Woes =-.

  7. I really don’t understand that theory S. All I have to do is raise an eyebrow or raise my voice slightly and they KNOW to get in line. Because they know if they don’t, there will be punishment. A natural consequence to their action. They learn just fine the ideas surrounding respect and discipline without me needing to raise my hand.

  8. Bob Beardsley says:

    Well said, VV.

  9. For S.Smith:

    The police may physically enforce the law, but they may not pull you over, take out their baton stick and begin “spanking” you. If a prisoner on death row throws food at someone, the guard may not begin “spanking” him. Care-takers for those with special needs may not “spank” a developmentally delayed adult with the mental capacity of a 6 year old.

    Why do you insist that bottom-battering/slapping be reserved ONLY for the underage?

    I think I need to reiterate:

    People used to think it was necessary to “spank” adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual assault if a person over the age of 18 is “spanked”, but only if over the age of 18.

  10. This is a good discussion.

    I just wanted to add that there’s so very much research on the (negligible/detrimental, depending on the study) value of spanking in the educational/psychological literature. It #sucksit that those studies are not covered by the media the way this spank+ one has been.

    Also want to reiterate that children are all so different. If you have great kids and you spank, it doesn’t mean that your kids would go to shit if you didn’t… just as my having great kids and not spanking doesn’t mean my kids would be better or worse if I spanked them.

    And to Velvet Verbosity, first, I’m wondering about the 1982 date. There’s got to be a study behind that. But… do you not think there are reasons the level of narcissism could have risen since 1982 that have little to do with some kind of actual, discrete, measurable *level of narcissism*? As if there is such a thing, complexities aside… and as if the DSM criteria for it haven’t changed… and as if the world we live in hasn’t changed in such a way as to make any quantitative measure of it unreliable or invalid to be used longitudinally for 28 years… Without reading the study, I can’t say much, but it just seems that one might be able to punch lots of holes in it.

    I’ve also heard the same argument about narcissism framed by the idea that generations post-Viet Nam (and I’m 33, so including myself here) haven’t fought in wars the way America did in the first three quarters of the 20th century. Maybe we just need to send our children off to fight in a war. That’ll teach them to be less egocentric.

    (Totally agree with your first comment, though, about parents feeling paralyzed and helpless. :))

    That is all.

    Carry on.

    Good job, Erin. 🙂
    .-= Alicia´s last blog ..Things I Love Thursday: Upcycled Security Envelope Ring =-.

  11. I vacillate back and forth on this issue

  12. I have such strong feelings against spanking (having been spanked/beaten myself) that it affects the ways I feel about people who do it. Once in a while people I think I know will drop into conversation a “cute” anecdote that include a spanking they administered (it’s never the center of the story, just a “by the way”) and I don’t hear another word they say. Reflexivly, I find my opinion of them immediately and irrevocably altered. My reaction is as legitimate as what they contend is their right to choose corporal punishment. People hitting people is not a learning environment.

  13. I think hitting kids says much more about how a parent handles his/her own frustrations than disciplining a child. Shouldn’t we, as parents, be smarter than that? Can’t we figure out ways to handle our stress that doesn’t include beating the hell out of those who are smaller and more vulnerable? Once when my 3 daughters were young, I swatted my middle one when she was driving me crazy. She’s 26 now. I’m still not over it.
    .-= Debby Carroll´s last blog ..Is Your Kid the Center of the Universe? =-.

  14. the only people I know who ever seem to take a real and meaningful lesson from being spanked (or swatted or whatever) are those who it only happened to once or twice. In those cases, they knew that they’d crossed the line beyond all reason – and that they “deserved” it. (I read an article several years ago about a guy whose grandfather hit him once because he made a racist slur to a long time playmate of another color.)

    I don’t plan to spank my children – but if I ever do, I hope that it is such a rare occurrence that the lesson on why any action was so egregiously wrong is not lost.
    .-= My Baby Sweetness´s last blog ..The pros and cons of homeownership =-.

  15. I was spanked five times between ages five and ten. The only implement used was my father’s hand. None of these events was outside what would be considered “acceptable” discipline in our culture. I suffered no physical injuries.

    I am almost forty years old and I am not sure I will ever get over it. These events were devastating and humiliating far out of proportion to the childish offenses I had committed. I still experience nightmares and flashbacks. These events warped my sexuality.* These events have permanently damaged my relationship with my father, eroding any trust or affection I might have had for him. Most significantly, these events contributed to my chronic fear and insecurity as an adult. The spankings were effective in effectuating my immediate compliance — but at a price I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

    Outwardly, I am a successful adult with a stable marriage and a productive career. For my father, I am Exhibit A as to why spanking works. But my inward damage is immense and thwarts me in a number of ways that cannot be seen by others but are nonetheless very real. This is what drives me nuts about people who claim that spanking is a good thing because someone who was spanked finished college or was never arrested or what have you. Those things alone are not the measure of a successful upbringing.

    It is impossible to describe the damage I have suffered when the topic of spanking comes up with people I know. I can’t tell people that my childhood spankings have imprinted themselves on my sexuality or that I am still unbearably humiliated by the memories. These experiences are too private and painful to discuss. That’s why people never hear from those of us who have been irrevocably damaged by childhood spankings. Maybe the internet will change all that, or maybe someone will finally have the courage to speak out publicly.

    * By the way, I don’t mean to imply that a fetish for spanking is necessarily a bad thing, or that such a thing is necessarily a result of having been abused as a child. But in my case it is — and I deeply resent it. I don’t think my parents had any right whatsoever to impose themselves on my sexuality in that way. While I certainly don’t think that my parents intended these punishments to have a sexual component, the fact is that I experienced them that way. I was taught to be extremely modest, which made the battering of a private area of my body al the more traumatic, tantamount to a sexual assault.

    Sorry to be so depressing, but I get so frustrated by this topic. I wish there were away to convince the public at large that spanking children comes at too great a risk to their future well-being, that kids don’t necessarily turn out okay.

  16. I just went back and read the comments and had a couple thoughts:

    1) One argument that comes up is that of spanking kids is essential when a toddler is doing something dangerous like trying to run into traffic or drinking chlorox. I was never spanked for anything like that and I once asked my mother why. She (a secret anti-spanker as it turns out) said it never came up because she ensured that I was never in a position to do anything like that until I was old enough to know better. There was no chlorox where I could get at it as a one year old. I couldn’t run into traffic because she kept a tight hold on me. Now I know that it is hard to foresee and prevent everything, and stuff happens. But I don’t think hitting is the answer if your kid gets away from you and runs into traffic. You just run after your kid and yank him away — and then you get the message across about traffic at the developmentally appropriate time.

    As other people noted, there are adults who don’t understand the danger of traffic either — some adults with developmental disabilities or some adults with Alzheimers. They can run into traffic or do dangerous things to. But we don’t hit them. Instead we find other ways to make sure they don’t endanger themselves.

    2) I was also struck by Mr. Lady’s comments because they remind me of my own father’s thinking. He was constantly belted across the face growing up by an enraged, out-of-control parent for even the most minor infractions. So he decided that it would be a much better idea to put me ritualistically over his knee and calmly strike my rear end multiple times. In his view, this was not “abuse” because it was not as bad as what he experienced growing up. It was a totally thoughtless analysis in my opinion in that it ignored the question of whether humiliation as a form of discipline is helpful or damaging. I am not saying Mr. Lady is thoughtless, but her comments simply reminded me of ways in which parental thinking on this topic can become misguided. In some ways, the parents’ intention may not be particularly relevant. The real measure is how the event is experienced by the child. Personally, I can’t conceive of any way to experience someone striking your buttocks as anything but a humiliating violation of one’s boundaries and dignity. From the perspective of the victim, the spanker’s good intentions don’t matter.

    3) There was some discussion of parents being paralyzed by debates over discipline. I think the real confusion comes from trying to distinguish between a non-abusive spanking and abusive spanking. It makes my head hurt trying to figure out where the line is drawn. A simple bright line rule of no-hitting except in self-defense is a lot less confusing. And there are plenty of non-spanking options for parents to communicate clear rules and limits.

  17. Samantha – you said it well – your points about how no one knows the effects spanking will have on the adult. My brother, who was hit by the same parent as I, denies that it had an adverse effect on him. He’s a big, successful guy who, when we speak of it, issues disclaimers such as “Well, we turned out okay.” He turned into a spanker. I don’t use words as mild as “spanking” to describe the ways we were hit. And knowing his temper, I’m sure the “spankings” he administered to his kids were not well thought-out reminders. But then I believe spanking is never a good idea.

  18. My ex spanked once. She was in tears afterwards. Neither of us ever spanked ever again.

    Of course, now that Neve’s about to become a teen, we might reconsider.

  19. I neither agree nor disagree with this article, but it’s worth considering.

  20. im 16,i was spanked with a belt or an open hand when i was little…im turning out just fine.i trust both my parents very much, and im not emotionally or physicaly hurt at all. when i was spanked i new i had done wrong i was also starting to figure out were the line was. i was given wornings and if i chose not to correct myself and act right i got spanked and it wasnt exactly a light spankin either. and now i know when im startin to cross the line just by the look on my mamas face. being spanked taught me integrity same goes for my 18 yr old and 12 yr old brothers. and when i choose to have kids i will also choose to spank them when a worning and time out does. i do respect yalls chooses though.

  21. im 16,i was spanked with a belt or an open hand when i was little…im turning out just fine.i trust both my parents very much, and im not emotionally or physicaly hurt at all. when i was spanked i new i had done wrong i was also starting to figure out were the line was. i was given wornings and if i chose not to correct myself and act right i got spanked and it wasnt exactly a light spankin either. and now i know when im startin to cross the line just by the look on my mamas face. being spanked taught me integrity same goes for my 18 yr old and 12 yr old brothers. and when i choose to have kids i will also choose to spank them when a worning and time out doesnt work. i do respect yalls chooses though.

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