Before I begin, let us first make sure we are all thinking of spanking in the same context. Spanking is repeated slapping on the behind, used most often to punish children for behavior we adults believe must be corrected. A single slap is not a spanking and, while it may be called a spank, it is better called a smack. I am not against a smack. We all lose ourselves and deal out a smack here and there. A spanking is a physical punishment delivered with an intentional frame of mind by an adult to a child.
I do not believe in spanking children and I do not believe spanking children raises children better then those who are not spanked. Violence is not the answer. My parents found a way to raise me and my siblings non-violently, without the use of spankings, and we have turned out fine, as have many others across the globe that have been raised without violent punishment.
People in today’s world spank for many reasons but, I am happy to say, the instances and numbers of such occurrences are lowering. In the eighteen hundreds, whips and straps were used as tools to ‘discipline’ children. The sayings ‘tan your jacket’, ‘beat the tar our of you’, and the trip to the woodshed were things many children experienced back in the day when it was done to remedy most wrongs as perceived by the parents.
Today, parents still spank. Luckily the use of whips and straps has diminished. The belt is still used, unfortunately. Caning and whipping was done in American families but was more popular in British schools during the eighteen hundreds and a fair ways into the nineteen hundreds as well. At the Florida Industrial School for Boys at Marianna in old Florida, thirty boys were whipped to death. The school was considered a reform institution for boys’ ages eight to twenty-one but chose violent, abusive, and deadly methods to do so, methods that resulted in the death of thirty students.
While I accept that spanking is done and I cannot wipe it from existence with a wave of my hand, something I wish I could do and feel strongly against, I do not consider it abuse provided it is simply repeated slapping on the behind. But once the use of implements such as belts and straps, hairbrushes, wooden spoons, and shoes are involved, I consider it a level of child abuse. Children should not be hit by their parents with anything beside the bare hand, an extension of your own body, to remedy what may be considered a wrong. Once the method of physical punishment, whether it is spanking or anything else, leaves marks and bruises, and involves objects and implements, it is, in my mind, child abuse.
I do not like to think of parents intentionally causing their children pain because it contradicts the statement of love. To say it hurts you to see tears in their eyes or your child in pain when, in some instances, you may be the one causing the pain and tears, says you do not feel strongly enough about what you say to find a way to remedy a wrong or discipline a child that does not involve the use of spanking or anything physical.
Children under the age of six do not understand the concept of right or wrong, though they do begin to understand around the later ages of ten. But young children do understand the force of your hand. The brute force of spanking works because no child likes to feel pain and, fearing the pain, they learn not to do whatever it was that invoked the pain. But pain and, more importantly, fear is a bad teacher and a bad master, yet many children live under it today because their parents chose to use physical punishment to discipline. Children do not think about the things that hurt them, therefore the spankings are not on their minds constantly, but in the moment, their emotions are confused. They choose not to deal with the confusion they do not understand. But as soon as they commit another wrong, and the spanking is eminent, they know fear, and fear is not something parents should induce as a habit in children.
In books, like Little House on the Prairie and Spencer’s Mountain, spankings and whipping are mentioned and done. There are TV shows to both the above books now, but the spankings and whipping have been written out of the script because it is “inappropriate for children”. I ask you, if a child lives with spankings, why should it be inappropriate for them to view on the screen? It is a part of their lives. Why hide it behind doors as if it is some awful thing never to be brought out from the dust when some of us do it ourselves?
Adults have experience and judgment. Using spanking or violence to remedy a wrong committed by a child displays lack of patience, innovation, foresight, and wisdom on our side, something we very well might be spanked for if we were still children! As adults, we should use our judgment and experiences to think beyond spanking and exercise the patience we try to teach, and think of more creative, non-violent ways to fix a wrong committed by a small and helpless child.
Films that have spankings are always rated PG-13 (an age when a child is too big for spanking but were, in the old days, still whipped) or carried up to the R rating. Why? Because we are afraid to show it to children though it is done to them or because it looks like the violence that it is?
Spanking and physical punishment is a cage. Children are young, and dependent on parents to provide for them and give them a home. When a child is spanked, and rebels, the retribution comes down all the harder. A child cannot run away from home, or move into a different house and get a job to escape the spankings. They are trapped with their parents, forced to live the life their parents have chosen. And when parents do not like the behavior our child portrays in certain situations, we spank them to remedy the wrong. But that is simply a form of bullying that children cannot fight back against when the bully is the very person who gave them life and gives them a home.
Thousands of adults and children go to therapists and psychiatrists because they struggle with emotional problems. Some of these problems are created by physical punishment in the cases of children, and cause angry, hurt emotions the child cannot deal with or express to a parent who believes in the very thing causing their inside pain. It is a sad thing that exists in this world today.
Many parents today have turned to non-violent methods of punishment, such as grounding, time out, or the confiscating of devices, items, or toys to discipline. I prefer these methods to older ones, such as spanking, that have sadly withstood the passage of time.
The reason spanking has survived as long as it has is because many children who have been spanked try not to remember the incidents or forget them because the memories may awaken conflict inside them. And once they have decided to forget, they forget everything they may have felt about it, and instead follow in the footsteps of their parents, as all children do, respecting the judgment of their peers.
“Oh, my mother did it to me, and I really do not remember much about it, so it must be all right. Look at how I have turned out. If I do as my parents did to me and spank, I will turn out fine children too.”
While this may be true to those who chose to believe it, non-violent methods of punishment work just as well, if not better for the child’s emotional experience.
Grown up children who have experienced spankings may feel strongly against what was done to them but chose to forget about it so they can continue to have a steady relationship with their parents. And, forgetting how they felt about it when it was done to them, they pass on the belief and do it to their children, believing it is right and just; though might is not necessarily always right.
Non-violent methods of punishment are as effective as violent ones; yet better for they teach without causing physical pain and emotional strife to a helpless child. Some children who grow up with spankings remember the incidents and, having the memories of their conflicting emotions fresh inside them, turn to non-violent methods of punishment so as not to put their children through the same experience.
There are many books available to help adults move away from physical punishment and use love, gentleness, and non-violence to teach children to behave, such as Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior
We will never know how children feel when we spank them unless we dig up our old memories and chose to contemplate them.
I have read many books and articles and stories where children are physically punished, and each instance awakens sadness inside me, even more so when the books and articles are historically accurate. Yesterday the articles I read were a little too much of an overdose for me.
I know some children who are spanked, and people who do spank but my opinions about the subject do not cause me to turn away from them. As the years continue to pass, I hope that spanking will come to a final end, and fall away into the mists of time.