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Spanking Kids and Bombing Countries (Or the lack thereof)

An interesting article posted by my friend Fatima on Facebook:

"Spanking Kids Can Cause Long Term Harm: Canada Study"

TORONTO (Reuters) - Spanking children can cause long-term developmental damage and may even lower a child's IQ, according to a new Canadian analysis that seeks to shift the ethical debate over corporal punishment into the medical sphere.

The study, published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reached its conclusion after examining 20 years of published research on the issue. The authors say the medical finding have been largely overlooked and overshadowed by concerns that parents should have the right to determine how their children are disciplined.

The initial reaction to this post on my part was, well, duh because it's a conscious parenting choice on my part not to spank.  I feel a strong need, because I realize this is a sensitive topic, to strongly emphasize that my choice doesn't make me a better parent. Simply put, though, I believe that emphasizing that you're stronger or taller or older than someone is not the best tool to teach them what's right or wrong. One day, we will not be stronger and bigger and taller. Principled living results from a person intellectually accepting something because they believe it to be right.  There's a line in the Quran (this is probably going to surprise our friends who believe in a vast conspiracy to force Islam on everyone) : "There is no compulsion in religion." Put another way, you can't *make* someone believe something is right.

I don't think you can force someone to believe something, and I believe that physical punishments are an act of force.

I hear this a lot: some kids need to be spanked. I disagree.  I just disagree. A child is a person.  A total and complete person that just knows a little less about the world than I do. To drill down to the simplest explanation: I don't spank children because I don't spank adults. Shut up. Perverts.

I also don't spank because I remember what it felt like to be spanked, both in an educational environment and at home. It was ineffective, shaming and made me resentful of the people who used those methods to assert authority over me. To this day, the adult in my life who has the most impact on me is the one who never laid a hand on me: my mother. All my mother had to do was tell me she was disappointed in me and I would straighten up.  I cannot recall a single second of my life where I did not respect my mother.  Not even when I was extremely young.  And I'll tell you this, kids aren't born respecting their parents, their parents earn that respect.  My mother earned her respect from me somehow without every laying a hand on me.

(Okay, there was this one time that she slapped me when I was sixteen, but I totally deserved that.  And, also, she apologized for losing her temper. It's just that she thought I was lying dead in a ditch because she didn't know where I was for eight hours and I was supposed to be at school).

People who disagree about this seldom change their minds or find compromises they can agree on as evidenced by a discussion I had on the show CYR (episode 20) a few years ago.

All of that up there was my initial reaction to the Canadian study. My second reaction was far more philosophically based than controversially based, and I'm hoping you latch on to this part instead of the first. How can we as a society, dare I say, species consider eliminating the use of physical discipline when it permeates the highest levels of our society? I feel like that's pretty hypocritical.

Spanking your kids is supposedly bad according to this latest research, but dropping bombs on country because you suspect that they have nuclear capabilities is okay? See, if we accept that spanking kids is definitely, absolutely not okay... well, we'd have to reassess paradigms that allow us to push the boundaries of what we believe are appropriate responses to international situations where we feel a particular nation or people need to be "taught a lesson" for a perceived or real threat.

You know what I mean?

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Reader Comments (21)

When I was growing up, my mother was the primary disciplinarian -- even before my parents divorced. Allegedly my dad said that he did not want me to hate him. So he would save up his rage for about eight years and then snap. And strangely now my mother meets young parents and tells them how they should not spank their children. I asked her, "Where was this woman when I was growing up?" The last time I was spanked (age 12 I believe), I was left with welts that went down to my knees. My mother says her change of heart is that she realized that her treatment of me did not change my behavior in any way.

I am not a parent. I did not want to be one for fear of continuing the cycle.

A few years ago I had the good fortune to see a preview screening of "A History of Violence." Cronenberg was present to answer questions. I think you would have enjoyed being there because he talked about the idea of being the cowboy who acts and strikes vengeance without thinking about the repercussions of his actions. He talked about children seeing their government act in a certain way and asked why we were surprised to see a similar behavior seep down to a community level. As you can see, hearing him speak was haunting as it has stayed with me all these years later.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKailyn

I'm reminded of a meeting with our social worker during our adoption process. The question of spanking came up and I answered honestly. I was thinking of the number of times I've had to slam on my brakes in various parking lots due to a "runner". I would watch parents negotiate and explain to the offending child and within the same breath watch the child scoot away again. My honest answer? Yes, I will spank my child if a warning of imminent danger is not enough. I will and I have and I am not in the least apologetic.

At this point we will accept that my parenting style is different from yours, I think that probably goes without saying. I think the overall issue here is when is enough enough? How many times do you ask? How many times do you negotiate? How many times to you adjust? Next of course are the two very big questions... What is an acceptable risk? What is an acceptable loss?

If we look to the government as the "parent" how then do we answer those last two questions? What is "acceptable risk" for our society and our nation? And what is an "acceptable loss"?

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNyt

I got the flip flops, rolling pin, head on the wall, chimta and anything my mom could get her hands on. Still have a pretty high IQ and I turned out okay(I guess). My mom doesn't regret what she did and I don't hate her for what she did.
But where it might have screwed me up for a while is when I hit my teens. Subconsciously I thought that using force to get your way was okay and I used it against my younger sister whenever we disagreed(don't do that now). Or maybe it's normal for siblings to fight.
No permanent damage over here. Will see about the spanking when I have kids.
Bombing countries just because you think they have nukes is so wrong, especially when you are in possession of nukes yourself. That's hypocrisy. Lot less confusing unlike the spanking conundrum.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaeed

Interesting question. I don't know where I fall on the spanking thing. I don't do it because I don't think it solves anything. Better to make the child understand the wrong so as not to repeat it, although that may take several tries! My one exception might be the scenario Nyt brought up with the running into traffic; a little fear in that situation may not be a bad thing.

The bombing thing is tricky, too. Presumably we make other efforts to stop those countries "bad" behavior, but what if they don't work? And what if the ruler of that country is a nut job? I don't know...

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I don't really spank Gilda, either, although when she was very young - like, a little over a year old, she was OBSESSED with electrical sockets, and even though we had those protector things, she was more interested in unplugging lamps, etc. The stupid protector things sure as hell didn't protect against the stuff plugged in! Anyway, I tried NOT spanking her and telling her no, which normally worked on her, but finally I started smacking her hand, and within a day, she stopped. She was far too young to reason with at that age.
Like your own mom, my mom didn't lay a hand on me, and disappointing her was the biggest deterrent. When I was younger, a simple look from her was generally enough, and seems to be working on Gilda, too. (Also, my mom once smacked me, and honestly- I deserved it, too.)
Anyway, this whole country seems to be grounded on hypocrisy, so I definitely know what you mean.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSybil Law

I think, for the most part, people who are anti-spanking are less likely to be pro-bomb, and vice versa.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Britt

Wait- you're saying because we spank people, we erroneously went into Iraq? Okay.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthe muskrat

Wait- you're saying because we spank people, we erroneously went into Iraq?

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthe muskrat

Your last paragraph was exactly my point. You said it better.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

Those are great questions and I respect every parent's right to draw their own. I don't think spanking kids makes them "stupid" and I generally take face studies at face value only. Having known many grad students who "conducted" studies... yeah, not so reliable. I don't spank my kids because I didn't like being spanked. I've also been very fortunate to have children who were born a little afraid of me. Ot I'm jsut scary.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

I don't think kids who were spanked were stupid -- I was spanked and I'm smart, too. :-) I think, though, that it sends an interesting message. Grown up spank kids, but kids get in trouble if they use violence to solve their problems? It's hard for me to understand the logic there... very much like your nuclear weapons point.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

I *try-try*TRY*not to yell at my children, when they do something unsafe, my repercussion is to scream at them in a very alarmed way. It scares the shit out of them. I'm either very terrifying or my kids are cowards. Or both.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

Like I said to Nyt , I respect that everyone has a different line. I tried that smacking the hand thing with Y. once because he was doing something similar to your Gilda. He slapped me back. And that was really, REALLY when I remembered why I can't handle using physical force to discipline my kids.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa


February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

No, man, if I was going to say that ... I would have just said it! I meant that acting like hitting kids is bad but then talking about bombing a country when they say they don't have nuclear weapons (Iran) are irreconcilable. Basically, I mean that if we said "No, using force to discipline your kids is wrong, illegal and immoral" which is what this study is being used to argue by some folks in Canada it would be a hypocrisy of cosmic proportions on the part of our society. Because our past illustrates that this is often our go to.

Also, unrelated.... me, you, the gang, karaoke, New York, August?

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

Asking me twice isn't going to trick me into giving you a different answer!! :-)

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

show me your bomb logic on this:

i firmly believe that a swat on the hand or butt is perfectly acceptable and often needed for young children who don't exactly get logic.

[disclaimer: infrequent swat is not the same as beating a kid, and again, i am talking about a kid under 6 or 7 years of age]

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

I don't think that's illogical -- it's a good argument.

But I believe that children behave only as intelligently as their parents treat them. I have never used baby talk with my children and always (tried --TRIED) to speak to them as politely as I would to an adult. (I lose my temper, I'm not proud of it when I do, though, and am prompt to apologize for yelling).

Sometimes parents expectations of their children are not developmentally appropriate, too. What I mean is, if a child is supposed to know not to run out in the street, then they should be capable of reason... which means a parent should be able to explain to them why they can't do that. If the child can't understand running into the street is bad, then why the hell do have the option of running into the street, anyway?

I try not to put my children in situations where they have to behave in a way that's not developmentally appropriate for them in the first place. A lot of my parenting relies on preparing their environment in a way that is conducive to good behavior. Sleep, food, living arrangements are all set up in a way that they often don't have the option to misbehave. That doesn't mean they don't misbehave, it just means that it's infrequent enough that I can deal with it in a calm, thoughtful way.

My results have been that when they're presented with a new situation, they tend to be more observant of what's going around them before they jump in. I get a lot of flack for this, esp. when people indicate that my kids are "shy" or "afraid." They're not. They're just... careful.

I think the combination of an environment that promotes good behavior and being treated like they are intelligent has helped with my not having to spank to teach.

Either that, or God just blessed me with some darn good children.

Or both. :-)

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

Ps. That first sentence meant that the idea that swatting a kid on the butt is not illogical and that I understand that argument.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

I was spanked as a child, but my parents primarily used timeout. Spanking was a last resort, when I or my sister went too far. Timeout taught us that there were consequences to our actions, and spanking taught us that, should we choose to continue instead of learning from our mistakes, there were more serious consequences ahead. I see a lot of kids get away with things I never would have dreamed of, and I always wonder whether those children would be a bit more well behaved if they were disciplined. I think parents now are far too lenient on many things. They don't use timeout, and instead of trying to teach their children about how their actions affect other people, they use bribery, or even worse, they ignore the behavior completely. I know quite a few kids who could use a swat on the butt. It might teach them that punching their mother and pinching guests is not nice, and that lying to their teachers and telling them their mother doesn't feed them is wrong.

I don't at all condone abuse. I think there is a thick line between abuse and discipline. I do agree that spanking can be hypocritical; if your child gets in trouble at school for hitting someone, your first method of discipline probably shouldn't be to spank them. But like I said, some kids need more discipline than others. Timeout, reasoning, and taking things away don't always work.

I do, however, have a problem with parents who use belts or wooden spoons, or hit their kids so hard they leave a mark. A swat that stings a little is a far cry from a red hand print.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

I'm sorry, but I simply cannot condone bombing your children. Hmm... I guess if you suspect they have nuclear capabilities, maybe. Spanking countries, on the other hand, could be entertaining.

April 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRen

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