KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, December 02, 2005

Please Don't Spank or Slap Your Children, Take 2

Recently, I posted here about why hitting children is wrong. Jason wrote me privately with a different point of view. In the interests of getting the discussion of corporal punishment out in the open in the United States—not many Americans are willing to talk about it—I present the e-mail dialog between Jason and me, with his permission.


I was wondering [what your post] was out to prove. I disagree ... [that] striking your child as a means of correction is wrong. You must be aware that a child learns a lot more from being punished in this fashon than you would like to think.

You [wrote:]

What are you teaching your children when you hit them?

  • That it's okay to hit someone smaller and weaker than they are
  • That their feelings don't matter
  • That their bodies are not their own
  • That adults can't control their own anger
  • That love equals hitting
  • That adults aren't to be trusted; one time they'll show affection, and the next time they'll hit
You should really add to this list that your child learns the following:

  • Don't do what it was that I am being punished for.
  • My parents deserve respect.
  • Dad has a good backhand (added for humor).
My opinion on this matter is that it is not the physical act of striking the child that will leave a mental reminder, but that the waiting for the punishment is truly the punishment in itself. For instance, little Jimmy takes a cookie before dinner after being told three times, "No cookies before dinner." The kid takes a cookie. Fine. Say, "Wait in your room until your father (or mother) gets home for a spanking. The child has to sit and wait for the spanking, thus thinking about what he or she has done. A lightbulb pops up in their head: "What could I have done to avoid this?" When the act of the spanking comes about, the child has already learned his or her lesson, so you don't have to wale on them. They might even walk away suprised that it didn't hurt as much as it was supposed to, but that is not the [point] here.

This is how I was raised, and I haven't yet been to prison (or in legal trouble). This idea of letting your children get away with anything is what is destroying this society and clogging our prison system (where again, no beating or physical abuse typically occurs). You do the crime, you do the time. I do, however agree, with you that outlandish phyiscal punishment [here, Jason is referring to my account of physical abuse by my parents] does not resolve as many issues as it is meant to.

Hopefully you can see that this topic truly has multiple angles. ... [It] is a worth [debating].

Jason, thank you for writing. I agree that there are many points of view on the topic of physical punishment, and I think that this is a debate that should be out in the open in the United States. But you and I shall have to agree to disagree on whether spanking is a good thing.

Those of us who raise our children without spanking do not necessarily let them "get away" with anything. My sons—almost 11 and 4—are well behaved. (My daughter, now 22, was a well-behaved child too.) I have always set age-appropriate behavior expectations for them, [using] either natural consequences or removal of privileges [to help] them learn behavior boundaries. Here is an example of the first:

My 4-year-old demands something from me. He has been told on many other occasions that he is to speak politely and ask for what he wants. Because he has been rude, I refuse his demand, explaining why.

Here is an example of the second:

My almost-11-year-old has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). One of the problems that people with AD/HD have is decreased self-control. I ask him to clean his room. He feels compelled to play yet another game on the computer before cleaning his room. I then inform him that he has lost computer privileges for the remainder of the day for not using self-control—for not cleaning his room first and then playing another game on the computer.

This works well for all of us. That's not to say that I don't occasionally lose control and yell when I'm frustrated by my children's misbehaviors. But when I do, I don't resort to spanking or slapping. Once I've cooled off, I apologize for my yelling (because it's a behavior I don't want them to emulate), and I explain which behaviors of theirs angered me so much. (The explanations are much shorter for the 4-year-old.) When my sons' misbehavior escalates, time-outs work well [as far as helping everyone to cool off]. After a time-out is over, I ask the child in question to explain why he got the time-out; this ensures that he is aware that the behavior in question is unacceptable.

Now that you've read Jason's take on this issue, I'd like to read yours. Have you spanked your children? Why or why not? Were you spanked as a child? How did it affect you? E-mail me and I may make your story into a blog entry.

Take 1


Cynthia said...

I think you make some very good points. I kept one of my nephews for a brief period. He was 5 at the time. His parents routinely spanked him. I didn't feel comfortable doing that when he misbehaved, so I would make up silly little punishments to show that his behavior was unacceptable, but always making sure it didn't seem cruel.

One of his punishments consisted of sitting next to me without moving and talking for an hour while I read the book. Oddly enough, it helped his behavior while showing love. He became a perfect little angel. To make a long story short, he asked me out of the blue you all must love me. I said of course we do. I was surprised and ask why did he ask that question. His reply was - we didn’t hit him. I personally don’t like hitting children. There are better ways.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Cynthia, your story about your nephew is both sweet and sad. Is there any way you can raise the issue of spanking with his parents? I know that it's likely to be tough.

If they don't want to talk about it, you can help amelioriate the effects of their spanking by being the aunt who shows him, by her behavior, that not all adults will hit him. You might want to become the refuge he can always count on.

Template created by Makeworthy Media