Monday, February 13, 2012

the spank debate

All right. So we're changing the channel around here for a moment. Bear with me. Or is bare with me? I can never remember.....

Today I am going to express my opinions on what I would consider to be a controversial issue. I think it will be short, I have no intention of getting anyone off their wagon, but knowing me it will go on and on and on........

It is one of those issues that few people, once they've chosen a side, sway from. It's like hunting. I despise hunting and my opinions on the matter are offensive. I will not debate it with anyone because I know better. And because I know you'll never get me off my point so, therefore, I am assuming you're just as stuck to yours.

Already, off topic.

The debate?

Spanking. This past weekend a debate popped up on Twitter and for whatever reason I found myself involved. I was asked, along with some others, to express my opinions and perspective via my blog.

Babble on my blog? Sure. I can do that.

And here we go.

My opinions are short. Too the point. And have molded my parenting ideals in regards to this one point.

I grew up in a house where, from the the age of three, my parents took in foster children. My parents had 5 children of their own and they fostered up to 5 at any given time. Mostly it was 2 or 3. Foster parents are not allowed to hit foster children. So, it doesn't make any sense to discipline two groups of children in two different ways. It only makes sense to discipline everyone the same. So we were not spanked, or hit, or physically manipulated in any way.

I don't know if my parents would have spanked us if foster children were not involved but when I think about it, I doubt very much they would have. I just can't see it.

When I started to date my husband we got to talking one day about spanking. He was disciplined, on occasion, with spanking, or the belt or the spoon or whatever you want to call it. He was all for it. He thought it worked and he intended to use it.

I was ill. I wondered, that day, if it was the end for us. In that moment I knew that spanking was going to be a deal breaker for me. I had never even given it thought before, how I would discipline future children, but I did know I was not going to hit them.

I told him this. And I told him that I could not be married to someone who thought it was okay to hit our children. For me, it was a scary day. I doubt he even remembers that conversation. I'll have to ask him.

We went to my house and chatted with my mum about it. I wanted him to see that a couple can raise 5 children successfully and play a major role in 65+ foster children's lives without ever laying a hand on them.

My mum convinced the man with one quote.

To this day her quote, and one other quote I heard the one time I watched Little Women, have completely shaped how I feel about the hitting of children.

My mum said: "When you hit a child all you are showing them is that you are bigger and stronger than they are."

That's it. That's all she said. The rest of it was just common sense.

I am 5 foot 4 (and three quarters). I knew I wasn't going to be bigger and stronger than my kids for very long and odds are, that when they needed the beating (i.e., punk teenager) they were going to be bigger, and stronger, than me.

No brainer.

The second quote came from Little Women. Now, I think it it was Little Women but I could be wrong. Regardless, I swear Susan Sarandon said it in a movie I watched at a very young age. It has always stuck with me.

When you hit and humiliate a child, the only thing you are teaching them is how to hit and humiliate.

I have no intention of raising my children by bullying them into submission. I don't want them to look back on their childhood and have any feelings of humiliation at my hands. I want to teach them to respect me and not because they are afraid of me. I want them to know that despite having let me down on occasion I love them. I do not need to raise my fist to do that.

As they enter their teenage years I have not had to change the way I discipline them. It seems counterproductive to me to spank them as small children only to have to find a different way to encourage good behaviour or discourage bad behaviour just because they are older. And bigger. And stronger than me.

Not interested.

Here's the interesting turn of events. The man has never spanked our children. They are good, kind, loving people who are obedient and respectful. I believe that people who hit their children are after the same things. Our methods are different but the outcome is the same, hopefully, so why all the hitting?

Does this mean I have never been angry enough to hit my child? Does it mean that they have never deserved a good beating? No it doesn't. I will admit here that all four of my children have had their butts smacked by their mother. One time. One time each. Was it a spanking? I don't know. As a society we have a very distorted view about hitting our children. Who gets to define it? From the waist down? Open handed? Whatever. I made physical contact with my child in a moment of anger.

Every time it happened I almost gagged over the toilet. Four times. The feelings it invoked in me were disgust and shame. I can't even imagine what it did to them.

I do not read articles or listen to broadcasts that are either pro or against spanking. It riles me up and I choose to spend my emotions in more productive places.

Shortly after the man and I were married we started fostering. This sealed the deal for us. We were not spanking parents. It doesn't make sense to raise two groups of children two different ways. Remember?

So my perspective, in a really big nutshell, is this. If you stuck me in a room with 100 other people my age who all exhibit behaviours related to kindness, compassion, empathy, altruism, and good will towards men, you would not be able to tell by looking at us who was spanked as a child and who wasn't. If you asked us who was spanked some of us would raise our hands. If you asked us who spank our children now some of us would raise our hands. If you asked us ALL what our hopes were for our children the answers would be very similar. We want them to grow to be kind, compassionate, empathic, altruistic and show good will towards all men. We want them to be successful and self reliant. We want them to love and to be loved. Some of us will succeed and some of us won't. I do not believe, for one minute, that success will stem from anything even remotely close to physical violence passed down from parent to child.

I just don't.

Should spanking be illegal? In my opinion yes. It might be a good deterrent for some parents. It may be all they need. It may force them to find more meaningful ways to rear their children.

Would making spanking illegal solve the problem? Nope. No problems are ever solved for everyone permanently.

I believe it would make the world better. And I'm all for making the world a better place.

So... like I predicted, there was nothing short about this. I've said my piece. I stand behind it. And I hope that as a society we can see that there are other, better, ways to bring up the next generation. If you were spanked and you think you turned out just fine then that's great. But don't let it be the one determining factor in how you choose to raise your children. Times have changed. We are an educated society. Do we want to be taking these types of chances with our children? It's a slippery slope. I believe it's a slope that doesn't need to be traversed.

There are other ways. Let's explore them.

Feel free to weigh in here in the comments. All I ask is that you be respectful. This is a conversation that should be had but we withhold judgement. If you are on twitter and want to follow #thespankdebate have at 'er.

This is a blog hop so go and see what others are saying on the issue.


  1. I love hearing that your parents successfully raised 5 children plus fostered so many and all without raising a hand. Also love your mom's quote!

  2. I found your perspective very informative. I have started thinking if you feel you "have" to spank your child because they are doing something unsafe or whatever and you can get close enough to spank them you can do something different. My DH is still on the other side of the fence on this issue but I hope he is changing that.

  3. I was spanked a few times as a child. But for me, the most effective form of discipline was "the look." If I ever got "the look" from my mother, I knew I was IN TROUBLE. Which didn't involve spankings, but loss of privileges and knowing I had disappointed her.

    What is more alarming to me than parents spanking their children is when schools do it. I'm sure public schools can't do it, but I went to a private one and if the parents gave permission than the dean was allowed to paddle the children. It kinda blows my mind.

  4. I too was spanked as a child. Only a few times I recollect. I wasn't that awful AND I definitely know that what I did to get that spanking was BAD. I definitely know that. I also know that receiving those spankings stopped me from doing those things again. However, my brother was not nearly so afraid of the spanking nor did it work. My parents could spank him silly and he'd go back to the same thing.
    I am sure I am not angry with my parents for spanking, nor do I feel that those spankings harmed me in any way (my brother perhaps feels differently). I have spanked both of my children once. It sucked. And oddly I cannot even remember the reasons involved... but I know that I did it after thinking about it. And it was only once. Does that mean I do not love them?? You are right, for sure I do. You are also entirely right when saying, as they get older it is not the path you want to be down. It's not my first form of punishment for sure EVER. It's not what I want them to remember me for, you know??

    I might make the conscious choice to not spank my kids, but some times we all have our moments.

    In my opinion, a yelling Mom or Dad might scar one more. I think I try hardest every single day to NOT YELL at my kids versus spank them.

    OH and i ENTIRELY AGREE that making spanking illegal might be all it takes for some. Good for you and your parents for taking in all those foster kids--- you continually amaze me!

  5. I loved your mom's quote and might have to borrow it.

    Great post !