So what about spanking? Many of us were raised with spanking as an acceptable form of punishment. In fact, even state law sanctions that spanking is acceptable as long as no mark is left. But does that make it right? No, it does not. There used to be a law in England “The Rule of Thumb” which meant it was legal to beat your wife or children with any object as long as the object was smaller than the diameter of your thumb. Crazy, right?
In fact, many parents use corporal punishment because they do not know any other way to exert control, gain compliance or another way to discipline their children. We were raised that way and so it is ingrained as a reasonable and innate response to difficult behavior.
We tell our children not to hit others, do not show aggression towards us, teachers or other children, to use words instead of acting out physically. But is that what parents do?
How do you respond when your child has a temper tantrum and throws something at you? If we spank or hit our children, we may gain immediate compliance and let them know of our displeasure with their behavior.
However, there are lingering consequences of physical intimidation of parents towards children: They learn that you can get your way through physical violence. They learn that you can gain your way if you are physically bigger and can assert physical prowess over your opponent. They learn that violence is a way to solve disagreements. Finally, they learn to fear us. Fear is not respect. Respect is earned not forcefully gained.
They will learn to hide things from you, not speak their mind for fear of reprisal, act out due to feelings of fear, anxiety and powerlessness. They will carry that suppressed anger into their adolescent and adult relationships. They will use physical violence to solve problems too.
So, in using spanking or other physical punishment as a means of discipline, a parent may win the battle but lose the war. Our parents did the best they could in raising us. Many of us were spanked and no one thought of it as abuse. However, understanding of child development, advancements in child psychology and the data regarding the long term psychosocial damage caused from corporal punishment should help us to evolve in our parenting.
Talk to your pediatrician about discipline alternatives, enroll in parenting classes, read a book about alternative nonviolent parenting techniques. You will be improving your life, your child’s life and cementing a positive lifelong relationship with them.
So, the next time you want to strike your child (whether frustrated, angry or thinking that you are just delivering an earned consequence) stop and think how you would feel if your boss physically struck you when you got into trouble at work. It would be unacceptable. Just because a child is smaller, does not mean they should be made to feel powerless and fearful.
If we teach our children that they are valued and have a voice in the family and that parents are not to be feared, we will raise happier and more well adjusted adults. Yes the need discipline and direction but in a consistent, calm and rational way that is nonviolent. Remember, they grow up to be you.