January 22, 1995 in Features

Spanking Does More For Parents Than Kids

Rick Shefchik St. Paul Pioneer Press
 

I see that spanking is being debated in the media again.

Parenting columnist John Rosemond says there’s an antispanking conspiracy consisting of liberals, the media (what’s the difference, right?) and Oprah Winfrey, who apparently doesn’t quite fit either category.

Rosemond’s got a new book out called “To Spank or Not to Spank” (he comes down on the side of “to spank”).

Meanwhile, there’s a new “not to spank” book called “Beating the Devil Out Of Them,” by Murray A. Straus, director of the Family Research center at the University of New Hampshire.

Straus’ book has more charts and stats than a Bill James baseball abstract, but his conclusions are simple enough: Spanking doesn’t do any good, and it often causes depression and low self-esteem when the spankee grows up. It also reduces a child’s ability to choose right from wrong for purely moral reasons, Straus says.

I don’t claim to be an expert on this, but I am a parenting columnist, I am part of the media, I have watched Oprah Winfrey and I did go to college in New Hampshire, so I feel an obligation to offer my perspective.

We don’t spank our kids.

Unfortunately, I have to qualify that. Our daughter was swatted on the diaper once (for biting her mom), and our son has been swatted maybe three times on the butt and spanked once (for hitting his sister).

On each occasion, the punishment was swift, sure and totally out of anger and frustration on the part of our children’s parents. In other words, contrary to John Rosemond’s advice, it was intended to cause pain.

Rosemond believes that parents who spank are capable of following these guidelines: infrequent spankings, only on children younger than 10, no more than two swats with a bare hand on a clothed rear end, never in school.

Perhaps he’s right. Maybe if we had more practice at spanking, we’d be able to stick to the formula.

But in my experience, parents who resort to spanking are generally angry (unless they are such emotionless zombies that they just do it without thinking about it). And angry people aren’t capable of exercising perfect control.

So we’ve found it easier just to agree not to spank our kids, and for the past year or two, we have succeeded.

We discipline our kids in nonphysical ways and all I can tell you is I think they’re doing fine. If our friends, relatives and the kids’ teachers find our children unruly, they have been kind enough not to tell us.

I can remember receiving only a few spankings as a kid. Like any curious, self-centered child, I deserved my share of punishment, but my parents usually figured out other ways to do it.

The last spanking I can recall was from my mother. I was acting up at the barber shop, embarrassing her greatly, and she drove me home and spanked me in the laundry room. It didn’t hurt, and I had to try not to laugh, and I felt bad for my mom.

It was obvious that neither of our hearts were in it.

If I were to put my 9-year-old daughter over my knee at this point in her life, not only would her fingers and toes touch the floor, but I’m sure she’d be more in shock than in pain.

As for our 6-year-old son, banishment to his room has always been all the punishment he’s needed. (It’s perfect, really; he hates being sent away, but all his toys are there, so after pondering his transgression for, oh, maybe 15 seconds, he loses himself in his Legos and eventually emerges a much happier person, which is all we wanted in the first place.)

Ultimately, I don’t believe a spanking is going to prevent him from committing the same transgression at some later date. All I’d be doing is hurting him to blow off some of my own frustration.

A billboard along the highway I take to work says, “Never hurt a child. Never. Never. Never. Ever.”

I can’t find a good reason to disagree.

xxxx


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