To spank or not to spank your child is one of those topics that gets a strong reaction out of people. The prestigious medical school at Public Opinion University seems to have decided that spanking is bad. Parents who are seen spanking their kids on store security cameras end up on the local news as terrible monsters. It’s hard for me to get a good read on how many parents actually do spank (during my incredibly unscientific polling of playground parents) because the stigmatization (justified or not) of it might cause parents to not admit it.
Parents who are against spanking are very VERY against spanking. Parents who do spank are very defensive of their decision or spank in secret. People who talk about any benefits spanking might have get (figuratively of course) spanked in the media. They say spanking teaches discipline and respect for authority.
My daughter has a friend who gets spanked. Actually my daughter has quite a few friends who get spanked. I don’t judge them as parents for it, but I’m not sure if it works. Sure it will get the kid to stop right then, but if my parent’s liberal use of corporal punishment is any indication, it doesn’t do anything to change long term behavior (I have yet to learn any respect authority- just ask the mayor LOL). My friends who spank their kids tell me that it works for them.
We don’t spank our daughter, and we don’t ever plan to but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ever tempted to so during supermarket toddler meltdowns or every time she pulled my hair. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes secretly wish that the kid who bit my daughter at the playground got smacked instead of a time out. But then the corporal punishment wouldn’t be for the child’s benefit. It would be for mine. So I could vent my anger through violence. Whenever I’m sitting next to my temper tantrum toddler picturing my friend giving her son a couple of bottom smacks, I’m angry, tired, and frustrated. I want Adi to be quiet or at the very least stop screaming in my ear. Every time I’m tempted to hit her it’s because of me. If you do choose to spank, I think it should be to benefit your child. Or as my friend says “to snap him out of it” and to give him “a physical consequence for his actions”. I don’t necessarily agree with her, but I get it.
My friend who spanks is a really good mom and her child is pretty well behaved. Spankings are rare. When they happen they are brief and not that hard. She says that it “doesn’t hurt the child” apart from the brief sting and I believe her. She’s never off temper when she does it, and is (except for that) a pretty quiet and gentle person. She’s never actually hurt her child. I know it’s a fine line but she has never ever crossed it. I’ve seen parents who (in my opinion) have.
Where does discipline end and abuse start?
Rachel Figueroa-Levin is a soapmaker, cofounder and educator at Urban Babywearing, a hyperlocal Inwood blogger and organizer, a political/life/religion/parenting satirist, and all around trouble maker. She is also the creator New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking alter ego @elbloombito. You can reach her via twitter @Jewyorican.