Friday, February 13, 2015

Spanking is punishment not discipline

            A friend posted on a social media site something about spanking and that the argument against it is being overblown, misunderstood and that today’s children/youth/young adults lack discipline and could use a good swat or two to get/keep them in line. My friend used the “I was spanked and I turned out ok” argument. This was my reply (edited for clarity):

         Yes, many (not all) children lack discipline, but spanking is punishment. These are very different approaches to assisting our children to be productive members of society. Not using spanking takes patience, energy and endurance, but is doable. Working with other people’s children makes you develop other skills to assist the wee ones to do what is required of them because you cannot hit them to make them mind!

         I was at a conference where a national advocate for abolishing the law that allows hitting our own AND other children (Section 43 of the Canadian Criminal Law1). I went up to her and said that when I was a young parent we were told “don’t spank” but were never really told what to do instead! She agreed that parents need alternatives. I maintain (& my very young children supported this viewpoint) that “The Brady Bunch” parenting method doesn’t work on even a few very young children (“Now Jan, you shouldn’t do that”). 2

         Attachment parenting has some very good concepts that work…it takes effort but I would say it would really be a great base for parenting strong secure humans. That is, attachment parenting as presented by Dr. Gordon Neufeld, not what we read in small titbits in popular magazines or extreme websites. His stuff is based on solid research and experience.

         Little wee ones CAN understand more than we ever thought/think. It just has to be presented in ways they can understand and not overwhelm them. Picking a child up and removing them from where you don’t want them isn’t wrong. You just might have to repeat this often.

         Time out works for some, but it has to be used sparingly. When a child is tired, hungry or in a disequilibrium state (you know, those times when your sweet child behaves like they’re possessed—similar to those chocolate bar commercials), they need you more at that moment than being separated from you. But if you are also not in a stable state (ie: “Mommy you’re ugly when you’re mad”), then separating yourself mentally or physically from each other is ok. It is better to say nothing and talk later when in control of your words. The payoff from putting forth the effort into developing discipline in your children is a big relationship payoff. And they won’t have to “work through things” before they have their heads on straight (well, we’re not perfect, so substantially less things). And that is a good thing isn’t it?

         Another friend mentioned having to “work through things” and I’m sure that one of those “things” was an incident when he/she3 was quite young and touched the hot stove. Now most mothers of that era (50’s-70’s) would just slap the hand and say sharply “don’t touch! HOT!” His/her mother chose to take his/her hand and place it directly on the hot burner. Now when I heard this I didn’t know much about child abuse or even thought twice about being spanked but I knew what occurred in that kitchen was wrong. Very wrong. I said nothing not only because I didn’t want my friend to be shamed, but because the only thing I could think of was “that’s child abuse”. Now I don’t like to hurt my friends’ feeling (sorry if I have!) and this was a very new friendship (37 yrs. now) so I didn’t know how that would be taken. I also figured that if this was the kind of family my new friend came from, knowing a kind person (that would be me) could only be a good thing in my friend’s life.

(1) Section 43 of the Criminal Code(1) reads as follows:
Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.

(2) Here is a link to someone who saw how "The Brady Bunch" parenting method could work & tried it:,1. Her interpretations are similar to Dr. Neufeld's concepts.

(3) My attempt at hiding my friend’s identity as much as possible. I don’t repeat this sad moment so I’m doing what I can to keep it a very personal moment between us.