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Monday, January 28, 2013

To Spank or Not To Spank? That Is The Question...

My good friend Teddy sent me an article the other day (via Facebook) from entitled,Why Some Black People Ignore the Negative Research on Spanking”  - written by Kristen West Savali. While I thought the subject was very interesting, I felt that she was strongly biased in her opinion against spanking - almost categorizing and generalizing the action as abuse. And while I do believe that the black community in general has a stronger preponderance to administering spankings, it is certainly not an action that is race specific. I absolutely do not believe that you’re more prone to spank your children due to the melanin count in your skin being higher than other races.    
I remember coming home one afternoon, with not a care on my mind. As soon as I stepped through the front door, I was greeted by my mother, who asked me a simple question. While I could tell by the look on her face that I was definitely in trouble, I couldn’t understand why, as the question was very simple. She asked me, “Where are you coming from?” As I said, it felt like a trick question but I answered with a wondering and un-certain tone in my voice. No sooner than the millisecond I finished the last syllable, my whole being was met with repeated strikes from my mom’s open palm. I felt as though I had been ambushed by a military firing squad, and they were intent on using me for target practice. What probably lasted about 30-45 seconds felt like a lifetime. I remember thinking - while she was hitting and screaming at me simultaneously – “What in the world is going on?” My mom has gone absolutely mad… When she was done, she left me in tears on the floor. I was hurt (physically) like I’ve never been hurt before and clueless as to why. My older sister came home a little while later, and upon finding me sobbing, asked, “Rose, what’s wrong!?” All I could do is look at her - still in disbelief and almost wanting to pinch myself, so I could be brought back to reality. I said,  “Mummy hit me!” That sentence (and situation) became a long standing joke between my sisters and I.
I was 16 years old and that was the FIRST and ONLY time I had been spanked/hit in my life (by one of my parents) as part of a disciplinary act…
Did I learn anything from it? No. In the moment or in retrospect, do I feel that I deserved it? No. Did I resent my mother for it? No. I knew she wasn’t hitting me out of anger, with a goal to hurting me …

So… to spank or not to spank? This is such a sensitive subject because depending on what you choose to believe is appropriate (or not), could very easily get you labelled as abusive or too lenient. There are so many studies out there that will provide positive and negative feedback for both sides of the coin. There are solid arguments for both, and if you’re not careful, you’ll be just as confused as you can be, while deciding on what’s best for your children.

Let’s go back about 25 to 30 years, when spanking was an acceptable form of discipline and it wasn't against the law. Everyone did it, until lines were crossed and rules (or etiquette guidelines) were applied to every behaviour, in hopes of us appearing more civilized.
Personally, I chose not to spank because I believe I can get my point across with communication, and where necessary - punishment (taking away privileges…). Spanking, for me, has always been something I’ve tried - and have so far succeeded- to not to resort to, but again, every child responds differently to every form of discipline. What works in my house may not work in every house, and vice- versa. Every parent has a unique situation and child, and must handle correction in a manner that will provide both a learning experience for the child, while also instilling respect for boundaries. But if we’re comparing apples to apples, and there is indeed not much difference - aside from the speed at which they will take you seriously, I would much rather not physically discipline my kids, and defer to other methods available.

Just so that I’m clear, along with my personal preference comes no judgment for parents who choose to spank as a form of discipline. As a matter a fact, my husband is totally pro-spanking. And while my son has not yet fallen prey to the wrath of the open palm to the buttocks, my daughter has, and I can guarantee that she is in no way damaged… she’s actually much more to the opposite.
I think for those casting judgment on pro-spankers, there needs to be a realization that there is a fine line between spanking and abusing. Spanking doesn't have to take on the form of abuse. It is a way to teach certain kids that there are consequences to their actions. I believe in disciplining children but either with communication (verbally) or physically (spanking, swatting …), we have to be careful that we don’t discipline out of anger as it will teach the children to react and behave in the same manner... with anger. I can tell you that there I’ve heard some parents “discipline” their children verbally, and it was worse than any physical spanking I’ve ever seen in my life. Sometimes parents think that by avoiding the belt, hand, or whatever, it gives them carte-blanche to tear down their kids’ self-esteem and pride, leaving them far more scarred than any spanking could ever do.

Children don’t come to us with a “how to” manual; we learn as we go. How to discipline is a decision every parent needs to make, and come to terms with by following your gut instinct… which will never lead you wrong. We make and will make many mistakes in the decisions for and about our kids, which includes how to discipline them. However, when any of your actions are based and stem from the love you have for them and their well-being (raising great members of society, good people, etc…), your children will not resent you.

As I personally don’t believe it is necessary to spank a child, I also realize that my opinion is solely based on my experiences with my own children. And as I mention earlier, my experience is obviously different than my husbands’, who has found it necessary in the past to spank our daughter. Whatever the case, I have no moral qualms, hang-ups or negative judgment towards any parent who feels physical discipline is the only way to go, just as much as I don’t praise and put on a pedestal parents that have sworn to never spank their children… because again, your child is not mine and mine are not yours. What works in your household will not necessary work in mine and just as long it is clear in everyone’s mind that we are talking about discipline and not abuse than more power to all.

“Discipline is a symbol of caring to a child. He needs guidance. If there is love, there is no such thing as being too tough with a child. A parent must also not be afraid to hang himself. If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.”
~Bette Davis

How about you guys? What is your opinion and perspective on spanking? Do you find it necessary, abusive or just not call for at all?



  1. Indeed, a though subject! I would not say I am pro-spanking however, there are times I've found it necessary. Now, spanking can lead to dangerous behavior if one parent does let her/his anger take over them. I am more for other forms of punishments and talking hard to your kids.
    The last sentence on Bette Davis quote makes sense, however, discipline does not always have to involve physical hurt. My father, did not hit us my mom was pro-spanking(hard!!!) but somehow, my dad form of discipline had way more impact on me than my mom`s hitting. Could that be a proof that talking to your kids can work better? maybe.
    Also, from my experience, it only feels that spanking is instant gratification to the parent, but I am not so sure that it always works for the kids. Honnestly, to spank or not to spank? I don't know, and can't say matter of fact that one is better than the's really whatever rocks your boat in your household.( As long as it does not turn to abuse, then I have an opinion).

  2. I am of the school of thought that sometimes some spanking could be utilized to discipline a child and show them that there are consequences to their actions. I do believe as well that there other ways to express one’s parental authority without resorting to that all the time.

    As you both mention, spanking could be a good thing on one hand and on the other hand, it could be psychologically and emotionally damaging to the child, especially if it is repetitive and tainted with anger.

    Parental authority, be it verbal or physical, should aim to set benchmarks for the child and to educate them on matters pertaining to life in general. With those benchmarks properly built and laid out, the latter will help the child build independence, autonomy and reference points to go to. They will allow the child to learn how to behave in society and it will also help them to understand what is good and bad for them, what is dangerous and what is not. In closing, the parental authority is not just to show authority to a child but it is as well to demonstrate that it is to protect them from things that they may not understand yet.


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