Spanking is abuse, not discipline

I know this will probably bother a lot of people, and I’m kind of hoping it does. If you spank your kids, you should be bothered. If you whip your kids, you should seek professional help.

This story is getting a lot of attention, thank God. If you can stomach it, the full video is here. A few things:

1) People are rightly horrified that this man would beat his daughter with a belt for minutes on end (though there seems to be less outrage about the verbal abuse he heaps upon her while he’s doing it).

2) The father (who happens to be a judge) is unrepentant. He says he apologized to his daughter, but also says he’s done nothing wrong and that “it’s not as bad as it looks” in the video. He tries to say that his daughter had it coming, and that when the full story emerges, we’ll all understand why he whipped her with a belt. Try as I might, I can’t think of something my child could do that would be so bad that such a punishment would be justified. Abusers are big fans of the “You provoked me” line of justification.

3) A lot of people are saying, “Well, spanking is one thing. Spanking is sometimes needed. But this is different.” It’s really not. First of all, spanking is ineffective. Secondly, spanking teaches your child to be afraid of you. Thirdly, parents who resort to spanking are saying, “Well, I have no authority over you, so all I can do is get violent.” And yes, spanking – even a slap on the bottom – is violent. Try actual discipline, abandon spanking.

I’m pretty sick of hearing about how beating is a generational thing, as if that makes it okay. I’m also tired of hearing, “Well, I was spanked and I turned out fine!” If you’re advocating for spanking children, you didn’t turn out fine. At best, you’re sorely mistaken. At worst, you’re a monster.

I know otherwise kind people who spank and/or threaten to spank their kids, so there are a huge number of people who simple don’t know any better. I think the onus is on those people to learn how to discipline a child, if they really want to raise emotionally healthy human beings who trust and love them. This would preferably be done before having kids, but if they’re already born, it’s never too late to learn.

I know this may sound condescending, but I’m not too interested in making people feel good about their bad choices. Spanking and beating are both abusive, and all children deserve better. Period.

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4 thoughts on “Spanking is abuse, not discipline

  1. As you might expect, we’ve never spanked any of our children. As one psychologist put it, “Do you really want to teach children that physical force is the determinant of who is right? And what do you do when those children grow up to be bigger than you?”

  2. Thanks for posting this. The only possible argument one could put forward for hitting kids would have to be that discipline without physical violence is impossible. Which is a pile of crap. I probably shouldn’t go on about my own kids here, but the goal for any parent is not cowed, submissive children, which is what passes for “discipline” in violent families IMO. The proper goal would have to be well-mannered, polite, respectful children (and then adults) who are socially competent, motivated, kind to others, successful at what they do, and also actively happy. If anyone knows kids who got that way by being hit, I would love to meet them. It simple isn’t possible to develop healthy social or parenting skills when you are still relying on violence to solve (actually postpone and exacerbate) problems.

    1. Alice, I think your last sentence speaks to something these parents aren’t aware of: Spanking does not solve anything.

  3. I’m not a particularly observant Jew, but I found this interesting. According to Talmud, it is forbidden for a parent to tempt their child into sin. Traditionally, this prohibited hitting children over, say, 10 years old, who are capable of fighting back (striking one’s parent is such a sin). Now that our view is lengthened by the awareness of all of the bad behaviors caused in kids by hitting them, I think we might see hitting kids in that light: hitting kids tempts them to sin.

    That’s not the only reason it’s wrong, of course. But it’s another one.

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