Spare the Child.

Those of you who were raised in a Christian home have surely heard the phrase Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child.  This verse from Proverbs 13:24 has been used as the basis for corporal punishment for centuries.  While it is unlikely that most parents who admit to spanking use an actual rod or object to hit a child, an overwhelming majority of American parents believe spanking to be a valuable "tool" for discipline.  The disconnect between research and mainstream opinion has been heartbreaking experts for decades.  For more than 30 years, developmental researchers have been warning parents of the adverse effects that spanking has on children.  Children who are spanked are at risk of lower IQ, aggressive behavior, engaging in unprotected sex, and in a very disturbing finding in a recent study, they are more likely to be aroused sexually by pain.(Newsweek)  Apart from all that could go wrong, the most compelling argument seems to be - it doesn't work.  In over thirty years of research, not once have researchers been able to show that spanking diminishes the behavior parents are trying to eradicate.  The illusion of the behavior leaving is simply children learning to not get caught or lie to avoid punishment.  If at best, spanking is ineffective, and at its worst,  you could seriously harm your child, why have 94% of parents in the US with children 3-4 years old spanked in the past year?  Why do parents still feel it's acceptable to hit a child to make a point but that same logic could have them arrested if applied to another adult?Perhaps the reason for the disconnect between research and the public is that for most of us, we simply can't see it.  We really are cut off from the connection between spanking and later troubles.  We've never seen ourselves or others anyway than how we are now.  We can't trace the path from a "little swat" once and awhile to behavior in adulthood.  The most common argument we hear for spanking is "I was spanked and I turned out fine."  This is a hard argument to get around.  Because convincing someone that just because they are fine doesn't mean all will be fine for another is a bit tricky.  In recent years, parent educators have been using the analogy of smoking when speaking to parents about spanking.  Not all smokers end up with adverse long term effects.  Not all smokers end up with lung cancer, but we don't know which smoker will.  And we don't know about you but the risk is enough for us not to play the odds.  Educators view spanking in much the same way.  It's hard to tell which children will be most adversely effected.  There are indications that demographics may play a part: children who are in lower socio-economic brackets and have more stresses in their lives are at higher risk.  This could be due to the frequency and veracity of the spankings.  But no one is quite sure.  Could you imagine weighing the odds when your teenager starts to smoke?  We wouldn't.  So why do we push aside decades of proof on this one?  Child psychologist, Alice Miller wrote at length about the need for children to view the parent as good, so much so, that the child will place blame on herself in order to keep a warm image of her parent.  So, it's easier psychologically to believe that we deserved the smack than to believe that our parent's were wrong.  It's easier for us to believe it's not really harming our children than to engage in a discussion about how we were mistreated and how we mistreat.  But if we take a step back and do not need to be right for a moment, could we see the ridiculousness of our belief on spanking?  How could hitting someone ever lead someone to not want to hit?  How is having our child fear us a healthy thing? Would we feel closer to our spouses if  they swatted us on the rear when they were frustrated with us?  In no way are we advocating complete and utter bedlam.  Nor are we suggesting that children never do anything that could make an adult want to smack them.  But, that's really the point isn't it. We are generally hitting because we are angry, enraged, frustrated, or impulsive (as when someone hits a child for running into the street).  How can we expect impulse control from children if we aren't modeling it?  We, as adults, need to give ourselves the license to voice these feelings rather than act on them.  How different would our lives be with children if we could trust ourselves and them to hear us when we feel overwhelmed by their behavior?  It seems to us that it would be a far better learning experience for everyone to have a parent speak to the problem even if it's not perfectly scripted, or evolved, for that matter. "I am so anger right now. I can't believe you just smashed that window after I asked you not to play baseball near the house!"

We leave you with the words of Alice Miller:  
"Wherever I look, I see signs of the commandment to honor one's parents and nowhere of a commandment that calls for the respect of a child."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails