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To spank or not to spank


It's a big issue in parenting circles.

Opinion seems evenly split between those who consider it "abuse" and those who consider it a reasonable tool for the discipline kit.

When I raised my older children, I fell firmly in the "abuse" camp. Spanking *is* hitting, and many of the arguments against it are very valid.

It makes sense that it's harder to teach a child that hitting people is not an appropriate way to solve problems when you show them all the time that it *is* a way to solve problems.

It can be used less as an instruction tool and more as a release for the parents anger -- in which case, it *is* abuse.

In itself, spanking doesn't actually teach a child self-control, nor to behave well for good behavior's sake. It teaches good behavior through fear of punishment. Ideally, we want our children to behave well for its own sake, because if they only behave well when they fear reprisal, then they won't behave well if there's no fear of being caught, which can lead to genuine evil, given the right circumstances and certainly can lead to thoroughly unethical people.

All those reasons make perfect sense to me.

And then again, disciplining children without spanking is very, very difficult. Not only does it take a lot of work, but it takes a lot of imagination, a lot of energy, and a high level of consistency.

Children are entitled to good discipline -- it teaches them self discipline and makes their way easier in the world, because they know what's expected and how to conform with expectation. That means people like them more -- and being likable is a big bonus in just about every way.

Although they have turned out to be fine young men of whom I am very proud, it could be argued that I failed miserably in disciplining my older sons.

...actually, no argument is required. I didn't do very well at all. Oh, I tried. I tried very, very hard, but I was completely ineffectual.

As they went through their teen years I came to believe strongly that I had made a serious mistake in not spanking them. They were out of control, and they evidently had no respect at all for me.(Come to find out, they were "out of control" long before the teen years -- but as teens they stopped "hiding it".)

During that time, I had cause to reconsider my thought that spanking has no place in "enlightened" parenting.

And then they grew into young men that I like and respect very much. Young men who, with a few striking exceptions, have the values I had hoped to instill in them.

(There are very few parents who don't find that their children hold at least slightly different values than they do, so I don't feel too bad about that -- it just reaffirms that the values thry hold are their own which makes me very happy indeed at the overlap!)

So -- maybe I did OK, after all?

It would have remained theoretical, but then came Jack. Now I have to decide all over again whether I fall into the "spanking" or "no spanking" camp. I am certainly not as against it as I once was -- but all the reasons that set my cap against hitting my older children still make a lot of sense to me for Jack.

And I think spanking truly doesn't faze some kids and truly traumatizes others. I think one of my older children would have been completely unfazed, but I'm not so sure the other wouldn't have been traumatized. He's the sort of person who seems to have been born wanting to do the right thing. I think spanking him could only have made matters worse. It's hard to say yet where Jack will fall on that continuum, though I suspect he's on the more sensitive end of it.

And, of course, the situation this time is completely different than it was last time. I largely raised TJ and Corey as a "single parent" -- even while I was married, I never truly had a "parenting partner", since Olof and I were at odds at just about every issue of parenting.

Rod and I, on the other hand, see pretty much eye to eye on raising Jack, and so he won't get constant mixed messages about what consitutes "appropriate behavior". That has to help.

So ... will I spank Jack?

It's hard to say.

So far, I have experimentally swatted him on the diaper a few times when he was really acting up. That's when I realized that I have not entirely entered the "spanking is an acceptable tool" camp. It felt awful!

I haven't decided just what I think.

Rod, as I understand his thoughts, believes that spanking is an acceptable, but extreme, tool. It's there if needed, but is to be used only rarely, for truly heinous infractions.

Perhaps that's where I really fall. That awful feeling may be acceptable once in a while, for truly heinous infractions.

Certainly I think I will keep the option open if everything else I know how to do fails. It may not be a good answer -- but it's another thing to try.

Spanking. Such a confusing issue. I wish I was innocent enough to believe that *my* angel, Jack, would never need that level of discipline.

Jack and his favorite red shoes

To spank or not to spank, that is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous children,
Or to take paddles against a sea of misbehavior,
And by opposing, end them? To spank: to whup;
No more; and by a spank to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To spank, to whup;
To spank or not to spank, that is the question

Thanks to MetroDad


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