My Swing Against the Anti-Spanking Movement
I come from a long line of spankers. We’re not as austere as Quakers, but I guess we’re part of a cult if you listen to 21st Century social workers’ propaganda. And with global movements such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child being ratified by numerous countries, we’re an endangered culture.
For many sentimentalists, this is a high moral issue. There are non-profit organizations, political organizations, websites and even T-shirts devoted to stopping me from spanking my son. You would think that I would move over to their side ASAP, since 1) Everyone wants to be on the winning side and; 2) I generally want to protect my son from being harmed. But I guess I am stubborn or stupid.
See, I am a little backwards. My parents raised me with all the same sweet phrases and warm loving openness that any other family does—the kind of stuff that the social workers say is important. But still I was a kid. One time I totally disregarded my mother and said some pretty nasty things to her. I think I was around ten years old. My father came in and carried me upstairs by my ear. And then he spoke to me through body language—a few good swings on the rear with a belt.
Guess what happened? In case you can’t figure it out, I’ll tell you what happened. I never once again in my entire life disrespected my mother. And, believe it or not, I still loved my father. And I knew that he loved me—partly because he told me so after the disciplining with a hug and fatherly advice—but mostly because he always respected me and expected much from me. Luckily, I was a quick learner and did not have many run-ins with the belt.
The social workers are shaking their heads now, saying things like "Definitely disassociated denial syndrome” and "abused child syndrome” and "suppressed memories from excessive trauma” and all that crap.
Yes, I still carry on the tradition and fine art of spanking. And I think I do a pretty good job at it. But before you come to my house with torches and a lynch mob, let me say a few last words.
I spanked my son when he was a toddler. So I must be an evil man. I spanked him any time he disobeyed me in the toddler stage and I didn't think he would understand words--especially if the issue was major enough. And after every spanking, I hugged him and let him know that I loved him. Maybe I’m a paranoid schizophrenic? No… somewhere along my education I was impressed with the wisdom to express love after discipline.
Now my son is up to my shoulders, gets great marks in school, is a team captain on his football team and impresses everyone around him. He’s intelligent, warm, mature, friendly and creative. A social worker would be amazed. A social worker would say in wide-eyed amazement, "I can’t believe he turned out so well in spite of all the physical punishment.”
"Ahhh….” I would say to the social worker, "That is where you have it wrong. I set a standard very young for my son—disobey and you get punished. Since he learned that at the age of two, I don’t have to spank him anymore.” I’ve only had to spank him a couple times in the last several years.
"You monster, Mr. Olson. How could you spank such a sweet young man?”
"Simply,” I would say. "Because I love him with all my heart. I would rather he learns the ins-and-outs of crime and punishment, action and consequence, from me, his father—a man who loves him tenderly—than the cold, unloving reality of society.”
"You are a troglodyte, Mr. Olson, a pure and simple brute.”
"Perhaps you are right. But at least I’m not screaming for my son to do his homework. At least adults in the neighborhood smile when my son comes up to them instead of scorn. I know I can expect great things from my son. He will go far in his life. Maybe I am a troglodyte, but I am more a proud parent than anything else.”
"We’ll see about that! Maybe I should report you to children’s services!”
"You are a danger to your son!”
"How is that?”
"You would use physical violence—which only teaches your son more violence. You are the cause for the violence in the world today, Mr. Olson. If parents would stop spanking their kids, the kids will learn to express their more natural loving side. You are a menace!”
"That’s funny. I know of children whose parents refuse to spank their kids. Those kids are unruly, disrespectful—and very violent.”
"Well at least they don’t learn it from their parents.”
"Well you’re right in a way… since those kids aren’t learning much of anything from their parents.”
The social worker would look at me in disgust.
Then I would say, "Spanking a kid does not teach him to be violent. Instead, it teaches him that there are negative results from inappropriate behavior. In a natural environment, a child punching another child invokes a return punch—which is a naturally educational experience. Smart parents don’t want their children to get into fistfights to learn lessons about cause and effect—but still need to teach the same lessons in a controlled environment.”
"Well who’s to say that you will be controlled,” might sneer the social worker.
"Well, you have me there. I cannot speak for the other parents of this world, but in my view corporal punishment is simply a tool. My own love is a controlling factor. The fact is, I actually feel horrible when I have to spank my son. I wish I never had to do it…”
A shimmer of hope might appear in the social worker’s eyes. "You don’t have to spank your son, Mr. Olson. You only choose to.”
Then the social worker might pull out a big pile of pamphlets and brochures with the latest parenting techniques that are all the rave these days in optimizing temper tantrums, increasing disrespect and sending the next generation straight into the slammer or sub-standard social positions.
I would quickly decline these documents so that I could go play a game with my son or go on a family walk with the kids and dog or go play some sports or read to the kids.
And this social worker would be totally baffled, upset and prepared to do her report on what a horrible father I must be. She starts dreaming of ways to get my son out of the house and wonders if there is any room left in the local foster system.
While this little essay has been satirical to a degree, the truth is that it is an accurate portrayal of the environment parents must work these days. Imagine this scenario: your pre-teen daughter gets in your face and starts screaming at the top of her lungs that she doesn’t have to listen to a single thing you tell her. At this point you probably realize you’ve made some mistakes along the way (like never disciplining her while she was growing up) and now you are reaping your rewards. So you smack her rear with a spatula. It leaves a mark on her leg. Suddenly, the girl realizes that you mean business and she listens a little and is more manageable. Now you can talk to her as a mother and get to the bottom of things—teaching her that disrespect will not be tolerated and that she can and should talk to you in a loving, respectful manner.
You are happy that you are making strides as an assertive parent. You say to yourself, "Wow, maybe I can teach her to be a well adjusted teenage girl if I teach her to be respectful.” Things are looking good.
Then there’s a knock at the door and a woman with a clipboard is standing there. She orders everyone to leave your house (not in a nice fashion) because she needs to talk to you about the bruise you left on your child. The woman tells you that the school reported a large bruise that was lumped up and looks nasty. Terror fills you! This lady might take your children away!
This scenario just happened with someone close to me. We were very lucky in two regards—one, her child was not actually abused. Two, this particular social worker was very perceptive, and she realized that the mark on the leg was a far cry from anything that could be labeled as abuse. In fact, this woman was shocked that the school had even reported the mark, and she took a photo of it because it was so faint and so unnoticeable that she had to show it to her coworkers. On that same day, I saw the mark, and I had to have the girl literally point it out to me because it was not visible.
I was in disbelief. And I too panicked—hell, my son gets bruises on a daily bases from football practice. Am I going to get someone at the door threatening to take my son away because I let him play football? Certainly, his bruises are much more prolific and visible than hers!
Children have rights. No child should be abused. That means that you should never punch your kids, cut them, burn them, break bones, give them black eyes, or physically affect them in such a way as to send them to the hospital. Parents that abuse their children should not be in the parent role.
But that group of society that sees corporal punishment as an equivalent to abuse is a grossly misled, anti-social group. I say anti-social in spite of their "social” agendas because my experience as a human being tells me that undisciplined kids are, generally speaking, anti-social and/or self-absorbed kids. Corporal punishment is a highly effective tool in teaching kids about their boundaries and the rights of others.
This anti-parent movement of the no-spanking side is a threat to parents who love their children and want to raise their kids well. I know this for fact, since one overzealous school counselor has scared someone I know so much that she is afraid to enforce law and order in her own home with her own kids. This idiotic school counselor has now put a ball-and-chain on the leg of a mother who was just beginning to run with the ball on her family team.
You cannot be an effective parent if you see your role as a one-sided system of all-love or all-discipline. Being a good parent requires you to understand that love and discipline are essential. There really is truth to the proverb about sparing the rod; you leave a large segment of your child’s education empty if you do not teach him discipline: while you probably love him—you are also unwittingly and unfairly punishing him.
This article has received many comments over the years. Although my basic stance hasn't really changed much, my strong feelings on the issue have largely waned. Generally speaking, I think all parent should try to find the softest form of discipline for any scenario and to keep affection, education and love as the motive and mentor for all of parenting and all situations. Some people are very passionate on one side or the other on this issue; I think that the reality is that we are very wide-ranging species and that it is really hard to make all purpose rules on such a varied set of subjects. The more great parents that can find ways to raise great children without physical discipline, the better; that physical dicipline is still needed in many situations for the fastest result, I don't doubt.
When I first wrote this article I was deep in the throes of adapting to a mixed-family environment where some of the children had been given zero discipline (of any kind) for their entire lives. It flavored my take on the topic. And it led my to feel more fervent on the side of harsher discipline as I was seeing the challenges of parenting children that had never heard the word "No."
The fact is that I rarely spank(ed) any of my children. It happened on occassion. I certainly don't feel bad about those times. But as I get older and have more experience as a parent, I find less need for it overall.
For my part, I feel less inclined to label some tactic/technique as necessary or not at this point in my life. For those who were abused as children and have very strong feelings on the topic, I wish that you had experienced a kinder upbringing. I know that despite the assumptions of many who feel passionate against spanking, I was always a very happy child and adult. People have applied their own life's interpretation on me (saying syndrome A, B or C) because I was spanked but never felt abused. In fact, I was always close to my parents, and miss them now. I know my parents spanked me... but only the time mentioned above even sticks out because I remember how it directly influenced me in terms of showing respect to my mother. Spanking simply was not a major part of my childhood, and I never feared my parent.
I just knew there were boundaries that I could not cross because there was a consequence. For some consequences that was a spanking. It's very similar how there are some boundaries in adult life where the consequences of transgression are simply unpleasant. In my view, that is all this is. It's up to each parent and each society to figure out what those boundaries and consequences are; the real moral dilemma there is how philosophical the parent or society is. I think that the wiser we get the less we will demand people follow our opinion, but the more we ask people why they have their own opinions.