"I turned out fine"
I saw a meme tonight on FB that went something like this, "I'm so scarred for life because I was spanked as a child... said no adult ever."
First of all it's pretty easy to discredit that statement. All you have to do is read the comments on any article about spanking - for or against - and you will find people who say they were spanked as children and they will NEVER do that to their kids. The feelings range in intensity, but it's safe to say that they DO feel their lives were affected by their parents' "disciplinary" choice.
And this raging debate was no different - in fact the comments were fairly predictable and as usual, completely polarized. I didn't read any new arguments. None of them changed my mind. And I realized that was probably true for everyone reading and commenting - people's minds are made up.
Here is a generalized sampling of some of the comments left in defense of spanking:
To the first, I have to agree with those who have stated many times before me- if you are so "fine" why are you defending a bigger person hitting a smaller person? Perhaps you have good manners in public, maybe you have a decent job, you go to church every week, give money to charity, have a long-term steady relationship, and maybe you even have children. Are these the kinds of things you think of when you say you are fine? Because the fact that you are so determined to cling to the idea that spanking is a good idea speaks volumes.
The second argument supposes that if spanking is done correctly then it is not abuse. Now I am certain that there are forms of corporal punishment that are harsher than others - but does that make any form acceptable? If your 4 year old hits your 2 year old is that ok? What if your 2 year old hits your 4 year old - but it isn't very hard? How about then? Do you let it go because it doesn't qualify as abusive? Or is it NOT ok for kids to hit? And if that is the case how do you explain spanking - to them and yourself?
To the third I say a few things. First, our definition of what is acceptable behavior is going to vary. To the person that commented that if he had been loud in a store he would have been properly disciplined (and therefore he didn't behave that way) I offer only love. Certainly there is behavior that is not acceptable in certain spaces - but kids are going to act like kids - exuberant, curious, full of energy - basically, full of LIFE. If kids are not able to behave the way they are wired to, there is a good chance they will grow up to be adults that condemn this very behavior. Perhaps it is not kids that need to change but the societal expectations of what is acceptable. But more than that - I know that there are plenty of well behaved kids that are NOT spanked, so this argument holds little logical weight in my mind.
And finally, oh my heart aches to read the last. It was repeated over and over - not only the ideas that "I was spanked and I'm fine," but beyond that - that "I deserved it, I'm better for it, I'm grateful for it". This defense hurts the most. I've heard it before. And I'm here to tell you it's not true. You didn't deserve it. No one does.
Some people like to use the idea of "uniqueness" as a defense of spanking. "Different methods work for different kids." Who can argue with that? It's true. But I would argue that the kids that get the most spankings (the "difficult" ones, the "stubborn" and "defiant" ones... you know who they are) are the ones that need an alternative the most. If they are getting ("need"?) repeated spankings, it's not working. And the kids that don't get spankings because they don't need them? Kids like me and my sister who were hardly ever punished? Well, we're just naturally "good" I guess. My parents were just lucky (I think they actually think this sometimes.) Actually this whole idea of different kids having different needs is EXACTLY why no one should be spanked. It's why so many people claim to be "fine" while others are vehemently against spanking. How do you know which "type" your child is? And if the spanking doesn't really bother them, is it "working"? If it "works" and bothers them, what is it doing to them and your relationship?
I think I may have been spanked once my whole life. I have a very vague recollection of if. My parents don't remember at all. I also remember sitting in the "corner" once and getting sent to my room once. That's the extent of my punishment "record".(Oh and I did get detention twice in middle/highschool - let's not forget that!) (Clearly those few times stuck with me though.) And I think I turned out more than fine. Guess what else is more than fine? My relationship with my parents. I'm as close to my parents as anyone I know. If I had been spanked would I be this "fine"? Would I be "better off"? Or not? Would the relationships I have with my parents be the same?
The truth is we can never know. But defending something that is wrong won't help. Maybe you are fine. Maybe the fact that you are more than fine has nothing to do with spanking, and in fact, it is IN SPITE of the fact that you were spanked. After all, we human beings are a resilient bunch - kids included.
Ahh, I don't know. It just makes me sad. I don't really believe I can change people's minds but I don't want to say silent either. What do you think? Can you poke any holes in my spanking logic? I'm 99.99% certain I will never think hitting a child is ok.
ps You know what else? Spanking doesn't feel good for anyone. You know what does? Taking deep breaths when you feel like shaking your child because you are so frustrated, waiting till the feeling passes, then having them apologize to you. That feels fucking awesome.
pps Lest you think I'm suggesting otherwise: No one is perfect. We have to constantly be vigilant and sometimes we are not. So then we alter our paths. As I thought about these things tonight I thought of some conversations I need to have with my own kids. Because I'm not perfect and sometimes I'm too hard on them and sometimes I let things go and sometimes I'm tired...
9/28/2013 11:43:45 am
"I turned out fine" is such a maddening argument, especially when there is scientific evidence to prove otherwise. Why do people think that their anecdotal opinions are stronger than science? Spanking DAMAGES. My mother drank and smoked while pregnant with me, and I was spanked, and I turned out fine. Does that mean it's ok? Does that mean I should? No, I would be insane to do that. Who knows how much of my potential was limited? Granted, I have done very well in my life, but perhaps I could have had a genius IQ instead of simply an above average IQ. I'll never know, but I will NEVER use excuses like this to abuse my children.
9/29/2013 02:22:12 am
It's human nature to justify and explain why loving parents did what they did to us. It's also human nature to try to do better for our children than our parents did for us. So those two things together create a tension (like cables on a bridge, holding it in place) that keeps the world from changing so quickly that it's unrecognizeable, but keeps it improving.
10/1/2013 08:17:03 pm
It takes courage to depart. And it's brave of you to share your thoughts in public, to help others consider how far they feel they can safely and sensibly go from their own childhood experiences. I'm glad you have a blog.
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Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.