Sunday, May 25, 2014

Parenting: Spare the Rod?

   When talking extensively about parenting, the subject of child discipline is sure to surface. It’s been a hot topic over the years and deserves some serious discussion.The question of spanking a child is not easily answered definitively and will continue to be the subject of debate. Core to that debate is the point where spanking becomes abuse. Looking further into this subject, we should also note the point where discipline (non-physical) becomes abusive.

   “Spare the rod, spoil the child” is a phrase found in the Bible. Thus the idea that spanking has biblical roots, has already alienated every segment of the population that does not believe in the Bible. So lets have this discussion in a more practical sense and not fall back on “God said so.” 

   I grew up in a house where spanking was the norm (more norm than I enjoyed, but I was a particularly active youth). I can remember vividly, the sessions I got myself into by doing what every child that has ever lived has done…not listening. Today there are some that contend that I was abused as a child. To even begin to answer this, we need to first define exactly what abuse is. The proper definitions of it are:

1abuse noun \ə-ˈbyüs\
1 :  a corrupt practice or custom
2:  improper or excessive use or treatment :  misuse <drug abuse>
3: obsolete :  a deceitful act :  deception
4:  language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily
5:  physical maltreatment

   Now one can argue that spanking is physical maltreatment. In fact, it’s rather difficult to argue against it. One could also say that depriving a child of a meal as a disciplinary measure (going to bed without dinner) is also improper or excessive (and thus abusive). Now, lets keep going down this rabbit hole and look at the practice of “time out.” A child does something wrong and as a disciplinary measure, they are deprived of privileges (or physical items) and told to go stand in the corner. All that needs to happen in that scenario is for enough people to think such a practice as “improper or excessive” and we have abuse (at least in their minds). Can you see how even the definition, applied as written (but probably not as intended) can be made to fit nearly any scenario? 

   So, was I abused as a child? I guess that now depends on how you choose to apply, or even define, abuse.

   I can say that for everyone saying that spanking doesn’t work, like anything in life, it works for some, but not for all. Did I consider that I would be spanked before I did something wrong? Yup. Did I do it anyway? Yup…if I calculated in my head that it was worth the risk. See, I never planned on getting caught, no child really does. The point was, I thought about it and it was thus, a deterrent. But my question in all this is…if not spanking, then what? The idea that physical force is never needed doesn’t seem to stand up to scrutiny.

   In the bigger picture of life, conflicts…taken to their extreme resolution, always end with force. It doesn’t matter if it’s between individuals, groups or entire countries. Now consider that child, when told to go to the corner for “time out,” decides instead to tell his parents to f@#k off. Where do you go when the child simply refuses to comply because the consequence just isn’t severe enough to induce obedience? I got news for those traveling this road…when you grab the child and physically put them in the corner or empty room, you have just applied force. Will a spanking be consequence enough in this child’s mind to induce obedience? I don’t know…only a spanking will tell.

   Which brings us back to the original question…do we spare the rod?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for raising this important topic! For many people it's still a taboo. Did you know that while the percentage of parents who say it’s okay to occasionally spank a child has declined marginally in recent years, that “acceptability level” still hovers between 65 percent and 75 percent nationally? I really hope that parents will become wiser one day...