Have you ever taken a moment to remember what it was like to be a child? We don’t all become parents but we have all been children. Do you remember the frustration you felt as a little person having to live under much bigger humans? Do you remember the frustration of trying to communicate with those bigger humans but not having the words to do so? Have you ever considered the fact that spanking your child means that you are forcing your child to let you hit them? Talk about lack of consent. You are told to take off your clothes, lean over, and don’t move while your parent hits you with some kind of instrument. You are teaching them that big people can hit them whenever those big people decide that their behavior is unacceptable.
The only thing I knew about my parents in those moments was that they were angry and despised me. I have heard the tired phrase, “but we only spank out of love, not in anger” so many times I could throw up. The reality is most parents who do spank their children do not spank free from anger. Trust me I know. I do not remember one spanking session I had where the parent doing the spanking was not very, very angry. I must have been one horrible nasty child. My mother actually took us children “shopping” to pick out the dowel rods that would be used to spank us with. I distinctly remember standing next to the box that held all of the dowel rods and looking at the different colors painted on the ends to decide which width to get. It is not a pleasant memory.
My mother has told the story many, many times about the time when she spent hours spanking me and putting me back in bed because I wouldn’t take a nap one afternoon. I always thought it was so strange. It was like she was bragging to people about how she defeated me. And I was embarrassed that everyone knew how stubborn and rebellious my three-year-old self was. Sometimes I think she thinks she beat the rebellion out of me. And it was a prize. Mommy wins. Child loses. Since when is raising children about a battle that must be won or lost?
After talking recently with some family, I realized something about all the stories being told about spanking. I realized that, as a young child, spanking may have fundamentally changed me. And not in a good way. Maybe my mother was right. Maybe she really did literally spank the “rebellion” out of me. The problem I have with people saying that though is that beating the rebellion, or stubbornness, or wickedness out of your child basically means that you are stunting their natural development. A child who may not otherwise have ended up shy, or emotionally and socially inept, ends up that way because she believes that her parents thought she was an evil, rebellious tyrant who never did anything right and needed to be whipped many, many times. So she learned. She learned to do everything right. And she learned to keep everything inside so she wouldn’t be a bad girl anymore. But she didn’t learn how to be a healthy person. She didn’t learn how to grow up to be healthy and have healthy relationships and live a healthy life.
To me the most horrifying and damaging part of being spanked is the intense humiliation. Just think for a second about what is happening when a parent is “disciplining with the rod”. The humiliation of being spanked is something that is never forgotten. And if you think kids are resilient enough or forgetful enough to not have it affect them in later years, you are sadly mistaken. One of the most toxic ideas in fundamentalism is that parents need to “break a child’s will.” The phrase horrifies me. There is a parenting/discipline book out there, written by supposed Christians, that literally compares disciplining your child to training a horse. They must be tamed and subdued. Their horrible, evil selves must be punished and broken so that they know that you are in charge and they must obey no matter what. I don’t understand how people can think this is ok. It makes me feel sick to my stomach.
I actually asked the guy I was dating last year if his parents had ever spanked him. He said “no” in a way that indicated he thought it was an absolutely preposterous idea that anyone would ever do that. It seemed like an absolutely absurd question to ask.
I have also heard the equally tired phrase, “but look at me, I was spanked as a child and I turned out just fine.” Well, no, no you didn’t. I didn’t turn out just fine. I have serious emotional and psychological issues that are requiring a lot of work and pain to move past. I am not attributing it solely to spanking. There are a lot of contributing factors. But there is no denying that spanking had a large part in contributing to my problems as an adult. There is no doubt that flashbacks of very, very long spanking sessions is something that makes me want to curl up in a ball and never leave my bed. And those spanking sessions weren’t just mine. They were also my siblings. And having to listen to my brothers and sister scream and cry while being hit is a nightmare just as bad as the spankings I personally received.
I have heard the word hundreds of times before but I never really connected the meaning to my familiarity with corporal punishment til coming across this article. I think fundamentalists have a tendency to ascribe whatever definition they deem correct to a word. In this instance I am referring to discipline. It is a variation of the word disciple which is both a noun and a verb. Disciple is a popular word in the New Testament so I am certainly familiar with it. What it really means is ‘to teach.’ Yet when it comes to raising children, it is very much presented as punishment. Disciplining your child means punishment for wrongdoing, or so they (fundamentalists) say. When you decide that you want to discipline yourself or create more discipline in your life do you go search for someone to hit you so that you will change and stop doing the negative behavior or start behaving positively? I don’t think so. But that is what is done to children. They need to be taught something and instead of actually teaching and communicating, you hit them. I can assure you hitting doesn’t do much in the way of teaching aside from teaching you that you don’t like to be hit.
I have worked with children for a long time and I cannot ever imagine hitting a single one of them. There have been a good number of ornery and mischievous and difficult to deal with children among them, but I could never in my life hit them for any reason.