Thank you sir! May I have another?
June 11, 2005 12:23 AM   Subscribe

The legislature is trying to impose its conception of "family values" on the state by banning spanking. Another case of religious fundamentalists imposing their values on everyone and meddling with individual liberties? Meet the sponsor. (Also see recent non-binding resolution nearby.)
posted by thedevildancedlightly (110 comments total)

 
Wait, I thought the fundies were in favor of child abuse!
posted by bokane at 12:38 AM on June 11, 2005


Great, a whole generation of little wusses who got nothing but time-outs for pissing on eachother.
posted by angry modem at 1:03 AM on June 11, 2005


Yeah I'm calling BS on this..... no real story here cept some (confused parents who feel the need to beat those smaller than them) are going to be effected by this. The upside is perhaps parents will have to engage the kids rather than belt them?
posted by Elim at 1:08 AM on June 11, 2005


if you have to beat some one smaller, you got issues....
posted by Elim at 1:08 AM on June 11, 2005


Jeez! Can't a parent blow off a little steam? Kids love Tabasco sauce and electical shocks! Learns 'em some wicked solid civics.
posted by maryh at 1:15 AM on June 11, 2005


At least I can steal beat a dog right?
and My granparents, I can still beat them right?
posted by Elim at 1:19 AM on June 11, 2005


I was spanked in school by the dean with a paddle that had holes, notches, and initials carved in it over the years. Public gradeschool. My parent's blanket permision was of course, granted by signature of a waiver, but they thought it was perfectly fine for such transgresions as slipping notes, drawing instead of studying, being disruptive.

I have a friend who won't ever tell her child "no". They try to distract or "reason" with their four year old when he does anything "bad" like stabbing the dog with a fork, running around head butting people in the groin, biting, upending trashcans, stealing other people's things, hit people/pets with sticks and rocks, and when he goes into a fit, the mother just holds him and sweet talks him while he wails. But is just shown something else to do, and no acknowledgement that he was doing anything wrong, never said no to, never had really a negative tone used at him. A worse hellion child I wish on no one.
posted by Balisong at 1:22 AM on June 11, 2005


thedevildancedlightly: as far as I can see, this fits in fine with the ideologies of American Right and Left re: children. The conservatives appear to be all for the parent having complete control and ownership of their child (see Jamaican rehabilitation camps) and the liberals seem to be in favour of legislation preventing parents from committing child abuse. I'd be interested to see any examples for or against - as a Brit, I feel like I only see the surprising/controversial news out of America, and am probably missing a lot of context for things like this.
posted by terpsichoria at 1:24 AM on June 11, 2005


I really can't tell if you're being sarcastic in posting this. How is the legitimization of physical abuse (electric shocks?) equivalent to the preservation of "individual liberties?"
posted by rxrfrx at 1:32 AM on June 11, 2005


legislation preventing parents from committing child abuse

There are already a ton of laws on the books about child abuse. This bill would specifically outlaw spanking -- as in using the bare hand to strike a child's bottom. I don't think even many conservatives would be in support of most of the examples used by the author (hot sauce, electro-shocks), but I suspect that those are already covered by blanket child abuse statutes. The key is that the bill will outlaw any sort of physical discipline whatsoever, not just things that we all agree are extreme.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:32 AM on June 11, 2005


And next comes legislation against verbal abuse, because, nobody likes being talked down to.. How productive can that be?
posted by Balisong at 1:36 AM on June 11, 2005


Some days I really hate being a lefty-libertarian. Kids getting good childhoods are important to us, yet the state should not dictate personal life issues without rather strong cause.

I know, state referendum!
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:06 AM on June 11, 2005


Thanks, tddl. The article seemed to be implying that 'hot-saucing', electrocution etc were currently legal - if those are already classed as child abuse, then this law seems pointlessly restrictive. Plus, as everyone was saying when a similar law was proposed in the UK, it's basically unenforcable - you'll either end up with disgruntled kids reporting physical punishment to get their folks in trouble, or children being told to keep quiet about everything that goes on at home and worse things going undiscovered as a result.
posted by terpsichoria at 2:07 AM on June 11, 2005


Just want to say, I'm a liberal, and I fully support corporal punishment. You can't reason with something that lacks reasoning abilities.

That's why I also support spanking Republicans

I kid!

/rimshot
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:20 AM on June 11, 2005


I consider myself moderate.... I tend to mix viewpoints from both major parties, plus a number of my own. Libertarian is probably the closest to how I see the world, although they're too extreme for me.

I think spanking is important. The best way to teach a child not to hurt people is to hurt them (a little) when they do. That's what gets through. It doesn't have to be a LOT of pain. And parents who ENJOY punishing their children are sick, sick, sick. That's child abuse, an entirely different thing.

Almost every time I got spanked as a kid, my father would ask us to PLEASE stop misbehaving, because he really hated spanking us. (he used a belt, actually... and these wusses are worried about a bare hand!) And because he was so careful to explain that he still loved us and was spanking us because we'd broken the rules, I don't think any of us held any lasting resentment. We understood that we could avoid punishment just by following the rules. We'd never get hit arbitrarily, not EVER. If we didn't want to get spanked, we just didn't misbehave.... or did, and hoped like heck we wouldn't get caught. :)

Now, I'm no paragon of mental health, but I think all of us came out quite well. The discipline was good for us... it did no lasting damage, but it sure straightened us right up if we misbehaved. For my part, I honestly think the physical discipline was the *only* thing that got through to me *at all*. I was incredibly stubborn as a kid (it stuck :) ).

And let me tell you something...we were WELL BEHAVED kids, at least in public. There was none of this shrieking and wailing and tantrum-throwing and running around pulling things off shelves in the supermarkets, like you see so often these days. If we'd done that, we'd have gotten our butts beat... so we didn't do it!

Childen aren't reasonable creatures. They want what they want, and they want it NOW. You can't reason with them because there's nothing to reason WITH yet. That's not until later, 8 or 10. I don't think we got spanked anymore after about 10, and I don't think it was ever very common.... maybe once a month.

In this regard, I'm pretty conservative... this method has worked for thousands of years. You can still learn to think, and in fact be quite liberal, while having parents that use physical discipline. As long as it's not done out of spite or while angry, I just don't see a problem with it.

I've been exposed to too many children whose parents use the 'sweet reason' approach. it DOESN'T WORK.
posted by Malor at 2:57 AM on June 11, 2005


If we ban spanking I'm moving to Singapore.
posted by recurve at 3:08 AM on June 11, 2005


You can't reason with them

Excluded middle fallacy. Getting 'grounded' sucked for me.

I agree that spanking is not necessarily child-abuse, and the state can muck things up more by ham-handedly trying to intervene to save kiddies' bottoms.

I'm no parent, but if I were I'd try to model punishment on the real world. Fuck up in the real world, and you don't get a spanking, you get wages docked, etc.

Adding violence into the equation just seems unnecessary if one is creative in devising the negative inducements. Easier just to whack 'em I guess.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:21 AM on June 11, 2005


I used to teach little kids and you could always tell the kids whose parents had real discipline and spanked them from time to time from the ones who had a regime of time outs and reasoning but no real line in the sand. All kids are rambunctious but the former were the ones that had some regard for other people and a Stop button and the latter were tantrum throwing, disrespectful, dishonest and most importantly, extremely unlikable. Most of these over indulged kids had no friends because they weren't nice to the other kids, lied, stole and constantly got them into trouble or bossed them around- which I always thought was very sad. You're not doing your kids any favors by teaching them that people are for manipulating.
posted by fshgrl at 3:32 AM on June 11, 2005


Getting grounded for a length of time sucks, but did it ever make you stop for an instant and think that if you do the next thing that you were gonna do, you could get grounded?
Me neither. Getting grounded just meant you had to be double-ought stealthy in your execution of whatever transgresions you were almost already to jump into.

I don't have any kids. They scare me for just these reasons, plus, I have too many sharp objects laying around to have kids, and/or my parents/friends will try and teach them the writings of Ann Coltier and Rush Limbaugh. The climate isn't right for me yet..I still remember myself as a kid, at 35. I still get in trouble, like now, staying up all night, or you know, going camping with fireworks. I'm still waiting for Big Daddy to come spank me.. Figuratively, that is.
posted by Balisong at 3:37 AM on June 11, 2005


As a parent I very occasionally spanked, which I now regret. Children can be taught right and wrong without adults having to use physical violence - or even verbal violence.

I see no reason why the state should not intervene in such a matter. Without state intervention, we'd still be hitting each other over the head with bludgeons. Thank goodness for Leviathan.
posted by TimothyMason at 3:44 AM on June 11, 2005


Thank goodness we don't still stone our children in the public square for being posessed.
posted by Balisong at 3:52 AM on June 11, 2005


BTW, I keep my fireworks stash for just such an occasion as that I might have kids, and then, when they are old enough to want them, I can say, "Now you kids are not allowed to get into my fireworks stash!"
posted by Balisong at 3:57 AM on June 11, 2005


Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time reasoning with a three year old. A light slap on the other hand seems to send a clear message that the behavior they're currently engaging in isn't such a good idea.

I can't even fathom what those supporting this proposal are thinking. Please, by all means, let's make it even easier for kids to be taken away from their well meaning and completely non abusive parents over a trivial matter (while ignoring any real abuse that goes on) If there's one thing America doesn't have enough of, it's delinquents.

If you can reason with your small children and get them to behave without spanking, that's super. But not all children can be treated the same way, nor do they all respond to the same stimuli. It's ridiculous that those who spank their children are viewed as child abusers. Even more ridiculous that people keep drawing a comparison between spanking and being cracked in the skull.
posted by lynda at 4:33 AM on June 11, 2005


What counts as spanking? Is it a swat on the kid's butt when he's having a tantrum on the floor at Target or is in the act of biting another child at the daycare center? Or is it beating the kid into the emergency ward over a bad report card, so that the nurse has to call the police and the social workers? There's a lot of territory in between those two extremes. If the bill means "any physical pain is spanking, no matter how minor" then it and I are definitely on different pages - but without being able to read the fine print, the question hangs there unanswered. And it's important.

Most of us grasp that black-and-blue beatings are wrong. A lot fewer of us have any problem with the milder end of contact guidance. In fact, it's entirely possible to think that the swat on the butt in child-created dire circumstances is not even punishment. It's just high-intensity communication - Earth to kid, Earth to kid - going through the only channel of communication that's still open when all rational channels are turned off, tuned out and blocked.

The issue does come up occasionally, most recently for me in our local lefty-politics+rock'n'roll weekly. (It has a website but issues only stay up a week so I'll have to quote.) A lady wrote contra spanking, "It does not show the child correct behavior, it only stops inappropriate behavior, and that is only temporary." Well, so what? That's like claiming you shouldn't eat peanut butter because it doesn't provide complete nutrition and massage your neck. In a great many circumstances one encounters in raising a child, stopping the inappropriate behavior is absolutely all we need.

"Most parents," she continues, "who spank their small children just don't want to go to the trouble of adding three of four extra steps to their parenting style." Well, when kid A is hurting kid B you don't have the luxury of the three or four extra steps - unless you're prepared to just let kid B go on getting hurt while you think of ways to deal gently and creatively with your little assailant. On such occasions, what's actually called for is some high-intensity communication that puts a stop to the kid-on-kid assault at the correct time, namely right now this instant. And, I may add, satisfies kid B's sense of justice: He bit me hard! And all you're gonna do is distract him?
posted by jfuller at 4:42 AM on June 11, 2005


having been a kid at some point in my life , i think i can safely say, that a good ass whipping never hurt anyone. if anything it builds character. i know people who won't spank their kids and they just can't figure out why the kid won't stop acting like a little asshole.
posted by nola at 4:56 AM on June 11, 2005


This is just dumb (and btw the FPP is misleading I didn't see anything in the article about pushing family values, it was phrased as a child abuse measure).

I was disciplined with corporal punishment twice as a kid. My mom bit me, once, when my teacher told her I had bitten a kid at school. My dad punched me in the arm, once, when I had punched my brother. Both lessons were %100 effective. (The implicit lesson that more of such punishment would come my way if I didn't get my act together was pretty effective too.)

If you can reason with your kids, great. If they are such prodigies that at two years they understand right and wrong, fantastic. But how many kids have that ability?

Exhibit A in favor of a little spanking here or there. (Salon, link to an article titled "When toddlers get fired." Use a day pass if you don't have a membership.)
posted by oddman at 5:02 AM on June 11, 2005


As a parent who has been known to swat a kid I'm not sure this is such a terrible idea. The times I've spanked my children can be counted on one hand (one hand, per kid, that is... so make it a both hands and a foot) and I'm ashamed to admit it but those spankings were more for me than them. I rationalize it by saying the only time I have spanked them was when they did something that seriously jeopardized their safety. Running into the road, playing with electricity, starting the tractor, that kind of stuff. In retrospect I could just as easily spoken firmly (a particular tone of voice and my disapproval has far more effect on my children, children who don't go a day without a new self-inflicted injury, than a few swats on the butt) and found an alternative to spanking, they got spanked basically I was scared and it provided an immediate outlet.

All the pro-spanking pundits say, "Never spank a child in anger," "Follow step A, then step B." They make rules about it and formulate procedures -- this I do not fathom. It strikes me as incredibly cruel to sit back and say, "I am now going to inflict pain on my child for such and such a reason following procedure X." This strikes me as cold and calculating and it really creeps me out that people view hurting a loved as a management method and have written entire books on the best way to inflict pain on a child.

As far as the law goes we have laws protecting pretty much every class of person from being assaulted -- except the most powerless and vulnerable, the children of assholes. If we accept that the state can regulate parenting to a certain degree (no abuse, no sexual contact, school is mandatory, etc.) why not extend that protection to assault?

It seems to me that they are simply extending the definition of abuse -- sure, a swat on the butt isn't abuse but how do you determine what is? I imagine hardness counts, but who defines how hard is too hard? Are bruises required? What if it's just red for a few hours? One parents 'discipline' is another parents abuse and it seems to me that erring on the side of caution is a good idea.
posted by cedar at 5:04 AM on June 11, 2005


it's dumb, alright ... you can't spank your child ... but if he acts up too much at school, the cops can calm him down with a taser ...

what this really boils down to is this - who's going to discipline our children? ... us or the state? ... if the child is not actually being abused do we really need the government barging into our homes and telling us exactly how we should raise them?

watching too much tv is bad for kids ... should the government put meters on the tvs that monitor who's in the room and how long it's on? ... maybe a camera in the kitchen to make sure you're not feeding him too many cookies and doritos ...

people here have made a hue and cry about conservatives wanting the government to peer into our bedrooms and control who we marry, and rightly so ... but why should we allow some liberals to use the government to monitor us over the things they don't like? ... it's just as dangerous
posted by pyramid termite at 5:16 AM on June 11, 2005


First of all, why doesn't somebody trot out some non-anecdotal (and non-biased, but it's doubtful that this exists) evidence in favor of spanking. I'd say the burden of proof falls on you. Not that too many people who have ever hit a child could break through the defense mechanisms that allowed them to get to that mindset in the first place to gain an unbiased outlook. I suspect that's a bridge you can't easily uncross.

Of course, even if you prove a correlation, that wouldn't prove cause and effect. It's probably most likely that the majority of parents who don't hit, just plain don't discipline at all. Add in a healthy dose of confirmation bias and there you have your whopping revelations about good kiddies and bad kiddies.
posted by Skwirl at 5:32 AM on June 11, 2005


Super Nanny!
posted by ericb at 5:38 AM on June 11, 2005


...but why should we allow some liberals to use the government to monitor us over the things they don't like?

Well, for starters, it's not 'some liberals'. For this to become law it needs to be passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. Last I checked the legislature wasn't entirely comprised of liberals, even in MA there must be a few conservatives. Anyway, regardless of their political persuasion these representatives are elected by the people -- this is not some mysterious 'liberal' cabal hell bent on forcing their values down the throats of an unsuspecting populace -- these are the people the voters chose to represent their values. They are free to choose otherwise.

Of course the government should monitor us, it's called the rule of law. While we can argue the merits of the specific legislation until the cows come home, there is no doubt that they are entitled to pass it if they see fit. Republicans should be grooving on this -- it's a state legislature making law at the state level rather than an activist judiciary setting precedent -- isn't this what they want?
posted by cedar at 5:39 AM on June 11, 2005


fuller:

> The sky is blue and bears shit in the woods.

Skwirl:

> I'd say the burden of proof falls on you.

Not for matters of common knowledge and experience like this. Has anyone ever done a formal study on whether or not police handcuffs diminish as arrestee's manual dexterity? Of course they haven't. If someone thinks handcuffs have no effect, the burden of disproof is on them. Everybody (even you) knows spanking gets a kid's attention and stops him from doing whatever he was in the middle of doing. That's common knowledge and experience, and doesn't require any study to establish its truth.

On the other hand, concerning the general topic, I'm a good federalist and I say if it turns out that the people of the People's Republic want this law they should have it, and Mass. citizens who don't like it either feel strongly enough about the matter to move to another state or they don't.
posted by jfuller at 5:45 AM on June 11, 2005


I used to teach little kids and you could always tell the kids whose parents had real discipline and spanked them from time to time from the ones who had a regime of time outs and reasoning but no real line in the sand

This may be your personal experience, but not mine. Not at all. I've personally known many little thugs who get whipped and many sweet, good-natured children (such as my daughter) who have never been physically punished. Violence begets violence and the only thing you teach a child by physically hurting them is that inflicting pain is the prerogative of the stronger.

And are you really ok with a man using his belt on a 12 year old? My mother used the belt on me at 12 and I still remember the absolute horror of it-- her chasing me around the room, swatting any surface she could find. At 12, I considered myself a reasoning, logical being and yet my mother and father chose to treat me as though I were livestock.

I am not whole heartedly in support of this bill-- I don't know enough about it and I am leery as a parent of giving up any parental control. But I also abhor the idea that in this day and age parents still beat their children into submission.

On Preview: Everybody (even you) knows spanking gets a kid's attention and stops him from doing whatever he was in the middle of doing. That's common knowledge and experience, and doesn't require any study to establish its truth.

Ok you stop the behavior. But what has the child learned? Parents are to be feared. As long as a person is bigger and stronger than me, he has the right to hurt me. Violence solves everything. Inflicting pain on another human being is the right thing to do.

Look, we have laws saying one adult cannot hit another adult with a belt. Why can't we have a rule protecting the smaller, more helpless individuals as well?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:53 AM on June 11, 2005


cedar, we live in a constitutional republic ... the rights of the legislature and of the people who elect them to pass laws that control what others do is limited by the constitution ... and, in my opinion, should also be limited by careful consideration of the rights of the individual vs the rights of the government ...

it's plain to me that some liberals and some conservatives have lost sight of this ... and we should all be concerned about that

the ultimate authority in this country is us, not the government
posted by pyramid termite at 6:11 AM on June 11, 2005


Where to start ? Let's try from the beginning

What's the point of provoking physical pain into a person ?

The reasoning goes pain = bad and it's naturally averted once felt..therefore if we associate pain (spanking) with something wrong (for instance disobeying) naturally the children will think again about disobeying.

WRONG : the association whateverbad=spanking or promise of spanking if discovered (and the behavior of not doing something) isn't necessarily formed !

We resort to physical pain with cattle because we have no way of communicating with them ..but even so it's better to oberve their predictable behavior and act accordingly to their behavior as far as possible.

So if we keep on treating people like apes, they'll keep behaving like apes WITH US. Necessarily that spirales into a regression (often denied becase almost everybody is too often too proud to think we're wrong or acting stupidly...we don't even consider the possibility) and with kids the result may be (afaik) a kind of conditioning that has nothing to do with a sane person.

So what about the spanking-conditioning-punishment ? In my opinion is a wrong unpredictable method that occasionally helps obtaining good results..but that's only accidental. Additionally it's worth remembering parenting has a lot in common with teaching, not everybody is immediately good at it (or will never be good at).
posted by elpapacito at 6:17 AM on June 11, 2005


After he lived the last nine years with his mother, I have custody of my 12-year-old son once again. He has a nasty tendency to drop 'fuck' and 'shit' in public, purely for shock value and much like his mother. After the third time, I cuffed him on the back of his head. Each time subsequently, the cuffs have been getting harder but the time between his little shows has been getting decidedly longer.

Anybody want to make an issue of it? Fine, go fuck yourself. ;-P
posted by mischief at 6:21 AM on June 11, 2005


> What's the point of provoking physical pain into a person ?

Darwinians (if there are any of those around here) will understand that if there were no advantageous function for pain it would not have evolved.

The reason we have pain receptors in the first place is to help us acquire knowledge from our environment. Pain is a communication and learning channel, and we can't afford to discard any learning channel entirely. They're too scarce and valuable.
posted by jfuller at 6:31 AM on June 11, 2005


Spanking - You have my permission to like it.

A hairbrush, a spatula, or something a little more kinky?
posted by nofundy at 6:41 AM on June 11, 2005


After the third time, I cuffed him on the back of his head. Each time subsequently, the cuffs have been getting harder but the time between his little shows has been getting decidedly longer.

Wow. Just wow. Your hitting a twelve-year old... in the head... in public? Be careful lest the next cuffs are around your wrists. You say that each time you hit your son (in the head!) it's getting harder. Just think, if you whacked him really hard you could probably solve this problem once and for all.

On preview: The reason we have pain receptors in the first place is to help us acquire knowledge from our environment.

Yep, and every kid needs to acquire the knowledge that the person he looks to for guidance, affection and unconditional love will inflict pain on him when displeased.
posted by cedar at 6:41 AM on June 11, 2005


I have no worries whatsoever, cedar.
posted by mischief at 6:45 AM on June 11, 2005


> Ok you stop the behavior. But what has the child learned? Parents are to be
> feared. As long as a person is bigger and stronger than me, he has the right to
> hurt me. Violence solves everything. Inflicting pain on another human being
> is the right thing to do.

I think this is tendentious spin. If the child learns that: parents are to be treated with a certain degree of caution, as well as affection; that bigger and stronger individuals can be dangerous; that, right or wrong, they may hurt him; that violence does solve some things; and that inflicting pain is on certain occasions the right thing to do, then all that's just fine. It's all factually correct.

But beyond that, we need not be concerned--first before every other consideration--with what a child may learn on every single one of the trillions of learning occasions that take place in a normal childhood. Often other considerations take precedence, such as stop hitting Sarah this instant!


> Yep, and every kid needs to acquire the knowledge that the person he looks to
> for guidance, affection and unconditional love will inflict pain on him when displeased.

Exactly. It's part of the guidance. It's part of the indispensible ability to say No! and have the child understand that you mean it. (Those for whom the concept of No is intolerable will of course disagree.)
posted by jfuller at 6:49 AM on June 11, 2005


jfuller: the advantageous function of pain is that it's immediately felt ....for instance if I hit you with punch you'll immediately notice pain and you'll immediately dislike. Why ?

The reason is the skin was unnaturally compressed with too much force, therefore there's the likelyhood of skin/meat/bone damage. Therefore the pain system prevents you from wilfully damaging yourself..in some rare peope this system doesn't work and they don't feel any physical pain..which is extremely dangerous.

Your reasoning is that pain can also function as a learning channel..yes but it's not naturally used as a learning channel for society behavior shaping , otherwise we wouldn't have such rich and complex instruments as language, mimic and imitation.

Also, the concept of scaricity is relative to beholder. For instance some say petrolioum is scarce ..but it is only when compared to actual comsumption rate. Scarcity MAY be a method to give a value to something but it's not the only method and it's not necessarily the best method.

Indeed even naturally occourring diamond are HARD to find, but they're not scarce (there are millions) and their value is again relative to the beholder.
posted by elpapacito at 6:49 AM on June 11, 2005


mischief, I'm glad to hear that and would like to thank-you.

It has always been my contention that online personas are generally very close to the way people behave away from the computer, you have my gratitude for confirming that hypothesis.
posted by cedar at 6:50 AM on June 11, 2005


Yes, of course it's a good idea to beat children, they have to learn that they've emerged into a harsh, brutal world. Soon, the bruises, broken bones, and ruptured organs of childhood will seem a gentle memory as they bear the harness of the working world, and the whipping begins... Ho, David! Ho, Joseph! Mush!
posted by malusmoriendumest at 7:04 AM on June 11, 2005


By the way, anyone read Dave Pelzer's books? shows you what happens when "spanking" gets out of hand. Soon, you're forcing them to eat faeces, stabbing them, and trying to roast them on stoves. Ah, those joyful memories...
posted by malusmoriendumest at 7:08 AM on June 11, 2005


Also, Cedar, it is my experience that online personas are actually slightly different from the way people act away from computers: Without the taboos, boundaries and ethereal restrictions of social expectation, people's prejudices, biases, and general nastiness come out for all to see. Look at me, for instance. *hurls an incoherent stream of swearwords at no-one in particular*
posted by malusmoriendumest at 7:12 AM on June 11, 2005


> A hairbrush, a spatula, or something a little more kinky?

For you, nofundy, a wet noodle will do.
posted by jfuller at 7:25 AM on June 11, 2005


I remember being spanked maybe twice by my mother as a child. It wasn't done out of anger, more matter-of-factly, and I think that makes a big difference. And it didn't hurt - it was the embarrassment of the situation that stuck with me. All those talking about 'beating' children are missing the point - that's already against the law.
posted by blendor at 7:43 AM on June 11, 2005


You know, before I had a kid, I was all "I will NEVAH spank my children".

I was wrong. There are some actions for which a swift and immediate swat to the bottom is deserved and effective. For instance, my 2.5 yr old torments our very large dog. Time outs didn't work, standing in the corner didn't work, one time I had to walk up behind him and swat him on the butt as he was poking the dog with something. One time. The behavior has never been repeated. One time. After months of trying everything else, one swat was all it took to make him understand that what he was doing *hurt* the dog...because he suddenly had empathy.

Spanking will never be my first solution to any problem, and I wouldn't use any object other than an open hand on the bottom, but if the behavior cannot be modified in any other way, and spanking modifies the behavior, then spanking will be the solution.

Some behavior is so egregiously outside of the social contract that it must be nipped in the bud for the sake of the child, the parent and the society at large. We do ourselves no favors by raising egotistical sociopaths.
posted by dejah420 at 8:04 AM on June 11, 2005


I cannot believe this bullshit. The low quality of argument going on here in favor of spanking -- the garbage you people are saying -- it gets their attention; it teaches them the world can hurt them; well you can't reason with them -- I'm just about shaking reading this thread. I'm talking about writer who are cogent thinkers elsewhere, now engaging in every wretched fallacy on the books. Is this just the Sunday morning crowd or has the world lost its mind?

You absolutely can reason with a two-year-old. You can't do it in declarative sentences, but you can do it in a language of expressions, body language, pacing -- it just takes a little practice.

I have a two-year-old son who is (so far) a very thoughtful and self-controlling little lad. When he, say, hits the cat (which happens every once in a while), here's what I do:

Put his hands by his side, lower down to his eye level, and say, very slowly, "we don't hit." Repeat until he looks miserable.

Try this in a small child. It absolutely works. (If it doesn't, try it standing behind him and leaning over so your face is upside-down; that terrifies them.) But it does involve using a level of engagement with your child above whatever your brain stem generates.

It's part of the indispensible ability to say No! and have the child understand that you mean it. (Those for whom the concept of No is intolerable will of course disagree.)

This assumes two statements:
1) The only way children understand that you mean "no" is through the application of physical pain;
2) Those who don't spank find the concept of "no" intolerable.
posted by argybarg at 8:04 AM on June 11, 2005


NSFW.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 8:05 AM on June 11, 2005


It's always refreshing to see that people are still willing to play the "my parents spanked me and I turned out fine" card. Never mind the large body of research indicating that spanking is, at best, only marginally effective in disciplining children. People have plenty of anecdotal "evidence" that it "gets the child's attention."
posted by trey at 8:16 AM on June 11, 2005


This study investigated signs of mental distress in a large sample of normal adolescents who reported receiving physical punishment from their parents. Adolescents who perceived their parents as being accustomed to using physical punishment reported higher levels of psychiatric symptoms (higher BSI scores) and lower levels of well-being (lower GWB scores). These findings point to the close association between physical punishment and mental distress in adolescents and to quantity and cumulative factors.

Although the source is iffy, this fits in fairly well with what I have gleaned on the subject elsewhere. For many reasons, punishment is less optimal as a form of behaviour modification than other, less coercive options. Physical punishment is particularly liable to lead to poor outcomes. And, with a view to the poster who clumps his son around the head, one might listen to Michael Rutter when he says 'severe punishment, particularly if physical, may be harmful to the person who administers it. Striking another person may induce feelings of guilt, anger or even of pleasure which can be destructive in their effects.'

He also writes : This does not mean that systematic discouragements and reprimands have no place in bringing up children. To the contrary, some use of discouragement and disapproval is very necessary. However, it does mean that punishment as such should be used very sparingly and that it should very rarely form the basis of treatment. (Michael Rutter, Helping Troubled Children, Penguin, 1975, p. 337)
posted by TimothyMason at 8:17 AM on June 11, 2005


The last time I got spanked, I was about 12 years old.

I was stealing. I knew stealing was wrong. Logic and reason had everything to do with stealing. I had decided that the benefits of stealing outweighed the penalties (knowing that most of my neighbors were not going to send me to jail).

However, not wanting to repeat te hairbrush on my ass that resulted the first time my mom caught me stealing, stopped the issue.

Yes, it is anecdotal. But my experience growing up was that judicious use of spanking (and it was never in immediate anger; it was always "go to your room while we decide what's going to happen") had very positive effects on my behavior. Getting spanked for shooting my BB gun at the squirrels set the lesson much deeper than having it reasoned to me that it was a bad thing to do).

Spanking was always a last resort, but "reasoning" was never much of a disinsentive since I generally already knew that what I was doing was wrong, I just didnt care at the moment.

I don't know if I could spank my children (not that I'll ever have any), but when used judiciously, I don't care if others do.
posted by obfusciatrist at 8:37 AM on June 11, 2005


obfusciatrist:

It sounds as if the times you got spanked coincided with the moments when you first found out your parents were deeply upset with something you had done. Any chance you were struck, not with the physical pain, but with the deep hurt your actions had given your parents? Any other way they might have conveyed this sense of deep hurt to you?

A friend of mine recalls something like what I remember: That, one time, when his father said "I'm very disappointed in you," he, my friend, burst into tears and was inconsolable.
posted by argybarg at 8:44 AM on June 11, 2005


"IF you must strike a child,then use a piece of string." torah?
posted by hortense at 8:55 AM on June 11, 2005


i don't spank my kids. they receive immediate discipline for inappropriate behavior, and that generally fits the crime. 9 times of of 10 this means instant loss of the privelige of engaging in whatever activity we're currently engaged in. My kids are not little assholes, they're pretty awesome.

And I firmly believe that part of this is the result of us not having the kind of relationship where I hit them from time to time.
posted by glenwood at 8:56 AM on June 11, 2005


I was spanked as a kid, and look at all the good it did me.
posted by davy at 8:57 AM on June 11, 2005


Hey mischief, "Do as I say not as I do" is for hypocritical wusses. If you don't want your kid to cuss in public, set an example by not cussing at all yourself.

I myself set a good example by not whapping the parents I see hit their kids in public. Which is a good thing for the beaters, especially since I recognize a kind of functional moral equivalence: parents that do this are bigger than their kid and have much greater power, so it'd be perfectly okay for me to "cuff" the parent in the head -- from behind with a brick. And if he whined that wasn't fair I'd want to piss on him too. But I don't do that, not because I think it's wrong, but because most cops are child-hitters too.
posted by davy at 9:17 AM on June 11, 2005


what argybarg said.

I think saying "no" and meaning it is key. My parents raised four kids all 3 yrs apart in age. We were so well behaved it was scary. Never hit us once.
Those parents with the brats running roughshod over them obviously don't know haw to say "no". Those folks that smack their kids upside the head don't know how to say "no" effectively either.

There is a lot of space between rational logical discussion and physical violence. Argybarg seems to be exploring this space. So much creative talent here can't be bothered to find creative and compelling ways to say "no". Well you work on what you care about.
posted by pointilist at 9:19 AM on June 11, 2005


"IF you must strike a child,then use a piece of string." torah?

No. But it might be somewhere in the Talmud maybe.
posted by davy at 9:19 AM on June 11, 2005


I'd like to think that I'm reasonable for not putting a single, open-handed swat on the bottom in the same category as striking with a belt, paddle, hairbrush, tazer, fist, or anything else that is obviously excessive.

Why has the phrase "a slap on the wrist" become a euphamism for "mild and meaningless punishment?" Because there's some truth to that.

I was raised with the "reason with your child" method. "NO!" and an explaination were almost always sufficient when I was getting out of hand as a child. I think that I got spanked (a single swat on my bottom) maybe twice in my entire childhood. I don't even remember what the circumstances were. It left such a minor impression on me. I'm sure that my folks were perfectly justified considering how reasonable and rational they always were.

Physical punishments probably aren't the best way to teach children, especially when they're the primary method. Consistantly spanking a child (instead of coaching them or encouraging an alternate behavior) will almost certainly ingrain a message of acceptable violence in them.
But that's really up to the parents. If someone, even unthinkingly, wants to convince their children that striking someone is always preferable to talking to them, that's their poor decision to live with. You can't really legislate caring.

Child abuse laws already prohibit the obviously excessive infliction of pain. While it might not be the most intelligent course of action, an infrequent and mild spanking is certainly not excessive. It's just not as physically or mentally traumatic as actual abuse.
Perhaps it's the case that frequent, arbitrary, and prolonged spanking is ultimately abusive but that's not really in question here. It's obviously excessive and definately qualifies as abusive behavior, open-handed or not.

Also, how is this going to get reported? Actual abuse is accompanied by evidence. Physical signs, psychological signs, and the clear and distinctive noise of one's neighbors are unmistakable clues of child abuse.
Although I'm sure there are contrary examples, I'd guess that if a child has been abused, there's usually evidence of that abuse that's immediately noticeable to their teachers and other adults that have contact with them. One might say that once a child shows evidence of abuse, it's already too late. Sadly, that's true. But there's really no way to preempt it. Are we going to decide who gets to have children?

A light spanking won't leave this kind of trail. So how is anyone going to know that it's going on? Surely, an intelligent and reasonable child, raised by intelligent and reasonable parents isn't going to complain that they've been swatted once. (I mean, I knew my parents were completely right when I got spanked. Not because of the fear of violence or the automatic, childish trust I had in them. It's because they were reasonable and so was I, for the most part.)

Mild and Rare physical discipline never hurt anyone. Especially when it occurs in the context of consistant caring and reasonable rationality.
posted by Jon-o at 9:48 AM on June 11, 2005


I found the problem:

PROFESSION: Legislator.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:20 AM on June 11, 2005


Mild and Rare physical discipline never hurt anyone. Especially when it occurs in the context of consistant caring and reasonable rationality.

I can probably live with this statement, although I'm imagining physical discipline so mild and rare that it could easily be replaced with tone of voice or a stern facial expression or the like. (And no, I don't want spanking legislated out of existence.)

But that's not what people are saying here. They're saying that A) children are not rational, so you have to speak to them by delivering pain; and B) spanking is the only hedge against, as dejah puts it, "raising egotistical sociopaths." Unbelievable.

It's odd. People who are ferociously rational and won't take a trace of fallacy when arguing about evolution or foreign policy go all flabby and irrational when talking about spanking, or about raising children in general. Mostly I find that pro-spanking types were spanked as a children and can't accept that their parent could have been wrong. But that's just speculation.
posted by argybarg at 10:27 AM on June 11, 2005


I got spanked quite a bit as a kid. It worked wonders. I'll try to avoid it as a parent, but shit, no way should it be illegal.
posted by NickDouglas at 10:31 AM on June 11, 2005


The point of criticizing this proposed law is that any actions that do physical damage to a child that's any worse than a hangnail is already illegal under existing abuse and assault and battery laws. Therefore, by definition, extending legal prohibition beyond these actions does nothing but prohibit actions that don't do any damage that's worse than a hangnail and thus will have no effect but criminalizing parents for being parents.

But, as I say, if the citizens of Massachussetts want this dimbulb law, let them have it. That's how broadminded I am.
posted by jfuller at 10:34 AM on June 11, 2005


Interesting how my statement that I'd prefer to see parents discipline their kids properly, even if it's by spanking, than see the kids grow up into horrible human beings got turned into "OMG! You support beating kids with belts!?!?" I think some people have issues with parental control and beatings that go far beyond what the rest of us are talking about. That kind of thing is already illegal and is not what we're discussing here.
posted by fshgrl at 10:48 AM on June 11, 2005


Corporal punishment is never an okay way of discipllining a child.

Let's look at what it teaches a child, hmm?

1) Violence is an acceptable way of solving problems. Spanking teaches children that hitting someone makes a situation 'okay,' or that it makes problems go away.

2) It teaches the child to stop the bad behavior because they fear the punishment, and fear the parent, not because they understand why whatever they did was actually bad.

I don't know how Mass. law works, jfuller, but if it's already illegal, how is passing this law still 'criminalizing' corporal punishment for children? It's already a crime, and this law would seem to me to be a clarification of the existing law.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 11:28 AM on June 11, 2005


I don't have kids, and I don't like in mass.

Just throwing that out there.
posted by delmoi at 11:55 AM on June 11, 2005


my statement that I'd prefer to see parents discipline their kids properly, even if it's by spanking, than see the kids grow up into horrible human beings got turned into "OMG! You support beating kids with belts!?!?"

Actually, in me it prompts the reply "OMG! False dilemma!"
posted by argybarg at 12:12 PM on June 11, 2005


Whether spanking is ultimately more harmful than helpful is not the issue here. That decision should not be left to the state, but rather to the parents. How much authority should the state have, or exercise, in controlling the lives of its citizens. This is just one more nanny law.
posted by caddis at 12:51 PM on June 11, 2005


It's not legal for adults to hit each other. Why should it be legal for adults to hit children?
posted by cytherea at 1:06 PM on June 11, 2005


It's totally legal for adults to spank each other, cytherea. Okay I guess that's a whole other topic...

More seriously, I don't think I agree with this legislation. But I am troubled by the question of where the line is drawn. At what point does corporal punishment become abuse?

I was spanked in a non-extreme way as a child. I don't think it did any good and I plan to use alternative disciplinary methods with my own child. I know these can be effective because I have seen them correctly and effectively applied by friends. But I'm still bothered by how far into the parents authority this steps. While there is a lot of research advocating that corporal punishment is not effective and may have negative outcomes (suggesting it may promote agression, damaging social, empathy and ethical development) there is also plenty of contrary research attacking the methodology of anti-spanking research and promoting the view that correctly applied corporal punishment is an effective method of discipline. To me this really seems pretty complicated.
posted by nanojath at 1:30 PM on June 11, 2005


It's not legal for adults to hit each other. Why should it be legal for adults to hit children?

Exactly.

At what point does corporal punishment become abuse?

Right at the very beginning. Anyone who's seriously in favor of corporal punishment should read Alice Miller's For Your Own Good, which lays out an extremely articulate, well-researched argument categorically against it. The excerpt at that link is good, or the intro of the book provides a decent overview of the whole thing.
posted by rkent at 1:54 PM on June 11, 2005


Hey, anecdotal stories about parenting philosophies! Always fun. Always guarantees some nasty sniping, too.

But if we're going to get anecdotal:

1. My dad was raised by a brutal father who beat him and his siblings with switches (and slapped them and verbally abused them). No one missed Grandad when he died of cancer.

2. My dad in turn spanked all 4 of us, less brutally, (if you consider belts superior to switches) but still enough that we all learned to feel dread when voices were raised, especially his. He had a hard time dealing with "sassiness" which translated to "disagreeing with anything I say." So while he called spanking "necessary for our discipline," it mostly just taught us to never say what we thought or do anything in his sight that he was likely to disagree with, at least till we were too old to spank (about 13). Not a lesson I would teach my child. Oddly, I don't remember being spanked for things to do with my physical safety; for those, I tended to just get yelled at. And it worked. I was actually far more affected by the times my father was gentle, and talked to me about why something was wrong and I shouldn't do it.

3. None of my 3 siblings (all have at least 2 kids) have spanked their children. 4 of those kids are honor students and exceptionally polite; 2 are kind of messed up, but that has more to do with their parents' unhappy marriage than lack of spanking, imo. I don't plan to spank either. I don't want my kid to be the little cowed fearful child that I was, and I'm not confident that there's a way to spank that won't make them like that.

Oh, but this law seems kind of stupid. It's too vague and hard to enforce, for one thing.

But this guy:

"He forgot his book. I went upstairs, I got my belt. I came downstairs. I gave him three swats on the rear end, with his pants on, like any concerned parent would do, and scared him, of course, you know. Hopefully I got the point across," Charles Enloe said.

...doesn't help. Spanked with a belt for forgetting his book? Jeebus.
posted by emjaybee at 2:52 PM on June 11, 2005


I was about to write exactly what Caddis just said.

Liberals do stupid stuff too. Just look at California! (kidding)

Difference is, they don't control everything at the moment, thus the exacerbated influence of the fundie nutjobs we all love to hate.
posted by fungible at 2:56 PM on June 11, 2005


Those parents with the brats running roughshod over them obviously don't know haw to say "no".

To which I'm sure they'd reply that your comment reaks of arrogance, "Well, I never! and therefore nobody should!" I think it's sweet that some kids get all sad when mommy is very, very disappointed in them! But there are some kids in this world that don't give a shit about mommy's disapointment, and will only learn how to take advantage of the generosity of others. Fake some tears, look sad, and you can get away with anything. Great lesson.

1) Violence is an acceptable way of solving problems. Spanking teaches children that hitting someone makes a situation 'okay,' or that it makes problems go away.

Alternately, it teaches that violence is the response to certain actions that mommy and daddy don't want you taking. Ergo, don't take those actions.

2) It teaches the child to stop the bad behavior because they fear the punishment, and fear the parent, not because they understand why whatever they did was actually bad.

Not if you explain it to them. I know, you can sit them down in a chair and set up a PowerPoint presentation that highlights your principle reasons for the punishment. They're sure to understand, because everyone knows that one and two year-olds not only deeply care about your desires, but they also have finely tuned reasoning capabilities.

Little kids don't have to understand why mommy and daddy don't want them sticking their fingers in electrical sockets. Further, they're not likely to understand it even if you took the time to explain it to them. They just have to know that they're not supposed to, and there will be consequences (parental, tangible) if they disobey. As they get older, you can lay off the spankings and switch to reason.

I'm not confident that there's a way to spank that won't make them like that.

Well, by your own admission, you were spanked, yet you do not spank. Clearly, corporal punishment does not necessarily follow family lines.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:01 PM on June 11, 2005


heh...i'm always interested when i find out which of my friends were and weren't spanked.

both my rents spanked me. i find that I am a tad quicker to violence when i lose my temper (i've hit my little brother out of anger more than once) than I'd like to be, but I'm a pacifist and I love and respect my parents. I'm not horribly well adjusted.

if any of you anti-corporal punishment types can provide me with a link or two or a book suggestion that backs up your claims that study's show that spanking is, in general, consistently dangerous and unnecessary, I'll be glad to put it in the anachronism pile.
posted by es_de_bah at 3:11 PM on June 11, 2005


If I see you spanking your children, I will stop you and ask you why. If you tell me it is to change a behavior you don't like. I'll turn you over my knee and spank you, to change a behavior in you I don't like.

No difference.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:19 PM on June 11, 2005


i should add, spanking should definitely stop before middle school. probably well before middle school. 12 year olds shouldn't be spanked. by then you should realize it's not working and try something new.

and there's still the argument that every kid and every family is different. once you start regulating your version you DO get into fundy territory...
posted by es_de_bah at 3:19 PM on June 11, 2005


I know, you can sit them down in a chair and set up a PowerPoint presentation that highlights your principle reasons for the punishment. They're sure to understand, because everyone knows that one and two year-olds not only deeply care about your desires, but they also have finely tuned reasoning capabilities.

Yep. Just spanking and PowerPoint presentations. Those are your only two choices.

Tell you what, arbriter of all. My two-year-old son approached some electrical sockets when he was able to walk, at about 14 months. I remember putting my hand on his chest and saying "No, NO, no. That can hurt you. Can hurt you." I tried to get an anxious look on my face and shook my head. He looked at it a long time and said, "ow."

A few times after that, he got near the electrical socket, looked worried, said "ow" and moved on. He's never approached them since.

Now does that sound like a freakin' PowerPoint presentation to you? Would you guess that I'm bound to kill my son or raise a monster because I didn't reach out and clout him around the head when he got near the socket?

Look, you're probably a nice guy, heart of gold and all that, but some kind of irrational splinter is causing you to reason very poorly on this issue.

(And, by the way -- one- and two-year-olds do deeply care about your desires, especially with regards to them. It's just a question if you have the ability or patience to communicate it to them. I hope that if you raise a child you can develop that ability.)
posted by argybarg at 4:41 PM on June 11, 2005


My two cents, as someone who has had to babysit some insane fairly excitable kids, 7 and 9 years old: I think there's a central question in all of this, which is: do we as a society want authority to flow from (and/or justify) violence, or do we want authority to flow from wisdom and experience?

(Never got spanked, can't even remember getting punished for anything, never got in trouble at school, hated my home life anyway.)
posted by skoosh at 4:55 PM on June 11, 2005


By the way, if any of you pro-spanking types find me a child whose parents carefully, consistently and clearly communicate -- with emotion, words and demonstrations -- what that child should and should not do, and that child is still utterly defiant to any treatment except corporal punishment, then I'll be glad to put that child in the anachronism pile.
posted by argybarg at 5:04 PM on June 11, 2005


The most important thing is that kids are raised in a loving environment, where the parents care and nurture the kid. This can happen in a home with corporal punishment, it can happen in a home without. All things being equal, its probably slightly better in a home without ... but that's just my opinion.
I would argue, however, that a cold emotionless environment sans corporal punishment is much worse for the health and well-being of a child, then an environment of love and support with corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment is a red herring, its a personal preference to how people raise their families and I doubt it is a significant indicator of societal adjustment.
Besides, I don't think there is any punishment the state could levee against a parent that practiced corporal punishment that would improve the situation for the kid. Are you going to fine or imprison the parent? remove the kids from the home? How do you punish the parent without punishing the kid as well? (implicit assumption being the family is otherwise well adusted)
posted by forforf at 5:18 PM on June 11, 2005


Would you guess that I'm bound to kill my son or raise a monster because I didn't reach out and clout him around the head when he got near the socket?

And what happens when the kid still goes to the electrical socket? Again, it's great that your child responded to your pantomiming. If you don't have to use physical punishment, by all means don't. But not all kids are as responsive.

then I'll be glad to put that child in the anachronism pile.

Recognize that your experiences and expectations might not be the same as everyone else's.

The real problem with corporal punishment is that when it's applied haphazardly, repetitively, or without appropriately severe cause, it loses its effectiveness. I was spanked precisely twice in my life; both times I remember vividly and, quite frankly, both times I deserved it. The rest of the time my parents relied heavily on the threat of corporal punishment, which (to me, at least) was sufficient deterrent.

And on preview, what forforf said.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:28 PM on June 11, 2005


Are you going to fine or imprison the parent?

I say paddle their ass. That's the general logic of the state, anyway.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:29 PM on June 11, 2005


And what happens when the kid still goes to the electrical socket?

Tell him again. And again and again.

You posit this imaginary child who is totally and endlessly unresponsive to his parents' instruction, even when that instruction is skillful and sympathetic and performed many, many times over.

I would suggest such an imaginary child might have some serious cognitive deficits. Or, more likely, those parents aren't quite as skillful and emphatic in their communication as they think.

I have a good friend whose son, late-two, is a fair terror -- loud, throwing, crushing bugs, etc. She does the whole rigamarole of time outs and all that. But when she talks, she talks very fast and indistinctly, without eye contact or emphasis. What her son hears is: "okay that's throwing hon you'll need a time out if you can't cut down on the throwing." He barely hears her, he throws again, she puts him in the crib. I'm sure he has no idea what happened.

Now, at some point, a mother like this might conclude that her son doesn't respond to reason and start spanking him. But if she held his hands at his side, leaned over to look at him upside down, said "WE. DON'T. THROW." and stayed that way until he looked worried, it would work.

I would be very, very, very surprised to find a toddler who didn't respond to that sort of treatment, delivered consistently by a parent -- or even anyone. I've taught some hellish kindergarteners who did respond to it. But, like I said, it takes concentration and an ability to communicate.

And I guarantee it's infinitely better than BAM! across the head or backside. That this is not obvious to people -- especially the normally reasonable people of MeFi -- just staggers me.
posted by argybarg at 5:51 PM on June 11, 2005


I think the reason why, argybarg, is because a lot of us have experienced corporal punishment, and don't find ourselves mal-adjusted, and thus question your guarantee that stern language is infinitely better. Why is it better? Or rather, why is corporal punishment worse?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:06 PM on June 11, 2005


Just to clarify something, I don't see yelling at a child, over and over again until they get it, to be any less stressful to a child. I hate to Abu-Ghraib the thread, but I think recent world events have brought attention to the fact that psychogical stress is no less harmful than physical punishment.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:10 PM on June 11, 2005


It is probably best to discipline kids without spanking. I find reasoning has worked at all ages. Time outs on the stairs seem to work even on 12 year olds. Nevertheless, how to effect discipline, within reason, should be the parent's job, not the state's. I hear a lot of shrill anti-spanking voices here and the funny thing is many of these folks, certainly not all, are young and childless. Frankly, if this is you, your opinion doesn't count. You lack experience, except for perhaps for your own paddled behind. Your righteousness is pretty silly.
posted by caddis at 6:16 PM on June 11, 2005


The key thing about minor corporal punishment and abuse isn't exactly what happens, it's how. Some people have told me they were hit with a belt, but they never felt abused because they knew why. It was never arbitrary. Whereas, I had a friend who went through a very rough time when her mother slapped her out of anger - they were minor slaps, and didn't even made a mark, but they came out of nowhere.

My mother was abused by her mother. When she tells me about it, it isn't just the physical punishment she talks about (though that was bad), it was the scary abitraryness of it, and the way her mother overreacted. If she forgot her coat on the floor, she could get dragged out of bed late at night to pick it up, being yelled at the whole time - but usually after her parents had fought.

She did occassionally spank us - her rules were never with anything but her hand, and it was never arbitary. Sure, maybe it wasn't necessary (well, except the couple of times when she had to slap me to stop me from hyperventaliating in a temper tantrum, that got me breathing again), but I certainly never felt abused. I would trust her with my life, and we are very close to this day.

It's about the arbitraryness, and the emotion behind it.
posted by jb at 6:26 PM on June 11, 2005


Why is it better? Or rather, why is corporal punishment worse?

When you express behavioral expectations so that a child understands them, you have located them within the communicational stream between the parents and the child. It ought to take part in the same language you use to communicate desires, happiness, passing information, etc. It's all in the same spectrum. It's integrated.

(That's why I'm not talking about yelling. You stay calm. Just talk slower and more clearly.)

This way, you teach that self-control is a part of normal life -- a daily business. It's not in the realm of a great Scary Beyond, where parents hurt you and pain takes over.

Parents and children begin communicating with each other from the first day. If you can keep communicating, consistently, across a range of behaviors then you stay close enough to keep your dialogue going all life long.

It may feel as if you're being very effective if you transform into a terrifying figure whenever your child transgresses -- yet instead I think you teach children that unruly emotions are scary -- that they lead to a loss of control, to terror, to a terrible transformation in the family. I'd rather my child believe that anger or frenzy or jealousy or whatever are normal within the emotional range, so they know how to deal with them.

(And no, I don't think that two mild spankings have much effect. I'm talking about spanking as a consistent method, which it nearly always is.)
posted by argybarg at 6:47 PM on June 11, 2005


Parents and children begin communicating with each other from the first day. If you can keep communicating, consistently, across a range of behaviors then you stay close enough to keep your dialogue going all life long.

Corporal punishment is communication. As opposed to spoken language (which takes years of development) or facial expressions (which can be misconstrued), physical punishment is a very effective way of getting your point across.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:59 PM on June 11, 2005


Great, a whole generation of little wusses who got nothing but time-outs for pissing on eachother.
posted by angry modem at 1:03 AM PST on June 11


I'm guessing you got spanked as a kid, angry modem? If that's true, and it's such an effective tactic, why are you such an insufferable asshole?

The bottom line is that people who spank their kids are shitty parents. Kids are smarter than dogs and yet there are plenty of very well behaved doggies who learn proper dsicipline without being swatted; I know because mine is one of them.

As long as we're all throwing out shitty anecdotal evidence here, I'd like to point out that the kids I took honors classes with as a child were loved and nurtured by their parents, and very, very few of us got spanked. The asshole retard troglodytes in the remedial classes, though? I watched them get swatted, spanked, hit, yelled at all the time; if this was in their front yards, I can't imagine the horrors that happened behind locked doors.

Frankly, if this is you, your opinion doesn't count. You lack experience, except for perhaps for your own paddled behind. Your righteousness is pretty silly.

You're a fucking idiot. Perhaps the reason so many of us youngsters don't believe in hitting children is because our parents - who were kids and teenagers in the 60s and 70s - are one of the first generations to realize that not all problems must be solved through the application of force.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:53 PM on June 11, 2005


We didn't get spanked a lot as kids, but when my dad spanked us, it was always from anger and frustration, with a leather slipper. I don't remember any of the issues, any of the reasons I got spanked. I didn't learn any lessons. I just remember HATING my dad when he did it.

It's a gutless, cowardly way to discipline your kid.
posted by chococat at 9:27 PM on June 11, 2005


So wait -- facial expressions "can be misconstrued" ... and spankings can't?

Forget it. I'm done. I've never seen anyone move 1/16 of an inch on this issue, and I give up trying. Have fun with your whatever, tough guy.
posted by argybarg at 9:41 PM on June 11, 2005


Well, looks like a lot of people around here weren't spanked enough. Or maybe too much. Either way, I'm glad the government is deciding to step in! I'm confident that they know how to better raise your kids then you do. I just hope they don't stop with spanking. Hell, I hope they just ship them all of to state-run creches where only the opinions and doctrine of the proper medical and psychological authorities will be used in raising them. It's less messy.
posted by Snyder at 10:16 PM on June 11, 2005


Perhaps the reason so many of us youngsters don't believe in hitting children is because our parents - who were kids and teenagers in the 60s and 70s - are one of the first generations to realize that not all problems must be solved through the application of force.

Yes, they were wise beyond their years, truly Ascended Masters who were leading the way to a new form of human evolution. Now, Indigo Children like us are the vanguard of a thoughtful, egalitarian and enlightened new era of human potential. Perhaps some kind of great leap forward is in our society's future.
posted by Snyder at 10:30 PM on June 11, 2005


So wait -- facial expressions "can be misconstrued" ... and spankings can't?

Yes, that's right. Because the message is much, much simpler. Is mommy happy, sad, scared, hungry, did she wet her pants, etc.? Versus, action->pain. I guarantee you, it's not only much easier to understand, but it's also more deeply ingrained into our animal psyche than "WE DON'T HIT." "SEBASTIAN! I SAID, WE DON'T HIT!" over and over again.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:49 PM on June 11, 2005


"SEBASTIAN! I SAID, WE DON'T HIT!"
...
"SEBASTIAN! I SAID, WE DON'T HIT!"
...
"SEBASTIAN! I SAID, WE DON'T HIT!"
...
<<WHAAP!>>
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:57 PM on June 11, 2005


I've never been especially against spanking done by parents on pre-adolescent kids. Mind, I mean spanking, not beating, and I assume the situation is handled rationally.

But I've been watching a show from the UK called "Little Angels". Bratty kids out of control! I'm inclined to think, often, "Criminy, whap that brat a good one!"

But some kind of psychologist comes along. They set up cameras in the house and watch, then teach the parents how to deal with the problems, without any spanking. The coaching extends to radio link between shrink and parent, while the shrink watches and listens to the events.

It is ASTOUNDING the improvements made over a matter of weeks. And the fundamental thing I've learned is this: The biggest thing kids want is attention from their parents. Most brats get that way because they learned that gets them attention.

Someone spoke of some brat where the parent "holds him and speaks soothingly when the kid has a tantrum". Gee, am I the only one here to point out how that encourages tantrums?! A kid that is desperate for attention will even be happier with a spanking than no attention!

So much can be done with kids just by the careful use of positive attention for good behavior and time-out for bad behavior. Of course, this won't make sense to people who treat their kids like chattel. It requires some maturity from parents, and recognition of children as persons deserving respect and consideration. That's beyond the ability of many parents.

And isn't that a large part of the problem with such discussions? All parents aren't the same. I am certain that for some parents, corporal punishment will yield better results than no corporal punishment. But I don't think its dependant on the child, rather on the parents.

Now teenagers are another issue altogether. I am certain that many teenagers should, at times, be sporting some serious bruises. But I'm fairly confident that's simply to make up for crappy parenting in the first place. (maybe the parents should get some bruises, too)
posted by Goofyy at 12:19 AM on June 12, 2005


Yes, they were wise beyond their years, truly Ascended Masters who were leading the way to a new form of human evolution. Now, Indigo Children like us are the vanguard of a thoughtful, egalitarian and enlightened new era of human potential. Perhaps some kind of great leap forward is in our society's future.

ah hahahaha oh wow great leap forward i get it good one man you got me

Except that the "GLF" replaced the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence with militarism and aggression, so your comparision is exactly wrong.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2005


Okay, I said I'd leave -- but you're being too disingenuous to leave alone.

Of course spankings are unambiguous if Civil Disobedient is around to make the symbol "->" connecting action to pain. But the point is that children often have no idea what the "->" is. They hear "stop that" or "I told you before not to do that," they feel the wallop, they're terrified because their parent just put them in pain, AND IT MAKES NO SENSE.

The fact of a parent hitting them is so overwhelming to children that it tends to obliterate whatever they're supposed to "learn." That's why I talk about keeping such communication in the same range as requests, jokes, and other normal talk.

It gets worse when the spankings are carefully planned -- that is, kid goes to room, parents huddle for a while, dad comes with the belt, dad gives a lecture about how this is necessary, WHAM! That's a hell of a long causal chain you're expecting a kid to absorb.

(And, incidentally, the causal chain is not Action->Pain, but, under ideal conditions, Action->Mommy Hurts Me. Not that I imagine you mind, because we tough types hurt each other in this cruel, cruel world, eh?)

And it's interesting how when you describe anything besides corporal punishment you come up with a gross parody, with wimpy, coddling parents and Nasty Sebastian and the like. Is this what you assume my household is like, or is it a rhetorical device?
posted by argybarg at 7:45 AM on June 12, 2005


I want to give kudos to those who have maintained the anti-spanking viewpoint in this thread so far, partiularly argybargy.

I don't spank my daughter *because* I was spanked as a child. Being the recipient of violence made me feel so bad that I didn't ever want to cause another person to feel that way. It's called empathy.

I also think that teaching a kid that they'll get hit when they do something bad just teaches them to do it when you're not looking. You haven't made the kid behave better, you've made them sneakier, and taught them to go behind your back. Going behind your back can be a fun habit, especially in the teenage years. :D

I have a six-year-old daughter. She has never been spanked, and she is civilized. I can get her to comply with tone of voice and with removing goodies. She has empathy and fears my displeasure. She also has implicit trust in me because she *knows* I will never intentionally cause her pain. I greatly value this trust, and it is part of the bedrock of our relationship. It is my sacred duty as a parent to never knowingly harm my daughter, and I take it very seriously.

The problem with the state saying "It's okay to hit your kids - use your discretion" is that there are masses of people out there who will be, to put it mildly, injudicious with the punishments. Not all child abuse gets reported. For every reasonable parent who gives only the occasional simple attention-getting whack, there are who knows how many who get out the belt, or who leave bruises, etc. Once you say violence is okay, exactly how are you going to make sure this violence is tempered?
posted by beth at 8:42 AM on June 12, 2005


argybarg - I was spanked on a few very rare occasions by my parents (and I don't remember the occasions specifically). My parents were/are good parents, and I respect their feelings that sometimes you need a direct, categorically different sort of direct-to-sensation warning for kids. (Cases like running across the street without looking, approaching something very hot, etc.) It seems to have worked ok with me, and not left any scars I can sense.

That all said, your eloquent advice in this thread has made me rethink how I would behave if I were (or when I become) a parent. I'm not sure that what you're talking about will work with everyone, but I think - if given the chance - I'll give it a shot.
posted by Marquis at 9:38 AM on June 12, 2005


ah hahahaha oh wow great leap forward i get it good one man you got me

Except that the "GLF" replaced the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence with militarism and aggression, so your comparision is exactly wrong.


It wasn't a direct comparison. I just like saying "great leap forward." I was making fun of your belief in our parent's generation's exceptionalism.
posted by Snyder at 1:27 PM on June 12, 2005


Argybarg RULES!

I have a two and a half yr old who's never been hit and rarely misbehaves - - there's no need to hit a kid if you can communicate your displeasure firmly and clearly in words.

If you think the only way to get through to a child is to hit him, it might just mean that you are not a very good communicator.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2005


I know this comment is late in the game, but has anyone ever taken child psychology here? Personally I think that should be a requirement for any parent, to take a child psychology class. Spanking is one of the worst forms of child discipline. It may occasionally stop the offending behavior but it does not teach the child right from wrong. There's a ton of research done on this, all you have to do is drop your anecdotal arguments and let a little science guide your way. I'm surprised how many people still believe that spanking works. Even basic psychology teaches you that positive reinforcement works the best, while punishment just creates resentment.
posted by vodkadin at 1:24 AM on June 14, 2005


Another spanked-as-a-child-but-turned-out-okay person here.

"There's a ton of research done on this, all you have to do is drop your anecdotal arguments and let a little science guide your way."

But children aren't all clones of each other who will react to stimuli in exactly the same way. I'm dubious that research on some large number of other people's children will tell me exactly how to raise my children.

If science could tell us exactly how to raise our children to ensure that they would become well-adjusted, productive members of society, then mandating such methods might make sense. But judging from the kind of social problems we have today, I don't think the science is there yet. So parents have to rely on traditional practices instead. Hence I'm dubious about banning spanking.

I'll also say that the 1-2-3 Magic method of discipline -- give your child two warnings, then a timeout -- has worked well for us so far (our children are 3 and 1.5, and they're pretty easy-going). We've never spanked them. But all children are different, so what's worked for our children may not work for yours.

Other book recommendations: The 7 Worst Things Parents Do, by John and Linda Friel; Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children.
posted by russilwvong at 11:55 AM on June 14, 2005


In reference to Heywood:

(reading from a book held in one hand, as the child refuses to eat)

David, please don't do that. I would like us to talk about this.

...........

Could we continue our dialogue elsewhere, without your consistent negative action?

............

Is this action going to maintain an equilibrium between us?

(1 year old is silent)

(drops the book and raises a hand)
< whappp!!!>>

Working with other people's theories doesn't work, perhaps, but you can always find a good way to rasie children without feeling the urge to give them a whack every now and then.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 5:58 AM on June 17, 2005


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