The Discipline of Blending In vs. Independence and Self-Confidence
March 6, 2015 9:47 AM   Subscribe

How Do You Discipline a Child in the Post-Hitting Era?

While 43 countries have banned corporal punishment, it is legal in all 50 US states. "Statutes vary from state to state but generally say that the physical punishment must be reasonable or not excessive, although Delaware passed a law in 2012 that said it couldn't cause any injury or pain." 19 states ban corporal punishment in schools.

Brookings Institution: Hitting Kids: American Parenting and Physical Punishment
posted by zarq (72 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
First comment on the first link:
"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint".

Hesiod, 8th century BC
Kids have always been young punks, or whatever the term of the era is/was. And discipline means different things for different ages. From the first article:
Talk to your kids with respect, and they will respect you. Talk to your kids firmly and they will learn to behave. Set limits. Be consistent. Use incentives. Divert them away from trouble spots. Give them time-outs. Briefly take away privileges. But whatever you do, do it by talking to them. Talking, talking, so much talking. Have you ever tried to reason with a three year old? Path of least resistance it is not.
Why, yes, I have tried to reason with a three-year-old. Three-year-olds are different from eight-year-olds are different from teen-agers. A sense of time develops over ... time, so telling a tiny person who appears to speak pretty well that "you'll get it later" may not actually mean anything to them because they can only really comprehend now, where an older child can grasp the sense of "later."
posted by filthy light thief at 10:05 AM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Good article. But

"... the past 20 or so years may well be the first generation of parents in Western history to collectively reject spanking as an acceptable way to discipline kids."

is inaccurate. I grew up in the 1970s, where flower power parenting à la Ned Flander's parents was in full force.
posted by Melismata at 10:07 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow spanking is illegal in Brazil? Interesting.

I'm working on my "Dad's Serious voice" with my 11 month old now. She usually giggles at it. I'm fuxx0r3d.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:12 AM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I do try and say no to them a lot—more often than necessary, just so they get real good and used to it.

Oh man. Isn't the world capricious enough? What does power tripping your child accomplish, other than teach them to fear authority?

My kid is 4, and she has a much easier time following the rules she understands than the ones she doesn't, just like everyone else. And she can be reasoned with, if care is taken to meet her at her level. I wish the author had spent some time thinking about why people don't spank -- it's not some trendy bougie fad; there's science and data behind it that some of us take seriously.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:16 AM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's nice to see that bullshit quote attributed to someone other than Plato. I've never seen a real citation for it, but it gets trotted out every time we tell someone to get off our lawns.
posted by thelonius at 10:27 AM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Hey, my parents beat me when I was a kid, and I turned out just fine!" said local asshole that nobody likes.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:30 AM on March 6, 2015 [28 favorites]


Hey, my parents beat me when I was a kid, and I turned out just fine!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:32 AM on March 6, 2015 [43 favorites]


We had corporal punishment ("swats" with a wooden paddle) in middle school, and I can assure you its deterrent effect was completely nil. If anything it made it a point of pride to try to get away with things that otherwise would have had little intrinsic appeal. In other words it was completely counterproductive: it gave us a "fuck you I'm going to do that thing even more now and just try to catch me at it" attitude.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:44 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh man. Isn't the world capricious enough? What does power tripping your child accomplish, other than teach them to fear authority?

This was my mom's style of discipline. Generally, she was a lax hippie parent who didn't give us a curfew or any clearly defined rules and wanted our friends to call her by her first name but often very suddenly would lose control of her emotions and get angry (and name call, spank, or slap us), or ask us to comply with requests that were completely arbitrary and baffling.

Funny thing is, it worked, if by "working" what you want is generally compliant, "good" kids. My sister and I were terrified that the hammer could drop at any moment. There was very little in the way of normal teenage rebellion (I really think you have to feel emotionally secure for that) though of course our mother told us we were "bad" sometimes even though we were honor roll students who were straight edge and neither of us really dated or anything like that. Like, I was allowed to dye my hair different colors, so my friend gave me a mohawk one afternoon and suddenly I'd gone TOO FAR and my mother told me every morning how hideous I looked and what an asshole I was. Over a haircut.

As adults, both my sister and I craved rules and generally bent to parties we perceived as authorities not because we felt it was the best moral decision but because we didn't want to get in trouble. With who? I have no idea. It took a lot of therapy to untangle for me the constant and persistent fear that I was doing the wrong thing at any given moment. As a young adult, I needed stringent scripts for everything from going to the grocery store to getting my oil changed because WHAT IF I GET IT WRONG AND GET IN TROUBLE??!

So rationality is really important to me in parenting, as is giving my daughter a sense that she doesn't have to be ruled by her emotions. As an adult, I can see how my mother's feelings were often quite powerful and scary even to her. I think it means a lot for a grown-up to say, "I'm losing my temper and feeling frustrated. I'm going to take a few minutes to cool off, and then we can talk about this."

Recently my mom babysat my thirteen-month-old and I watched her demand that the baby put down the remote control not because my mother wanted to use it but because "I NEED TO SEE IF SHE UNDERSTANDS WHAT I MEAN BY NO." The baby is usually allowed to play with it. She seemed really confused and anxious about the whole interaction, and she is not generally an anxious baby at all. It was weird, like watching my childhood in a microcosm.

I think a big part of it, too, is respecting children as people. Yes, people who have different developmental needs from adults. But I have no problem if my daughter ends up being magnificently self-actualized even as a child, if she says no to me, if she has a sense of her own needs and desires even when those contrast with my own. Even if that makes her a "brat."

I don't want to raise a kid as fearful as I was.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:45 AM on March 6, 2015 [97 favorites]


Good article. But

"... the past 20 or so years may well be the first generation of parents in Western history to collectively reject spanking as an acceptable way to discipline kids."

is inaccurate. I grew up in the 1970s, where flower power parenting à la Ned Flander's parents was in full force.


I grew up then as well and although my parents definitely never beat us they did spank. My friends with non-hippy parents mostly got old-school beatings, sometimes terribly severe by current standards.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:47 AM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


That jezebel article made the red mist come out so I stopped reading it, sorry. It's just 100% breezy assumptions and glosses and random judgements, which I guess is sort of the internet.

In general, I find articles about parenting to mostly be super weird, and almost always completely useless. Because they are stuck in this ravine between the endless variability of human nature (and the endless inputs that go into shaping a developing person) and the urgent need to categorize and define and qualify that we all have. The simple fact of the matter is that some kids raised by terrible parents are going to turn out great (and even love those parents) and some kids raised by great parents are going to struggle to survive. And as a parent of two young daughters, let me tell you that there is really nothing more terrifying than the concept of you screwing up your kids, except of course for the concept that you can't STOP your kids from being screwed up. I am definitely less scared of my own death than of either of the previous two items.

In terms of corporal punishment I am completely against it for my kids, but part of that is that I had a parent who was a bit violent. And when I go back and look at it, it was less just the corporal punishment part of it, and more the punishment plus a sense of scary unpredictability from the parent, plus a sense of affection being withheld or not existing.

So could a loving parent use it as a tool? I don't know, I suspect it's not a good idea. But not using it is an easy decision for me.
posted by selfnoise at 10:48 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hell, beatings were allowed in school when I was a kid, though nominally the principal was supposed to get permission from your parents first.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:49 AM on March 6, 2015


For good reading on corporal punishment-free parenting, I highly recommend Libby Anne's blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. She's an former homeschooled kid, who was spanked/whipped as a child.

Her parenting style mainly focuses around treating your kids like people. For example: would you hit an adult for, I don't know, breaking something valuable? No. So why is OK to hit someone who is physically smaller than you, and unable to fight back?

She had a couple of good recent posts on kids and expectations which really lay out her ideas about treating your children like people-- this one on coming when you're called:

Though I am far from perfect, I try to base my parenting on mutual understanding, empathy, and respect. I don’t require my children to jump every time I call and I don’t want my children to be afraid of me, or of what I might do. I find the entire idea nauseating. If I call Sally and she says “Just a minute!” and then doesn’t come, and I am inconvenienced as a result, we have a conversation about that—not a lecture, a conversation. I remind her that just as I try to consider her needs, she should try to consider mine, and she pitches in with her own thoughts or ideas. On the flip side, when she’s asking me for something and I tell her “Just a minute!” I make sure that I’m not just saying that to put her off.


And this one about losing things. Her daughter had lost an iPad, and naturally, she flipped out and punished her, but later she realized that she had done the exact same thing-- left an iPad in a public place, but had gotten it back:

Now I’m not saying I was wrong to make sure she understood the enormity of her mistake. But she’s five, and it’s a mistake I’ve made too, and I’m closing in on thirty. I shouldn’t have been angry at her, I should have been angry at myself for expecting a five-year-old to be able to keep track of an iPad and not checking up on it myself. And in some sense I was upset with myself, I was simply taking it out on Sally by blaming her to justify my unrealistic expectations....On that day several months ago, I expected Sally to be able to keep perfect track of an iPad while out and about—something I myself had not been able to do. Yes, my expectation was not age appropriate, but more than that, it was an expectation I myself had proven unable to live up to less than a month before. The next morning, I apologized to Sally for being so upset the night before. I told her that I had left my own iPad on campus, just like she left the family iPad in the store, and that I understood that sometimes we just make mistakes. We exchanged strategies for keeping track of things, and our conversation ended in a very positive place.


posted by damayanti at 10:50 AM on March 6, 2015 [27 favorites]


Recently, for the first time in almost 20 years of librarianship, I had someone strike a child during a storytime program. This kid is a handful. I think he's 2. I don't expect toddlers to sit still, but this kid just takes off running. And then runs back. And then stands in front of me. And then pushes the feltboard. And then snatches egg shakers from other kids. And then lies down in the middle of the circle...and if the grandmother attempts to corral him, he screams and twists and does the floppy body thing. I try to redirect him, but he's pretty relentless. He may have a developmental issue, but I don't know. This one time I was reading out loud, and he did something, I didn't see. All of the sudden he grandmother picked him up and whacked him! I was so startled I lost my place and I wanted to say something, but what? So I just moved on.
posted by Biblio at 10:50 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Arbitrary and capricious, you say?

I'm just surprised The Wheel hasn't been mentioned yet.
posted by supercres at 10:51 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Recently my mom babysat my thirteen-month-old and I watched her demand that the baby put down the remote control not because my mother wanted to use it but because "I NEED TO SEE IF SHE UNDERSTANDS WHAT I MEAN BY NO." The baby is usually allowed to play with it. She seemed really confused and anxious about the whole interaction, and she is not generally an anxious baby at all. It was weird, like watching my childhood in a microcosm.

This. False discipline, capricious, inconsistent, moved by emotions of the moment or personal demons rather than any set or rules or principles is easily as bad as no discipline at all and probably more kinds of damaging.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:51 AM on March 6, 2015 [23 favorites]


We had corporal punishment ("swats" with a wooden paddle) in middle school, and I can assure you its deterrent effect was completely nil.

The worst year in all my schooling was 5th grade (1980), when we had a (white) teacher who couldn't teach and couldn't control the (mostly minority) classroom at all. One day he sat down with all of us and said in a loud, angry voice: "ok, now, how can we do better? We need to be quieter in the classroom. I can't teach you when you're all like this. What should I do? Should I hit you? I can't do that, it's against the law. So, let's brainstorm together and try to come up with something." Yeah, right, that worked, not.
posted by Melismata at 10:52 AM on March 6, 2015


I find it amazing that we think we've learned more about parenting and how children "should" be raised over the past 20 years than in the previous several thousand.
posted by kgasmart at 10:57 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


What confuses me is that actions that are widely understood as criminal in virtually any other context - like striking someone because they are disrespectful towards you - are given a pass (by many people, not all) when they're applied to the most vulnerable, most inexperienced, and least knowledgeable class of humans. I can't even really debate it; I just start to see red. I was spanked and occasionally hit as a kid. Not super frequently, and not nearly as severely as people that I've met or whose accounts I've read, but it happened and it drove permanent wedges into my relationship with my father. He was raised by his uncles, and they hit him on a far more regular and vigorous basis, and he had similarly strained relationships with most of them that never got better before their deaths. It seems like such an obvious cycle of abuse, but there are so many people who are ready to vigorously defend it. I dunno. For me, it's partially a science thing, but mostly a visceral emotional thing.
posted by protocoach at 10:57 AM on March 6, 2015 [24 favorites]


My husband and I have raised two happy, emotionally healthy, and (so far) successful kids (currently 18 and almost 15), without corporal punishment. That doesn't make me an expert, necessarily, but one kid was and probably always will be incredibly difficult and challenging, so I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what works: consistency. The rules, once set down, didn't change (except for things like curfew and responsibilities, which necessarily change as one gets older), and there were understandable and predictable consequences to breaking them. To take the story time example from above, we would have left after one warning. No ifs, ands, or buts. And then the next time, we would talk about behavior expectations and there would be no warnings before leaving. Were we the object of many an uncomfortable stare? Sure. But me being embarrassed for a few minutes at having to gather up stuff and drag a screaming kid out of the library pales in comparison to the fact that we only ever had to do it maybe twice, per kid.

It wasn't always easy and you absolutely have to take the long view into account. But you absolutely can raise respectful and loving children without resorting to spanking.
posted by cooker girl at 10:58 AM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's nice to see that bullshit quote attributed to someone other than Plato.

Weirdly, that "Hesiod" line is actually a completely different fabricated quotation from the "Plato" line: the latter begins with the words "our youth" or "the children now love luxury." Apparently online folklore so much demands spurious ancient wisdom about the evils of youth that multiple "sources" have arisen to satisfy the need.
posted by RogerB at 11:01 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I find it amazing that we think we've learned more about parenting and how children "should" be raised over the past 20 years than in the previous several thousand.

Depends which culture you identify with as "we". That's probably true of much of the British and Western European cultures, but there are many long and radically different traditions in various parts of Asia, Africa, Australasia and among the indigenous people of the Americas.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:03 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd have much rather just had a crack in the mouth or belt across the ass, than all the stern "talking-to's" I received as a kid. I don't think they did much as a deterrent, or to impart discipline or accountability. Mostly the talking was just boring. That being said, I don't think I have it in me to hit my (theoretical) kid... though physical removal from a problem area (like the library tantrum kid; or from tv to bed) does seem like a valid, non-cruel tactic.

And here's some food for thought: teen brains shut down at hearing mom's voice. Can you talk to a kid whose brain turns off when you open your mouth?
posted by mrbigmuscles at 11:04 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


The worst year in all my schooling was 5th grade (1980), when we had a (white) teacher who couldn't teach and couldn't control the (mostly minority) classroom at all.

Why couldn't he control the mostly minority classroom?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:10 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I find it amazing that we think we've learned more about parenting and how children "should" be raised genetics over the past 20 years than in the previous several thousand.


Science marches on, less than a century after we discovered power flight humans put a man on the moon. Not sure why the Wisdom of the Ages would suddenly prove most powerful here.
posted by Carillon at 11:13 AM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


Well, you know that stereotype of a newbie teacher who was trained in the lily suburbs and then thrown into an inner city classroom and completely bewildered and unsure what to do? Stereotypes don't come from nowhere. (I think he left after that year.)
posted by Melismata at 11:13 AM on March 6, 2015


I find it amazing that we think we've learned more about parenting and how children "should" be raised over the past 20 years than in the previous several thousand.

I find it amazing that we think we've learned more about brains and how injuries "should" be handled over the past 20 years than in the previous several thousand. Let them play through concussions!

I find it amazing that we think we've learned more about communicating and how messages "should" be sent over the past 20 years than in the previous several thousand. Semaphore was good enough my ancestors, who needs an iPhone!

I find it amazing that we think we've learned more about medicine and how people "should" be medically treated over the past 20 years than in the previous several thousand. Bring back bonesaws!
posted by protocoach at 11:14 AM on March 6, 2015 [29 favorites]


My parents beat the crap out of me if I misbehaved (Melismata, I was born in the 70's but don't know if I was an outlier or the norm) using their hands, shoes, wooden spoons, a riding crop... pretty much anything that was available. I also remember my mom's near-constant complaints that the kids who lived next door, whose parents didn't believe in spanking or hitting them, were wild, willful and disrespectful.

We don't hit or spank our kids, ever. Our voices are enough. Like PhoBWanKenobi,I've noticed that my mom's behavior as a grandparent is not only very different than mine, but also, my kids are unhappy and a bit fearful when she tries to discipline them. I'm determined as well to raise my kids in an environment that's healthier for them and less anxious. Because growing up that way sucked, and definitely affected the way I handle authority and new situations/experiences.
posted by zarq at 11:16 AM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


I find it amazing that we think we've learned more about medicine and how people "should" be medically treated over the past 20 years than in the previous several thousand. Bring back bonesaws!

Parenting ain't brain surgery.
posted by kgasmart at 11:17 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can you talk to a kid whose brain turns off when you open your mouth?

If you're waiting until they're teenagers to talk to them, it's probably a little late.

I find the article's focus on talking puzzling. We're not talking to them for the sake of talking; we're doing it because we're modeling behavior we want to see. Use your words and communicate. Make healthy decisions. Be kind to others. Your teenager may not be listening, but he or she is watching.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:18 AM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


My dad hit all four of us. Most of us don't hit our kids, those who do don't hit the way he did, with a belt.

Right now what works on my kid? "I will take away your laptop." He loves it more than life. Hitting him wouldn't have nearly the same effect.

I mean, I try everything else first. We talk, a lot, more than he wants to, about Why What You Just Did Was Not Ok. (he really really hates those talks). And if they don't stop the behavior, then the laptop comes into play. But that's pretty rare, because he's not three anymore.

Here's the thing, too: my kid is tall. He's going to be as tall or taller than me before he's 12. He's also built like a tank. Physical violence does not need to exist between us, if only because, someday soon I would lose that fight.
posted by emjaybee at 11:23 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


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posted by cortex (staff) at 11:26 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love how strong-willed and independent my eldest daughter is and I love to see her rail against the injustice of bed time or having to attend classes she thinks are boring, but there are times when kids really do need to behave and "no" isn't an acceptable response. My kids really can't be allowed to run down the halls when we visit a great-grandparent at the nursing home, they really do have to wear seatbelts, kicking the seat in front of them on the airplane isn't okay, you can't just reach out and try to pet a strange dog without permission from its owner, etc. (See any MetaFilter thread in which adults without kids complain about kids being in public spaces for more examples.) They also really do have to do their homework and brush their teeth.

I'm opposed to hitting kids, expressing extreme anger, or acting unpredictable, but I am in favor of some firmness. I worry, based on what I see in public, that too many parents who are unwilling or unable to do anything in response to bad behavior. Some other kid will hit my kid on the playground and that kid's parent (who happens to be hovering right there because their kid can't be trusted to climb up to the slide without a spotter, don't ask why I'm also there but let's assume I had a better reason) either doesn't respond or offers a mild, whiny half-reproach like, "Johnny, you know that isn't nice." I'm not saying Johnny is a bad kid. Hitting my kid may be perfectly normal developmentally, but I do believe the parent should respond to the hit with some attempt to help the kid learn to behave acceptably.
posted by Area Man at 11:29 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


What confuses me is that actions that are widely understood as criminal in virtually any other context - like striking someone because they are disrespectful towards you - are given a pass (by many people, not all) when they're applied to the most vulnerable, most inexperienced, and least knowledgeable class of humans.

Sure. But by the same token, if you forcibly took an unwilling adult back to your home and restrained them in some particular part of it -- that is, imposed time out -- merely because they had disrespected you or disobeyed an order they were not legally required to follow, you would also be guilty of serious crimes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:30 AM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


There is no link to any kind of science anywhere in this thread (except my comment, natch), so maybe the Science! snarky folks could actually link to some?

Yes there is. See the Brookings link in the post.

Also: "Evaluating the success of sweden’s corporal punishment ban"
Method: In 1979, Sweden became the first nation to explicitly prohibit all forms of corporal punishment of children by all caretakers in an effort to: (1) alter public attitudes toward this practice; (2) increase early identification of children at risk for abuse; and (3) promote earlier and more supportive intervention to families. The aim of this study was to examine trends over recent decades in these areas to assess the degree to which these goals have been met.
Results: Public support for corporal punishment has declined, identification of children at risk has increased, child abuse mortality is rare, prosecution rates have remained steady, and social service intervention has become increasingly supportive and preventive.
Conclusions: The Swedish ban has been highly successful in accomplishing its goals.

--

Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders: Results From a Nationally Representative US Sample
Conclusions: Harsh physical punishment in the absence of child maltreatment is associated with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse/dependence, and personality disorders in a general population sample.

Related Time Magazine article.

--

Psychology Today:
Researchers have looked at effects on three undesirable behaviors in children who are spanked: non-compliance in the short term, non-compliance in the long term, and aggression. This area is hard to study in the home because spanking rarely occurs at all nor in front of strangers. It is hard to study in the laboratory because of the prohibition against hurting subjects.

Nevertheless, some studies have been done. In one set of analyses with young children in the laboratory, time outs worked just as well as spanking for (immediate) subsequent compliance on 30 tasks assigned by the mother. Long-term compliance is decreased after spanking (Gershoff, 2002; Gershoff & Grogan-Kaylor, 2013).

In terms of whether parental aggression (spanking) decreases aggression in the child, the answer is no. In fact, spanking tends to increase child aggression. “Spanking predicted increases in children’s aggression over and above initial levels [of aggressive behavior]” and “in none of these longitudinal studies did spanking predict reductions in children’s aggression over time” (p. 134). Instead, spanking predicted increases in children’s aggression.

Why is spanking ineffective for changing behavior in the longterm?

Approaching this from a behaviorist perspective, conditioning by punishment (pain) requires that the consequence always occur immediately after every instance. When you touch a hot stove with a bare hand, you get burned, period. This does not occur with the behaviors parents spank for—parents are often not around to see them or are not willing or able to spank immediately afterwards.

Why is spanking ineffective for increasing desirable behavior?

Spanking does not convey positive guidance on how to behave in a particular situation, only how not to behave if a threat of punishment is at hand. Children learn positive behaviors from practicing actions that work, ones that lead to a sense of belonging and competence. They internalize what they practice and what their family practices. They learn reasons for their actions from what they hear and are told, but active practice has the deepest impact.

Why else is spanking harmful?

It undermines trust. Children trust their parents just a little less. They are more likely to step back from the relationship and build a self-protective shield around themselves in terms of relationships generally. Children can learn to mistrust the motives of others and become more threat reactive in social situations. It can lead to aggressive expectations—they are ready to aggress first before they are aggressed against.

Spanking is harmful for even more reasons, the review indicates:

Spanking destroys mental health.
Spanking increases delinquency and criminal behavior.
Spanking makes it more likely the child will be physically abused.
--

Also from Psychology Today: "This is What Happens When You Hit Your Kids": "A large meta-analysis (link is external [it's also a pdf]) of studies on the effects of punishment found that the more physical punishment children receive, the more defiant they are toward parents and authorities, the poorer their relationships with parents, the more likely they are to report hitting a dating partner or spouse. They are also more likely to suffer mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse problems, and less likely to empathize with others or internalize norms of moral behavior."
posted by zarq at 11:31 AM on March 6, 2015 [39 favorites]


And here's some food for thought: teen brains shut down at hearing mom's voice. Can you talk to a kid whose brain turns off when you open your mouth?

From the article:
listened to their Moms’ nagging, as compared with when they listened to their Moms talking about irrelevant boring stuff like grocery shopping
[the researchers] play fast and loose with a logical error known as “reverse inference” – that is, they make assumptions about the meaning of the neural activity patterns they observed based on past research
The study also lacked clear instructions for the teen participants. We don’t really know how much attention they paid to the different audio clips. Brain imaging studies need to be carefully controlled and the fewer specific instructions you give your participants (in this study there were virtually none), the less controlled the experiment will be.
Maybe, with caveats, you can walk away that teens have a difficult time dealing with criticism. But I don't think that you need an MRI and a carefully controlled study to figure out that people whose brains aren't fully developed don't always deal well with criticism.

As for science: Parent's Use of Physical Punishment Increases Violent Behavior Among Youth. This article quotes something like seven separate studies that all found links between corporal punishment and negative outcomes . Hitting your kids increases the risks of mental illness. A study in Tanzania found links between physical punishment and aggression and hyperactivity. Spanking may have detrimental effects on brain development.

Also, just because research is fun, how's Sweden doing, with its absolute ban on corporal punishment that's been in place since the 1970s? Wellll....
Professor Joan Durrant of the University of Manitoba has conducted a thorough and methodologically sound study of available statistics in Sweden relating to child abuse, parental prosecutions, social work intervention, and antisocial or self destructive behaviour by Swedish youth.29 30 Her findings show the claims of the pro-smackers to be unfounded. Prosecutions for assault and child deaths have declined, though not significantly, since the smacking ban, with five children dying as a result of physical abuse in the period 1971 to 1975 in contrast to only four children dying in the first 17 years after the ban. On the other hand, in the UK, examination of criminal statistics over the years has consistently shown that more than one child dies a week as the result of abuse.31 An alleged “fourfold” increase in child abuse turns out to relate to reported abuse, and reflects a worldwide increase in awareness of child abuse. Sweden, which has a mandatory reporting law, is no exception to this trend. The decline in prosecutions for serious assaults on children shows a particularly notable decrease in prosecutions of parents in their 20s who were themselves reared under the no smacking ban.

[...]

In relation to the behaviour of Swedish youth, in contrast to the experience of most other industrialised countries, Durrant's figures show that since the anti-smacking ban, rates of theft, drug, or alcohol use, and suicide for teenagers and young adults have declined in Sweden, as have most offences. The one exception, a rise in reported youth on youth assaults, is thought to be the result of an increasing cultural rejection of violence with a concomitant increase in enforcement. Other work has shown no evidence of an increase in actual assaults.
posted by protocoach at 11:32 AM on March 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


Jinx, protocoach. :)
posted by zarq at 11:33 AM on March 6, 2015


Gah, you take two seconds to double-check a quote and somebody hiveminds you. :)
posted by protocoach at 11:34 AM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Our group of friends have recently started having babies, the oldest being just over two and the rest falling in within a few months of her. That means we frequently have multiple toddler girls and a slightly smaller baby in a social gathering full of adults who are just figuring out this kid thing. None of our friends use corporal punishment, and all the kids seem to be pretty well behaved for their age range.

However, at a recent gathering oldest girl and middle girl were chasing the cat through the house. Oldest girl's mother said, "OG, don't run in the house." And then went back to her conversation. OG kept running and chasing the cat. Middle girl's mother stopped her, picked her up and said, "Running time is over." Gave her a hug and put her back down. MG watched OG run some more and looked at her mom. Mom said "Nope." with a smile and MG shrugged and went to find a toy. All the while OG is running around like a maniac until she slipped and fell. Much drama.

Afterwards, the moms and I were talking and all of us admitted we would have been spanked for that behavior when we were two. And none of us could imagine hitting those girls, and yet, the mom of the oldest girl was clearly exasperated that her method wasn't working as planned.

There really needs to be a better roadmap for parents other than "Don't Hit" and "Don't raise an Asshole."
posted by teleri025 at 11:43 AM on March 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


False discipline, capricious, inconsistent, moved by emotions of the moment or personal demons rather than any set or rules or principles is easily as bad as no discipline at all and probably more kinds of damaging.

Absolutely. I am not a fan of corporal punishment, but I don't necessarily think the sort of grim, structured spanking given by parents who were taught this was how you discipline children is necessarily horrendously damaging. But spanking or hitting because *you* are angry, because *you* are out of control? Hideously damaging. There's a comment on the Jezebel article where someone is talking about hitting or shaking their child because they are so angry and exasperated, and defends themselves later because they're 'not shaking the child very hard', they are merely giving 'tit for tat'... now that person is a menace.
posted by tavella at 11:43 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is a lot of ground between hitting children and one feeble "don't run in the house". Separate the kids and the cat. Give the kid a timeout. Let the kids go out in the yard so they can run around and use up their energy. Give the kid a game to play or a show to watch.

Toddlers are bundles of energy constantly looking for new interactions with the world. You have to provide them with those interactions, not expect them to not bother you. They don't have to involve just you -- it may be a toy. It may be a tv show. It may be a video game. It may simply be running around a yard or spinning in place, feeling the new sensations.
posted by tavella at 11:52 AM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


[A SHITLOAD OF SCIENCE]
posted by zarq, and protocoach


I stand corrected, but still would've preferred if one of you had just hit me
posted by mrbigmuscles at 11:52 AM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: I'm working on my "Dad's Serious voice" with my 11 month old now. She usually giggles at it. I'm fuxx0r3d.

Early on, redirection is your best friend. Saying "No" or "Stop that" is like trying to stand in river and make the water stop. Instead, cut a new, deeper path for the river to follow, and you'll stay dry. Child is chewing on something they shouldn't? Offer them something better and more interesting.

Then there's reverse psychology, as in "you better not eat my broccoli, which I just happened to leave on your plate. What, you're eating my broccoli? Well, you better not eat a second broccoli tree! WHAT? A second tree? You are eating all my pretty trees!"

For other events, there are competitions and challenges, such as racing to be the first one to get in the child's bed time at nap time, or being the first one on the potty. "Darn, you beat me again! I can never win! You're too fast." And the classic "I bet you I can be quiet longer than you. Ready? 1, 2, 3 Go!" and then you get a few moments of silence.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:52 AM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


and yet, the mom of the oldest girl was clearly exasperated that her method wasn't working as planned.

What method? Telling your kid once not to do something and then ignoring them while they continue to do it is not a method.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


I just also wanted to chime in that there is actually a lot of science on how to most effectively parent your child. The answer is that positive reinforcement of behavior is much more effective than punishment of bad behavior.

A lot of this research has been done by Alan Kazdin of the Yale Parenting Center who has written multiple books. We have used the Kazdin Method with our kids whenever an issue flares up, and it works. It is also much more effective than getting mad, yelling, punishments, etc. Positive reinforcement is absolutely the best method.
posted by bove at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


False discipline, capricious, inconsistent, moved by emotions of the moment or personal demons rather than any set or rules or principles is easily as bad as no discipline at all and probably more kinds of damaging.

In my small sample size of 5, that kind of anger tends to lead to two outcomes:

1) Compliant kids fear the parents, hide from them, lie to them, have a hard time establishing trust and feeling safe in life and relationships

2) Defiant kids keep pushing buttons and the violence escalates, and in turn have a hard time feeling safe unless they are in control

Neither are particularly good.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


I stand corrected, but still would've preferred if one of you had just hit me

Dude, there's no way I'm hitting someone named "mrbigmuscles.'

:D
posted by zarq at 11:57 AM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


This article is weird because you don't have to spank to punish or to be firm. And indeed, I do see a lot of kids whose parents act as though their kid crying is the worst possible outcome. That level of permissiveness is bad, but has no relationship to spanking. And frankly, my kid has gotten hit and pushed by older kids and their parents let it happen and it does suck. But the other side of the coin isn't beating them. So why the false dichotomy?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:57 AM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Well jeez, snickerdoodle, you just described my sister and me. My parents has a formal system where we got warnings, and then got one swat on the bottom. I wasn't traumatized by that method at all. No hard feelings about that.

However, my mom was extremely emotionally unstable growing up and her hot/cold parenting style, her frequent screaming, sobbing meltdowns followed by her locking herself in the bathroom for hours, her control issues over other kids playing with us in the yard and house, and the times she totally lost control and clouted me in a fit of rage - man, all of that left serious emotional damage. I have severe trust issues because I don't believe people will act consistently, and I still get very freaked out by anyone that raises their voice.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:00 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


thelonius: It's nice to see that bullshit quote attributed to someone other than Plato. I've never seen a real citation for it, but it gets trotted out every time we tell someone to get off our lawns.

Damn, I should have sourced that one. Wikiquotes includes it under Hesiod's quotes as a misquotation without possible real origin known.

Instead, I'll attribute it to Nikola Tesla, because all his quotes are long and wordy, and he could do with some cutesy misquotations. Or maybe Khakheperresenb, because the Egyptian scribe only has one quote at the moment.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:01 PM on March 6, 2015


The problem with positive reinforcement is that, at least in my experience, 95% of parents do not really understand behaviorism.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:01 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


But by the same token, if you forcibly took an unwilling adult back to your home and restrained them in some particular part of it -- that is, imposed time out -- merely because they had disrespected you or disobeyed an order they were not legally required to follow, you would also be guilty of serious crimes.


So, maybe that's also a good model to follow for punishing children-- maybe "time out" isn't the best solution to a lot of parenting problems.
posted by damayanti at 12:11 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


At some point my folks discovered something called 1-2-3 Magic, which consisted of a series of escalating warnings- you'd get 1, then 2, then if you got 3 you got a five minute time out. The problem arose when 1 was given out fairly freely, and generally to both of us regardless of what we'd done if one of us went to the folks about something the other was up to, so the system a) encouraged not going to our parents, leading to Shit escalating between us pay where it should have, and eventually b) 1 being seen as trivial and meaningless, which is generally not something you want for a step in a disciplinary model.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:14 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Squeak Attack, let's form a support group! I am just now (at age 40) becoming confident at standing up to people. The unpredictability of my mother's punishments was far, far worse than their severity. Once she flew into a rage (on my 16th birthday!) because I'd left hair in the bathtub. So I got used to walking on eggshells and I've carried that tendency into many, many situations where it wasn't useful or necessary. I am not defending spanking as a practice, but I would much rather have been spanked in a consistent manner than forced to take cold showers for god-knows-what reason.
posted by desjardins at 12:34 PM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


My mother basically handled discipline in my house growing up (1970s/early 80s) and was almost invariably prone to random bouts of pretty extreme violence (throwing still-canned food, hitting us to the point of it breaking with cooking implements, etc). My father backed her up and when my brother and I got older, was the one who dispensed discipline basically as she decided. Frequently punishments were for imagined slights or for arbitrarily decided-upon rules.

I'm still resentful of some stuff that went on and I've never had a normal relationship with my parents.

I have 3 kids. I have only hit them if they hit each other or another person (and even then not every time - only if it was malicious or due to a lack of control). The usual punishments for my kids have been being removed from a situation (aka time out - only the spot is really boring) or being told off.

I think people underestimate the power of telling a kid 'imagine how you would feel if...' or 'i feel that you did the wrong thing because...'
posted by Fuka at 12:45 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Toddlers are bundles of energy constantly looking for new interactions with the world. You have to provide them with those interactions, not expect them to not bother you. They don't have to involve just you -- it may be a toy. It may be a tv show. It may be a video game. It may simply be running around a yard or spinning in place, feeling the new sensations.

Yeah, this. I think about our library storytime example kid, and the kids I see at our own local library storytime, and it's clear that some of those kids don't have the capacity to sit still yet, or maybe would have a greater capacity for it if their moms brought them to the park or took them for a walk first. I mean, I get why it happens. Parents and other carers are often desperate for that time out of the house, with other people in the same situation, and storytime is educational, to boot. But if your kid is melting down at storytime week after week maybe they're just not there yet, or don't want to be there. I think of the example of running in the halls at a nursing home, too. How often to we expect kids to do things that are just really, really boring and involve a lot of idle sitting still. And we do this while not making these spaces any more friendly to kids, at all. So much of American society still expects kids to be seen and not heard if they're present at all. It sets parents and adults up for conflict.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:00 PM on March 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


I sometimes used to wish my parents would hit me when I was a kid. But they didn't (except for maybe once). Nor did they ground me, or send me to my room, or take away my things. Instead, they pretty much sent me to therapy whenever I got in trouble. A strategy which (surprise!) led to lots and lots of therapy and a lot of:
"Why did you feel like you needed to yell at your little sister?"
"Because she bit me."
"Yes, but why did that make you yell at her?"
"Uh, because it hurt."
"What is it about the hurt that upsets you?"
(etc, etc, etc)
posted by thivaia at 1:15 PM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


In addition to storytime at the library, we used to take ours 2-3x a week to a gym for kids their age, so they could run around and burn off steam. During the winter months, that hour or so of exercise was very helpful for calming them down during quieter activities. As PhoB said, when the entire environment is designed to be kid friendly and the people around you are also inclined to be accommodating, it makes life a lot easier.

We tried to pay close attention to our kids' moods, though. At the library if one of them wasn't behaving, we might just leave so they wouldn't disrupt the other kids. There are times when it's just best to remove your kid from a situation they're not benefiting from. Assuming it's possible to do so.
posted by zarq at 1:17 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Which is why I think phones and tablets are a godsend. I know it's not the fashion -- all the hip parents like to brag about how they are raising their children electronic-free. And certainly it shouldn't be the only thing they do. But my honorary niece gets plenty of running around and playing with other kids at daycare, and she gets plenty of focused playtime with mom and dad (and me), building with legos or making pretend food or being turned upside and spun (it really is neat to see her get to the 'altered states are fuuuuuuuun' development stage!)

But sometimes we are out at dinner, and it's not a casual place where she can dance in the aisles, and she's not in a mood to color with us (did you always want to color when you were a kid? No.) She's supposed to just sit fairly quietly and wait for food, even though she didn't have any choice about where she was going or what she was going to do. A phone or tablet means she suddenly has a lot of choice about what she wants to do to entertain herself; watch one of her shows, or play a game, or be read to.
posted by tavella at 1:32 PM on March 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


thivaia, we can have a support group too!
posted by Melismata at 1:39 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll attribute it to Nikola Tesla,

Might I suggest Cato? He's ancient and wordy and so conservative that any reactionary nonsense sounds reasonable. For extra squid-inkery, there were younger and older ones, so if someone calls you on it, you can always say "Oh! I meant the younger, of course!"
posted by bonehead at 2:35 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


even though she didn't have any choice about where she was going or what she was going to do

God forbid a kid do something she didn't want to do. Hasn't the UN banned that yet?
posted by jpe at 3:33 PM on March 6, 2015


Sure, but think about how often kids have no choice in where they go or what they eat or how they spend their time compared with adults. You might say, well, I have to go to work, or whatever, but you can quit your job. You can cancel and reschedule a doctor's appointment. You can eat ice cream for dinner. Kids can't. They often can't even go for a walk by themselves anymore.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:36 PM on March 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'll have to add another rock to the pile and say my folks spanked me as well. And my wife was spanked, too, but the weird thing is both of us can't imagine spanking our kids. I don't harbor any resentment towards my parents for spanking me but putting that in context of me being a parent now is just bizarre.

What can parents do to discipline their kids? Set rules, mete out punishment that does not include any physical abuse (timeouts are particularly good for younger kids), and be consistent. That last part is the hardest part for me, being consistent. Because sometimes your kid breaks a rule and owing to the particular circumstances, time of day, context in which it happens...you don't care. You let it slide. Fast forward a bit in the future. Your kid breaks the same rule, but the context and circumstances are totally different and you flip out and get angry and punish the kid for breaking a rule. A rule you let him break just a week before. That's the hardest part of parenting for me--being a source of consistency.

Anyway, corporal punishment may work, it may not cause long-term damage to the kid (as many of us here would attest), but it does instill the wrong moral. And that is violence is an ok--even preferred!--method to get what you want. And that's not a lesson we should be teaching anyone.
posted by zardoz at 4:10 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The trouble with having a societal norm of "It is okay to hit your children" is that some people, by circumstance of mood, temperament, or situation, will use that "OK!" stamp to fucking brutalize their children. For every N set of parents who use spanking in moderation, there are M who are mean motherfuckers who will leave scars that never heal (sometimes physical, but more often emotional / mental).

I have memory of only one particular time I was spanked as a child, and I was fucking *terrified*. It wasn't a momentary slap as the offense occurred, it was a You Are Going To Get A Spanking session where I was forcibly held down on the bed and spanked by my step-father. The anticipation and seriousness of everyone involved made me feel like I was going to the gallows. I was five.

It seems every thread about child abuse we have, I have noticed usually at least two people mentioning that their parent broke a wooden spoon on them because they were hitting them so hard.

Such a damn shame.

I don't, and have never, hit my child. Nobody deserves that.

When this topic comes up at work, I just keep my yap shut as my coworkers gleefully regale us all with tales of how they beat their children, and it was good for them, and they were hit as children, and they turned out okay, and oh how horrible it is that people nowadays look down on those who beat their children, oh well they won't stop ME haha, and there is general chuckling all around. And oh kids these days are so coddled, and that's why the world is going to hell, and also when they forced children to pray in school, the world was a better place, and on and on.

I just try to change the topic to snake stories. It seems everyone I work with has a snake story.
posted by megafauna at 7:20 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


My matriarchal family made corporal punishment the centerpiece of discipline.

Then one day, they realized I had outgrown it, when I though I was being unfairly punished, and I caught the belt in mid-air. And because all they knew was hitting, and they knew I could hit back, they had nothing left with which to discipline me.

Then I proceeded to spend the next several years being a terrible little shit.

(As opposed to now, when I'm a terrible big shit.)
posted by parliboy at 7:56 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Since when are we in a post-spanking era? There's still a very non-trivial population of the percentage who views spanking as a Biblical imperative, "spare the rod and spoil the child" and all that. I have classmates from high school who post Facebook memes about how they were spanked and how they're proud of it.
posted by jonp72 at 8:10 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


My sister, brother, and I were raised with zero corporal punishment. We went to Williams, Stanford, and Dartmouth, mostly on scholarship, and none of us has meaningful self-esteem issues or experience with violent acting out or conflict.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:26 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I used to trot out a lot of the same arguments against corporal punishment that we've heard before, but then I saw a BBC4 documentary on the topic. According to just about everyone interviewed, it turns out that the ban hinged largely on an argument like this one: Spanking Is Great for Sex -- Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.

The use of spanking-fetishist photo magazines as evidence apparently was the deciding move, in Britain. People are willing to abuse children up and until you insinuate that they're pædophiles.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:40 AM on March 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


The debate will continue to evolve for a decade or two yet; like almost every social issue, it's obviously not something that'll change radically overnight. Commenters have covered pretty much any argument I could bring to the table (and the links were terrific), but I can add another rock to the pile, as zardoz put it.

It wasn't uncommon for me to be taken to hospital after a beating in my childhood; my mother did her best to make sure she didn't draw blood (mostly used her hands anyway), but my dad was a lot more creative- hairbrushes, sticks, even a leftover aluminium crutch that sat in the corner of the living room. Electrical cables were the worst- the prongs on the plugs don't look sharp, but trust me, enough force and they can do some real damage.

What's relevant to this debate in particular, is that in each case, the doctors, nurses and social workers who assessed me never took formal action; either there wasn't enough of a paper trail (we moved a lot), or they thought my parents were arguably within their rights.

You can't credibly argue that parents have no right to authority of any sort over their children. But when you're given carte blanche to use force against them (and the line between discipline and abuse is vague at best), it makes it difficult to decide what's reasonable and what's not. Not a slippery-slope argument that applies to all nations and circumstances, just an observation from my own (limited) experience.

I still get triggered when I see a child being struck in public; takes a lot of will not to give the parent what they're dishing out. I've not necessarily got any more insight into the problem than someone who wasn't beaten, but I agree with previous posters that banning corporal punishment has more pros than cons.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 2:00 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sure, but think about how often kids have no choice in where they go or what they eat or how they spend their time compared with adults. You might say, well, I have to go to work, or whatever, but you can quit your job. You can cancel and reschedule a doctor's appointment. You can eat ice cream for dinner. Kids can't. They often can't even go for a walk by themselves anymore.

I can't remember who it was (Louis C.K. maybe?) and I can't find it, but someone, I think a comic, has a bit on this. The premise, and it's a line that has stuck with me, is that the best part about being an adult is that you have the ability to leave. And conversely, the worst part of being a child is your inability to leave. There might be significant consequences for leaving, and we all know how adults wind up trapped in awful situations they are unable to walk away from, but at the end of the day, if someone is being an asshole to you, you can get up and leave. That's a really powerful ability, and it's something kids largely don't have.
posted by zachlipton at 2:41 AM on March 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


your not supposed to spank them but what if the ticking time bomb — waterboard?
posted by klangklangston at 9:39 PM on March 8, 2015


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