To Paddle or Not?

disciplineIt’s disconcerting to be 63 and still find so much of human behavior unintelligible. Yet I do.

It’s disconcerting to be 63 and find myself pondering a subject that doesn’t apply to me personally at all. I really have better things to do.

It’s disconcerting to be 63 and find so many people so woefully out of touch with reality with no desire to enter into it.

Yet, here I find myself.

And as I ponder the realities of life, I guess I end up thinking I’m among the more fortunate of the human race to date, for I think at least that I possess the skills and tools necessary to see the world as it is rather than how I want it to be.

That means, for me at least, that I can work toward improving that world. If your worldview is faulty, then of course, you have no hope of effecting a change since you misjudge from the start.

I have learned that I will never reach China by digging away in the backyard with my sandbox shovel. Too many of those I know have not learned that yet it seems.

It all started here:

spankingThis was posted by a guy I went to high school with.

It is, as you note, one of those Facebook memes that travels from person to person. There is supposed to be some point. And there is supposed to be something one assumes that this addresses.

It seems to address that “fact” that the poster doesn’t think that the world is a very good place anymore, though it once was.

It seems that we aren’t spanking any more, but we should. It seems to address the criticisms of spanking, with “evidence” that contradicts those criticisms.

Of course it does none of the above.

Before I get into that, let me say that I responded to my classmate with a generalized thought that I thought spanking wasn’t particularly helpful and that hitting kids didn’t teach good lessons and that what the world needs is more peace and perhaps the home was a good place to start.

I was met by a universal condemnation, mostly having to do with “spanking isn’t beating”. This was accompanied by more anecdotal testimonials that “spanking never hurt me.” It was met finally with a pointed jab of “how many children have you raised?” I cited a statement by professionals whose business it is to understand the psychology of child rearing. No response to that, just more claims that I was wrong.

Then this was posted:

spanking3That really threw me, for as anyone with an ounce of critical thinking skills would see, there is no attempt, nor can there be, to show that violence in the world is in any way directly linked to the physical discipline of children.

In fact, the implied premise is wildly wrong.

There was not “less violence when it was normal to give your kid an ass whooping.” Violence has pretty steadily decreased over time in the world.

To the degree that people physically discipline their children less today than they did say 30-40 years ago, is more a symptom of this, and perhaps of the studies that show that pain-causing discipline doesn’t help, and often harms children.

What we have here is a complete and utter failure to read and think critically.

Let’s examine some of the faulty thinking:

  1. I’m okay and I was spanked, so there is nothing wrong with it. True enough for a lot of people, however anecdotal testimonials are not evidence, they are what they are. Statistically they mean nothing and prove nothing. There are always exceptions to any rule, sometimes many, but the rule remains the rule. The considered opinion of child experts is that there are too many bad effects and virtually no good effects, so the practice remains ineffective period.
  2. There is more violence in today’s society than there was “when I was a kid”. This is fallacious as the statistics again prove out. It should be noted that the overall crime rate in this country has dropped significantly. However, the perception is that is has not.
  3. Children who were “spanked” or otherwise physically disciplined, grow up to be more law-abiding and more respectful human beings. Somehow today’s ills wouldn’t be as bad or wouldn’t exist at all if we were still physically disciplining our children at the perceived rate that we did in the fifties or sixties. Except that is demonstrably not true based on studies, crime statistics and the total lack of evidence to support this assumption.
  4. One must be a parent in order to know anything about proper disciplinary choices. This is simply too ludicrous to respond to, and bespeaks the most obvious type of knee-jerk, non-thinking response imaginable. There is no such requirement to becoming  an expert in child care or the psychology involving the child. Most families are dysfunctional to one degree or another. Obviously one doesn’t learn parenting skills simply by giving birth or donating sperm. This is non-critical thinking at its worst.

So how does one explain that some people want to think that spanking is the answer, and that more of it should be done? (As you might expect the requisite fundamentalist piped in with resort to the highly misunderstood, “spare the rod, spoil the child” response).

Can we conclude that such people are just poorly educated and grasping at the only thing they can think of to “right the world” they see as having gone awry? Perhaps. At least it accounts for the fact that in this example, there is a stunning and appalling lack of critical thinking attached. The FIRST question should be, why would causing pain to a child make them a better person? And then you actually start doing research. Obviously our high schools do a terrible job of teaching these skills and a large percentage of our population is thus prey to the simplistic answer.

Perhaps we can conclude that most people see their own upbringing over time as more rosy than it was. Given that the times are different today, they seem worse. There is probably much truth here. Teapartiers and others from the Right Wing do tend to long for a past that was not real, but seems so to them. This is well documented today with our penchant for rewriting history regarding our founding, i.e., being a Christian nation, and our “freedoms” being eroded, all without real documentation.

In fact, I suspect that those who “support” spanking as discipline are probably more conservative than those who don’t. This then becomes just another on a long list of items that have and are destroying the “American way of life.”

ADDENDUM: The next issue that has arisen is an urgent plea to spread around a letter documenting all the terrible things Jane Fonda did during the Vietnam war era. It claims that Barbara Walters has condemned her as a “traitor” and that President Obama is going to honor her as one of the 100 most Influential Women of the Century. Write immediately to stop this atrocity! This urban legend started before Obama was president. In fact Walters did honor Fonda for the above back in 1999. This legend resurrects every year or so, and seems to have popped up again since Fonda had the temerity to play Nancy Reagan in The Butler, something the RIght cannot stand. I suggest that the statement within the “letter” suggesting that Barbara Walters  had publicly called Fonda a traitor, would to the critical eye, suggest immediately that this was most unlikely and required further researcher. The same poster, again failed to see the obvious issue and do so.

I sometimes feel like I’m traveling through the woods stomping out small fires. Help our educational system!

spanking1

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13 thoughts on “To Paddle or Not?

  1. icely stated Sherry. I “whacked” my oldest once (not across the face) as a teen when she got angry at me and told me to “fuck off”. Never had to do it again and was always successful in withholding rewards and talking about consequences to get them to behave properly, for the most part. They knew the difference between right and wrong without me or their mom whooping them.

    To this day both our kids are courteous, call us frequently and openly tell us they love us. Not too shabby eh?

    • I seem to be hearing the same story everywhere from my liberal friends. They have great kids and didn’t have to spank them into submission. It seems that those on the right seem proud to have survived their childhoods intact, and think it a sign of courage if their kids can run the gauntlet of paddling too. I find it hard to understand. !END

  2. Having raised three terrific, successful kids who never received as much as a slap — and, in fact, were never actually punished at all — I know that there’s never a reason to visit violence on a child.

    A parent who spanks is admitting he/she is an incompetent parent — a coward and a dolt who, despite being older, (presumably) smarter, more educated and experienced — is unable to manage the behavior of a child without relying on violence.

    To hit a child is to commit not only assault, but also grotesque hypocrisy. It should not be permitted in law — not at home or school.

    People who are known to have hit their children should have their parenting monitored by professionals until the kids are old enough to leave home.

    • I by and large agree. I think one reacts sometimes without thinking to protect a child from immediate harm, but other than that, I can think of tons of more ways to help a child learn self-discipline than in causing pain. Thanks for your opinion and congrats on raising your kids! !END

      • One of the most disturbing things I know of is the fact that virtually every jurisdiction in North America has a law *specifically* exempting parents and caregivers from legal sanctions for hurting their children in the name of discipline. Meantime, even giving an adult an unwanted shove can get you charged with assault. The sad fact is that as a society, we believe that it’s not wrong to hurt children, as long as we give lip service to the vicious fallacy that it’s “for their own good.” The truth is that it never is.

  3. If you think 63 is disconcerting, wait till ya turn 66. Anyway, a “time out” always worked when my kids were young. The one time I spanked one of them it was a disaster. Incarceration works well for older children :)

  4. I did ‘smack the boy with a rolled up newspaper once….truly needed to get his attention at the time. otherwise I think ‘spanking’ is just a tool for extremely unimaginative parents.. Course….if spaning were really effecrtive…we wouldn’t need nucleare weapons and such….

      • Here’s something I wrote a few years ago. It speaks for itself. Use any or all of it as you like:

        SOME THOUGHTS ON THE DOOLEY VERDICT
        By Richard van Abbe

        If a city can be said to sigh, Toronto heaved a big one on Thursday. Finally, after three days of awful suspense, relief.

        The jurors marched in, sat down, and did what they were supposed to do, what we needed them to do. They found Tony and Marcia Dooley guilty of murder in the death of Tony’s seven-year-old son, Randal.

        And what a relief it was. During the jury’s three days of deliberations, it had become possible to imagine that the good citizens on the panel might, somehow, let the monstrous Dooleys off the hook. That would have been unthinkable.

        The nightmarish testimony at the trial showed that the Dooleys took turns inflicting on the slight, reputedly sweet-natured kid a torrent of assaults that left him in the space of one year malnourished, sickly, incontinent and, finally, on Sept. 25, 1998, dead.

        Besides the brain damage that was the immediate cause of death, the autopsy revealed other injuries, including 13 broken ribs and a lacerated liver. A tooth was found in Randal’s stomach. He weighed 40 pounds — probably because in the last weeks of his pitiless life he was unable to hold down food, a transgression for which, of course, he was punished.

        So the wretched Dooleys are bundled off to the prison cells they have so richly earned. They are out of our sight, justice has been served, and tonight Toronto sleeps soundly once again.

        But it’s the sleep of the self-satisfied. The slumber of the self-righteous.

        Because despite the judgment of the jury and the stern condemnation of the community, the Dooleys are not really so different from the rest of us.

        We are a people, after all, who believe that it is within a parent’s rights to inflict pain on a child whenever and wherever the parent deems it advisable, as long as the parent can say it is for the purpose of “correction.”

        We believe this so strongly that we have enshrined it into law, codified our determination to retain the right to hurt our children in something called Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

        The fact is that we believe it would have been all right if the Dooleys had just hurt Randal a little. The reason they’re going to prison is that their concept of little was different from ours.

        But make no mistake. The Dooleys thought that what they were doing to little Randal was disciplining him. When Tony Dooley whipped the boy so hard and long one day in the August before his death that the leather belt he used actually shredded, that Randal had to start school late that year to give the bruises and welts time to heal so they wouldn’t be noticed, he thought he was correcting him.

        As so many other parents do. As the law empowers them to do.

        Most parents don’t kill their kids. The Dooleys went too far.

        But like the Dooleys, our society believes that children do not deserve the same protections against assault, against the deliberate infliction of pain, that the rest of us take for granted.

        And that gives aid and comfort to those dolts who believe that threats and blows are essential elements of child-rearing.

        So, while Toronto sleeps the sleep of the justly avenged tonight we can be certain that there is a child somewhere nearby who inhabits the same nightmare world in which Randal Dooley lived before his body succumbed to the merciless discipline of his tormentors.

        And like the Dooleys, that child’s tormentors are also comforted by the knowledge that when they hurt that child, when they make him or her cry, they have the law on their side.

        I haven’t seen the cells in which the Dooleys will, I hope, spend the rest of their unnatural lives, but I do know this:

        Those cells aren’t nearly big enough to hold all those who bear responsibility for Randal’s death.

        Sleep well, little guy. It would be good to be able to tell you that you’re the last kid in Canada who will ever be disciplined to death, but now’s the time for tears, not lies.

        (c) 2002 Richard van Abbe
        All rights reserved

        • Thanks for sending this along. It is ludicrous when you think about it…if we are to teach “discipline” can you really envision anyone teaching “paddle this hard and not this hard?” It is insane and answers its own question. There is no reason to do this to effect a change in behavior and we should make it a crime to hit a child. period. !END

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