I read about this study today and started thinking a lot about spanking. (I would really love to take an hour here in this post to rip apart this article/study, by the way. But I won’t. Because I have other things to say on the matter and I want to get straight to them.)
We put way more thought into the spanking debate than most parents who conceive biologically, I can assure you. We had to. When you adopt, you have to welcome social workers in your home and be ready to answer in detail how you are going to parent, how you will discipline, and especially whether or not you will spank. Before you even do that, you have to write this crazy long autobiography about yourself, including how you were parented, whether or not you were spanked, etc.
I don’t think the spanking issue is one of major interest to foreign country adoption people. But it’s of Major interest to local social worker type people. They are most assuredly interested in your answer on this question. And although I think the “right” answer in the eyes of that profession is that you do NOT spank and would NEVER spank, I am guessing there’s some leeway if you’re in the South. Where all good God-believin’ folk would never spare the rod and spoil the child. No never.
Needless to say Husband and I talked about this a lot before we even got to the level to talk about it with the social worker. Like a lot of people, we were both spanked. And I don’t think it made either of us aggressive people at all. (I am pretty sure I would have been a vicious bitch even without the spanking. And Husband is a borderline pacifist. So there.) However, I also don’t think it was an affective form of discipline for either of us. I don’t remember caring too terribly much about getting a spanking. I do remember caring a whole hell of a lot when I thought my little brother was going to get one. In fact, I remember standing in between my dad and his belt and my brother, like some kind of Protector. Taking away “privileges” was a far more scary kind of discipline for me.
My husband’s “spankings” were more like drop-kicks. And didn’t do much in the way of forging the father-son bond. But also didn’t make him violent at all. (I am pretty sure he’s never hit another soul in his life. Although I’m now making a mental note to ask.)
Anyway, we talked about it and talked about it and talked about it. We both felt that the theory of Spanking = Abuse/Spanking = Future Murderers was way off. But we also thought spanking probably wouldn’t solve the issue at hand. In the end, we were smart enough of course to say that “No. We would never spank.” But privately we were leaving that door open.
The issue got decided for us, however. We adopted a child who had suffered from some “unkind treatment.” A child who could not be spanked under any circumstance. Neither of us really batted an eye when we realized early-on that we would be a non-spanking home. Because we hadn’t really been that attached to spanking to begin with.
Once I became a parent, there were several times I wanted to spank. The first times were thought-out, planned spanking desires. Middle kid had (HAS!) a hard time with not hurting his younger brother. And we tried everything under the sun when they were toddlers to try to stop this. NOTHING worked. I really, really wanted to spank. Because I wanted to know if it would work. It was the only thing we hadn’t tried. But even though we had bigger reasons for not spanking, I couldn’t bring myself to even think of spanking for that reason. I am a logical person. And I could not wrap my head around the idea of slapping a child’s butt because he slapped his brother and expect him to understand he shouldn’t do that. WTF? How could their little brains compute any message in that scenario other than, “You cannot hit someone until you are a grown-up.” Yeah. That’s stupid.
But there were other moments I thought about spanking. Smaller moments that were absolutely not so well-thought out. The toddler who won’t lay still when I’m trying to put the diaper on, the kid who kicks me in the face as I’m trying to brush his teeth, the 7-going-on-17-year-old who slams the door in my face. Spanking pops right into my mind. And I stop to check myself. Here’s what I find: I’m pissed. My heart is thumping. I can feel my arms shaking. I want to hit someone. Hey, I know. That kid who pissed me off.
Um. I’m not so sure that’s “spanking” as much as that’s slapping/hitting/beating up on/whatever. Even if it’s not life-threatening. Even if it’s a pop in the butt. If I’m doing it because I’m angry as hell, then I’m pretty sure it’s more of my own anger-management issues instead of “child rearing tactics.”
So, for me, spanking just doesn’t make sense. No, I don’t think it’s abuse. (Although it can be.) And yes, I’m quite sure that it might sometimes “work” if the goal is to stop kid from doing xyz. But while it may program his little brain to stop doing xyz, I think it’s also likely that it will put some other messages in there too. Messages like, “Logical consequences are phooey. Just wait until you’re in a position of power over someone and then you can do as you like.”
And maybe that’s okay – since, quite frankly, that’s reality. But I still don’t like it. And still can’t believe that most people aren’t simply spanking because they’re ticked off and want to hit somebody.
So I’m glad the issue got decided for me. Because I think otherwise my kids would have had a few sore bottoms in their days. And while that might make them a bit more “behaved”, I’m not sure it would make them better persons. And I’m quite sure it would leave me feeling pretty rotten.