Parental Privilege: Spanking or Not

I’ve read many posts on whether or not you should spank children. Not just in light of the Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings player), whose case unfolded last week, but in general. My opinion is simple….YOUR CHOICE. I can’t tell a parent how to raise their child or how discipline should be handled in their home. The reason is that I am not in your shoes and I know for a fact that you have to find what works for you and your child. Now, before you start thinking I’m an advocate for child abuse. Let me be clear….I’m not. I don’t condone violence of any kind and especially towards children.

There is a difference and in my opinion, a big difference between child abuse and spanking. Child abuse is defined as:  mistreatment of a child by a parent or guardian, including neglect, beating, and sexual molestation. Spanking is defined as: to strike (a person, usually a child) with the open hand, a slipper,etc., especially on the buttocks, as in punishment. Now that we are all clear on the definitions, I want to reiterate that I don’t condone child abuse or violence in any form. As a parent myself, I think it is imperative that we find forms of discipline that work to mold healthy and productive citizens. However, I hate the argument that because I believe in spanking that I am destroying my child and he will grow up to beat on others. That statement in itself is flawed because I don’t beat my son. I spank him if it is a spankable offense. 

What is a spankable offense? An egregious offense where he knows better or running in traffic. Not much would ever be considered spankable because he’s only six. However, I implore the 3 warning rule in my parenting. This is where I give munch 3 chances to correct the behavior on his own before consequences are handed down. This is not a spankable offense. This means it is timeout in his room with no television, an hour of French work, no Ipad, etc.

As a child growing up, my mom employed the same techniques. Altering the punishment to fit the crime and not spanking out of anger. Did I get whopped with a switch (absolutely! I’m from the south)? Do I do it? No. Do I believe her spanking me has damaged me? No. There were other things that were more harmful than her spanking. But, I never believed that she enjoyed spanking me or my siblings or assumed that her spanking was detrimental to my psychological or emotional health.

I grew up in an era of spank first and talk later. I can’t judge Adrian Peterson on the crime he’s accused of, but I can tell you that it breaks my heart to see the photos of a four year old boy who was whopped with a switch and it left marks. I’m heartbroken. Too much force was used on this child. No four year old child should ever have to endure the feel of a switch. It’s obvious that Adrian is strong, so I question whether or not he could have used his hands instead of a switch. But, he didn’t. So, he has to know that his choice was poor.

Adrian has a right to discipline his son. Society may so no. We want people that spank their children to go to jail. Some punishment should happen, but I ask you about this child (also from Minnesota) that was 9 year’s old that was suspended from school and boarded a flight to Las Vegas, Nevada last year. Apparently, the parents have asked for help with their child and never got it. He had prior trouble because he had stolen a car. A 9 year old stealing a car? Wow!

The parents were told that he was a minor and hadn’t done enough bad things to qualify for the help that they were requesting. The father sobbed as he recounted how he asked the officer to watch him spank his son. The officer said if he saw him hit his son he would be arrested. He sobbed saying that it was a double jeopardy damned if I do damned if I don’t situation. The father said,  “If I whoop my son, I will get locked up. If I keep on letting my son do what he’s doing, I get in trouble.”

I felt the father’s pain and I ask you, what do you do when you know you can’t spank your child and no one is helping you? There are rules to everything in society. How are we taught these rules? What are the consequences of those rules? Even adults make mistakes and don’t learn the rules, but spanking a child to help enforce the rules that you are teaching is acceptable. But, child abuse is not. We may not agree on how to raise our children, but I think we can all agree that we don’t want chaos in our society because no one can follow the rules.

Child Abuse Photos from Peterson case
Child Abuse Photos from Peterson case

Is Spanking Wrong?

Recently, I heard that a parent had disciplined their child and videotaped it and put it on YouTube. I was appalled. Why would you do that? What was more disturbing was the fact that the little boy was only seven years old. He shaved his head, threatned him with a belt, made him do push-ups and run drills in a boot camp manner. He never spanked him on video, but you could hear him speaking loudly and the child crying out in anguish in what sounds like he was being attacked. This man is behind bars thanks to his ignorance and for officials locking up this child abuser. It was later discovered that this man is not even the child’s biological father. No blood relation. He is a “mentor” who was supposed to be helping the young boy. What kind of mentoring relationship was he developing through violence? This issue brought me back to the question we’ve been asking for years…is spanking wrong?

Do you spank your son? “Not yet, he’s only 3”. I remember being asked this question by another parent who wondered what my form of discipline with our 3 year old would be. My husband and I found ourselves on opposite sides of the spectrum when Brennan came a long. I didn’t want to spank him and Lee believed that spanking was a part of childhood. I’ve never been a fan of corporal punishment or “beatings”. As a child who grew up in the household of “spare the rod and spoil the child mentality” I felt that sometimes spankings were designed to hurt me and not to make me feel sorry for what I did. I felt sorry that I got caught. I think that as a parent you often struggle with whether or not spankings work. I believe that it is a personal choice. I don’t know how to raise your kids (only mine), but I do believe their is a definite line you should never cross…abuse. Throwing irons, chairs, shoes or items at your children to get them to “listen”is not healthy, sane or needed. Furthermore, it is child abuse.

I can’t tell you that spankings saved me from being a delinquent, crack head strung out on drugs and prostituting myself for loose change because I don’t believe that to be the case. There were many spankings I got that I can’t remember why I got them. I think when you strike a child out of anger, you lose your opportunity to have a civilized conversation with them. You teach them that striking out of anger is an acceptable way to deal with issues. I know that I will probably have to spank Brennan at some point, but it won’t be a toe taping, tail blazing spanking that I had as a child. Lee and I are a progressive couple in terms of our parents. We want to talk to Brennan first to confirm he knows what he did, get his side on why he did it and be firm with the consequences. I will get off my soap box for now, but I want to leave you with this: Parenting is a combination of love, strength, patience, prayer and discipline. Find what works best for you and doesn’t damage your child.

Check out the video of the gentelman who was arrested for this horrific act:

Boy’s “Mentor” Busted For Videotaped Punishment The Smoking Gun

Parenting Now vs. Then

One of the things that often bother me is the unsolicited advice from well meaning parents. At least I think they are well meaning. You know the parents that offer their opinions when you didn’t ask for it. The parents that assume that they way they did things is the way it should be. I have to admit, I don’t like those parents. Parenting is a responsibility between those that create the baby. Parents decide how they will raise their children and what they think is best. One of the best things that I learned as a new parent is to trust my instinct. I have been going back and forth with some friends on whether or not you should spank your child when I ran across this interesting article “8 Reasons to Spank Your Kids” . Here are the reasons:

1. Love.
You have to love your child enough to be tough and do what is necessary to get the desired result. Parent first, friend second.

2. You want to be respected.

To be feared (in the sense of reverence) is to be respected. Your children should be weary of going against your rules. It also teaches them to submit to authority regardless of whether or not they agree.

3. You want to teach them how to make good decisions.

Our destinies are determined by decision-making. Children have the option to obey or face the consequences, and they need to know consequences hurt.

4. You want them to have self-control.

When you are aware of what is on the other side of making a poor decision, it is easier to exercise restraint.

5. You want them to be accountable.

Every decision has an outcome, good or bad. Just as your reward your child for the good, you must also acknowledge and address the bad.

6. You want to set standards.

Children need limits to learn how to grow up with restraint. They will never be able to do whatever they want. Teach them to live by the rules set in place.

7. You see strength not weakness.

Western parents seem to assume fragility rather than strength. Spanking your child properly is not going to damage their self-esteem. Accepting mediocrity and dismissing poor behavior teaches them to indulge in being weak.

8. It works best.

Some kids need it, period. When time-out, talking and taking away toys doesn’t work, you have to get that butt.

Lee and I have always believed in the old phrase “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. We believe in spanking because we got spanked and it worked. When I became a mom, I started having second thoughts on whether or not it was socially acceptable to spank or was I doing more harm than good by hitting his bottom. I decided that spanking should be a last resort, not a first response. I want Brennan to understand why he’s getting a spanking and that it “hurts me to have to spank him more than it will hurt him to receive it”. I think as parents we want the best for our kids, but is spanking good for them?