September 21, 2014

Spanking Is About You, Not The Kid

We sat the kids down and talked to them about spanking this week, and why we don't spank them, and why some parents--a lot of parents in the US--do. [Spank their own kids, obv, not ours.]

We explained that most people spanked because they were spanked. That when people become parents, they often follow the example they know best: their own parents. They ignore, or most likely don't know that research shows spanking doesn't work; it makes kids' problems and behaviors worse, not better.

They have heard each of us say we want to smack them, that we get so angry or frustrated or impatient sometimes, hitting feels like the only way to get those feelings out. But that we don't. We don't want to cause fear or pain, on purpose, to the people we love.

And we want them to make good choices for good reasons, not because we're bigger or stronger. And we believe that there are other ways to solve problems besides violence.

This is what we talked about with the kids. When I started writing this post, though, I'd planned on writing none of this, except the headline. Which is really what I'd say to parents.

The urge to hit your kid as punishment is fueled by your reaction, your perception, your emotion, your capacity, your desire to control. As parents we have a responsibility to be aware of ourselves, to be the grown-up in the relationship with our kids. And so before you smack your kid, you have the responsibility to acknowledge to yourself that you are going to smack him for you, not for him. And at that point, you should stop yourself and figure something else out.

This column by Charles Blow about spanking and abuse feels very important. This column by Jillian Keenan about spanking as a sex act, feels very disturbing, but if it makes you uncomfortable enough, or causes you to step back and question your intention to spanking your kid, then good. If that doesn't work, then read this weird trend piece on butts, too. Connect the dots, people.

UPDATE: DT reader Liz just sent along this essay from Jeb Lund, who contemplates becoming a father like his own, and all of his friends', and whether he can break the cycle.

On Spanking and Abuse [nytimes]
Spanking Is Great for Sex | Which is why it's grotesque for parenting. [slate via dt reader gabe]
For Posterior's Sake [nytimes]
Adrian Peterson and what our fathers did to us: we have not turned out fine [guardian.com]

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