I got into an altercation on Twitter today (shocking, I know) with someone who advocated the return of the cane in school. According to her Twitter profile, she spanks her own children frequently. Now this may have been someone trolling, looking to get a rise out of people or someone acting out a sick fantasy. At least I hope that’s the case and her children, if any, are spared the rod. Let me explain why I say “don’t spank your kids”.
This lady asked people to retweet a call to bring back the cane. I retweeted that tweet but added a comment of my own.
The immediate response from this lady was that I was entitled to my opinion but she had been caned at home and it had done her a lot of good. This is quite possibly the dumbest justification people offer in defense of spanking their kids. My immediate response to that is to ask how they know. Did they turn out okay thanks to being spanked or in spite of being spanked? How would they tell the difference? It’s not like we can rewind their childhood and test how it goes without them being spanked. It’s a lot like smokers claiming that smoking can’t be all bad because their father lived until 90 and he smoked his entire life.
Science says “don’t spank your kids”
It’s not just my opinion that spanking is harmful to children. There’s plenty of scientific research to support that point of view. Like this study in Psychology Today. The American Psychological Association says the same. As does the American Academy of Pediatrics. A meta-analysis of 75 published papers on the topic also supports the conclusion that spanking children has bad long-term effects. Evidence from over 20 years of research consistently indicates the harm of spanking.
The response to me pointing out that science supports my opinion was that scientific reports can be bought or words to that effect. She also promptly blocked me, shutting down any further conversation. Of course I didn’t expect to convince her, that rarely happens on Twitter (or real life) in any case. I just think it is important to show that spanking children isn’t harmless and isn’t good parenting.
Children must come first
Even if you doubt the scientific research and the informed opinion of pediatricians, I think as parents we should put our children first. If there’s even an indication that spanking is harmful to children, it’s the duty of responsible parents to look for alternatives. Spanking should not be the go-to punishment.
Don’t get me wrong. I know from first-hand experience that children are sometimes a handful, that they can be whiny and fussy and downright obnoxious. They can be rude, impudent, talk back, hit their siblings, yell and break stuff. I can even understand that an exasperated parent would resort to smacking or spanking in such a case. The question should be in such a case: am I reacting out of frustration and impotence or is this supposed to teach my child something?
Spanking sends the wrong message
Spanking sends the wrong message to children. It says that “might makes right”. It teaches that violence solves problems. Spanking your child has consequences for your relationship and trust. Children trust their parents but sometimes the person they are closest to decides to hurt them? Ultimately, you are not teaching your child better ways to behave but better ways of not getting caught.
It all boils down to how we want to relate to our children. Do we want them to trust us and come to us for help when they run into trouble or have made a mistake? Do we want to teach them to respect themselves and to respect others? If you are inclined to answer yes to these questions, it’s my informed opinion that spanking them isn’t the best way to achieve that. I certainly don’t think it’s a good idea to return to times where teachers and other authority figures could beat children as part of their job. That opens the door to excessive use of corporal punishment, bullying and even discrimination.
Spanking should be for adults
In the end, I think it would be better for all concerned if spanking was just an exciting game we play as adults, not as a way to discipline our children. Physically hurting people as real punishment is something that belongs in less enlightened times. So please, don’t spank your kids.