Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

To spank, or not to spank.

Proverbs 23:13 “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”

The Hebrew word euphemistically translated as rod, in fact, means club, like a war club. This is not hyperbole, this is talking about beating the hell out of your own children.

No longer believing that I should simply mindlessly obey scripture, (not that I ever did in this particular regard) I, regardless, feel that I owe it to my daughter to research the whole spanking debate and discipline her in the way that best sets her up for success as an adult.

I believe as a parent, my goal is prepare my daughter to be an adult. I want her to be successful human being. “Successful human being” doesn’t mean rich, though I will be frank and admit that I do hope my daughter is rich. (A lot of people would say “comfortable”. Bull. Money opens doors, and I want my daughter to have as many open doors as possible. When I say rich, I mean rich.) However, rich is up to her. “Successful human being” means self respecting with due cause, thus making her a good friend and (perhaps more importantly) a good chooser of friends. Finally, it would mean she is independent and strong.

So, believing that my goal is to raise her to adulthood, apparently puts me at odds with the vast portion of parents out there who want their children to have a magic twenty-four year childhood of chaste romance and never paying their own way which ends (equally magically) finally and cleanly when said child simultaneously finds a wonderful white collar job and kind and rich spouse with perfect teeth.

Where was I? Ah, yes, corporal punishment. So, here’s my two problems with not spanking.

One, time. Yes, in a perfect world, I would always have the time to imagine a perfect punishment. Real life, not so much. Example: staying up playing after being put to bed. This is a problem because she will stay up later than she should, and be a cranky little…darling…in the morning, which often leads to the whole morning to afternoon nap time period being a lousy day for all concerned.

The problem is: She wants to stay up, and we, the parents don’t want her too. At some point, probably closer that I want to admit, if she wants to stay up and have a lousy day thats her business, but right now, we know whats best for her. I have to make her go to bed.

The effectiveness of any punishment I give her in this particular case is inversely proportion to how long it takes. A punishment that lets her stay up for another 15 minutes, for instance, isn’t really a punishment at all.

Now, I am sure some well meaning person will read this and say something like this:

Modern, peer reviewed research by behavioral scientists says that reward is a more effective method of motivation and faster engine of behavioral change than punishment.

Which leads me to problem number two.

Thats not how the real world works. I believe those studies are true and accurate. I’m just not sure that raising my daughter in that world of rewards prepares her for adulthood.

I can’t think of a single time a boss has ever rewarded me for showing up on time. I can’t remember a cop pulling me over to give me a cookie for driving the speed limit. No neighbor has ever even thanked me for not breaking into their house. No store manager ever made me a pan of brownies for not shoplifting.

The world we live in categorically, does not, run on rewards; it runs on punishment. The reality of life is that you can do exactly what you are supposed to do for 50 years and no one gives a shit, but the first time you get caught breaking a rule/law/norm people will go nuts.

Spanking is a quick punishment, and the world runs on punishment. But, is it really a good idea to hit people (even little people) when they don’t do what you tell them? Is the expectation that she can hit people who don’t do what she tells them more or less damaging the idea that she will get rewarding for merely doing what she must?

What should I do?

Post Script: I pursued my local library’s parenting shelf. Bloody useless. Having a “PhD” behind one’s name does not make one right. No controls and no peer reviews = probable BS.

So, please, to any readers, please post a comment, I am interested to hear what different people have to say.


October 6, 2008 - Posted by | Politics, Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , ,


  1. One word – forfeit. She doesn’t obey, she forfeits something — TV, sweets, whatever.

    Comment by newfeminist | October 6, 2008 | Reply

  2. I am a spanker but I only use it as a last resort and for certain situations. Let me iterate now that spankings are NOT beatings. One swift pop to the tush is nowhere near to the beatings I received as a child. So when have I spanked..when my child put themself in a dangerous situation despite my warnings. All 3 of mine had atleast tried to run into the road. 2 of them made it once. Even though a car was not barreling down upon them they each got a swift pop on the rear. Why? I would much rather them be reminded of that swift pain of my hand on their tush then the feel of a car’s bumper on their plittle bodies. So again, I reiterate that even though I am a spanker, I do save them for situations that I think it would be most useful.

    I have a 3yr old boy and a 7 and 8.5 year old girls. To be blunt, no one form of punishment works or any of them and nor does anything work if used repeatedly. I constantly switch things up from additional chores, banishment to the bedroom for an appropriate amount of time, privileges being taken away. Despite the many books out there,we cannot put all the world’s children in a box and have one way that is the right way. It’s all trial and error. If your kid isn’t knocking over convenience stores or banks by the time you cut them looe on to the real world, then you did a good job.

    Comment by alegna75 | October 7, 2008 | Reply

  3. I’m pressed for time at the moment, but I would like to address this:

    I can’t think of a single time a boss has ever rewarded me for showing up on time.

    You got to keep your job and continued receiving a paycheck, didn’t you?

    My son is elven now, and goes to bed without a fuss. When he was younger, though, there was a period when it became a problem. When he kicked up a fuss about going to bed or staying in bed, he gave up his bedtime story the following night. When the next bedtime rolled around and he tried to pick a book, I would remind him, “Oh no… remember last night when you wouldn’t stay in bed…? But stay in bed tonight and we’ll try again tomorrow.”

    And it worked.

    Rewards don’t always come in the form of praise or prizes. They are also in keeping privileges and in earning them back if they are lost.

    Also, in the real world if we hit another adult, we call it assault. So why, when we hit out own children, is it called discipline?

    This is a good topic and I could write a post about it myself (maybe I will) but I really have to run now. I’ll check back in tonight.

    Comment by Lottie | October 7, 2008 | Reply

  4. If your kid isn’t knocking over convenience stores or banks by the time you cut them looe on to the real world, then you did a good job.

    So you gauge good parenting by whether or not our kids grow up to rob banks? That’s a terribly low standard for both parents and children. There a lot of children from abusive homes who don’t go out and rob banks or otherwise engage in criminal activity. That doesn’t mean their parents “did a good job”.

    I’m utterly appalled by this comment and even more by the fact that a parent would set such a pathetically low standard for him/herself and his/her children.

    Comment by Lottie | October 7, 2008 | Reply

  5. As to spanking kids for running into the street:

    When my son did that, I immediately took him inside. No ifs, ands or buts. It only took a few rounds of that before he learned that if he doesn’t follow the rules for being outside, he doesn’t get to be outside. End of story.

    If it was a public place like a park or something, he was given one time-out where he was made to sit on a bench while other children played. If he did it again after that, we left. Again, no ifs, ands or buts.

    It requires more work and commitment from the parent, and it’s often inconvenient, but no-one ever said parenting was a cakewalk.

    Comment by Lottie | October 7, 2008 | Reply

  6. Also, to what you said about hitting a person who doesn’t do as you tell them to, I agree. Punishment is, as you say, what rules the real world. However, my problem with spanking is that it is, in essence, a violent act. There are ways to punish that do not involve striking (thus hurting, either physically or emotionally or both) a child. Whether or not it’s a hard strike, you are still, as a parent, telling your children it’s okay to hit other people when they upset you.

    My two year old nephew is already exhibiting those signs. When he has a toy taken from him, he will hit his sisters in the face. Even though his parents still feel he is too young to be spanked, he watches as his older siblings are spanked and sees hitting his siblings as acceptable behavior.

    I’ll write more later. I’ve got to baby-sit. Yay…

    Comment by amarisgrey | October 7, 2008 | Reply

  7. Well I apologize that my statement about kids knocking over banks didn’t come across as humor as it did inside my head. I do realize that my sarcastic humor doesn’t always come through properly.

    Thank you all very much for being typical judgemental moms. Spanking when done properly is not as violent as many portray it. As a child I was beat, my children are not beat…EVER. If you choose not to spank that’s fine. I don’t judge you and say anything about your mothering techniques. As long as I am not bruising or mentally abusing (which in my humble opinion is the WORST of any type of abuse) my children then no one needs to step in and say anything about my technique.

    Comment by alegna75 | October 13, 2008 | Reply

  8. Oh and I forgot one other important message. No ONE parenting technique is proper for ALL children. What works for you in your house may not work for another. Each child is different and should be raised as such. I said that once before but people apparently didn’t continue reading the original response and were more worried about what they were going to say in response to what they were offended by.

    Comment by alegna75 | October 13, 2008 | Reply

  9. First of all, if the comment about robbing banks was a joke, then I apologize. But this is quite a serious and emotionally charged topic for some people. As a parent to three children, I’m sure you must know this. Since it might be considered in poor taste to make such a “joke” in this context, perhaps you bear at least partial responsibility for the misunderstanding, if that is, in fact, what it was.

    Secondly, I, for one, was not judging anyone but simply offering my perspective and sharing a few methods that worked for me, as was requested by the author of this blog. I am perfectly aware that no one method works for every child. Perhaps I was mistaken in assuming that, as a parent, you would at least be interested in hearing about alternatives to spanking that have worked for other people.

    I agree that mental/emotional abuse can be far worse than physical abuse. But many have argued, that hitting (spanking, if you please) is, in fact, mentally and emotionally abusive; that it instills fear and mistrust, and promotes low self-esteem and self-respect. Just something to consider, if you care to.

    Finally, I find it more than a tad ironic that you would accuse anyone of being judgmental and then close with a statement of such harsh judgment, accusing “people” of not having read your entire comment (I can only assume you mean me, since I’m the only one who responded to you directly) further asserting that I was so worried about how to respond that I couldn’t be bothered to read everything.

    It might interest you to know that I read every word you wrote — twice. Then I went and did some housework and thought about what I wanted to say before I came back and actually posted it.

    So next time you decide to accuse “people” of something, you might consider not following up by doing exactly what you’ve just accused them of. Doing so only validates the suspicion that you don’t really think things through.

    Comment by Lottie | October 13, 2008 | Reply

  10. Also, in defense to Lottie (hi, by the way), It was very obvious that you immediately went on the defensive and didn’t really consider what she had to say. Judgement is a two way street.

    I sympathize with your childhood, as mine was not that great either, but you can’t use it as justification. You can’t say, “Well, what my parents did to me was much worse than what I’m doing to my kid(s).” That’s an excuse. Just like I can’t use my childhood experiences as an excuse, because by doing that, we just set ourselves up to fail.

    Now, about the whole “beating” issue; true, you are not flaying your kids to within an inch of their lives. However, that does not negate the fact that striking a child, for whatever reason, is still an act of violence. If it’s not okay to hit an adult when you are upset with them, why is it okay to hit a child? Also, it’s very true that not all methods are the same when it comes to dealing with children, but no child reacts positively to something as absolutely negative as being hit. Not only do they respond negatively, but they learn that hitting is appropriate behavior and they will emulate it. It is statistically more likely to see children hitting to hurt each other in homes where spanking occurs than in homes where spanking does not. Spanking only engenders hostility and resentment between parent and child.

    My parents spanked me, and I resent them for it. I was not a very disobedient child, and when I was, such harsh punishment was not necessary. I am, to this day, afraid of my father and distrustful of my mother for a variety of reasons, one of which being that I was spanked.

    I do not have children, but that doesn’t mean I have no experience with them. I was, for a long period of time, a professional, in-home nanny and I have been teaching children pre-school skills for the better part of six years. I also have plans to take child psychology and have worked with special needs children. I do know a few things about a child’s behavior.

    You would spank you child on the rear, but would you slap you child in the face? Why not? What’s the difference?

    Lottie and myself are not here to critisize anyone’s method of childrearing. A question was asked, and we are answering it with our own opinions and observations. As you said before, several times, there is no right or wrong way. There are ways that do more harm than good, however.

    Comment by amarisgrey | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  11. Very nicely said, Amaris. Thank you.

    Comment by Lottie | October 16, 2008 | Reply

  12. You’re welcome, and thanks as well.

    Comment by amarisgrey | October 16, 2008 | Reply

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