is spanking okay?

A new study from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University found that children who are spanked as 1-year-olds are more likely to behave aggressively and did worse on cognitive tests as toddlers than children who were not spanked. The study focused on low-income families and found that African-American children are spanked more than their white and Mexican counterparts. I have no love for Duke but I guess they have some pretty decent researchers there. Still, I don’t think, from personal experience, that children who are spanked are more aggressive BECAUSE of the spanking and not the other factors in their lives. Even if the toddlers are performing below their un-spanked peers, I wonder how they compare when they’re teens and adults. The latter part, Black kids being spanked more, is not surprising to me at all. Many a comedian has based their routine on spanking Black children. We get together and laugh about this shared experience. We see kids acting up in school or in the store and shake our heads thinking he or she needs their butt whooped. Not all Black folks spank their kids but there is definitely cultural acceptance and encouragement of the practice within the community.

There was spanking in my family. Physical discipline was definitely on the menu but it wasn’t the main course. I’m definitely against violence in most forms. It’s criminal and inhumane to abuse a child, a spouse, a friend, a stranger… It’s not the way I want to live my life, being violent toward others. I don’t know if this makes me a hypocrite but I don’t consider spanking to be “violence” in the same way. Truthfully, I have more of an issue with some of the verbal punishment I hear hurled at children than the physical. I feel there is a certain way to use physical discipline for punishment or correction with children. That being said, I don’t see myself using spanking as a disciplinary method very often when I do have children of my own.

When I was younger, I was spanked but not a lot. When I was spanked it was mostly some swats on the behind or the leg with the hand or a belt. Unlike others I wasn’t hit with cords, broomsticks, shoes, etc. There are two reasons I didn’t get many spankings: (1) I quickly learned my lesson. I didn’t want to get spankings anymore so I learned how to act right. That, and I learned how to become better at hiding whatever would have gotten me a spanking. (2) My family used other methods to get me to mind.

Those “other methods” are really what shaped my behavior after a certain age. The spankings were mostly when I was young and I don’t think my family put their hands on me after elementary school. Once I had that idea planted in my mind – that certain behavior is unacceptable and will be punished – I adjusted my behavior to avoid that unwanted swat on the behind/leg. After that, just a look from my grandmother would put me in line. My grandfather set up a dynamic between him and I where I was afraid of disappointing him. When it came to hanging out late with friends or my grades in school, I thought about what would make my grandpa proud and what would disappoint him. I adjusted my behavior to avoid the latter.

I have no children, so I have no real first hand experience. Then again, I don’t think you have to be a parent to understand certain truths about discipline and child-rearing. We were all children once. We know how we felt when our parents doled out punishment.

I’m interested in hearing what your experiences have been and what your thoughts are on spanking.


Filed under Health & Wellness, Routine Ramblings

2 responses to “is spanking okay?

  1. There seems to be a lot of new research coming out on spanking, and it often revolves around low-income families, which is a whole other issue in itself. I heard a similar story on NPR (maybe the info was from the same study?), but it also talked about how low-income moms take out their agression on children, and often just don’t know other methods of discipline. I’m sad that spanking is still a part of Black American childrearing. I was spanked, as were most of my friends and family members, but I don’t think that I would be a “bad” person if my mom hadn’t have done it. I don’t have kids but I’m going to explore other options to discipline. Hitting someone else (especially with an object like a belt) is barbaric and that’s not how I want my kids to grow up. I don’t know other people for spanking, but I wish that we would stop making light of it and actually stop to think about the implications.

    • Bourgie, JD

      I recall seeing a lot of what appeared to be young, low-income moms taking out their aggression on their children. Mostly in the form of verbal berating, cursing and abrupt commands, but also with physical striking.
      I think that if you do spank, you shouldn’t do it from a place of anger, frustration or aggression. I can see how that would breed the kind of fear, resentment and introversion that these studies seem to be uncovering.

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