Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spare The Rod

Trigger warning

Recently I have authored a few posts about spanking.  This issue continues to weigh so heavily on me in part because I myself am no stranger to the belt, and because I truly believe in the right of all living beings to be free of violence.  Spanking a child is a violent act and any attempt to justify it is just a denial.  Children are amongst the most powerless in our society.  They are considered to exist without bodily integrity and cannot legally act on their own behalf.  Parenting by its very nature is authoritarian, and this has lead some to believe that they have right to strike a child in the name of discipline.

Some parents repeatedly refer to a lack of spanking as a failure to discipline. This spank or no discipline argument is a ridiculous strawman and they know it. How do these parents believe that things like groundings and timeouts came into practice in the first place?  There is also such a thing as rewarding positive actions to create a desire to continually perform behaviour that is socially acceptable, and responsible. 

When parents assert to legislators that they are taking away their right to parent/discipline, what they they are seeking is to maintain authoritarian control over children.  Our offspring are of us, but do not belong to us.  In a society in which many feel powerless, parenting is one of the few areas left where people feel that they have the right to complete control and ownership. 

Some continue to hide the desire to wield power over another by calling spanking an act of love.  It is encouraged that the child be told that they are loved after each incidence of violence.  What does this teach the child but to associate violence with love?  How many women fall into abusive relationships after being abused themselves as children?  This occurs in part because they understand violence as being part of loving someone. 

What hurts me the most is that there are not more pleas that base love as a supreme act of teaching.  When you reach for your child their reaction should not be to shrink  away with fear.  We don't exhort parents to model the behaviour that we wish children to perform.  It seems our entire focus is rushing them from one event to another without actually communicating about life and sharing lessons.  We can schedule play dates but sitting down and critically engaging with children is something we simply don't have time for.

Children are not robotic individuals that can be programmed to obey on command. Part of the process of growing is testing boundaries, and making mistakes.  To be punished physically for maturing in the natural process impedes personal growth.  It teaches a child that they are not worthy of respect. If we can socially decide that beating an animal is wrong why can we not decide that hitting a child, the fruit of our wombs is equally wrong?



Brook said...

I was beaten with a belt, hit in the face, pushed, shoved, etc., etc. Now I suffer from PTSD and after all these years, still have nightmares. Recently I had an argument with a dear cousin. He raised his voice at me and became my late father in an instant. I had nightmares for weeks. Beating children is wrong.

@Tea said...

My father always told me, 'Be glad your not being beaten with a belt like I was beaten as a child'. Then he would take my hand or bend me over his knee and slap me repeatedly until his rage subsided. It was never the slapping that bothered me, I understood that physical pain could be worse and I was thankful I only suffered areas of rash and not bruising, but it was his rage that terrified me. It was irrational and always way out proportion with the "crime".

We must be taught to handle our emotions and frustrations and help those around us to understand theirs. He raged because he was out of control and couldn't rationally and empathetically approach the situation. I know he was never taught to control his emotions and I do not blame him.

But after the "good spanking" I never understood what could have incited such a response - 5 minutes late for dinner doesn't justify flailing and screaming nor does an "incorrectly" answered question.

His behaviour only made me frustrated and confused and over the years it forced a divide between us. I don't trust him because he is prone to fits and rages, whether semi-physical or verbal and the only thing I learnt from those spankings is to stay closed and not seek understanding from the people I wanted to trust most.

pisaquaririse said...

Renee this post is excellent.
Children are oppressed beyond our comprehension.

"Our offspring are of us, but do not belong to us. In a society in which many feel powerless, parenting is one of the few areas left where people feel that they have the right to complete control and ownership. "

Very true.
My experience has been many parents see having children as a milestone not a responsibility.
I work with very young children (newborns to age 3) and this idea that spanking, in any capacity, is effective is flat out wrong. There is no education in it and whatever "lessons" are to be taught afterwards are simply lost in the tears, confusion and anger any human feels when their bodily integrity is treated so frivolously.
The act of spanking is always for the adults not the children.

Jennifer said...

I'll only say this: the man who thinks he's going to wield a belt against any child I may have will be a man who'll never have another.

Anonymous said...

I was often beaten as a child, though applications of the belt were not even remotely limited to the backside.I was once whipped across my stomach for being "over weight" I also remember many of times that i was whipped on the neck for speaking out of turn.I was even given the buckle side of the belt on my face. I fear every male voice and my loving boyfriend is trying to help me overcome my fears of a beating. Hitting a child is wrong. It can lead to what happened to me.

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