I can’t put my finger on when exactly spanking went from being an effective means of disciplining your child to suddenly being a corporal punishment of epic proportions that perpetuates violence and emotional stunting. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it probably happened around the same time kids became self-entitled brats with zero sense of ownership and respect.
Spanking is kind of like owning a gun. There’s that small part of the population that messed it up for the rest of us and gave it a bad reputation. You know the people – the ones that use it inappropriately or get overzealous and make the rest of us look incompetent.
To clarify (before the self-righteous banshees of the Mommy tribe come lurching at me), I’m in no way suggesting we should “beat some sense into our youth” – a phrase my senile 80-year-old dad likes to mumble whenever a toddler so much as sheds a tear or acts grouchy. Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty anti-beating, so let’s just go ahead and establish that there is a HUGE difference in breaking out the leather belt and giving a swat to the bum.
Is it a fine line? Yeah, maybe…if your purpose in hitting your child has more to do with releasing anger and less to do with teaching your kid a lesson. In which case, spanking is ABSOLUTELY a violent, counterproductive way to handle a behavioral issue.
And here lies the juxtaposition of spanking. Just like those few outliers have made it impossible for the rest of us to utilize guns, so have “trigger-happy” parents that spank.
So, here are my three rules for both spanking and gun-use that need to be established in order to make them more effective and less controversial.
Spanking Should Be A “Last Resort” not a “First Resort.” Hitting someone is never a good idea if there are other options. You wouldn’t pull a gun on someone every time you were pissed off (unless you’re a damn lunatic), so why would you spank your kid every time they do something wrong?
Kids are far more reasonable than we give them credit for. 90% of the time, talking to them or using other, non-physical punishments work perfectly well. Reserve spanking for when it’s REALLY necessary. Plus, the more often you spank, the less effective the action becomes. Your child won’t understand the gravity of the situation if they are getting whomped on the butt all the time, which completely undermines the entire purpose behind spanking.
The point of spanking is more to scare and less to hurt. If someone breaks into your house or tries to rob your place of employment, a gun is an incredibly effective means of deterring an assailant. If you’re lucky, just SEEING your gun will scare the person so much they’ll turn away and cease whatever they are doing. The entire purpose behind spanking is to teach your child that bad behavior has consequences and to prevent that behavior in the future. Whoop that butt properly once and you (ideally) won’t have to do it very often in the future. Just the threat of a butt whomp should be enough to make them think twice.
Neither spanking nor gun use should be used when you’re being reactive, angry, or emotional. Look, I get it. I have a three-year-old, and sometimes he’ll do something so outlandish that – when my nerves are shot – I actually have to stop myself from instinctively back-handing him. Yes, that sounds horrible, but I guarantee you that every… single… parent… has at one point had to stop themselves from being reactive. That’s kind of the whole point of the parent-child dynamic: we act like adults in order to teach our children how to follow suit. If our child is being emotional and reactive, it makes absolutely no sense to respond physically out of anger and frustration. That’s the exact opposite of what you are trying to convey. Before you speak, take a breather and decide if that’s the best solution. If it is, then commence.
Talk to them about it. When our kids are around guns, we talk to them about their purpose and seriousness. The same should be true of spanking. Hitting your kid without explanation is not doing anyone any favors. Whether you choose to explain before or after is up to you, but make sure they can connect the dots between their behavior, the consequence of their actions, and what they can do to avoid it in the future.
Simply put, America has got to get control over the youth of this country. When “free will” trumps respect of authority, teachers, and parents, we’re essentially putting the power into the hands of kids that haven’t developed real skill sets for the real world.