Corporal Punishment - Yay or nay?

missed the editing window somehow

ETA: that was a snide remark. I apologize. What I mean is that pain is a tool for teaching. Nature’s way may be harsh; we don’t have to be so harsh. The difference between nature’s way of punishing fire and mom’s way of punishing disobedience need not align at all. I was only spanked very rarely growing up. I think twice. Maybe my mom should have done it more, maybe less; I don’t know what the optimum level is, if there is one (though if there is one, I’m sure it is not “zero”). I also believe corporal punishment can be counterproductive. It is the exception, not the rule.

[Colonel Jack O’Neill]This and other cliches…[/jack]

I’m a “never say never” kind of parent - for some kids, it seems to be the only thing that works, after reasoning, pleading, natural consequences (my favored technique) and grounding/taking away privileges don’t work. And I don’t have a problem with the Danger Swat at all, really.

Still, I was shocked to hear myself very calmly and quietly inform my daughter (3.5) yesterday that if she chose to soil her underwear again, she was going to be spanked. I’ve always been completely anti-spanking around toilet training, but I am just out of ideas with this one. And you know what? Just the conversation itself seems to have worked. For a day, anyhow. I didn’t spank her (in fact, I stayed up most of the night thinking, “oh my god, how could I have said that to her?”) but today, for the first time in over a week, not a single “accident”. I’m not even sure she understands what “spank” means, but she seems to have grokked that it’s something Big, and Mama really doesn’t want it to happen.

Generally speaking, I think that teaching a coping technique that the kid can’t legally use himself as an adult (that is, hit someone when they do something he doesn’t like) isn’t terribly useful. I’d rather teach than punish. And I think that, for me anyhow, it’s best left as the nuclear option - the Really Bad Thing that happens once or twice in a whole childhood, not a weekly or daily occurrence. I mean, once you’ve exhausted physical domination, what can top that?

The caliber of stray dog in your neighborhood must be a lot higher than around here, because I don’t think I could get a stray dog to regularly put his clothes in the laundry hamper, help set the dinner table, or learn “The Alphabet Song,” which are just a few of the remarkable things I have seen children around here do, even though apparently they are lower life forms that cannot be reasoned with.

In seriousness, as I said earlier, I won’t condemn someone if they choose to use mild and non-abusive corporal punishment with their kids, but I think it’s a poor choice of discipline and hardly ever necessary. It’s certainly not something that all parents have to use at some point.

You’re confusing obeying and learning with reasoning.

Fine, whatever. I disagree that children are incapable of reasoning, but that’s probably a topic for a different thread. If the kid is capable of learning (even if he can’t “reason,” by whatever definition you’re using) then he can learn not to draw on the wall or whatever, without being beaten. As evidence, I present you all of my kids, plus all of my siblings, plus both of my nieces. All of us have managed to learn household rules and basic social niceties without being slapped around.

Frankly, this whole concept that if parents aren’t beating their kids, then 1) the parents just aren’t trying hard enough and/or 2) the kids must be little out-of-control hellions, to be completely bizarre and outside my experience. Among parents I know, hardly any of them beat their kids, and yet all of those kids are reasonably well-behaved most of the time. (Note, I am not claiming that they are “little angels” or “pwecious wittle snowfwakes” or any of the other twee little names that invariably come up in these threads; I’m just saying they’re reasonably well-behaved most of the time, and it didn’t take regular beatings to get them that way.)

Put me down as “Nay” for any reason. Even if I was not a pacifist anyway, I still wouldn’t raise my hand to my child. She’s 4 now, and that seems to have worked out fine. Raised voices, corner time, putting favourite toys in the punishment box, these all seem to work just fine.

I also have an issue with the “swat on the bottom when danger looms” scenario. When stuff like that happens, I grab my kid and pull her away from the danger. Then I talk to her, and she can usually tell by my tone and urgency that something major was wrong - she’ll even sometimes start crying. How is a swat on the bottom going to reinforce this any further?

It’s horribly, offensively, unequivocally, and morally wrong. No excuse for it, ever. If you find yourself hitting your kid, for any reason, turn yourself in at the nearest police station at the very moment you come to your senses, and throw yourself before the mercy of the court. If you have an extenuating circumstance (“This is the first tme I ever hit my kid, Your Honor, and I’m deeply ashamed and will promise never to do it again”) you’ll probably get off with a slap, and it’s a slap far less severe than you meted out in your court of justice.

Why so extreme? Because it’s just bullying, disguised as parenting. Think: if babies popped out adult-size and grew gradually smaller, you’d never in a million years start any physical shit with a toddler who towered over you. If that were the case (can’t imagine how, of course, but just go with it for a second) the only commandment that would matter to society would be the one about honoring your parents, and it would be accompanied by the death penalty. Hitting would be so wrong, under any conceivable circumstances, if there were any semblence of equity in a physical struggle between parent and child.

We hit kids because we can get away with it, plain and simple. Now I’m not claiming for a minute that kids don’t piss us off, and we often have to chastise them fo their own good and their own growth, but the forms of chastisement I consider acceptable are often very inconvenient. It’s much easier to smack your kid hard for misbehavior, than to stop what you’re doing, and arrange for a non-physical punishment–if you’re out on a family picnic, a smack is far more convenient than figuring out how to give a timeout in a public park. Probably you’ll have to punish yourself and some innocent family members by packing everyone into the car just to deprive little Johnny of his freedom for fifteen minutes, or bore everyone to tears while you admonish him verbally for his transgressions. But my point is that when you’re feeling anger and frustration, it’s hard to empathize with the transgressor, but when you’re at work, let’s say, and your boss pisses you off in the same visceral way that little Johnny does–your blood boils, you find yourself making that “Grrrr” sound deep in your throat, etc.–you restrain your impulses precisely because there are obvious consequences to hitting your boss across the face in front of everyone, and you’re well conditioned to suppress your rage.

No difference with little Johnny, just different consequences. If you hit your kid, you’re a sick fuck, to my mind, and you need help, immediately and badly.

Oh Jesus Christ, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. Your suggested alternative to smacking a disobedient child is to pile everybody else into a car for a “timeout”? What the fuck? How is that moral—punishing your other children who’ve done no wrong?

There is nothing immoral about disciplining a child. Comparisons with adults are facetious. A child isn’t an adult. We don’t put adults on “naughty steps”, we don’t chastise adults, the way we typically talk to a child would be highly offensive if done to an adult.

Would you be able to do anything with a toddler that towered above you?

For speaking to me so rudely, I’d like to belt you across your butt until you cried and begged me for forgiveness.

I teach Developmental Psychology and one thing everyone agrees upon is that you NEVER, under ANY circumstances, spank a child under the age of two. Period. No exceptions!

Otherwise, spanking children OVER two years of age, if ever, is usually best reserved for times of dire warnings that could have serious consequences: playing with matches for example.


If there’s nothing immoral about it, why do countries ban it?
You wouldn’t hit an animal - why treat a child worse than an animal?

(We put adults in jail, you can be ‘chastised’ by a judge, a team manager or a drill sergeant and being hit is more offensive than talking down to someone.)

And I would argue that speaking sternly and harshly to a child about the consequences of playing with matches is extremely effective–not nearly so satisfying, of course, to those with poor impulse control as lashing out physicially feels.

This is only effective if it represents a radical departure from your usual manner of talking to your child. If you’re otherwise, friendly, warm, admiring, affectionate and sweet to your child, a serious and stern talking to can be astonishingly effective. Like Mr. Dibble, I found that even a thing as comically mild as a raised eyebrow could induce grave terror (briefly) in my misbehaving three year old, whom I would normally address in the above-described loving manner. I suspect the real problem with abusive parents is that they don’t really like their kids so much, while really liking the feelings of power and consequence-free control they have over their lives.

Are you joking? Why do countries ban homosexuality? What does morality and law have to do with each other? Perhaps they ban it so they can collectively climb up on their high horses? Who knows?

You mean people in positions of authority get to behave differently from those who are not? (Read prr’s post to see what I was responding to.)

You did notice that I stated, “spanking children OVER two years of age, if ever…”

Yes, I did. I was just clarifying my position, which incorporates yours.

I’ve raised two kids, both of whom occasionally acted up but in general behaved politely and considerately from the start. I like to think that was because I always tried (and usually succeeded at) treating them like my guests, specifically invited to live on this planet by me and with me, giving me a sacred responsibility to treat them with kindness while I also held the sometimes-contradictory role of teaching them better ways to behave. I won’t say it wasn’t a challenge to maintain my temper at all times (I have a kinda bad one on occasion) but I believe my awareness of my sacred responsibilies to treat my invited guests kindly got me through many, many moments when lashing out tempted me. I think that, without this awareness, I would have abused my kids sometimes, and now I’m very glad that I was able to adopt this extreme and highly constricting attitude towards my kids. As young adults, they are not the kind of people who view physical violence as a good solution to most problems, and I like to think that the way they were raised played a big part in that view.

Sometimes, you have to get their attention.

Ripping their little arms right out of their sockets REALLY gets their attention.

Ditto on that.

I remember one time getting belted for something I did - my parents tried the “alternatives” but I didnt stop misbehaving so eventually I got a smack on the bum. Guess what - I learned it was better to stop doing what I was doing!

My brother, on the other hand, was a terror! I remember he would get some pretty strong spankings with a wooden spoon (paddle, or even a fly-swatter) by my g’ma or Mom (dad was pretty much out of the picture). All that seemed to do was make him act out even more.

As for me, well, I guess I’m a - what was it? ‘a sick fuck’. Yup, that’s it. I’ve spanked my kids in the past. Hell, I even swatted my teenage daughter who was stronger and about the same size as me for something she said that was so completely wrong.

My kids will ALL tell you that my spankings are not painful - I just cannot effectively deliver pain through spanking. So what’s the point? It gets their attention. First, the look of shock on their face. Second, confusion (was that supposed to hurt?), and third, the ability for everyone to take a breath and redirect course. Of course, sometimes it takes awhile to get through the laughing stage - yes, my kids would laugh at me for the horrible attempt to spank.

Of course, not all my spankings were painless. They were, however, used in moderation.

I may not win a “mother of the year” award but I think I did a pretty damn good job of raising the kids. I didnt abuse them physically (like their dad would with me), nor did I abuse them verbally/mentally (like my mom did with all of us).

And on a personal note - I think I would’ve preferred a few more of the spankings and less of the mind-fucks while growing up, thank you very much.

There’ve only been a few times my parents smacked me, and I don’t blame them one bit. They used it when the consequences of learning on my own would have been far too steep.

Example: When I was first starting to learn to shoot, 6 or 7, I believe, I was negligent about where I pointed my gun. Dad corrected this deficiency with a swift smack upside the head. He didn’t punch, me, but it didn’t tickle either. It did, however, get his point across.

I know for a fact that I didn’t enjoy it, but it was also the most appropriate response on his part. The consequences of not teaching me proper gun safety, and not emphasizing how serious it actually was with the threat of physical harm, is not something i would have liked to learn the hard way.

Now of course a gentle rebuke from him is enough to make me redfaced with embarrassment for being an idiot, but in many ways this is even worse.

Physical pain is an admirable teacher. You simply can’t use it for everyday shit, and you have to know when to stop it.