To Spank or Not to Spank: That is the question!
By LaRay Smith
Many of us, especially within the Black community, were raised with physical discipline; from having our hands slapped as young children with a firm “NO” accompanying it, to being spanked/whipped by parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles as a method of teaching us right from wrong. But has this form of discipline helped us, or aided in what seems to be our increasing violent nature?
I have heard horror stories from friends who recalled being spanked with belts, extension cords, shoes, hot wheel tracks, and whatever else their parents/guardians could get their hands on. They laugh about it now, as we gathered together reliving tales of punishments that, said aloud, romantically play between the lines of discipline and abuse.
I don’t recall getting many spankings. The disappointed look in my parents’ eyes left guilt stains on my conscience that forced me to straighten up and get right.
I’ve said many times that it’s quite contradictory to teach children that if anyone outside of their household (teachers, other kids, strangers, non-blood related adults, etc.) initiates harmful, physical contact it’s intolerable and can be considered a crime. But your parents/guardians, who are supposed to love you more than anyone outside of your household, can hit you and it’s not only tolerated, it’s encouraged. I feel this teaches children that love is supposed to hurt.
Only those that love you can hurt you physically. How then, do you explain to a teenage girl, that it’s wrong for the boyfriend who says he loves her to hit her when she behaves unfavorably to him, but it’s okay for her father to do so?
I firmly believe that we are teaching our children that violence is an appropriate response to feelings of displeasure.
Many times as parents/guardians, we are so overwhelmed we become reactionary and don’t stop to think of the microcosms we are creating, using physical punishment (violence) as a means of teaching our children how to behave properly.
Can we not achieve the same results by teaching them cause and effect?
Or (especially for younger children), allow them to fall or get burned (metaphorically of course) so that they understand cause and effect? I am not saying put your child’s life/safety at risk, but maybe let her have the cookie and then explain the tummy ache afterwards.
There are alternatives to spanking that will instill values in our children other than fear and reactionary violence.
And whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, a spanking is a violent action. Too often we allow our intentions to overshadow the possible long-term affects of this form of discipline. Here are some alternatives I implore you to try before dismissing them:
1.) Writing – Give your children the dictionary/encyclopedia and make them write out the meaning of the action they are being punished for and present it to you, so that you are sure they understand the severity of their actions.
2.) Denial – My 5-year old nieces live for their little skinny jeans, so when they misbehave, my sisters’ don’t allow them to choose their own wardrobe and explain to them that poor behavior can lead to a lifetime of having to take orders from other people.
3.) Reward – Let your children know how proud you are when they accomplish great things. They will quickly learn the difference between making you proud verses disappointing you, and strive for the former.
Please share your thoughts on the forms of discipline used in your household and why you find them effective. Let’s start the conversation now…
LaRay is a writer, editor and production artist with a passion for translating the deeper elements of life into enjoyable, memorable reading and viewing experiences. Follow her on Twitter @Lolalaray
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