"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why we do the things we do...

I think the strongest reactions I've ever gotten to something I've written have come from other Christians when I've posted about discipline, particularly spanking.  (These are a couple that come to mind...Discipline, Christian Parenting, He Who Spareth) And while there's lots to write about what the Bible does - and does not - have to say about spanking, this time I'm going to leave it out.  Another post.  Another day.  This time I'm not going to talk about the Bible, or Jesus, or Christian parenting tenants that I may or may not agree with.  This time I'm going to call on the power of common sense, of logic, and of reason... things that cross over all boundaries, and all faiths.

I've always been a huge question-asker, particularly fond of the word, "Why."  I drove my teachers (and likely others) crazy.  But my incessant "whys" have served me well, both in my own life and in patiently dealing with my children's questions.  If you're going to learn, you have to ask questions.

If you're going to really learn, you have to ask hard questions.  And one thing I've learned is that often the most important questions aren't the ones you ask others, but the ones you ask - and answer - yourself.   By far, the most growing I've done as a person has come from questioning, well, everything, about WHY.  Particularly why I think, believe, and do the things I do.

And because I'm such a questioner, it makes me.... frustrated, for lack of a better word... with people who are not.  A couple of days ago, a friend of mine posted a couple of articles and studies about spanking.  They sparked some heated comments from parents defending spanking.  Parents who, from what I could tell, had never honestly asked themselves why they spank:

I was spanked as a child and I turned out fine. This to me is one the strangest, most illogical reasons I ever hear... not just for spanking, but for all kinds of things.  Previous generations did LOTS of things that we now know better about.   Most of us were raised without car seats.  We now know that car seats save lives.  Many of us had mothers that smoked when they were pregnant.  We now know how extremely harmful that is.  This is not to condemn our own parents, or our parents' parents, who were doing the best with the information they had at the time.  But we know better now.  Doing something because our parents did it is not good enough.  Justifying it by saying that we turned out "fine" (whatever fine means) is not good enough.  It is no different than peer pressure, than following the crowd and doing something just because everyone else is doing it.  We were given working, thinking brains for a reason.

Some kids need to be spanked.   No one deserves, or needs, to be spanked.  As a society, we recognize that when a man hits his spouse, that it is wrong... that no one deserves that, no matter what.  Period.  Children are even smaller, and even more vulnerable.  How can any logical, thinking mind reconcile hitting a child as being okay?  NO ONE deserves, or needs, to be spanked.

Spanking is the only thing that works or If I don't spank, they'll become out of control/unruly/criminals. I hear these a lot too.  "Sometimes you have to spank to teach them a lesson."  Or to teach them right from wrong.  Or to keep them safe.  It's the only way they'll learn not to put their fingers in the light socket!  It's the only way they'll learn to stay out of the street!   I have four children.  Four children who are kind, honest, and know right from wrong.  Four children who keep their fingers out of outlets, and know not to run into the street.  Four children who have never been spanked.   And spanking children to hopefully thwart future unwanted behavior? This seems to be based on some kind of supposition that kids are inherently "bad," and that they couldn't possibly grow into loving, caring adults who know how to peacefully exist in society until and unless it is beat into them.   Again, I'm getting lost in the logic.

At their roots, all of the above reasons for spanking are based in the same thing:  fear.  They all come from fear.  Fear of breaking out of a familiar and comfortable cycle.  Fear of doing things differently than they've always been done.   Fear of asking yourself the hard questions, and of thinking on your own.  Fear of the unknown, and fear of taking that leap of faith.  Fear of the "what ifs"  Fear of accepting something other than the status quo.  Fear of what your parents might say, what your friends might say, what your church might say. 

Is fear a good motivator for your parental decisions? 

And finally, I think the reasons that I don't hear in defense of spanking are even more telling than those I do hear.

I never hear anyone say, 
 "I spank because it feels right to me."  

I never hear anyone say,
"I spank because it strengthens my relationship with my child."

IT  DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT to hurt other people, especially people we love.  It goes against our nature to hurt the very people that we are supposed to be loving and nurturing the most.  It doesn't feel good, and it doesn't feel right.  We all know this.  We know this, which is why we try to instill it in our children.  Parents teach their children not to hit, not to fight, not to hurt others... because they know it's wrong.  And then they try to reinforce this important message in their children by hitting them? 

I know, I know.  Spanking advocates argue that spanking is not hitting.  It's not fair to call it hitting.  It's entirely different than hitting.

To that, I say:


Let's be real.  Let's call a spade a spade.  Spanking is hitting, and hitting is wrong.  We know this.  We know this.  There's a reason that hitting another adult could earn you an assault charge.

Let's use logic.  Let's use reason.  Let's use common sense

But beyond that, let's let the Golden Rule apply first to our family.  Let's treat our children the way we want to be treated.  Let's treat them in a way that strengthens our relationship, instead of tearing it down.  Let's show them the respect that we want them to show to us.  Let's ask ourselves the hard questions, and let's see where we could do better.

And please, if you don't have a good "why" for hitting your kids (and you DON'T, because there isn't one) please.  Please.  Stop.


tina said...

I wanted to say thanks for having this blog; it's very reassuring to me. We are an unschooling family who follow attachment parenting philosophies. My husband and I who haven't been to church in years, just joined a church recently. Don't get me wrong they are very welcoming and we are starting to feel at home. However, by attending a mom's group I realized that the way I parent, which I've just done what has always felt natural too me, isn't what is promoted in a lot of Christian parenting books.

Stephanie said...

You ROCK Jen!

Roddick Family said...

This is perfect, thank you so much for posting this.

LindaStarr said...

Thanks for posting this, Jen. We're not Christian, but I have never understood a religion that would recommend hitting your child. While my son has driven me crazy at times and I've been at a loss to get him to listen (mostly because of his issues) I wouldn't ever think hurting him would help. Not too long ago we were reading the 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and in it the king mentions "spanking" and I had to define the word for him, as he had never heard it. And he was 6 years old by then.

Kelsey said...

This is everything I would like to say on this subject! Great post!!

Sol said...

All good points. I often hear from other parents that the reason children today are disrespectful has to do with the fact they aren't spanked and/or spanked enough. Something I've always found to be completely off base.

At the end of the day I cannot see how we can teach our children that hitting is wrong but then lay a hand on them to 'teach them a lesson'.

Ruth said...

People spank because it's EASY & IMMEDIATE - not because the bible tells them to (though they use scripture to self-rightously justify their behavior), not because they were spanked as a child 'and they turned out alright'and certainly not because it's the 'right' thing to do. It takes more effort to engage with your child and come up with a solution. It takes a little more time and a little more creativity. Spanking is the 'easy' way out. Easy for the adult - not for the child. How much more rewarding to raise loving, caring, courteous children by being loving caring, courteous parents.

jen said...

Great points Ruth!

Carma said...

Just one thing I wanted to mention... the church I go to believes that the word rod is referring to the word of God. In no way does it mean to beat your child with one.

jen said...

Carma, I like your church :-) Way too many churches, and people, misinterpret it to mean an instruction to hit.


Related Posts with Thumbnails