Friday, July 20, 2012

Spanking Again?

I can’t believe it. Another article about spanking? This time the title is “Study fuels spanking debate” (,0,6374260.column)

How is it that spanking is still a topic of debate?
“If you spank your children, even occasionally, you’re setting them up for a lifetime of mental and emotional distress,” the article reads. There was a study from two Canadian universities published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics and led by Tracie O. Afifi who defines “spanking” as “hitting”. What’s the novelty of this, I asked myself, it IS hitting.
No so fast, Mr. Behaviorist. “I think there is an important distinction”, writes Sandy Banks, the author of the LA Times article, “Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing are not the same thing, to my mind, as a parental smack to the behind.”
I don’t agree with that. But I agree with her when she says “The conflict between what we do and what we believe is never tested more than in parenting.” Yes, but that does not make hitting, excuse me, spanking OK. Or yelling, or threatening. Parenting is very rewarding and fulfilling, but it can be very challenging as well, no doubt, and it confronts us with unknown territories of ourselves.
“The point of spanking, after all, is to get kids to behave”, we read in the article. My question is how can we expect them to behave when we don’t? Being able to control ourselves before we request our kids to control themselves is paramount. After all our main job as parents is to teach, not to police. What we teach with hitting? Maybe, just maybe, we teach that conflicts are resolved with violence and aggression, don’t we?
The author of the article finally confessed. “While I would never have called it “hitting”, as Afifi insists, I probably whacked a few backsides when my children were young.” She goes further when she says “Looking back now, I think the spankings of my youth taught me things than lectures and time-outs couldn’t: that my mother’s indulgence had limits. That pain can be a powerful deterrent. That bad choices have bad consequences.”
Seriously?  Are you saying that spanking is the way of teaching all that?
How would you like, Ms. Banks, if someone much bigger than you spanks you every time you do something wrong? What would you say if you know that the teacher spanks your kids? And what if the police officer spanks you for speeding? Problem solved, let’s just spank each other every time we misbehave.
Spanking is not OK under any circumstances. It reflects “parenting ignorance” because there are other ways. Spanking comes out of frustration, anger and lack of resources. If you find yourselves spanking, first apologize to your kids and then ask for help. There are other tools of discipline that build positive behavior repertoires, that teach limits and respect, responsibility and self-control. But through love. Let’s set our kids for success by respecting them at least in the same way we like to be respected.

Daniel Adatto.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

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