One person can smoke a single cigarette once and develop lung cancer. Another person can smoke a pack a day for fifty years and never suffer from the slightest tumor. Everybody is built differently. This does not mean that smoking is harmless or should be encouraged, and to argue otherwise is to prove oneself either stupidly ignorant or willfully biased in favor of a disproven and groundless claim.
I was spanked as a child and well into my teens. A “spanking” in my family was a number of swats with a cloth belt on clothed buttocks equal to the number of years in the child’s age. Spankings were typically only administered for causing physical harm or for direct disobedience. I’m pretty sure I turned out just fine. No PTSD or psychological issues that I can correlate with being spanked. Yet I am 100% against spanking — not because I think every single child who is spanked is thereby permanently damaged, but because the very nature of spanking is an abuse of the parent-child relationship — teaching through punishment and fear instead of love and mutual respect.
The first time I ever told a lie (that I or my parents can remember) was when I accidentally tipped over an heirloom rocking chair after rocking it as hard as I could, despite the fact that I knew I wasn’t supposed to play with it. I told my mom that it had fallen over by itself. Then I told her that one of my brothers had come in from playing outside, knocked it over, and gone back out. I lied because I was afraid of being spanked. (Of course, Mom saw through my lies and spanked me anyway.)
The reason a spanking appears to work so well is that it is entirely based on fear. It is punishing your children by making them afraid of you. It is threatening them with physical pain for failing to obey (regardless of the specific circumstances you might use to justify it). Only a cowardly leader asserts power through fear. We recognize this universally when looking at political figures — but then turn around and threaten our vulnerable, dependent children with physical pain at the hand of those we ask them to trust above any other? How utterly sick is that?
And hold off on that exhausted and pitiful refrain of “I only spank when nothing else works”. There is always something else. Anyone who resorts to spanking has given up too quickly. How do you even determine what “works” and what doesn’t? An instant cessation of that “bad habit”? Immediate, first-time obedience? If they break the same rule a year from now, does that mean the spanking didn’t “work” after all? Kids are kids, and they will make mistakes. Even adults make mistakes.
And hey, if spanking “doesn’t work”, then what? Spank them more? Harder? Burn them? Cut them? Starve them? Lock them outdoors? When you cross the line and decide that intentionally causing your child physical pain is acceptable at all, where do you stop? I’ve heard dozens of personal stories of children who were so stubborn or strong-willed — or were perceived as such — that they were literally willing to let their parents kill them before “submitting”. It’s not common, but it happens, especially when parents would rather be “right” or “win” or teach “respect” than try to approach the situation from a different angle, compromise, pick their battles, and above all keep their fucking violent hands off their kids. I’m glad my parents were not like that. I’m glad most parents are not like that. But causing physical pain to children in any way is nothing short of barbaric, and opens wide the door for “that didn’t work, so we’ll have to make it worse next time”. Because in too many parents’ minds, obedience, respect, and being understood are far more important than loving, respecting, and understanding your own child.
I am as adamantly against striking children (whether it’s a “tap” or a “spanking” or a “beating”, it all involves intentionally inflicting physical pain on your children and thus all falls under the same category in my view) as I am against spousal abuse, domestic violence, physical assault, and rape. It’s inflicting physical pain on the defenseless and vulnerable, it’s cruel, it undermines trust, it establishes power through fear, and is absolutely and irrevocably wrong. I don’t care how many people who were spanked as children grew to be well-adjusted adults (and as I said previously, I am one of them!) — the “no lasting harm” argument is NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER a justifiable defense for abuse. And causing physical pain to your children — however “gentle” or “non-marking” it may be — or threatening your children with physical pain is abuse.
It’s not about how hard you hit or how clearly defined the “spankable offenses” category may be. It’s the fact that they know when they break the rules, Mommy (or Daddy) will hurt them. Their body is not their own. They have no boundaries. They are not safe.
And that is why I will never spank my children.
This article is mostly culled from comments I posted in an online discussion about spanking. They have been refined and reorganized, and some new material has been added.