“It’s time to start popping her hands” a family member said to me as they watched my one-year old, Bean, walking around touching everything she could reach. My response, which is my go-to response when I don’t agree with a suggestion, was to stay completely silent. But in mind, an entire monologue was beginning to form.
Why, I thought, should I begin popping her hands because she is exploring a world she has never seen? Why should I begin to physically inflict pain on her or just “shock her slightly” because her curiosity is at an all time high? Then I began to think about the reasons that parents “pop, spank, hit, beat” their children. The reasons that I was at the receiving end of a spanking when I was a child, the reasons why my own children have gotten popped, and the reasons why I have seen other children be hit by their parents.
What internal feeling triggered that response? Was there an internal feeling at all or was it all impulse?
(And before we move on, I must clarify that I am not talking about hitting and leaving a mark. I’m not talking about anything that’s equivalent to a story on the channel 11 news. Those situations have a category of their own and I’m not going to go there right now). But moving on….
I have spoken to many parents and it’s very interesting to hear the different reasons that parents use to justify the implementation of spanking. The reasons span from “to show my child that I am in charge”, “because my child made me upset”, “to teach my child a lesson”, “to make sure my child listens”, “because I got hit as a child and I turned out great” and my favorite, “ain’t nobody got time for all that talking!” There are many reasons that people have for this parenting method and while I don’t judge anyone’s decision, I do have to play devil’s advocate for a second when I ask, “what’s the message that a parent is conveying when they spank their child?” When you pop your child out of anger, does it say that when you are feeling angry, you can inflict pain? When you hit to show dominance, does it convey the message that a child should stay in a submissive state? When a parent hits to make a child listen, is that showing the most effective way of “speaking”? And when you do it because it was how you were raised, what is it saying for our ability to evolve? I am definitely not saying that spanking is wrong and I’m also not saying that it’s right. As I said before, there is no judgement attached. But as an educator, I’ve always found it interesting that I could control a classroom of 18- 4 year olds who I am in charge of for 8 hours a day and I never ever think to lay a hand on them. And believe me they are not always compliant. So I have always struggled with the justification of hitting my own children who I’ve been responsible for since conception.
As an African-American mother the concept of spanking my children seems to be something that is suppose to be hard-wired into my DNA. It’s “Spare the rod, spoil the child”, right?
I’ve been in the presence of family members who have looked at me like I should turn in my “black card” when I did not opt to hit my children for wrongdoing. And they look at me as if to say “poor, naive Serene. You’ll be sorry you didn’t pop his behind”.
Sure, I know that popping would get the trick done real quick. After all, it is much more time consuming for me to tell my one-year old that the stove is “hot” with a stern voice as I move her away. It does take more time to have a conversation with my pre-teen about the expectations of greatness that we have for him, because we know his full potential, although his grades for the marking period are sub par. And when my 9 year old yells, “I hate you” to his older brother mid-argument, instead of me slapping him in the mouth for using such a horrible word, it is definitely more time consuming to explain to him the true meaning of the word “hate” and teach him other words that he could use to express how his “pain in the butt” brother is making him feel at that moment.
I know all of these things take up more time, but isn’t that what parenting is? Teaching your child acceptable behavior? Teaching them about the dangers in life and why to avoid them? Teaching them why they should strive for greatness and teaching them how to effectively express themselves so that they are understood?
Does a spanking achieve these goals? I am not sure. We are still in the process of raising our children and can’t yet determine if our parenting methods will result in “perfect children” or totally mess them up as adults. I guess that’s also what parenting is all about. Giving it your all, adjusting and readjusting your parenting methods in the hopes that your children will turn out to the best adults that they can be.
Talk to you soon,
Share with me: What message do you think spanking sends? Can that same message be sent in another way?