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Spanking vs. violence.  

post #1 of 215
Thread Starter 

I need to ask a serious question, because it seems I keep putting my foot in my mouth when discussing alternatives to spanking.  Sometimes people ask why I am against spanking, etc., and I tend to say something along the lines of, "I am non-violent" or "against violence of all kinds," etc.  This upsets people who are pro-spanking.  It seems to be my use of the word "violence" when describing spanking.

 

And I just plain don't get it.

 

Whatever side you fall on in this debate, how can you not see hitting as violence?  Even if you find it acceptable, isn't spanking, by definition, violence?  Striking another human, with whatever amount of force or for whatever reason, seems un-arguably violent to me.

 

Am I wrong?  I am trying to approach this from a non-judgmental place, because I don't want to shut down conversations with people about this, but what gives?  I am so careful not to use the word "abuse," but perhaps people associate the two and assume I am accusing them of being abusive?  I know that has happened on at least one occasion.

 

I feel like I am just being dumb about this...

post #2 of 215

In my recent readings I came across the term "cognitive dissonance." I think that is what is happening here. In order to hit their children, people need to make sure their own brains don't "know" it is violent. That's because it would conflict with their other beliefs, like that they are good people, or that they are non-violent.

 

Before I became vegan I had to maintain the same mental split regarding animals.  

 

Here is the wikipedia explanation of the term:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

 

I don't think you are putting your foot in your mouth. There are some things you can't sugar-coat, and the fact that hitting is violent is one of them. Maybe, if you don't like to upset people, you can say "I have some very firm beliefs about spanking and they usually make people mad. Still want to hear them?"  :-) 

 

Or maybe you could try answering with a question. People feel less threatened when it is THEY who reach the conclusion, and don't feel judged. So when they say "why don't you spank?" you could try asking them something instead. Something that might help lead them to see the connection that you have made between spanking and violence. But I don't think you should expect to have these conversations comfortably, no matter how you handle it, because it is....how did Al Gore put it....an "inconvenient truth"?

 

You're doing a valuable and brave thing when you enlighten people on this. It may ruffle some feathers at first, but it may put a bee in their bonnet that they will think about long after the conversation with you is over. Usually when people get mad, it's because they know full well that they have sort of a conflict between belief and practice, and you just called them on it. You held a mirror up. And if that happens, they might change their ways, and that can only be good for the kids.

 

There was a lady on a parenting forum who sort of set me straight once. My post had some title like "what do you think of spanking when it comes to disciplining your children" and she called me on it. She said "why do people call it 'spanking' when what it really is, is hitting?" And I realized when she said that, that 'spanking' really is a euphemism, and I hadn't even realized I was guilty of perpetuating that euphemism! And I was already against the practice, yet still using the sugar-coated word. Her words stuck with me; they made a strong impression. It's kind of like when the guy on the TV commercial I saw today boasted of the sausages with "natural casing." I talked back to the TV..."natural casing? It's the g.d. intestines. Why don't you say THAT?" Well obviously if they had said "natural sausages packed in intestines," it probably would hurt their sales just a bit. And the same goes for spanking. It sounds like a discipline tool when you say it like that. But when your hand strikes your child's smooth skin and it hurts.....you can call it spanking, you can call it "rose petals" if you want. It's still hitting and it still hurts.

 

Best of luck.

post #3 of 215

I agree with Nellie Katz.  I generally I don't talk in terms of violence beause people who have convinced themselves that this is a good way to instill obedience have already framed it in their minds as tough love.  An unplesant but necessary part of establishing order and control.

 

I would use their terminology and then I would, rather than arguing against spanking, merely talk about the the possibilities and the benefits of NOT spanking, explain that you have found spanking not a necessary element of the discipline tool kit and as a result feel like a better person and better role model for your child. 

 

Rather than put down spanking, make it seem a silly choice in comparison to the order and SELF CONTROL you can establish with your children when you use respect, empathy and kindness instead.  Rather than belittle their choice (and ergo them by association) build up your own choices as better choices.  At the end of the day I do not belive that any parent genuinely WANTS to hit their child, they merely feel out of options.  They sound like they want you to debate them, but in reality I think they are asking you help them find a better tool, and when you engage in the arguments against spanking, and address their deepest fears in a non-chalant way, it's only natural for them to get defensive and deny accusations of violence, oppression, dominance, etc.

 

Try to keep it positive and disengage from stating the obvious.

 

ETA:  it's important to remember that when you engage in arguments against spanking what you are doing inadvertantly, is saying it is a better way to gain control, but I don't think I have the stomach for it (which gives them proof that they are the better parent because they are willing to use tough love for the benefit of their child despite how hard it is for them and you are a weak person who is not willing to sacrifice her friendship for discipline and giving your child a stronger sense of right and wrong).  When you say, I have a BETTER way and that is why I choose it...it is not because of the damage I may or may not do to my kids, it is because this way teaches them better, and more consistently, and has not just proven to be AS effective, but much much MORE effective is raising responsible, caring citizens of the world.  I choose it because it is better, not because your way is worse (which may just be semantics, but gets the point across more inoffensively.)


Edited by hakeber - 6/4/11 at 1:14pm
post #4 of 215

nope.. i just don't think there's a real "positive" way to talk about hitting children.  I also don't think we're going to change anybody's mind by being nice about it. 

post #5 of 215

I always thought a great example of cognitive dissonance when folks justified spanking by saying "it's only on his bottom."  When we teach kids about "good" or "bad" touching (to teach about molestation), the areas that are usually said to be "off-limits" are those that are covered by a bathing suit.  But, I've known a lot of folks that think the bottom is a place to hit.  That's some cognitive dissonance for you. 

post #6 of 215

Makes me think of this...

 

a story told by Astrid Lindgren
[Author of Pippi Longstocking]

"Above all, I believe that there should never be any violence." In 1978, Astrid Lindgren received the German Book Trade Peace Prize for her literary contributions. In acceptance, she told the following story.

"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor's wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn't believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking--the first of his life. And she told him that he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, "Mama, I couldn't find a switch, but here's a rock that you can throw at me."

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child's point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery--one can raise children into violence."

I think that too often we fail to feel situations "from the child's point of view," and that failure leads us to teach our children other than what we think we're teaching them.



 

post #7 of 215
Thread Starter 

I have definitely been guilty of shaming spankers, of telling them they are just plain stupid, of getting into horrible arguments that are not constructive in the least.  This actually caused me to lose one of my best friends a couple of years ago (though I am glad that it did--looking back we had no business being friends regardless), and since then I have tried to work on being more careful with the way I approach such differences, attempting to come from a compassionate, teaching place. 

 

The bottom line is that I do believe it is wrong -- not in the judgy, "I feed my baby only organic foods flown directly to my house from France, one in each color of the rainbow, on a plate made from the recycled fibers of discarded Hummers, and if you don't you are a bad person" wrong, but in the kicking puppies and stealing car stereos sense of the word -- and I am not afraid to say that.  I think violence is wrong across the board, with the exception of extreme cases of self-defense.  And I think hitting is violence.

 

You guys are right, it must be cognitive dissonance.  If someone tells me that they hit their wife, but only on her bottom and only when she really needs it, I would be outraged--that's domestic violence.  If a stranger heard me, say, cursing in public, and came up and smacked me, I would file assault charges--AND WIN.  So why isn't it domestic violence or assault when you strike a minor child?  It's pretty strange, to me at least.  I did enjoy the Lindgren anecdote, and will remember it.

 

Thanks for the responses.

post #8 of 215


Oh my god that quote from the child brings tears to my eyes. 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Agatha_Ann View Post

Makes me think of this...

 

a story told by Astrid Lindgren
[Author of Pippi Longstocking]

"Above all, I believe that there should never be any violence." In 1978, Astrid Lindgren received the German Book Trade Peace Prize for her literary contributions. In acceptance, she told the following story.

"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor's wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn't believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking--the first of his life. And she told him that he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, "Mama, I couldn't find a switch, but here's a rock that you can throw at me."

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child's point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery--one can raise children into violence."

I think that too often we fail to feel situations "from the child's point of view," and that failure leads us to teach our children other than what we think we're teaching them.



 



 

post #9 of 215
Quote:
Originally Posted by NellieKatz View Post


Oh my god that quote from the child brings tears to my eyes. 

 

 



 



Me too. It is the most simple interpretation that makes the most profound impact.

 

 

I wanted to clarify as well that I copied and pasted that entire story, I thought I put it in a quote box, but I guess I didn't! I just don't want to take credit for any of that tiphat.gif

 

post #10 of 215

Quote:

Originally Posted by jezebelle View Post

 

Whatever side you fall on in this debate, how can you not see hitting as violence?  Even if you find it acceptable, isn't spanking, by definition, violence?  Striking another human, with whatever amount of force or for whatever reason, seems un-arguably violent to me.

It gets worse- spankers get mad at me when I say that spanking is hitting. They argue that spanking is NOT the same thing as hitting. I seriously don't think one could possibly define spanking without using the word hitting or a synonym.

 

eta- I deleted some, because I looked up the definition of violence, and it does seem to include punitive spanking. hmmm. you learn something new every day :)

post #11 of 215
Quote:
Originally Posted by DevaMajka View Post

Quote:

It gets worse- spankers get mad at me when I say that spanking is hitting. They argue that spanking is NOT the same thing as hitting. I seriously don't think one could possibly define spanking without using the word hitting or a synonym.

 

eta- I deleted some, because I looked up the definition of violence, and it does seem to include punitive spanking. hmmm. you learn something new every day :)



Not the recommended mode of getting the point across, but I got into a "is spanking hitting?" debate with a friend once. When he told me I didn't know what I was talking about I reached over and smacked him. He told me not to hit, I told him "I didn't hit you, I spanked you". He got the point. Anyway, it was sort of an extreme situation, and he was a friend (and I made sure not to hurt him)...

post #12 of 215
Quote:
Originally Posted by jezebelle View Post

I need to ask a serious question, because it seems I keep putting my foot in my mouth when discussing alternatives to spanking.  Sometimes people ask why I am against spanking, etc., and I tend to say something along the lines of, "I am non-violent" or "against violence of all kinds," etc.  This upsets people who are pro-spanking.  It seems to be my use of the word "violence" when describing spanking.


I am very honest and say, "I grew up in an abusive home, and because I have different instincts and it's too easy for me to give in to real violence if I react in anger, I've chosen to not put myself in that situation.  It's hard sometimes, but it's helped me be a better parent and *I* feel safer not even going there."

 

For me personally, that is a more true response than 'I am non-violent."  I am not non-violent.  If I felt my children were in imminent danger, I honor and celebrate the instincts that would allow me to protect them.  I have been emotionally and verbally violent in my life (not towards my children) and have to fight against those urges and instincts.  While I have learned a new way of being (most of the time), the truth is that it will be something I will have to be conscious and deliberate about for the rest of my life.  So for me, "I try to avoid physical punishment because it feels violent to me" is not PC, but truly a more accurate statement than "I am non-violent" because I am not and will never be, this will be something I will have to be mindful of until I die.

 

I don't know if people respond to my genuine humility when I talk about this (which is only if I am asked a question), or what--but aside from (ironically) family members, I've never had anyone be mortally offended or upset by my non-spanking; probably because I present it very individually (which probably gives them an out of "well, I wasn't abused so it's okay) and because I am not saying that because I don't spank, I'm somehow less violent or peaceful than other people.  For some people that may be true, but it's totally not for me, so perhaps people do not assume that I think they are horrible minions of evil because they spank.

 

post #13 of 215
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post


Not the recommended mode of getting the point across, but I got into a "is spanking hitting?" debate with a friend once. When he told me I didn't know what I was talking about I reached over and smacked him. He told me not to hit, I told him "I didn't hit you, I spanked you". He got the point. Anyway, it was sort of an extreme situation, and he was a friend (and I made sure not to hurt him)...



I always look forward to your posts.  This was a very interesting way of handling that argument!

post #14 of 215
Quote:
Originally Posted by jezebelle View Post

I need to ask a serious question, because it seems I keep putting my foot in my mouth when discussing alternatives to spanking.  Sometimes people ask why I am against spanking, etc., and I tend to say something along the lines of, "I am non-violent" or "against violence of all kinds," etc.  This upsets people who are pro-spanking.  It seems to be my use of the word "violence" when describing spanking.

 

And I just plain don't get it.

 

Whatever side you fall on in this debate, how can you not see hitting as violence?  Even if you find it acceptable, isn't spanking, by definition, violence?  Striking another human, with whatever amount of force or for whatever reason, seems un-arguably violent to me.

 

Am I wrong?  I am trying to approach this from a non-judgmental place, because I don't want to shut down conversations with people about this, but what gives?  I am so careful not to use the word "abuse," but perhaps people associate the two and assume I am accusing them of being abusive?  I know that has happened on at least one occasion.

 

I feel like I am just being dumb about this...

 

I can't say that "you're wrong!" because I don't know for sure. I can tell you that, in my own opinion, linking any and all forms of corporal punishment as being "violent" is remarkably close-minded. Someone slugging someone else in anger is violent. There are also people who, when they hear "spanking", think of all kinds of sadistic forms of abuse and being beaten with belts and whatnot. That would be violent. Making a child go pick a switch so you can beat 'em with it is, IMO, pretty sadistic. A quick slap on the hand or the behind to get a small child's attention for a serious infraction or to prevent a dangerous situation (done, btw, out of love) is simply, IMO, not violence. There is a difference there. If violence = ANY kind of "hitting" then how come books and movies are often called violent, language is FREQUENTLY called violent, etc. There's not just the one definition of what "violence" is. The way I described what *I* think of as spanking (above) is not, IMO, violent. To think so would be, in my mind, willfully close-minded. That's just my take and I'm not making any judgements on you or on your friends there. Some of your friends who spank may indeed be violent people, but there's no one-size-fits all answer to this.
 

 

post #15 of 215
Quote:
Originally Posted by Super~Single~Mama View Post





I always look forward to your posts.  This was a very interesting way of handling that argument!


Well....he wasn't his friend's parent, and it wasn't done as a means of loving discipline. However, he was trying to make a point so it wasn't technically violent, either. IMO.

 

post #16 of 215

Recently I started to read a book that  a friend had given me a long time ago, which I had never gotten around to reading.

It is written by Dr.Ray Guarendi ,a father of 10!, and is called "Dicipline That Lasts A Lifetime"...

 

I too wanted to see what he had to say about spanking because my son has been exhibiting some really hard to deal with behavior lately and I have been feeling at my wits end.

 

Well I really liked his take on the whole spanking situation,, and thought I'd share a bit of it here;

 

"Spanking isn't child abuse. Spanking and child abuse are not even on the same continuum. 

True, abuse often includes hitting. But it's not spanking ; it's an attack. It's no attempt to deter trouble or teach. It's a lashing out with a vengeance.

Abuse is cruelty. Spanking is legitimate dicipline.It is moderation tempered by good judgement. To equate spanking with child abuse is to heap guilt of the worst kind on loving parents.

All this is not my attempt to promote spanking  as a means of discipline in your home. To spank or not must be your decision. If you choose not to spank, plenty of other alternatives are available.

My argument is against those who flat out indict spanking as child rearing sin and parents who spank as guilty and incompetent. Spanking, I believe, deserves to be judged as all discipline is judged:How well is this working, for you, your child, and within the values and behaviors you are trying to instill".

 

 

post #17 of 215

I was spanked a few times as a child, and I would never, ever describe my home as violent. I had a loving family and I was not terrified of being struck or making a mistake. I wa sonly ever spanked for direct disobedience. I am not pro-spanking but I don't consider spanking to make a violent home. 

post #18 of 215
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by beccamama31 View Post

"Spanking, I believe, deserves to be judged as all discipline is judged:How well is this working, for you, your child, and within the values and behaviors you are trying to instill".

 

 



I 100% disagree with this statement.  Spanking, even occasionally, which is what people often seem to be talking about when they are saying it isn't abuse, has been linked to an increase in domestic violence, non-consensual sex, bullying, and lower IQs.  These factors should be on that list.  If we all disciplined based solely on what "works," we would likely all tape our children's mouths shut when we need a little quiet time.  The long-term effects on my child are a vital part of every parenting decision I make. 

 

post #19 of 215

I agree that there is a distinction between angry and abusive hitting, and a more cool, calm, matter-of-fact consequence-type spanking, but I don't think that the distinction makes either one of them acceptable. Here's why. With the latter, there are still messages being communicated nonverbally. Unspoken lessons learned. Something along the lines of might-makes-right. I'm bigger than you and can administer physical pain in order to affect your behavior and bring it more in line with what I want it to be. Or teach something I want you to learn. And I don't trust you to learn it any other way, so I will use the pain of this socially-sanctioned hitting to change your behavior or teach you. There's still that violation of the child's personal bodily integrity.....I guess it depends on the kind of relationship you want to have with the child throughout the course of your lives, not just in these early and often-difficult years.  For us, it is of ultimate importance that we are THE safe-haven for our child; we are to be trusted, not feared. We want to be respected, but want to earn it with authority that does not use hitting.

 

I wasn't raised that way. I was raised in OH so different a way. My parents actually wanted to put fear into us. "Wait until your father gets home" was a common statement.

 

But I understand how you'd say you didn't view your home as violent. I don't think that's what people are saying here, anyway....I mean, spanking is hitting and hitting is violent, but the occasional violent act wouldn't necessary make "a violent home." That feels like a leap, although I can't say why exactly.

 

Anyway, I'm tempted to say "to each his own," but I can't really. That wouldn't be fair to the very small and dependent people on the receiving end of the spanks. Those little folks can interpret hits from their big giant all-powerful parents in so many ways, from "but I deserved it" to "I'll get THEM back, just you wait..." "but she's supposed to protect me, not hurt me" to "I can endure the pain; call it the cost of doing business" to "I must lie to get out of being spanked...." You get my drift. It's just too risky. Why even go there.

 

That's my opinion. I didn't always hold it. Like I might have said before, we spanked our son one day, several years ago. One day he was "so impossible" we resorted to spanking. And that was the very same day we stopped, once we realized that (a) it made the "misbehavior" worse [we learned later it was SO NOT misbehavior at all; we had just been so very clueless and out-of-tune with HIS needs that day] and (b) it was just so very very profoundly sad to think of hurting that sweet little boy's body, even if it was "just his bottom." That child who I brought into this world and am devoted to protecting. I am so thankful that we were quick learners on that day, rather than repeating the practice over and over.

 

Thanks for listening. Sometimes I write and write on these posts, because not only am I answering the discussion but it's helping me to clarify and understand my own opinions and actions better.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mommy212 View Post

I was spanked a few times as a child, and I would never, ever describe my home as violent. I had a loving family and I was not terrified of being struck or making a mistake. I wa sonly ever spanked for direct disobedience. I am not pro-spanking but I don't consider spanking to make a violent home. 



 

post #20 of 215
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NellieKatz View Post

I agree that there is a distinction between angry and abusive hitting, and a more cool, calm, matter-of-fact consequence-type spanking, but I don't think that the distinction makes either one of them acceptable.   ... my own opinions and actions better.



I think you expertly summed up how I feel, much better than even I could.

 

My parents spanked me when I was little.  They were both extremely savagely abused by their parents, and they were lucky to have any semblance of sense at all when they got out of those homes.  Eventually they learned to use other methods, but I don't hold it against them that they started out with a physical discipline, as it was all they were ever taught.  (I am also ridiculously close with them now, and they have been "THE safe-haven for" me for my whole life.)  I didn't see my home as a violent home, but my parents were acting violently when they were hitting me.

 

I have a different perspective from that upbringing.  I have the Internet and work in a library, I have endless resources to determine what is not only subjectively best for my child, but also what is objectively the least detrimental to children overall. 

 

I am so usually very much "to each his own" about parenting (at least out loud).  If you breastfeed or formula feed, I am unconcerned.  Cloth diaper, disposable, cosleep, crib-sleep, babywearing, strollers, TV or no TV...I'm pretty apathetic, respectful.  I have opinions, but not passions.  Spanking is my soap-box issue, which is probably why I tend to get dragged into these discussions...and why they often turn into arguments.  It is one of the subjects I have the most difficulty with when it comes to tact and knowing when to leave well enough alone.

 

I. just. don't. get. it.

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