Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Still Crying: Why Spanking is Harmful

This post is by a reader called Conundrum #5. Thank you Conundrum!
I would like to think I wasn't beaten for every infraction, but it is difficult for me to be sure in the aftermath of having a leather belt angrily applied to my bare bottom on a regular basis until I was 16 years old. The irony is being liked and approved of has always been my deepest desire. It would have been enough for my mother to have told me she was disappointed in me for me to see the error of my ways.
Because of my sensitivity, whippings left deep emotional scars. I learned to walk on eggshells around Mom. I learned not to act or think independently, because if my opinions or actions were displeasing to my mother, I could be whipped, no matter what my intentions may have been. As an adult, this hampered my ability to take initiative until very recently. I still struggle, but understanding where my struggle comes from has allowed me to get a handle on it.
The effect that most grieves me is that as an adult, my go-to response to a child misbehaving is the thought that they need a “good whipping” to teach them how to behave. In spite of what non-spanking parents (some of whom I know personally) have written about their kids, I am not convinced children can learn to behave without being spanked...which is why I am very glad I do not have children. I have tried to temper my “spanking habit” by saying I would only spank as long as the child was in the single digits, or by saying I would never spank while angry, but I don't trust myself. My not being a parent is a much safer solution.

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  1. What is striking to me with this post is that right that we hear people defending spanking all the time on the basis of having been spanked and. "I was spanked and I'm OK"...except...this person admits this hurt her (him?). She realizes this squashed her independent thinking and has harmed her and didn't do anything good for her's still in her to believe that children just "need a good whipping". I find this very interesting and I think this person is really amazing to be able to see all this so clearly.

    In one way...this is encouraging to me that my children are more than open and willing and eager to forgive me and overlook the wrong I did them when I spanked them in the past. Because, this person's "instinct" is to agree that what her parents did was right because she just "feels like" that's what needs to happen to kids to make them be good. Knowing that it's wired into my kids to see my actions as "good" even when they're not, encourages me that they really do and can forgive me for the years I did things wrong.

    My opinion on the "not having children because of this" part...would be that...I do actually think that's wise. I think that if this person feels spanking is both detrimental and necessary that that's because their trauma is yet unresolved...and that until they get it resolved that having children would stir up all kinds of bad things and wouldn't be healthy for them or the child. I'd suggest seeing a trained counselor in order to resolve the trauma of this upbringing...children or no children...and I think that they would go on to be free from the trauma and an amazing parent in the end...

  2. As Dara says, it's great that you can cognitively understand even if your gut still wants you to spank your kids because it's the way you've always lived discipline. It's the first step and maybe baby step by baby step you'll resolve your trauma and have kids without being scared if you want them. I don't think you are the only one who is afraid of that. I send you all my best wishes.

  3. You're not obliged to have children.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm very glad to have my son, but it's not mandatory. The planet is not running short of human beings. If you're happier not having kids then don't. Apart from the risk of screwing up, there are advantages to staying child-free. All that extra money and time! And unless you're in your mid-forties, you can change your mind if you feel more stable later.

  4. I too came out of my childhood damaged from my upbringing. I was determined that I would not pass on that pain to my kids, and initially I was not going to spank either. But I was not convinced that children could be raised without spanking, and honestly it was almost a reflexive reaction on my part. It took over 2 years of mistreating my babies before I decided that whether kids could be raised without spanking or not, I wasn't going to do it anymore. So I quit cold turkey, and slowly over the last 3 years I have found an enormous wealth of information on how to parent successfully and gently. And I got help for the first time for my own pain. All that to say, it is possible to parent children without spanking, there is nothing wrong with not having kids, you can be an amazing fulfilled person without ever having kids, and good for you for recognizing this about yourself, that is the first step.

  5. I wish I had respected my husband's desire not to have children. It simply didn't seem possible to me then that anyone could truly not want children. Do what you feel is best, but remember that life changes. And sometimes your worst fears can turn into your greatest blessings.

    I can so relate to the feeling of being afraid to disagree with anyone I perceived as a superior. This led to me being let go from several cleaning jobs by women who were frustrated at my unwillingness to take any initiative in moving things around. I was afraid to touch anything without asking first.

  6. I appreciate all of the supportive comments. At this point I don't see myself having biological children, both because of my age and because I have always been ambivalent about being a mother. But if that ever changes and my partner and I decide to adopt or foster, I feel more sure the healing I continue to experience will make me less likely to abuse kids the way I was abused.