Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Spankings versus Beatings

(sigh) been meaning to write this for days. Just lazy, I guess.

There has been a big brouhaha across the nation over Massachusetts lawmakers considering the absolute ban of pinching, spanking, etc., of children by the parents. And I agree. That's just silly. I've heard some psychologist on radio saying unfortunately, some parents just go too far. Well, that's true.But the majority don't seem to. Go through any school, and you will not see kids with bruises and welts in the halls. You will see smooth-skinned kids without injuries, so far as we know. (A handprint on the butt doesn't show.)

In my state, there is a misconception that the state protective agency doesn't want anyone spanking there kids. That's just not true. Most workers were spanked and in turn, spank their own kids. BUT---

What is a spanking, and what is a beating? My parents both spanked me. Dad used his hand on my bottom (outside my clothes). He got a lot of strength into that swing, and it stung. Sometimes left a red mark that lasted 10 minutes. Mom was the product of Southern parenting. She sent me out to pick my own dreaded switch with a few leaves on the end, and then she switched my calves, three time My, that stung! and again, the marks had faded in 10 minutes. While I was getting the corporal punishment, they were both telling me what I had done wrong, (Dad much louder than Mom) how disappointed they were and how they expected me to act in the future. Spankings were not frequent. They really made an impact, so to speak. And I surely didn't want another one. But I never had a mark. That's a legal definition, by the way, of spanking, except I think Texas law gives the marks up to an hour to fade.

Pinching is okay, too, see above. But I have seen kids with 3-4 red-purple marks on their arms from what must have been really vicious pinches. Life-threatening? Nope. Probably doesn't even interfere with the parent child bond too much. Most folks I dealt with seemed to think that unless there were bruises or welts, the spanking would not do its job. Frequently used implements are wooden spoons (one mom meticulously hit her eight-year-old 70 times; she was not out of control), sticks, yardsticks, thick wooden paddles, belts (for some reason, many I saw held the smooth leather end and swung the buckle, leaving gouges where the tongue bit into the skin one or two inches) and the ever popular electric cord. There are dads who have their children drop their pants and lean over a chair so they can spank them bare-assed. That usually leaves bruises for several days.

And no, the state will not take your kids away for any of the above, unless it's considerably more severe than I have discribed.

Discipline means the parent is in control and has a goal, a lesson to be learned, from the spanking. Too often, I've seen evidence the parents lost control and just flailed away.

No, foster parents are NOT allowed to use coropral punishment. Think about it. Why? The kids have already been abused, to the extent they have been taken out of their homes. Foster parents get extra training, and many are super good with kids anyway. You should see the appearance and behaviour of these kids after six months of predictability, safety, and consistent rules. You really can parent effectively without spanking, hitting, slapping or pinching. But for many, it takes classes to introduce these new ideas. It's kind of like always knowing how to use a hammer very well, and then going into a class where you learn about a whole bunch of new tools and how to use them. You hardly have to use the hammer at all any more.

I remember a 13-year-old girl with a single mother we were dealing with. Mom was 28 or 29 and absolutely beautiful, and a very strong woman. She dealt with the schools, with social services, with police, and she was invariably polite. But she had decided what she was going to do and she was not to be dissuaded.

Daughter, 13, was also beautiful and fully developed. At the point of our visit, she was 3-5 months pregnant and stubbornly refusing to reveal the identity of the father Oh. And she had a mouth. Sometimes she got in scuffles at school and ended up in alternative classes. Mom was beside herself.

So the day came when she came to school with welts all over her, electric cord welts. No open cuts, but welts, on her arms on her back and yes, on her barely pregnant belly. This was not discipline. This was Mom utterly losing it. Kid wasn't in mortal danger, but still--not supposed to happen. And it indicated a bad situation at home where things could escalate. I was on-call that day (meaning from 4:30 p.m. that day till 8 a.m. the next morning I was called to handle any reported emergency that came in to my county.) My boss sent me out to get a signed paper contract (not legal in court, but most folks who sign such contracts and put their name on it will honor it. Health care counselors sometimes use the same technique with depressed clients to keep them safe till the next session.)

"There is no way we are picking up this kid," my supervisor told me. "and you are not to leave without a signed contract." Nice work if you can get it...thank God by then we had cell phones.

When I got to the home, Mom was in the kitchen cooking supper. She wasn't happy, but did let me talk to her daughter alone in the bedroom. She turned off the stove and we began to talk. And we talked and talked. She steadfastly refused to sign anything. She obviously was angry and frustrated with her daughter. After two hours, I was getting a little desperate because I relaly needed to use the bathroom. I figured I would have to excuse myself, drive to a store a block or two away and return, hoping she would let me back in.

Finally she sighed and said she didn't understand what was going on these days. Her mother had whipped her children and no one intervened. She said she guessed my parents had never spanked me. No, I told her emphatically. I was spanked.
"Then you had bruises," she said. No, I told her, I had spankings and switchings but I never had a mark after about 10 minutes. She stared at me. I looked at her. We had a joint epiphany. It had never occcurred to her a spanking or whipping could be administered without some lasting marks. It had never occured to me that she didn't understand it could be done withOUT leaving lasting marks. We talked another hour and somehow my bladder perservered. And ultimately she signed. And she kept her word, too.

So when people talk about giving spankings, I've learned that what one person means may be very different from the law. And in many cases, this doesn't matter a great deal. But I still run into people who rhink spankings or whippings mean beating the kid black and blue or leaving switch marks that last for days. That DOES matter.

Government doesn't have a right to intrude on your family to insure your kids a happy childhood. You can still be as dysfunctional as you want. You just can't beat your kids black and blue or puncture their skin with belt buckle tongues or leave bleeding wounds. That's not too intrusive, is it?


Kate said...

Thanks for such a good explanation. I was spanked occasionally as a child, and I spanked my own kids.

Personally, I think that there are quite a few kids nowadays that would actually benefit, or would have benefitted from a spanking or two during their formative years.

Of course, I had a good friend when my kids were small who was flabbergasted when, in response to a whiny request from my kids, I simply said, "No." And they went off to play. She said, "What? You just said no and they listened? You didn't explain it to them or anything?" I looked at her, astounded. "Ummm...I'm the Mom...I *do* expect them to listen. If they really require more explanation, I'll give it to them, but they know the limits and boundaries." My friend, on the other hand, had a child who could pitch a fit for an hour in a store and she would crouch down beside the kid explaining, ad nauseum, all the reasons the kid couldn't have his way. My kids knew that if that behavior occurred it wouldn't take long for me to haul 'em up from the floor, give 'em a swat on the rump and the end of the shopping trip would occur rather quickly.

night lightning woman said...

Sorry for the delay in replying; some stuff has been going on. Thanks for your comment, with which I fully concur. Interesting blog participants list there. Would like to know more about how that works.

Assrot said...

Yes, it is something ain't it. We took spanking, God and the Pledge of Allegiance out of schools and wonder why we turn out monsters that are dumb as a box of rocks.

Then their lazy parents think they have to beat the kids into submission when a spanking and a good talking to will get the job done if you do the spanking and talking like you mean it but also like you care.

If you are persistent with the spanking, talking and caring you soon find that the spanking becomes unnecessary after a short time and you wind up with a good kid that you can talk to and that trusts you.

Amazing how simple parenting can be if started early, done proper and maintained throughout the childs formative years into adulthood.