Scanning The Huffington Post this week, I stopped and read, “Spanking: Parenthood’s Dirty Little (and Common) Secret” by pediatrician Claire McCarthy M.D. I was intrigued by the headline. Dirty little secret? I had no idea spanking was such a taboo, though I do know many parents who choose not to spank their children. McCarthy says in her article most parents would never admit to spanking, let alone do so in public, for fear of investigation by social service agencies.
McCarthy cites statistics from a recent Boston Globe article, “What if spanking works?” and marvels more than 70 percent of Americans believe spanking is sometimes necessary and 90 percent of parents of toddler-age children spank as a form of discipline. In her opinion, spanking is not an appropriate discipline for any child, ever. According to McCarthy, recent studies show spanking leads to aggressive behavior toward other children, lower self-esteem, lower I.Q. as well as mental health and substance abuse issues later in life.
Well, I admit it. I spanked my now 10 year-old daughter, Maggie, when she was younger.
More than once.
I admit I swatted her on the bottom, at least 10 times during the past 10 years, not beaten her. And, though I employed many different methods of discipline with her throughout her younger childhood (including reasoning, taking away privileges, time-outs—just to name a few) spanking was a last resort measure and not usually done out of anger. Maggie respects and loves me, as I do her, but at the same time she is a tough cookie. She has always gone to great lengths to prove her point and is stubborn as her mother. Sometimes other methods of discipline just didn’t work—at all. A fast swat on her bottom worked when nothing else seemed to get through to her.
Would I do it again, if I had it to do all over? Maybe. I do know a couple of times I did spank Maggie out of frustration and was still angry about her little childish transgression. In other words, the punishment didn’t fit “the crime” and I wasn’t in a good frame of mind to be disciplining her. To be honest, it would have been wiser for me to be placed in the time-out chair. I was spanked, though rarely, as a child, and I don’t think spanking has anything to do with any of my adult failings. In fact, I think the fact my parents disciplined me was a good thing.
Looks like she is headed for a world of trouble down the road and that possibly I have an explanation, based on these studies, for why she has a more aggressive than passive personality. Of course, the usual explanation for my child’s negative traits always seems to fall on my “bad” mothering, not on anything else.
Page 2 of 2 - Which brings me to the recent story of the bus monitor who was bullied (or terrorized, more accurately) by children on the school bus. Anyone who watched the video of the incident can attest the children’s words and actions toward her were shocking in their cruelty. As I watched their unrelenting behavior, I wondered what the children were thinking. I also wondered how their parents would react when they watched their own children treat another human being in such a disrespectful, vile manner. The one thing I didn’t really consider--and it seems I was in the minority given the comments posted after the video on websites--was that it was all the parents’ fault. Many commentators felt if the parents had disciplined their children and taught them respect, the event would have never occurred. Others said today’s generation of children was the worst in American history, thus far.
The comments made me wonder, when I considered them along with the articles on spanking, if the children in the bus incident had been spanked when they were little or not? Or, if their parents chose not to discipline them at all? It seems Americans are conflicted on how much and what type of discipline is appropriate. The one thing it seems Americans aren’t conflicted about at all? Parents had better step it up and do a better job, no matter what method they choose, because evidenced by the school bus monitor incident, something is going very wrong.