To spank or not to spank continues to be a controversial issue. Many believe that the lack of “spare the rod, spoil the child” is the reason children are running amok in our world today. I grew up with and understand their beliefs. Like so many other people who got spankings I grew up to be a competent, responsible adult, which is part of the rationale for believing that spankings work. Yet, the down side of the ‘spankings’ many receive is that they learn to fear authority and fear their own decisions and abilities.
Case Study: An elementary age client of mine, who is usually ready to engage in play or art, walked slowly into my office one day with shoulders bent over and avoiding eye contact. Her parent told me that their daughter had been spanked at school because she was being disruptive in class, disrespectful, impulsive and thoughtless toward others. Mom said that she supported this punishment.
This child exuded the shame of what well-meaning people did in the name of love to show her the error of her ways. She in no way reflected that she felt at all loved or understood. I asked her if she was embarrassed to tell me for fear I might be mad at her. She stated she was ashamed to admit to me, her counselor, about what had happened.
The spanking had overwhelmed her nervous system and deepened her belief in her perceived ‘inherent defections.’ She felt angry at the violence inflicted upon her, violence that fractured her sense of safety and security and trust in her caregivers and in the school system.
This child does not set out to misbehave. She understands that when she gets stressed she doesn’t do so well, especially in a group like school or day care, but isn’t always able to stop and use the tools she has been learning. She realizes that she needs some discipline.
Is spanking the right solution?
If an adult physically hits another adult, it is called “assault” and there are criminal consequences. If an adult physically hits a child it is called discipline or, more accurately, punishment. Punishment means to seek revenge; discipline means to teach. We still have these confused.
Violence and society
Socially sanctioned hitting of wives and children has been around for thousands of years, and continues in many cultures. In our own violent society, we don’t recognize that spanking, hitting, slapping, etc., are forms of violence. They are not only a violation of the body but of the mind and emotions. The bruises heal, but the emotional bruising of being violated by someone in the name of love lasts a lifetime. These experiences leave invisible scars that never heal.
Children don’t think like adults
Children don’t think like adults. Children don’t see what adults see. Children don’t feel what adults feel. A child’s logic is very different from adult logic.