Growing Up Too Fast

I was in the car with my 10 year old daughter listening to a segment on a morning radio show in which a listener asks the host for advice. In this particular letter the listener was a young lady who was in an abusive relationship, had been taken advantage of as a pre-teen.

I took it as an opportunity to discuss a few things with my daughter; first & most importantly she will NOT be dating anyone at age 12 (as had the young lady who wrote the letter). Secondly, if she ever, at any age, found herself in a position where a man was hurting her physically then she was immediately to tell someone. Perhaps the subject matter was a little strong for a 10 year old, perhaps not. I need her to know that there is no reason to ever be physically abused by someone. I needed her to know today and forever that that is the case.

As a person who was in a violent relationship it is especially important to me that women and girls understand that there is no normalcy, no rationalizing and no expectation that they be understanding or patient in these situations. Make a plan and GET OUT.

Things I didn’t discuss with my daughter but need some attention:

  1. Why is a 12 year old allowed to be alone with a high school boy?
  2. How do you have 4 children before age 23?
  3. What kind of people allow a 27 year old man to date a 12 year old? I don’t care how young he looked and how old she looked, somebody knew how old they actually were and should have said something!
  4. As a community, how can we make it clear what is acceptable to us, for our children. It seems that shame is non-existent these days

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this topic; how you have addressed or plan to address the issues brought forth.

Related links:

RAINN Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

Love Is Respect – National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

38 thoughts on “Growing Up Too Fast

  1. I have always asked myself, “what would I do if my husband started physically abusing me?” To be absolutely honest, I’m not sure I would immediately leave. Particularly in those situations where there were no early warnings signs (probably unlikely), or you missed the signs completely (more likely), there must be a level of denial; a moment, or many moments, of disbelief: there is no way that this person, who I chose, who I let father my children, who I have let into my life in the most intimate of ways, could have just physically abused me. For those of you who are happily married, what would you do after that first physical encounter? Would you pack up, leave the house, take your kids, and really never come back? Would knowing that you’re supposed to “tell someone” really trump the shame of finding yourself in an abusive relationship? Or would you rationalize it (“we were both really angry”), be patient, or promise yourself that you’d leave after the SECOND time it happened? I imagine that if a person with as many opportunities for growth and development as I have had hesitates, then the question is even harder for other people who have not been given the same opportunities, or who don’t have the same level of support.

    Abuse by people who are supposed to love you is really complicated; that’s what makes it so hard to even make that plan and get out. And I think there’s a way in which we normalize violence against us by people who love us, starting with physical discipline of young children. They learn that a little bit of violence with love is normal. I may get pushback on this point, but I believe that it must make it that much harder to leave when you’re faced with serious violence delivered by someone to whom you’ve chosen to commit.

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  2. “I may get pushback on this point, but I believe that it must make it that much harder to leave when you’re faced with serious violence delivered by someone to whom you’ve chosen to commit.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I think shock is a big factor, then rationalizations happen. Its not only with physical abuse. More often than not, people suffer emotional and verbal abuse and it goes unchecked, and just grows and grows.

    I’ve been in physically violent relationships. Once it took no second thought to leave. Another time, I didnt leave. Not for a long time.

    It is never cut and dry and those on the outside looking in must acknowledge that. Too often people throw their hands up or remove themselves from being involved because they are frustrated and can’t stand by and watch someone they love be abused and do nothing. But people usually only get up the courage to leave when they KNOW they have non-judgmental support around them.

    My marriage became emotionally abusive. It took a lonnnng time to recognize and acknowledge it as such. He even recognized it and admitted to being an emotional abuser. That was when he pulled away and knew he had to leave it too. That part of him that loved me didnt want to hurt me anymore. I wish every “abuser” were that disciplined and self-less.

    As for our young people, especially Black young folks, I agree with ORJ. One of the first associations with violence they receive is love and it comes in the form of getting their butts beat in the name of “love”. How many parents tell their children they are hitting them because they love them or for their own good? What child doesn’t eventually come to associate physically corrective measures as somehow a positive thing? Imagine a woman burning dinner, and her husband slapping her for ruining dinner, and tellign her he only did it because he loves her cooking and wants her to be better at it. How easy would it be for her to rationalize that he wouldn’t have hit her if she hadn’t burned dinner?

    We have to teach our children (not just our girls… men are abused too) that love isnt supposed to hurt, on ANY level.

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  3. Thanks Andrea for such a powerful post. This debate over “discipline” is a tough one.

    I do think that there is a difference between parental discipline and partner/family/parental violence. Often times the difference is weighed by accompanying emotional violence.

    For me, albeit to put it very simply, it’s something like the difference between hitting someone on purpose or by accident. When you hit someone on accident, no emotional damage is transferred because the person understands that you did not mean to hurt them.

    I believe that the same is true for SOME spankings, pluckings, etc. and that parents and children know how to intepret the intent as healthy discipline. These are the same socializing behaviors that enable people to interpret abuse as well.

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  4. Any time I pluck or pop my son, he looks at me and asks, often yelling, “Why did you do that mommy???” or “Why are you hurting me mommy?”

    Or he screams for his daddy

    Or he screams, “You dont love me mommy!!!” and runs away…

    I’m not so sure he “gets it”, so I refrain from doing it for the most part.

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  5. I can honestly say that I don’t know. I don’t know if children learn that love requires some violence if they are hit as children. I didn’t learn that. I hated being spanked, and for a while, I thought they didn’t love me. So love and hurt didn’t go together. Then I grew up and I did know my parents loved me. And I knew that a grown man hitting a grown woman was not love, or at least not the kind of love I wanted in my life.

    I use a wooden spoon to tap my kids’ hands when needed; I don’t have the experience of them running from me or saying I don’t love them or asking why I did it. I don’t do it out of anger, it generally comes after two warnings, and it’s only for the most egregious actions. I think that most abused adults are people who were not only abused as children, but who witnessed adult-on-adult abuse – that is what was normalized, that loving ADULT relationships included violence. Because if it were true that spanking made children feel like hitting was appropriate in adult relationships, I think you would see a lot more abusive relationships given the prevalence of spanking. And in general, the vast majority of relationships are not physically abusive.

    As far as leaving – I think that structurally, we need to make it easier for women to leave. I just think if I needed to get up and leave with my two kids, let’s say tonight, before I get beat tonight. I have no idea where I would go. If I had my car, the one car we share, I guess I would take it, but go where? I have some friends – could they take me in? I hope I wouldn’t forget to hit the MAC – we have a joint account. But what if he realized I was gone and he got to it first? I’d be penniless. We need to encourage all women to have separate accounts. I think for me, the rationalization would begin when I realized how hard leaving would actually be, hoping I could get all my ducks in a row before he actually killed me, wondering if I could pull it off.

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    1. Dear LaToya,
      You are allowed to beat your wife with stick no bigger than your thumb. So it says in the old Testament . Pity Adam did’nt do that to Eve we would be alright now. Anyway this discussion is only for America . Try telling a Russian Man not to beat his wife. Certain social behaviour is dependant on geographical location. In the Carribean children are beaten regulary and at times taken to a police station so they can be disciplined by an officer there, if the parents can’t manage their children. Check the prison population per capita of Trinidad versus the U.S. My question is how in the US at five years old your children are at home with you; by the time they are 16 & 17 they are being arrested by the police. What happens during those 1o years. The Law says don’t hit your children . But the police can arrest them and in cases brutslize them . Who do our children belong to?. A higher authority is needed and the Bible says …train up a child in the way a should go … but it does not often happen like a Parent wants because the World the Flesh & sorry to say The Devil wants a share in each our lives and I make no excuse for Jesus the Saviour . You may make and change laws for whatever end. The heart of mankind is decietful and desperately wicked. But the Word of GOD will remain. Correcting you own child in any form is not violence it is an instruction from GOD. And without it the jails are being packed up with children that wished they had a parent that cared about them. In contrast when the Law of the land takes hold usually the confinment is horrble and at times violent. In closing Correct your child like Jseus said suffer the little children and forbid them not for such is the kingdom of Heaven. From an early age make them know they is a greater lover of their souls. And as parents we have to obey Jesus also. If not try and do it yourself with the earthly professional help, and don’t blame anyone but yourself. The Glory is GOD’S .

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      1. “Correcting you own child in any form is not violence it is an instruction from GOD.”

        Some people take “correcting” to an entirely different level and were it not for authorities, we’d have a lot more dead children and blood on our collective hands.

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  6. I can’t say that because a man hits a woman, it means he doesnt love her. So I appreciate your qualifying that statement by saying its not the kind of love you want.

    I think its easy to connect “abusive” behavior with lack of love. But having seen men and women go through recovery and get help for anger issues and battle their own demons and become productive partners, I know it isnt that simple. Yes, I do believe in recovery; the work I do demands that I do.

    As they say, hurt people hurt people. Most abusers have been hurt and in turn hurt others. But, they can get help and they CAN stop. I think that is why so many people stay. They believe that their love, and the necessary help, can stop the person they love from hurting them. And, it can in many cases. The abuser just has to want to change.

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  7. “Because if it were true that spanking made children feel like hitting was appropriate in adult relationships, I think you would see a lot more abusive relationships given the prevalence of spanking. ”

    I hate to say it but I think there are WAY more abusive relationships than we know. We dont know because either men/women arent reporting OR they dont even identify it as being abusive.

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  8. I have a friend going through this right now. She and her husband have been together about 10 years. It started with him cheating on her. She found out. From there he turned into a monster. They sought counseling, tried working through it, she ended up getting pregnant again during that time. They already had two sons. This man, day in and day out, was telling ehr she wasnt shit, wasnt going to be shit, he didnt want her, he hated her, she was nothing without him, etc. She is a SAHM, so the money is his, everything is in his name, she has nothing. He tried to put her and the boys out, but gave up on that and he left. But not before he drained the account. He hit her enough times during the pregnancy and caused enough stress that the baby was in distress, under-developed kidneys, fluid around the brain, etc. When asked if anything was wrong, she told the doctors nothing… not even to help protect and save her child. She couldnt believe that in less than a year he turned from a loving husband into a monster. Of course, we know he was like this before, but something sparked this new way of feeling towards her. She was holding onto hope… I think she still is honestly…. that he has just been possessed by a demon or somethign and that he will snap out of it, come back home, and they will be happy.

    Truth is, she was never happy. And I suspect he was abusive before but she didnt tell anyone.

    She is a clear example of why I could never be a SAHM, relying on a man financially, being so dependent on my husband. You just NEVER know.

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  9. Thank you so much for your comments ladies. This is a tough subject to be sure. So many circumstances and possibilities!

    I agree wholeheartedly that we have to make it easier for people (not just women – as Benee pointed out, men are abused as well) to leave realtionships that are hurting them. As LaToya pointed out, if your resources are shared you just can’t up & leave, as indignant as you might be. There has to be a plan…and the asking for help part of that plan is often the hardest part. What do you tell your girlfriend about why you need to sleep on her sofa? What explanation do you give your boss about your lackluster performance at work? Or your absences? How do you tell your dad that you need to borrow $500 because there is nothing in your checking account? For grown women, with degrees, jobs, kids, responsibilities…that is HARD.

    My heart breaks for your friend and her babies Benee.

    I will have to come back & comment about kids learning violence from spanking, too complex for a quickie & I have to get to a meeting.

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  10. I remember watching Rihanna on some show after the Chris Brown beating. And she said something that I will never forget. The interviewer asked her, how could this have happened to you? You seemed so strong — and Rihanna cut her off and said, I am strong, I am strong, and it happened to me. So often we assume that women who are beaten are weak women. But they are not. They are strong women, with a lot of pride. Like Andrea said, asking for help is probably thee hardest part. Admitting that a man is hitting and hurting them is probably the hardest part.

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  11. To be a strong woman and admit you are being abused is almost impossible. What would people think? People come to YOU for help and advice and there you are, the one suffering. You begin to question your own strength, and wonder why everyone goes on and on about how strong you are. You begin to wonder, if they only knew, would they still respect you for who you are or would they look down at you.

    And many people do just that.

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  12. I don’t think children learn that loves requires violence, although I do think that they learn to normalize some level of violence in their relationships. And physical discipline is just part of it; they also get it through song and through television, which is why I’m so anal about both.

    I agree with Benee that men and women are likely under-reporting violence in their relationships, or worse, not even realizing that it’s violence.

    I agree with Toya that a lot of this is resources and planning. But I’m curious about the moment BEFORE you decide that you need to leave. I’m asking about actually making that decision. How long does it take for you to realize you should leave? How long do you rationalize violent behavior? Even though we all know we should leave, my guess is that very few of us would, because, after all, this person is supposed to love you. And I still believe that part of that can be rooted in how we are treated as children. You learn that the two things are not incompatible. But really, they are. Love doesn’t go upside your head, or pluck you on the ear, or tap you on the hand with a wooden spoon. I’m sorry; it just doesn’t.

    I don’t want to make this all about discipline of children; obviously the topic of domestic violence is one that warrants a lot of attention. But I never understand the lengths to which smart, compassionate, progressive, peace-loving people go to justify physical discipline. What is it that we’re protecting? Cultural norms? Are we uncomfortable admitting that people who were supposed to be loving us when we were children were actually NOT loving us in the moments that they hit us?

    I almost wish people would just say, “hey, it’s easier and less time consuming than all that behavioral modification crap.” But even that wouldn’t be true. The research suggests that it’s not even effective! At best, your child learns to fear the punishment (or worse, fear you!), but is that productive? (People always say, “oh, I’m not really hurting him/her.” But if that’s the case, then how effective is the physical contact as discipline?). Don’t you want them to understand WHY they should or should not be doing something? And, I’m of the belief that if they really cannot intellectually understand why, then you have to reconsider whether it’s fair to ask them to do, or not do, that particular thing. And if you must ask anyway (i.e. you must hold my hand when we’re crossing the street, whether or not you understand that you can be flattened like a pancake by that MAC truck), and they do not listen, then there are other ways of disciplining that do not violate their person.

    Sometimes, I think this is all about power. And that worries me too. LaToya wisely said on a previous post that children are little people, not little gods. But we don’t treat them like little people. If my husband, or sister, or mother, or friend, ever plucked me on the ear because I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing, I’d be angry, I’d be hurt, and I’d feel ashamed; I’d feel like that person tried to make me small. Because that is what unwelcome touching and violence do. But for some reason, we’re content to do just that to our little people. Why? Because they’re too small to do it back, or not yet mentally developed enough to realize they can say “please don’t do that to me.” What is the real response to “why did you do that?” The response is not really “because I had to teach you a lesson,” because there are other more productive ways of teaching the lesson. The answer is “because I can.” It’s problematic.

    Okay; I’m ranting now. I don’t mean to get all teachy-preachy; I understand that people have different views on this. I just feel very strongly about it; I get really upset when I see children hit or spank. It conflicts with everything I know about how to bring out the good in myself, and in others. I’m sure, however, that I engage in plenty of conflicting behaviors in other areas of my life. My husband, for the life of him, can’t understand how his wife can be so anal about clutter around the house, but never make the bed.

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    1. ORJ – I actually don’t disagree with you, despite the fact that I occassionally spank my children. In our house, spanking is not really about behavior modification; spanking is a punishment. Spanking occurs after all the warnings, spanking occurs after I’m pretty damn sure that you did the wrong thing knowing you were doing the wrong thing. Spanking occurs when you’ve been to time out more than five times for the same offense; when I’ve counted to three on numerous occasions; when you’ve given me the smart-ass mouth that 4.5 year olds come out with these days. “The spoon” comes out with my two year old when I’ve told her for the up-teenth time to stop yelling nonsense at bedtime and there is nothing left to take away and timeout is in her bed which is already where I want her to be. “The spoon” is about power because it is about obedience.

      But I don’t think it’s a bad thing for parents to expect obedience out of their children. And obedience from any authority figure is about power. The difference between a parent-child relationship and two adults is about power – the latter relationship should not have such a power imbalance. I hate seeing parent-child relationships where children talk to their parents any damn way they feel like it, or every other word is NO! My children obey me, albiet I think with rules that I explain to them, rules that make sense and are in their best interest. And when they disobey those rules, there are consequences. And no, we don’t have a household where mommy and daddy have the same rules as the kids – we are adults, and they are children. Do they deserve respect? Absolutely. But I don’t feel they are being disrespected by learning to obey.

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  13. The problem in parent-child relationships where children speak to their parents any way they feel like it is not a lack of power; it is a lack of respect. A hard spanking may very well get that child to stop TALKING disrespectfully, but it does not actually create genuine respect.

    I do not want my child to fear me because I am bigger than her, and so can hit her. I do not want her to listen to me just because I have more POWER than her. Power, and the ways in which our egos interact with it, is not a dynamic I want in my parent-child relationships. I want her to respect her mother; to understand that I am authority figure because I can take care of, and protect, her. Not because I can beat her. This can be difficult to cultivate in a young child. But that’s part of what makes parenting a young person so difficult. And the personality traits that make young children resistant to discipline can be so valuable in other contexts. I don’t want to stamp it out.

    These words–authority, power, obey–they’re not all the same thing; I think the nuances are important. We can debate whether or not we want to cultivate obedience (I don’t necessarily want to), but to the extent that that is what we want, I still don’t know how you get around using violence to cultivate that obedience. What you’re telling me is that everything else you’ve tried isn’t working. I don’t have a response for you, because I’m in no position to instruct you on how to discipline your child. And I hear how frustrating that must be; I’m sure my most frustrating days are ahead. But if it were me, I’d have to try something else, and keep trying until I found something that worked, because my last resort cannot be violence; it just cannot be.

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  14. I realize how difficult this conversation might be to have with me. Once people get on a moral authority–“it just cannot be”–it’s hard to have a conversation. This position I’ve taken is so fundamental to my belief system that it probably makes me less open to other viewpoints on this than I might otherwise be. I’m sorry for that. It’s one of those things. This is like offering crack-cocaine to my little one; it just ain’t gonna happen, and nothing anyone says will convince me of the merits of making such an offer. LOL

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  15. I took the hard and fast road against spanking from day one. I do behavior modification, punishment/rewards, etc. But I’ve realized there are just sometimes… during that last impossible moment… after you’ve locked yourself in the bathroom… after you’ve walked away… after they’d told you to “shut up!” 8 times… after you’ve thrown away every toy… after you’ve turned off the TV, took away dessert…. after you’ve tried every single thing you know… where one swift hard pop on the ass does the trick lol

    I’ve learned it, embraced it and accept it. I use it SPARINGLY (we’re talking 1x a month at most)… but it is used. I always feel bad, but like the other forms of discipline, it modifies behavior to some degree. I am sure to have a discussion right after, telling him I love him, and asking if he understands why he was popped. Last time, he even went to his father and told him he was being a really bad boy, not listening to mommy, throwing things around, yelling and screaming and mommy popped his butt butt. He understood it at that time. Other times, he doesnt connect and thats when I pull back and try something else.

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  16. I hate to pull out dictionary definitions, but I will: “violence: an exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse.” Even in this definition, there is an awareness that every time you use physical force, it is not to injure. It is not to abuse. The use of the spoon in our house is an exertion of physical force, no doubt. But it’s not to injure, it’s to punish. And I don’t think “punishment” is a bad thing – just another word for consequence, but a negative consequence for negative behavior. It’s a consequence, a reminder that all actions have consequences. I truly, in my heart of hearts, do not believe that my children fear me. I truly do not believe that the spoon has injured them, but has reminded them, when nothing else has gotten through, that their behavior was unacceptable. Everything in our house is explained – it’s not just bad “just because.” I absolutely believe in respecting our children as people, but I don’t believe they are little adults. People, yes, but children. Children who need to be trained, children who need to be guided, children who need a different set of tactics used on them than adults do. That being said, I don’t think all children need to be spanked. ORJ, your little one may never need it. I don’t think at her age spanking her would ever be appropriate.

    One thing though – I truly think the debate about spanking is overblown. I see the way a lot of parent yell and scream at their kids, and yeah, they never touch them, but is that better, really? I work hard, every day, to not raise my voice at my kids, to talk to them, not at them. Or you never spank your child, but your kid is the most disrespectful little sh-t on the face of the planet and you want to bash me because my kids get a tap with a wooden spoon once a week that doesn’t even make them cry but does make them stop doing what they are doing and not do it again? Or you never spank but your kid is the main one hitting and kicking all the other kids on the playground? There are a lot of parenting behaviors that are debatable as not being good for kids. Why does it always come back to spanking?

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  17. I’m confused. Do you just touch the spoon to their skin, or do you cause a little pain? If it’s the latter, then it’s debatable whether there is injury. Maybe not a lot of injury, but if nerve endings are sending a message of pain, I think there’s an injury. If it’s the former, what is the point? If it’s just a symbolic gesture that behavior was inappropriate, why not any other symbolic action, like an “I’ve been behaving inappropriately” T-shirt? LOL And this gets me back to my original point; people hold on to physical discipline at all costs, even if it doesn’t hurt, even if their kid is not afraid of it, even if they’re not sure whether it creates an association between love and violence; I don’t understand why. People are invested in the corporal aspect of it, and I have to wonder what it is that we’re so fiercely defending.

    Great question about why people focus on spanking. I think it’s an easy target, and one that tends to trigger beliefs about good, bad, and morality. And nobody has positive thoughts/memories/associations with getting physically punished as a child, so it strikes a nerve. I agree, though, that yelling at kids is just as problematic. I also agree that lots of parents aren’t spanking, but are also ignoring bad behavior in their children that needs to be addressed somehow.

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    1. Just because something is painful doesn’t mean there is injury. I gave birth to two children out of my vagina – it hurt like hell, but I wasn’t injured. I’m sure when I take their ball and put it in toy jail, or send them to their room where they can’t watch Yo Gabba Gabba, their feelings are really hurt – but they are not injured. They are not damaged, they are not broken. What they are is reminded of the consequences of their behavior.

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      1. ” They are not damaged, they are not broken.”

        That you know of… It’s entirely too early in their lives to tell what the effects of being spanked will have on them.

        I agree that injuries are caused when we spank. If it hurts, there is an injury. Not sure how that can be debated. However, intent is important. Is a parent intending on hurting his/her child? The answer is yes. Yes, when a parent strikes a kid, the point is to hurt them, to injure them. Why? Because the pain is supposed to be the “consequence” for the wrongdoing. If it doesn’t sting or hurt, the message likely will not get across. So we use enough force to cause physical pain and create a painful association with errant behavior. Let’s not gloss over what is going on. We are hurting our children for the sake of teaching lessons and disciplining them.

        The question is simply whether or not you are ok with that as a parent. If you are, that’s your call. If you’re not, again, your call.

        If I recall I called spanking behavior modification too.

        I do agree about the yelling but I think its the same idea. Verbal violence is just as bad if not worse than physical violence. Children learn from it the same way. I dont distinguish it from spanking. I think though that when we tell children we’re spanking them because we love them, we’re teaching them to associate that type of behavior with a positive intention. To not see how that would connect, for some people, in adult life is naive, IMO. Just as spanking has little or no effect on some people, it can have an extreme effect on others.

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  18. One other question – what is “behavior modification”? You guys are saying it as if it’s this “special” type of parenting, or discipline. It’s not. We are all engaging in behavior modification – trying to get our children not only to just do differently because we say so, but because they understand. We use time outs liberally, toy jail, stickers for good behavior, lots and lots of praise. I talk with Ahmir and Amina constantly about doing the “right” thing, and why the right thing is the right thing. There are a million ways that different child care experts have come up with how to modify your child’s behavior. I agree that spanking should not be your only tool. The consequence should fit the behavior. I actually think that by the time my children are 8-9 years old, I won’t be spanking them at all, except in extremely rare, like once a year situations. There will be more things to take away, more privileges, more opportunities.

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  19. ” I agree that injuries are caused when we spank. If it hurts, there is an injury. Not sure how that can be debated. However, intent is important. Is a parent intending on hurting his/her child? The answer is yes. Yes, when a parent strikes a kid, the point is to hurt them, to injure them.”

    I think we’ll all just have to agree to disagree on this one. I’ve been through a lot of pain in my life, but not all of it has injured me. Perhaps you think I’m playing a game of semantics, but to me, it’s like the difference between pain and suffering. I’ve been in a lot of therapy and yoga and have a lot of self-awareness and mindfulness about my parenting and myself. Some things hurt, somethings are painful, but not all things that hurt and are painful cause injury. And perhaps it is spiritual in nature – I believe in order to achieve a higher version of myself, to get to God, I’m going to have to go through some pain. But that is certainly not injurious for me.

    As far as the effects on my children – damn, we don’t know what effect half of the things we do to/with/for our kids. We just don’t know. All studies are about tendencies – nothing is an absolute prediction. They are “more likely than not,” they are “you wouldn’t have gotten this result by chance.” They are not 100% your-child-is-going-to-be-effed-up-because-you-did-X. And in ten years, they are going to figure out a new statistical method and say all these studies were incorrectly specified and all the results are incorrect. Experts argue and disagree all the time about this parenting tactic and that parenting tactic.

    There are a couple of things I know for sure: everything that hurts isn’t an injury. A&A are not being physically or emotionally injured by getting the spoon once or twice a week for egregious behavior that requires that consequence. I’m doing the best I can by prayerfully and mindfully with lots of deep full breaths parenting my children on a day by day basis, catching whatever they throw at me. And I’m pretty sure you all are doing the same, spanking or not.

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  20. Interesting turn this conversation took…

    Before I had children I vowed to NEVER spank them. As a mom of 3, that vow has been broken. I wasn’t spanked often as a child, probably fewer than 10 times. I didn’t fight with other kids, just wasn’t in me. So violence was not a part of my growing up. How ironic that it took 10 years for me to figure out that it didn’t have to be part of my adulthood…hindsight is 20/20

    I have come to value spanking strictly for the shock & awe it inspires because it happens so infrequently. It is a great attention getting, re-focusing method. As LaToya pointed out, we are all trying to modify our children’s behavior. Discipline & respect do not, in my mind, spring naturally from the human soul. These are things that must be learned…and therefore, taught.

    My job as a parent is to teach my child – in word and deed and by example – how to behave respectfully and have self control. I feel that I must use every available method to teach these lessons because the world will not hesitate to enforce roughly what I fail to instill. What I took from KeithM Charles’ comment is that jail cells in this country are full of people that, in many instances, lacked discipline.

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  21. And our jails are filled with people who were spanked regularly too! Thats MY point. Spanking is NOT a guaranteed deterrant for bad behavior later in life.

    I’m tired, quite frankly, of people using the jail excuse. They’re beating their kids so cops dont beat them. They’re beating their kids so they dont end up in jail. Blah blah blah.

    For every person in jail who wasnt spanked, there is one who was. So that says what?

    Some people are just bad mickeyfickeys who do bad things! Parental discipline or not. And someone people are just good people, parental discipline or not. Our disciplinary choices are a gamble and we wont know how effective they are until the children grow up and are on their own.

    I took G out with me this past weekend to meet about 10 women I went to middle school with. Everyone commented on how well-behaved he was and wanted to know my secrets. To me, that shows that what I am doing with him is working. He is well-mannered and respectful towards others. He might fight me to the death, but at least in public and with others, he is a well-behaved little boy. He always remembers his Please and Thank Yous, Excuse Mes, etc and he remains silent and doesnt speak until spoken to. Some people think you have to beat that into a child. I dont and I didnt. I’mma keep going with whats working.

    I totally recognize that many of the times he gets popped its a result of my extreme anger and frustration. But I cant make that a habit. Not for me. I recognize it for what it is and its a lashing out based on my own anger and frustration with my inability to get him to act right. Truth is, most of the time, he is simply overtired, and its probably MY (or some other adults’) fault for not making him take his nap or having him out too late. I have to remain mindful of these things and Im proactive about it.

    Most spanking parents, IMO, are not. They dont think through the process, assess the emotions involved, the causes for the behavior, etc.

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    1. This irony is exactly what I’m talking about. How do you teach a child not to hit others, if you’re hitting that child? They are necessarily learning that hitting is appropriate as long as the power differentials put them on top. Is that what we want them to learn? Hit when you’re bigger, stronger, in charge, or can get away with it?

      With the exception of Benee’s posts, the responses to this issue are both disheartening me, and proving my point. Beating women as long as the stick is no bigger than your thumb? Shocking and awing your kids? I feel like I’m in the twilight zone.

      Nobody is arguing that children don’t have to be structured and guided, and taught appropriate behavior. I’m just challenging the particular method. And I have to ask again: what is it that we’re defending at all costs, here? Is it the right to treat your child any way you see fit? Is it an attachment to a biblical principle (which, btw, many people think has been misconstrued to justify corporal discipline)? Is it an attachment to cultural norms? I just don’t get it…

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  22. I think this argument makes no sense. If they are learning that you can hit when the power differential put them on top, then they are learning that you can put another in time out when the power differential is on top, or you can take a toy when the power differential is on top. DISCIPLINE necessarily involves power – a powerless person cannot assert authority, a powerless person cannot discipline a more powerful person. If you are trying to have a power-less relationship with your child, it is impossible.

    I don’t hit my child when they hit others. In fact, as far as I can tell, my children don’t go around hitting other children, except for each other. And I don’t use spanking as a consequence for that, I use time out. My children, from what I observe, hit out of anger or frustration, when they are unable to verbalize what they want or need. So the time out works for them to calm down.

    You say we are defending this “at all costs.” I think that what I am saying is that I don’t think the effects, at least the way I use spanking in my discipline repertoire, is costly. It is not the right to treat my child “any way I see fit” because as I’ve said, I’ve prayed about this, talked to many moms about this, meditated on it, and watched my children’s reactions. I’ve modified my approach, had lengthy discussions with my husband, my therapist, teachers, educators. I’ve thought about this a lot. This is not just a fly by the seat of my pants decision, for me, it’s not biblical, even though I am a Christian. This is a decision that I make on a day-to-day, situation-by-situation, child-by-child basis. If you were to ask me, “do you believe in spanking?” I don’t think my answer would be an unqualified “yes” because I think we are all talking about different things. But I would say, Yes, I spank when I think it’s necessary. And what’s necessary depends on that child and the entire context of parenting that child.

    You may find that it’s never necessary, in principle or in practice. You may be satisfied with your child’s behavior at a certain level that I would find unacceptable. What I might think is necessary for a spanking you might say could still be in an acceptable zone for further time outs or taking away of privileges. What you might think is appropriate behavior for an overtired child I might think is still not acceptable no matter how tired a child is. Or vice versa. As parents of our children, we all have established standards for our child’s behavior based on what we know of them because we are with them every day.

    And while I understand your point of view, I don’t think you are trying to “get it.” You mentioned above that you knew it would be hard to have a conversation because you were taking a moral high road. You keep asking this question about what are people holding onto, and even though I keep answering it, it’s like you don’t want to hear the answer. I’m not holding onto anything – I think you’ll find that when tough parenting issues come up, and you’re looking for answers and solutions, and you talk to other parents, lots of different pieces of advice will come your way. You’ll try some things out, and pick and choose from those things that work best for you and discard those things that don’t work. You’ll modify to fit best with your family.

    The research can say all that it wants, but parenting doesn’t happen according to regression lines and statistics. You can’t really control for this and control for that. Parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Parenting happens in context – while you’re making dinner, a 3 y.o. child goes to put her hand on the hot burner. While you’re crossing the street, a 2.5 y.o. child releases your hand and darts into the middle of the road. While you’re speaking sternly to your 4 y.o. child, he hauls off and hits you in the face. In all of those situations, you need to figure out how to address the behavior, sometimes in the moment, sometimes at home, sometimes with different age children, sometimes with other children watching.

    You can say you don’t get it, but I’m just finding that hard to believe. It would be more believable if you said that you simply think parents should take more time to root out the behavior through time outs and taking away privileges, or have a higher tolerance for inappropriate and unacceptable behavior. But to say you don’t “get” why parents spank, especially parents that you know to be mindful and conscientious…

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  23. Latoya, in those situations you presented, do u seeing spanking as the best response? or even appropriate? I’m asking seriously. I agree parenting happens in context. I think, however, when you take the proactive approach and decide to Not use a certain type of discipline, it forces you to be creative, even in the most urgent of situations. G has punched me in thr face. Hitting him back seemed like the total opposite of how o needed to respond. He has burned his hand, which hurt…a lot. Spanking would have done nothing more. He has rushed out onto the street. Again, not sure how much more effective hitting him would be than another form of discipline.

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    1. I don’t think in all of those situations spanking is necessarily the most effective discipline. Time out may not be. A privilege may not be. Depending on the age of the child, depending on the child him or herself, a spanking may be. Depending on the context of the situation – had you tried time out before? Had privileges been taken away before? Was this the first or tenth time your child had slapped you?

      But I wouldn’t, and haven’t, ruled it out as a tool. I think it’s insulting to imply that a parent who hasn’t ruled out physical discipline is not creative in their discipline. Spanking is ONE tool. Just one.

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  24. I agree with your point about power differentials; discipline does necessarily involve power. In refining my point, I’d say that you can’t ask a child to do one thing, but model another. You can’t tell a child “don’t hit,” but then hit them. It depends on what type of behavior you’re modeling. I don’t mind modeling that when you’re in power, you might have to ask someone to sit in a time-out. I do mind modeling that when you’re in power, you can hit. When I see children playing with dolls or each other, I much prefer for them to put their friends in “time-out” when their friend has been “bad,” than to hit the friend. I’d much rather explain to them that “time-out is necessary sometimes, but you don’t have the authority to put your friend in time-out because you’re not her mother,” rather than “hitting is necessary sometimes, but you can’t hit her because you’re not her mother.” Hitting is not ever necessary to me, and so I’m okay with saying the former; not okay with saying the latter.

    The context to which you refer is precisely why I’m resistant to physical punishment. When a child hits you in the face, sticks their hand on the burner, or runs out into the street, the emotions that are triggered–anger, frustration, fear–leads to spanking for reasons that have little to do with effective discipline. Who among us hasn’t seem a woman furiously beat her child after that child darted out into the street? The fear that her child would be hit by a car, coupled with the anger that the child disobeyed, is what fuels that spanking. I’m pretty sure that in the same situation, I would be fueled by those same intense reactions. And it’s not a good thing. For me, its safer to categorically avoid physical discipline, then to hope that in the moment I’d be calm enough to let it ride, and deal with it later when I wasn’t angry.

    I hear your point about me not “getting it.” To some extent, you’re right. The very principle is problematic to me, and so the cost of the principle will never be justified. You want me to say “I know you’re conscientious, and thoughtful, and mindful, so this must be okay sometimes.” But that’s not what I believe. I believe that it conflicts with everything I know to be true about you, and the parts of you that are mindful, and conscientious, and thoughtful. That is the part I don’t get. People can’t be put in boxes, and so maybe that’s my problem here. But when you tell me that you’ve prayed about it, and meditated on it, and talked to other people about it, that conveys that this in an important issue to you, and that you may have serious concerns about it (although it is possible I read that into your words, but that you don’t actually have concerns). So when I ask “what are you holding on to?”, I’m wondering what is it that is so important here that it overrides any doubts or concerns that you might have. Is it just a super effective method of discipline?

    A good question here is “what am I holding onto.” To be clear, I didn’t use the phrase “moral authority” to convey that I’m necessarily right. I used it to convey that this is a moral question for me; I’m holding onto a foundation in my moral fabric. I’m holding onto a very deep-seated belief that there are many ways of disciplining a child. Not all ways will be pleasurable for a child, but there are some ways that will be un-pleasurable but nevertheless come from a place of love. I’m holding onto a very deep-seated belief that violating a child’s physical integrity as a means of discipline is not from a place of love. I’m also holding on to a belief that sometimes you have to say “hey, I don’t agree with this; I think you’re wrong,” even if it isn’t my child. Those situations are very rare, but physical discipline is one of those situations for me.

    That being said, it seems I am too closed to have this conversation any further. I hear what you’re saying; I don’t agree. You hear what I’m saying; you don’t agree. We can leave it at that. People should feel free, of course, to keep posting, but I’m going to try really hard to stay out of the conversation; I think I’ve said enough. 🙂

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    1. I’m not holding onto anything but loving my children. You don’t believe spanking comes from a place of love but in my heart, everything I do comes from a place of love when it comes to my kids. I am attempting to teach them. I don’t think that everything that hurts, or is painful, is harmful. I don’t see a huge difference between emotional pain and physical pain. I don’t see the difference in the power play between being able to take away a Childs possession and the momentary sting of the spoon. I don’t see the big difference between infringing on the freedom of their bodies to move when they are in a time out and the momentary sting of the spoon. I don’t see how you can take a moral position on a physical violation when you physically violate your child everyday to keep them safe – you tell them where to go, what to do, what to eat, when to sleep, when to wake, etc. Most of which they don’t like.

      When I say I talk to other parents, I was referring to parenting in general, not spanking per se. I have many parent friends who I talk to on a regular basis and we discuss our lives as parents. Things come up- situations, contexts, day to day living. We talk about what we do, what we would have done. Spanking comes up; I have some who do, some who don’t.

      But yes, I don’t anything I do as a parent lightly. I value justice and fairness, even as a parent. I explain things to my kids, I pray about how much is too much? I pray about everything. You think I’m wrong? I think you’re wrong for judging me and for being so closed. But what are you gonna do…

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      1. I’m sorry for judging you. Ironically, it is precisely your candor on this issue that has made you easiest to judge. I don’t know how to say “I don’t agree with this,” without judging; and unlike many of our conversations, I have been unwilling to take a middle ground. And I think it’s disingenuous to say “I don’t agree with this in theory, but in practice it’s okay because it’s you.” All the same, judging is judging, and that’s what I’m doing. And I am sorry for that.

        okay; I mean it this time; no more comments from me!

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  25. Ok, I need to be checking the blog daily! LOL, i’ve missed a lot. Child rearing is one of the ONLY topics I feel qualified to speak on. Number 1 I’ve been taking care of children since I was a child (that puts me at 33 years of it), secondly I have raised a 16 year old son who is by all accounts “a GOOD kid” (others words, not mine), and 3 I’ve been a 3-12th grade teacher for the past 13 years. And i can ABSOLUTELY with ALLL CONFIDENCE say that SPANKING is NEVER necessary. Have I done it? Yes. Did I regret it? Yes. Would I EVER hit a child again? NO. I think it’s brutal and abusive. And to this day, I still cry when I think about the times I’ve spanked my son. Although he could count them on about one hand, I haven’t forgiven myself. I have actually apologized to him for those times. Because there is NO good reason or excuse I can offer other than I was impatient and lost control. I was also young (early 20’s). I put in serious work so that I wouldn’t have a child who was disrespectful (he never was) who talked back (he never did) who listened the first time and worst case scenario the second time (he did). Yet I didn’t honor that…and spanked him over minor trifles. I will be honest, I’m hard on parents, REALLY hard. I KNOW you can get a child to behave without hitting them. I’ve done it with kids who are violent, disrespectful, and anything else you can imagine. It just requires patience, love, consistence, and firmness. As one of my 5th grade students so eloquently said it: “hitting and spanking is what the slave master did to punish and control the slaves.” Children do what they do because they’re allowed to do it. Bottom line. And I KNOW this because I’ve seen enough kids who act a total FOOOOL with their parents (who spank them by the way) and other folk, and I have NO problem with them. Partially anecdotal but grounded in research. 🙂

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