Do you spank your child? How often? Which infractions merit a spanking and which ones call for a time out? Is it your tool of last resort?
The NY Times recently ran an article on spanking on general and Black spanking in particular. Scooba is getting to an age where he is constantly. Into. Something. Got an obstacle? He’ll climb it! Buttons? He’ll push’em! (Not figurative buttons, actual buttons that light up or make beeping sounds.) He is also interacting with his peers and I often have to remind him to use a “nice touch.” (Don’t just smack that kid on the head, Baby.) We are not going to spank a 1 year old, but we like to plan ahead.
So. Husband and I are coming back to the spanking question. Before kids, we both agreed we would be spankers. I have long been a proponent of spanking. I was spanked and I turned out GREAT! My parents did not beat me, but I got spanked for large problems. For example, I got spanked when I played with fire. Twice. (The second time cured me for real.) I got spanked when I stole. I must have gotten spanked more than this, but these are the ones I remember. For other stuff I was put, “On Restriction”. No TV, no radio, no friends. It was lame.
Husband was also spanked as a child. He turned out pretty okay, too. Today, however, spanking seems like the worst thing ever. Study after study after study seems to show that spanking will make your kid violent. How can you show a kid that hitting is wrong when you hit him? Spanked kids become bullies. Violence should not be in the home. Okay. Sure. But, I do not want my kid running around all wild and embarrassing me. When I say sit, you sit. When I have to look at you with a spanking glint in my eye, you know play time is over. This post by Gradmommy includes a study citing how bias plays into all the anti-spanking studies. Can I just spank sometimes? Is it an all or nothing, zero sum game? This seems to show that sometimes spanking is fine.
I’m also a little torn because I remember telling those “My Mom was So Mean and Beat Me” stories with my friends. It’s a calling card of being Black that you had the story of a time you got popped so fast you didn’t even see it coming. Or of the things a parent would say as they beat you. Or the time you ran away to avoid a spanking. Do I want to deprive Scooba of his hilarious story? It’s a birthright of the Black child to have these stories. Hard-won tales of a tricky childhood. Then I wonder if that’s what I want him to remember from his childhood. There’s clearly more to Blackness than getting a whoopin’.
There are lots of parenting books. Tons of parenting strategies. But I know spanking works. It worked on me. It worked on my brother. It worked on generations of Black boys who couldn’t afford to ignore instructions, cause it could mean their lives. But is it barbaric? Is it a legacy from a bygone past? Am I actually teaching the lessons I want to teach? Listen to your parents. We love you. Use your words. Stop playing when I tell you to stop. I remember being scared of getting a spanking. It prevented some bad behavior, but do I want my son to fear me?
So here’s my thing: how many people spank their kids? Is it in conjunction with other forms of discipline? How do you decide when something is bad enough to warrant a spanking? What’s your rationale behind the decision? I am leaning towards using the spanking sparingly, but keeping it in the toolbox. Thoughts?