Sarah’s Spanking Project

Sarah at Who I Am Without You is doing a project on spanking.

This week I got a bright idea. I want to compile a collection of stories from victims of spanking. I want young parents to be able to see the issue from words that could someday belong to their child. People who want to participate can write a short post, about 100-300 words in regards to the issue of spanking, and I will post them one at a time into an album on my blog.

She offers a number of different formats:

You can write your post in a number of different formats.

1.)   Letter to your parents: Write a letter to your parents. Tell them how their choice to spank you has harmed you. Tell them about how it affected you then, and how it continues to affect you now. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)

2.)   Letter to young parents: Write a cautionary letter to young parents. Tell them why and how the practice of spanking affected (and continues to affect) you. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)

3.)   Letter to young parents (2): Write a letter explaining why you as a parent chose to stop spanking your children. Include your experiences and the factors that most made you change your mind. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)

4.)   Informational piece: Write a few paragraphs on why you believe spanking is damaging for children. Include any personal experience, or just some facts that made you come to your conclusion. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)

5.)   Creative: If you find it hard to express yourself with just words, please feel free to submit a more unique commentary. I will accept drawings, photos, videos, art work or poetry to this project as well. (Feel free to include any information on alternatives to spanking that you have found effective.)

I’d encourage anyone this applies to to write up something and send it to Sarah, because she wants as many responses as possible. I’m really glad Sarah is doing this project, and when she’s finished I plan to provide a link to her project in my section on Michael and Debi Pearl and authoritarian parenting.

What Kind of Atheist Parent Are You?
Busting the Mommy Myth
I Co-sleep, But: Some Thoughts on Attachment Parenting
The Radical Notion that Children Can Have Anxiety Too
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Lori Jeffries

    What about an option for adults who found that their parents who spanked them did so out of love and concern for them? How about the fact that I find that it in no way harmed me, but taught me real world lessons, such as, but not limited to, there are physical consequences to actions? How about it kept me from running out in the middle of the street? OR the fact that it taught me in real terms what was acceptable and not acceptable in my household.

    I have found that spanking, like most everything else, is effective only with certain children, only in certain circumstances and only when used judiciously. For instance, my oldest learned what not to do when spanked. We spanked my youngest once and NEVER did so again. It almost broke his spirit. We NEVER DID THAT AGAIN. But to suggest that spanking has no place in discipline is short sighted and wrong. Is it always applicable? NO. But to only frame your post in the negative is wrong. It breaks my heart.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      In the meta study of the compilations of almost all studies in the last 20 years about spanking and corporal discipline there hasn’t been found any correlation between spanking and positive changes in children (at least in the long term) while there has been found correlation with increased in anger, depression and destructive behaviours. I’m happy you are okay and your children are okay but one thing doesn’t deny the other.

    • Anat

      Does spanking really teach a kid not to do something or does it merely teach them not to do it when adults are looking (and cover up better)?

      You don’t need to spank to teach a child there are consequences to actions. Nor do you need to spank to keep a child from running into the street. In fact, in order to be able to spank the child you need to hold the child in the first place. So why not just hold the child until the child is no longer trying to get to the street? (And explain the danger once the child is calm.)

      • CJ :)

        It can be argued – effectively – that any punishment has the potential to teach children to cover up their actions better – particularly if the child is intelligent. Spanking is not unique in this. My sons always found a way around my rules if they were so inclined. Didn’t matter how I punished them.

        I have to admit that as the parent of grown boys I find a lot of this “touchy feely” parenting amusing. The reality of the situation is that you will wind up punishing your child in the way that is most effective for that child. You will end up relating to that child on the level that is the most effective for that child. You will discover that all these “experts” and books will wind up as doorstops and dustcatchers. What will work for you is what you will do. You know your child far better than someone sitting up writing a parenting book – if they have children, they are writing about their children, not yours. Frequently they don’t even have children.

        Over 18+ years you will do things that you will later pound your head into the wall over. You will not believe you could be so stupid – but you will then make another mistake. It is inevitable. Amazingly, your children will survive.

        At some point, you will lose all scene control, and all you can do is hope you have instilled enough positiveness into your child to keep them from going completely over the cliff. If you did, and you have a little luck on your side, they will eventually become human again. Amazingly, you and your children will survive.

        A whole lot of parenting involves learning about your child and figuring out what makes them happy. It’s not rocket science. Feed one end, clean the other, and love the whole package, as my grandmother used to tell me.

      • Anat

        To CJ:

        Ideally one should aspire not to punish the child. There is a difference between natural consequences, logical consequences and punishment. Natural consequences – you let nature follow its course. Alas, not always suitable, because sometimes the consequences are unacceptable (loss of life or limb, harm to third parties etc). Logical consequences – externally imposed consequences that follow logically from the child’s action (eg having the child pay for damage caused or time wasted, having the child work to repair damage caused, removal of the child from a situation where the child is not doing well). Punishment – externally imposed consequences that do not follow logically from the child’s actions.

        That my daughter will survive my parental failures is not enough. I also survived my parents’ parental failures, but only the fact that we live very far apart from each other allowed us to heal our relationship somewhat. They did what they thought was best, I was their first (or as they say the experimental child), they had no idea what they were doing. I was angry for many years.

    • W. Lotus

      There are plenty of places where spanking is discussed as an appropriate form of discipline. This project is not for that purpose, and that is okay. Those who believe spanking is appropriate have other outlets where they can share their beliefs.

    • Rachel

      It breaks your heart that people categorically reject hitting children? An adult could be charged with assault for hitting another adult; I simply can’t fathom why it is deemed acceptable for an adult to hit a child, who is smaller, weaker, less mature (intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally), less able to defend themselves, less able to articulate themselves, and less able to appreciate cause and effect. Spanking is a pretty artificial consequence; all it does is condition a Pavlovian response. It doesn’t help children achieve an understanding of consequences they’re not developmentally capable of understanding.

      The stories these bloggers tell are truly heartbreaking. I am very glad my parents never spanked me.

    • Erista

      When I was young, I used to argue that while I personally would not spank my children, I did not oppose other people doing it. However, as I grew older, I began to question my stance. For example, I once watched a man argue that he should be able to beat his children with a belt because his father had beat him with a belt and he was fine. It was unsettling to realize that I couldn’t figure out a way to argue against such actions without also arguing against spanking. After all, he had suffered no long-term physical damage, he was financially stable, he had a job of reasonable prestige, he was married . . . in short, he was at least externally successful as he claimed. Furthermore, he had endured as a child what he wanted to inflict on his children; on what basis could I, who had never endured a beating or a spanking, refute him?

      The answer to this question is clear to me, but it is an answer that also leads me to declaring that spanking is wrong. So, I will ask you: what is your answer? Do you think parents should be able to beat their children with belts? If so, why? If not, why?

      • Azel

        No, because it teaches children “might make right”, because it teaches them the ones who should protect them won’t and because it is inefficient for long-term purposes.

      • Amethyst

        I would argue that someone who believes hitting someone can be an act of love hasn’t turned out fine.

  • Michael Smit

    So I’m not a fan of spanking, we chose not to spank my own child, and I haven’t seen much correlation between spanking, particularly beating, and good behavior. I think the idea that you do not have the right to physical safety as a human being until some sort of magical age is destructive and wrong. On the other hand, I was spanked as a child and although I don’t think it did much good I would not couch the experience in traumatic terms. It did not particularly traumatize me then and I haven’t thought much about it since it stopped in any detail either. That being said, my parents were not adherents of the rigorous, well-planned physical abuse program promoted by Perl.

  • Amethyst

    I know some parents are genuinely motivated by love to spank their children, and they can do it calmly without causing physical harm or emotional trauma, but “It’s okay, they hit me because they love me” isn’t a concept I want my kids to learn.

  • Joy

    I remember being spanked a few times as a child. It hurt, but not a huge amount; my siblings inflicted worse damage. It was over very quickly–compared to loss of privileges/grounding, writing assignments, work detail, or standing in the corner. I would put it as worse than standing in the corner but not the others. I found with my kids it was not a useful form of punishment because I will not and do not want to hit hard enough to be a deterrent. Now they are old enough for me to hand out writing assignments. (“I must not pay my brother to do my homework” 100x). I am a “victim” of writer’s cramp…

    • Anat

      How about more creative writing assignments, to get them to work out what the long term consequences of continuing such behavior might be? (Unless they end up paying their siblings for doing the assignments. Or maybe both should be given the assignment – jointly or separately.)

  • Joy

    One of the things I found interesting when researching the effects of spanking is that there are real, significant, nearly opposite racial differences in the outcomes. So weird, maybe there is some cultural context to how spanking is or isn’t damaging.