We were spanked as kids, with a wooden spoon sometimes and with a hair brush other times. We all turned out fucked up, but I don’t think it was because of the infrequent spankings. At least, I remember them as being infrequent; maybe they weren’t. Anyway, I don’t think we turned out fucked up because we got spanked.
But, having been the recipient of spankings, I have an opinion on them. My opinion differs greatly from the Christianist* folks in this story over at Salon.com.
Here is my first, minor, opinion: If you think that there’s “a swat on the back of the calf that says, ‘Stop crying, buck up, be a happy girl.'” you are an enormous asshole and possibly psychotic. When people experience unpleasant and sometimes painful things, they cry. Insisting your kid stop crying by smacking them? Fucked up.
Here is my second, major, opinion: The only time it’s ever understandable to smack your kid is exactly when you are angry or afraid.
I’m not saying it’s ever “okay” to smack your kid. I don’t know. I’d rather people not smack their kids, but I’m not the boss. But I’m saying that it’s understandable why folks smack their kids out of anger or fear or frustration. And, more than that, I do think it teaches kids something about life–when you push folks too far, bad things can happen to you as a result.
You smart off too many times to that drunk in the bar; you’re going to get hit. You speed; you’re going to get a ticket. Etc. You run out in the road while your mom screams after you to stop? You’re going to get smacked.
That’s the way the world works. It’s unpleasant and, I would argue, that we should take steps to mitigate how often we’re hurting each other physically or emotionally. But hitting your kid when you’re angry with him or her makes sense. I’m not saying that it’s right. I’m saying that it makes sense.
At the least, it teaches your child that strong emotions lead to extreme actions. This seems to me something that a kid can come to understand.
Hitting your kid when you’re not angry with him or her? Or making your spouse hit your kid? This seems psychotic to me. Who, other than psychopaths, hurt other people without emotion?
I don’t know. Do you see what I’m saying?
It’s one thing if your kid is reaching, yet again, for the hot stove, to panic, yell “no” and swat him. It seems like quite another thing to not panic, but instead to calmly reach for the plumbing supply line you have handy for such occasions, and smack them because you think God’s telling you to.
*I thought this word was stupid when Andrew Sullivan first started using it, but I’m starting to see its usefulness.