The spanking article I wrote raised a lot of issues. Many of the comments were ones I predicted in the article. For example, ‘I spanked my child and he turned out all right; how dare you challenge spanking?’ Or, ‘How dare you be so hard on parents who want to spank their kids?’
It seems that some people either don’t read the articles they comment on, or otherwise think they’re reading them, when they’re actually focusing on ten other things while going through the motions of reading.
One of the more astute comments came from a reader who said the following:
‘If you have waited too long to orient your children to reality — i.e. discipline them when they need it, do you get to the point where it’s no longer easy and you need to use force? I still believe you only need to use physical force in a criminal situation. That said, you can have an awakening and start to discipline your children. It will just be a lot harder, require much more frequent interactions, probably a different balance of love, positive reinforcement and holding them accountable for bad behaviors. I have personally observed the ‘spoiled brats’ and am appalled by it. But I also notice that their parents hardly spend any meaningful time with them. They outsource them to grandparents, nannies, daycare, etc. and then wonder why the kids don’t respect them. So parents out there just need to do the job they signed up for.”
The decision to have a child is probably the hardest decision one will ever make. The amazing thing is how few people really view it as a decision.
I once was talking with a man who happens to be gay. In earlier years, he married a woman and they had children. I recognize it was hard for him to accept that he was gay, which is why he married a woman in hopes that he could somehow ‘cure’ himself. But why did he have children, I asked him? His response was, ‘You just try to do what’s right.’ He was actually stunned by my question, as if to imply, ‘Why would anyone question having children?’
Most people are not gay, but most people—I find—do approach having children that way. They’re just dong ‘what’s right.’ End of story.
Why is having children a self-evident given? Why don’t people put at least as much thought and effort into weighing the pros and cons of having a child as they do about where to take a vacation, what kind of car to buy, or whether/when to buy a house? Of course, some do treat the decision to have a child this way, but in my thousands of conversations with people over the years, I have discovered how very few do.
This leads to precisely the sort of problem the reader cited. Parents ought to step up to the job they signed up for. But you’ve got literally millions of couples who don’t even feel they ever ‘made the decision’ to have a child. They’re just doing what people do. As a result, they resent it when you talk about stepping up to their responsibility. They feel this responsibility was thrust upon them, somehow.
Another factor I once heard a colleague identify, and I’ll never forget it. She said, ‘Some people feel they can’t set limits on their children. When they do it, they feel like they’re setting limits on themselves.’ When these parents get sick of not having any intelligent limits at all, they resort—by default—to physical force. They rationalize it as ‘getting tough,’ but in fact it’s simply silly (and sad).
I read somewhere once that some parents—actually, many parents—view their children as extensions of their own ego. In other words, it’s not merely that their children are important to them. Their children are part of them. This leads to unspoken or spoken attitudes such as, ‘No child of mine is going to” I think that colleague of mine hit the nail on the head when she said, ‘It’s like setting a limit on themselves.’
This is probably the very reason parents insist on spanking their kids. ‘I was spanked [or even beat up]; if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for them.’ Or, “Knock some sense into them,” as if children are born criminals who will only respond to force. The urge not to question or challenge past behavior is one of the primary reasons why people keep doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results.
I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why spanking, which is an initiation of force, is an effective or valid tool of discipline. I’m open to being persuaded, but all I’m hearing is, ‘Kids today are spoiled and need discipline.’ And striking them physically will solve this ‘ exactly how?
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