Posted by: Renee | September 9, 2008

Spare The Rod

Strong Trigger Warning.

Recently I have authored a few posts about spanking.  This issue continues to weigh so heavily on me in part because I myself am no stranger to the belt, and because I truly believe in the right of all living beings to be free of violence.  Spanking a child is a violent act and any attempt to justify it is just a denial.  Children are amongst the most powerless in our society.  They are considered to exist without bodily integrity and cannot legally act on their own behalf.  Parenting by its very nature is authoritarian, and this has lead some to believe that they have right to strike a child in the name of discipline.

Some parents repeatedly refer to a lack of spanking as a failure to discipline. This spank or no discipline argument is a ridiculous strawman and they know it. How do these parents believe that things like groundings and timeouts came into practice in the first place?  There is also such a thing as rewarding positive actions to create a desire to continually perform behaviour that is socially acceptable, and responsible.

When parents assert to legislators that they are taking away their right to parent/discipline, what they they are seeking is to maintain authoritarian control over children.  Our offspring are of us, but do not belong to us.  In a society in which many feel powerless, parenting is one of the few areas left where people feel that they have the right to complete control and ownership.

Some continue to hide the desire to wield power over another by calling spanking an act of love.  It is encouraged that the child be told that they are loved after each incidence of violence.  What does this teach the child but to associate violence with love?  How many women fall into abusive relationships after being abused themselves as children?  This occurs in part because they understand violence as being part of loving someone.

What hurts me the most is that there are not more pleas that base love as a supreme act of teaching.  When you reach for your child their reaction should not be to shrink  away with fear.  We don’t exhort parents to model the behaviour that we wish children to perform.  It seems our entire focus is rushing them from one event to another without actually communicating about life and sharing lessons.  We can schedule play dates but sitting down and critically engaging with children is something we simply don’t have time for.

Children are not robotic individuals that can be programmed to obey on command. Part of the process of growing is testing boundaries, and making mistakes.  To be punished physically for maturing in the natural process impedes personal growth.  It teaches a child that they are not worthy of respect. If we can socially decide that beating an animal is wrong why can we not decide that hitting a child, the fruit of our wombs is equally wrong?

Cross posted from Womanist Musings



  1. ‘To be punished physically for maturing in the natural process impedes personal growth. It teaches a child that they are not worthy of respect.’

    Couldn’t have put it better myself. I love this whole post. I was hit, and I will confidently say I will NEVER do this to anyone, much less my own child. I believe that in my country (Britain), it is still legal to hit, as long as it’s

    a) not with an instrument. It has to be your hand. Apparently using an object is more likely to cause damage without you knowing it.

    b) doesn’t leave any sort of mark.

    My parents both adhered to these rules, but it didn’t stop it being bad. I was mostly slapped round the face. This made me scared of my parents, as a kid.
    I understand some people like to ‘smack their behind’ or hit the hand with something. A lot of the people in this video seemed to prefer the traditional smacking the buttocks. I actually believe that is bordering on sexual abuse. It’s a pretty damn private area. Nobody has the right to touch it without your consent. How is it right to teach kids that some people have a ‘right’ to do that, but some stranger doesn’t?

    There’s a place near where I live, it’s got a circular brick design on the floor and curved benches to sit on, and it’s obscured from sight mostly by a building and some trees, so very occasionally parents who are out shopping with a misbehaving child take them there to ‘spank’. Sometimes you see them pull up their kid’s dress or whatever. And also, though I hope this is rare, for some odd reason a few parents seem to enjoy pulling their underwear down as well, before they spank them. What is the explanation for that? Sure, the smack will sting more, probably. But it’s hideous. I don’t understand how someone could possibly say it’s not sexual abuse.

  2. I really think that there is a huge problem with people not understanding what the purpose of spanking really is. I know that a lot of people try to hit their kids hard so they feel it, and they believe that pain is a deterrent. While it can be, it’s not an effective one. I’ve always found ‘spanking’ as a punishment to be more effective in terms of embarassment rather than pain. When I was spanked as a kid, my parents spanked me just enough so I felt something, like a slight sting, but never enough to actually hurt. My pants were never pulled down, or my underwear. It was just the act that was important. I mean, it was embarassing enough as it was. When I got older, it was more of a slight slap upside the head, which was funny because my mom had to kinda jump to reach my head, lol.

    When I talk about ‘spanking’, it’s quite a bit different than what some people refer to as spanking. You’re not trying to beat the hell out of the kid, or scar them sexually or emotionally. You’re just telling them that they did something wrong and make them understand. Discipline is neccesary, sometimes even physical discipline. However, people are forgetting that you’re disciplining the child because you love them and you want them to learn from their mistakes, not because you’re angry at them.

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