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Fayette-Mom: Wading into the spanking debate

Posted September 15, 2014

Jennifer Joyner

— I’m not much of a sports fan, and I know next to nothing about pro football.

I’m quite confident that before last week, I never knew anything about Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson.

Now, because of a torrent of press and social media buzz, I know a whole lot (some facts, mixed in with lots and lots of opinion) about both men, and I find myself drawn into what is becoming a national debate:  What limits should there be (if any) when it comes to disciplining one’s child?

(For whatever reason, I don’t feel drawn into a debate about Ray Rice. Not sure there is much of a debate there. Ahem).

I am a product of the South, and in my upbringing in Durham in the 70’s and 80’s, I was quite familiar with a “switch." If I’m being honest, I saw them being used on my brothers a lot more than they were used on me, and if we’re having a debate about what is fair, I’m sure they would appreciate my pointing out the boys got it way worse than the girls. (Although I did have my share of spankings on the bottom with parent’s hands or belts).

I guess what I’m trying to say here …. I know of what Adrian Peterson, and his supporters, speak: They believe in these methods as useful tools in disciplining children, and that belief in and of itself does not mean they are heartless, child-abusing monsters. I can assure you, my parents were none of those things.

But.

I can’t ever recall a time in which a spanking or whopping or switching in our home broke the skin, or really even left a mark. Sore? Yes. Feelings hurt? Absolutely. Maybe even humiliated? Quite possibly.

But never bleeding, never a tear of sensitive skin, and I’m pretty sure, never a switch on a four-year-old.

So, I don‘t quite buy into the argument that “I got whoopings as a child and I turned out fine … what’s the big deal?”

First, I would bet that most of our spankings didn’t leave that kind of damage. Two, I can think of a lot of things my parents did back in the day about which we now know better (leaving kids in hot cars, smoking while pregnant, not restraining kids with car seats or seat belts …the list goes on). Here’s yet another example where we learn from the past and do better as we go forward.

I certainly don’t think how we parent should be decided by committee. Families have to make these kinds of decisions for themselves, and those decisions are not always going to align with those of your neighbors. That’s OK.

But, to ensure the safety of all children, the most precious and vulnerable members of our society, we must set limits on what should be considered discipline, and what crosses the line into abuse.

Now, I’m going to wait for our system of justice to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. (I firmly believe that is why it is in place, and I trust it to do its job).

And I’m going to pray that at the end of the day, what’s best for our children wins the game.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. She writes about motherhood and family-friendly events in Fayetteville here on Go Ask Mom.

17 Comments

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  • snowl Sep 17, 2014

    You can instill the IDEA in the child's mind that he/she may be spanked, but you never have to actually hit the child. Take off your belt and hit the coffee table, grab that wooden spoon from the kitchen drawer and hit the counter top, then see how quickly the child comes to attention.
    There is never a reason to spank or hit a child, in my opinion.

  • 678devilish Sep 17, 2014

    This lady is certainly no expert. Why they focus on her is way beyond me. Anyway, never hit a child. Find another way to punish. HITTING A CHILD IS ABUSE OF A CHILD. PERIOD! PARENTS THAT DID THIS HITTING BACK THEN AS WELL AS TODAY IS JUST WRONG. ITS ABUSE PEOPLE.

  • A person Sep 16, 2014

    So she was educated and became an expert on the subject in less that 3 weeks. Amazing. What is more amazing is that she is actually being taken seriously by omeone

  • Killian Sep 16, 2014

    Clayton Tarheel - I have to disagree with your last sentence in reply to azinfandgal (unless it was sarcasm and I couldn't read that through text?) - As a former special ed teacher, IQ tests were necessary for us to assist in placement of kids in the appropriate levels. And yeah, the gifted ones are included in the "special ed" umbrella! So having that assessment (along with other tools), we can challenge kids who need higher leveling, and we can assist the kids who need it.

  • itsnotmeiswear Sep 16, 2014

    View quoted thread


    There are plenty of kids in those detention centers that were not spanked. I have two teenagers in my neighborhood that will both end up in jail, but neither was disciplined by the "knuckle dragging" method. They were "talked to" and "reasoned with". When their educated parents turned their heads, the kids stole their depression and pain killer meds to sell to their friends.

    I'm not advocating abuse. Parents that spank and parents that don't spank can have successful and smart kids. The same types of parents can have problem kids. There are too many other environmental variables in the lives of children to say one thing causes the end result. It is ridiculous to think otherwise.

    azinfandgal -Whenever someone has the IQ of a child tested, that is abuse in my world. A child is not a lab rat.

  • Killian Sep 16, 2014

    OK, whoa. I wouldn't necessarily go that far. Yes, there have been some studies, but I wouldn't say that people who still use physical discipline are "weak minded". My thought it simply that they simply haven't sought to learn another way.

    The absolute consistency needed for non-physical disciplinary methods can be too much for people. And while I will never -ever- agree that there is a "time and place" or a "good reason" to hit a child, I will also not start personal attacks against the people who do it.

    My issue was actually with the opposite. I grow very weary of people who assume that "no spanking = wild, unruly brats" and it simply isn't true. And really? Go into some of the juvenile detention centers and ask the kids if they were spanked when they were younger. Many studies have also shown that they were.

    Spanking doesn't teach proper behavior when the kid is older. It simple instills a fear of pain to avoid a behavior in the short term.

  • btneast Sep 16, 2014

    BTNEAST - Hitting is hitting. You can get semantic if you choose, but go to an obnoxious coworker or subordinate at work and "spank" them and see how far you get. Oh right, that's illegal. It's only defenseless children you're allowed to hit. That's a foolish analogy that doesn't work. I am not raising my co worker, nor am I responsible for them. People don't spank their child because they are defenseless. You asked to not be lumped into a stereotype, so you should do the same in return. I very rarely had to "spank" my kids. As they got older, it disappeared entirely. If you are spanking on a regular basis, you are doing something wrong.

  • azinfandgal Sep 16, 2014

    You can raise a perfectly fine, loving, well-adjusted, respectful kid without resorting to physical violence, or as some people call it "physical discipline". But it takes intelligence and mental effort. Those who can't muster that up usually resort to physical and emotional abuse. Parents who resort to "physical discipline" are the weak-minded and the lazy. There are some non-spanking parents who don't raise their children correctly. That just means they're not doing it correctly. It doesn't mean all kids that weren't spanked are bad. Multiple studies have found a correlation between spanking and lower IQ. I'm not sure if the spanking causes the lower IQ in kids, or if parents who spank have a lower IQ, causing the kids to have a lower IQ. Could be both. So if you want to pass on your lowered IQ, "hitting solves problems" family tradition, go ahead.

  • Killian Sep 16, 2014

    BTNEAST - Hitting is hitting. You can get semantic if you choose, but go to an obnoxious coworker or subordinate at work and "spank" them and see how far you get. Oh right, that's illegal. It's only defenseless children you're allowed to hit.

    ClaytonTarheel - My kids were never pushed to go any faster than they chose. Each one chose their academic track. The older two chose to homeschool because they liked the freedom it brought them. My youngest wanted NO part of homeschooling, so he attended public school. He loved it. But he came to me and said he was bored and wanted to complete it in 3 years. We supported our kids' choices, and always communicated with them.

    They loved their high school and college years, and are having a blast now as well.

  • itsnotmeiswear Sep 16, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Exactly. Different strokes, but I think I'd rather have been spanked many times with a switch than pushed so hard that I got my Master's by the time I was 20 years old. I would have missed all the fun I had in high school that happened long after my last spanking.

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