Children who have been exposed to any type of violence in their family show the same pattern of activity in their brains as combat soldiers.
Before I begin my thoughts on spanking I want express that this is not a debate, just my thoughts hence the title. I am not placing blame or holding anger, I am not even interested in going into where it started, as long as it stops. I am not casting a dark shadow on anyone who did the spanking because I too am guilty. My effort instead, is to finally shed light on the topic, killing the taboo, and to begin talking about it in hopes that it helps create better humans.
I grew up in a home similar to many my age and older, where spanking was not only common practice as a form of punishment, but an approved way of “teachin you a lesson little one!” It varied from offense to offense, home to home. Some people received just a tap on the hand or bum and a timeout (which is another no-go for me too, being ignored has the same chemical reaction and effects as physical injury). Some received beatings that would mirror a prisoner of war. The spectrum varied, but all at the hands of someone we loved and trusted.
Did I survive? Yes. Without damage? No.
This is not a parent bash, read that again… this. is. not. a. parent. bash. More just a forward-thinking idea from someone who has changed their ways as a result of serious introspection after reviewing the effects of the past. I mean what are we if we are not learning and growing? If we are not admitting our wrongs and attempting to live a better way, a better life?
The answer: STUCK. You are stuck.
I began reading Parent Speak by Jennifer Lehr, linked ParentSpeak, a few months ago and I still have to do my full book review post, because yes! it is that good, but I have been procrastinating so I will cliff notes you here real quick… it is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book geared for finding a better way to raise our kids and interact with all humans, and for me, also thought and behavior changing.
As I began reading the chapter on punishment for “misbehaving” children, I cried for myself, I cried for my brother, I cried for my parents, and I cried for my son. I was not beaten, let me clarify, far from it. I was “popped” when it was deemed necessary and it was minimal and not just from parents, because “it takes a village”. But, I was smart and learned how to avoid it quickly. In my parents (families) defense, they did what they knew to be best. And in truth, I was a good kid, so some would argue that it worked. I would suggest though, that while physical force creates a compliant child, it doesn’t do so in a loving and safe-feeling, trusting environment, nor does it create the right lesson for a young and malleable mind.
As I had learned growing up, just as my parents did, I too fell into the idea that asserting my wants and needs for my child and his behavior by physical force, or just the threat of, was okay. My son wasn’t spanked often, but I can’t say it ever helped either.
Let me be extremely clear here, I am ashamed I ever harmed my child that I say I love more than my own life, mentally or physically, as a way to get him to comply. It horrifies me that I ever thought it was okay, acceptable, and a lesson.
Years later, and quite a bit of self-analysis/therapy, the lesson I received as a child was that if someone I loved didn’t like what I did it was acceptable for them to hurt me. And not only did I have to take it, I had to fall in-line with what someone else wanted which eventually spread into all other relationships. I had to be self-sacrificing to what I thought was right or good for me or face a physical retaliation. I learned that whatever I was feeling that led to the actions I demonstrated were unimportant. I learned that I had to stifle anything that was not approved by my protectors and loved ones or accept that my body (my self, my thoughts and feelings, my imagination, my need for love, my mental health, my beliefs) would be harmed.
Now again, I am not blaming my parents or their parents for the trend. I am blaming society for not opening their eyes and ears sooner to the professionals, and who instead let “family business” remain something that should not be discussed, in turn perpetuating the same behavior.
In her book, Jennifer Lehr explains how actions often explain feelings. If we take a moment to try and discern the why behind a behavior we don’t find appealing in our children we may discover more than just an outburst. There is often more there that your child wants and needs to share that they need your help with.
Our expectations are skewed. When our children are infants they cry to receive something they need. When they begin to speak we suddenly demand they use their words to express themselves when they haven’t even been taught how. Yet, as adults very few of us are successful at articulating our own feelings, why do you think that is? Do you even know what to feel? Does it match what you were forced to think and feel as a child? Rarely is my guess. Our children are small, they don’t always know how to interpret all of the things they are enduring, thinking, feeling. Outbursts and behavior that leave you exasperated and often desperate are not just to send an already tired parent over the edge (even though I do know first hand that it often feels that way). They are for a purpose the majority of the time and your effort should be to help them, to love them, to guide them, teach them, exhausted or not.
Just because you experienced physical punishment and survived it does not mean it is okay or that it worked. The assumption a human can discern when someone they love hurts them for good or for bad falls simply on bruised skin.
And for anyone reading this who suggests that kids these days are misbehaving because they didn’t receive physical punishment, you are wrong. There may be other pieces of the puzzle missing, including this overworked, non-present generation of mine, but lack of abuse does not perpetuate “bad” children. Children who grew up to be parents not knowing how to express themselves or feel for themselves do. I would recommend taking a harder look at what causes the behavior you find “bad” and new ways to assist it becoming better. I also recommend starting with researching the effects of what you think helps, if it is physical harm or not, and what it actually does instead.
Your fingerprint never fades from a life you have touched.
We owe it to their little selves to help them, not hurt them. We owe it to them to break the cycle and show them what their standards of love should be. Love should never hurt, not physically, mentally or emotionally. Your words and hands should never exist to bring harm to your children, or anyone else for that matter. My words and hands should never have, but now I know better so I do better.
I talk to my son about it. I express my apologies for harming him. He knows it was learned and understands why I did what I did without excuse, but he also knows to never do it to his loved ones.
Would you rather have happy, healthy, understanding, humans that feel safe and loved who can express themselves and act decently in many situations or simply compliant yet confused children who grow up thinking it is okay for someone who loves them to hurt them?
Read Parent Speak. Talk to your kids. Understand that there is more to their actions than just being “bad” (also in your opinion set by a stiff society with many rules that do not even apply in today’s times) and help them figure it out. Lead by example rather than “do as I say, not as I do”. Never harm someone you love. Talk to each other!
I welcome all comments and thoughts on this, but keep in mind this is my opinion, you definitely do not have to agree or like it.
Learn better, do better, be better.
I mean how could I ever do anything but my best for this sweet face?