Wednesday 12 April 2017

Words on Spanking

A parent has an interesting and often conflicting duty: keep the child safe, but paradoxically let the child explore the very challenging, often dangerous world around them. If I distract the child by making myself part of the danger I am not going to be a very effective teacher, guide and protector of my child. If I teach my child that the world, and parents or adult caregivers are dangerous people then I teach my child that being dangerous yourself is a way to survive. Or, and most sadly, I will teach the child that passivity and compliance are all one has to survive with. The child either grows up being me or in reaction to me. In either case I have crippled and limited my child no matter how wonderfully obedient he or she may seem.

We will get the world we believe in, and if we believe that children must submit to harsh authority and that they are basically evil and must be controlled then we will get a world of people who behave as though this is true. Where families raise their children with love and gentleness and do not call them names and yell at them, where they are not slapped, pinched, punched and whipped, we have children who are confident in their ability to manage in a world they see as full of exciting choices and fulfilling experiences.

Any thoughtful person looking at the belief systems of those in prisons or in our mental or social services programs gets the point. Our prisons are full of those who believe that to be dangerous is how to survive in the world. And our mental health and human service systems are full of those who have only passivity and compliance as their coping method. Researchers have given up on trying finding violent offenders in prisons who were not spanked or beaten or punished as children. If you are a parent who spanks think about how you were raised and what you may be visiting on this child you beat that they will do to theirs and theirs to theirs. It is a harsh legacy that, I have come to believe, will destroy our planet in time.

It is the child who is raised with love and attention who I expect will view the world assertively, with courage and thoughtful examination of the universe on their own who I want to govern in my place when their turn comes around.

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