DEFINE spanking before debating it!

[deleted account] ( 34 moms have responded )

I have read the two previous spanking threads and the common theme I seem to see throughout the posts is that when people say "spanking" they are often talking about VERY VERY different things. You can't really debate something properly unless you can agree on a definition. If the definition of spanking is "beating the crap out of your child" then I think we'd all agree that it's BAD. That is not what ANY of the people who advocate spanking are advocating (I'm sure they would not be publicly admitting it if they did this). Having experienced both actual spanking and abuse and adding that knowledge to having read all of the posts, I would say that most people who AGREE with spanking are actually agreeing with SPANKING as it should be properly defined. Most (not all but the vast majority) of posters who DISAGREE with spanking clearly do so because their idea of spanking is actually ABUSE. I read a post where one lady said she disagrees with spanking because she was "spanked" and then clearly described a scene of brutal abuse. Well, YEAH!! Of course you disagree with spanking if THAT'S what you think it is! If you have only experienced abuse then YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT SPANKING IS or what it feels like to the child. If you do not know a good and proper definition or guidelines to spanking then you should not spank your child. To try to nail this down better I will offer the following ideas and I welcome others adding to it or commenting on it. I get this definition from personal experience (from both perspectives, the child and the parent), from a lot of reading of parenting books and from knowing MANY people who use spanking in their home. The only comment I DO NOT wish to hear is how all spanking of any kind is abuse. That is an opinion which, while you have a perfect right to have it and live by it, is totally useless to this discussion and, frankly, in contradiction to thousands of years of well behaved, well adjusted children disciplined in this way. I'm really looking to hash out a good, useful definition, not to hear more slanging.

I think it's safe to say that in general:

1. If your memories of being spanked are traumatic to you then you were not spanked- you were abused. I was spanked many times and have little or no actual memory of any particular event, just a general knowledge that I was spanked and that I chose it by continuing behavior that I knew would get me a spanking. On the other hand, my memories of abuse are vivid, traumatic and crippling and I bear the aftereffects in my body to this day.
2. If being spanked caused you to fear your parents you were not spanked- you were abused. (How I have often wished that my children feared me just a little bit! They do not. My mother was a much more devout spanker than I am and the idea of being afraid of her is almost humorous.)
3. If any marks were left on you other than a slight redness that faded in minutes- you were not spanked, you were abused.
4. If you were injured in any way, you were abused.
5. If you were spanked for any and every offense, without any warning or in public then your parents improperly used spanking at best, perhaps even abused you.
6. If you were spanked as a teenager, you were abused. Spanking is totally uncalled for and is borderline perversion after puberty.
7. If you remember your parent as being enraged or flying off into you, you were abused, not spanked.

Proper spanking can involve your hand or a non-injuring object such as a wooden spoon. I have used a wooden spoon and it is nearly impossible to injure a child with one as long as it's used on a clothed bottom. It should be done on a clothed bottom or the back of the legs (if they are wearing thick clothing they won't feel it at all on the bottom) or you might smack their hand or arm to prevent them or deter them from reaching for something dangerous. Any object that can injure a child such as a belt or any other type of striking such as hitting them in the face or kicking them is abusive. One caveat to this: If I had a teenager who was in my face screaming profanities at me I could see smacking them in the face. Thank God, I will probably never have that issue come up since I spanked them as small children and they now have respect for me and would not do that to me!

Proper spanking generally yields these results:
It works. Proper spanking is done infrequently and in diminishing frequency as the child gets older and quickly becomes unnecessary.

While uncomfortable it is not traumatic or terribly painful for the child. They often show penitence for their bad behavior rather than anger at being spanked.

Children who are properly spanked know that they did wrong, know why you spanked them and were not surprised to be spanked.

Proper spanking is never done in any emotion greater than irritation.

Spanking is done for the benefit of the child. It is to teach them a particular lesson- most spanking advocates reserve it for outright defiance, open disrespect or blatant, knowing disobedience. For small children it is generally used to show them a little discomfort in order to deter them from something that could cause them GREAT discomfort, pain or death if they continue doing it. Abuse is done for the PARENT- to vent emotion, to punish/ get revenge, to stop irritating behaviors that are not necessarily wrong, just annoying to the parent.

Adults who were properly spanked as children remember it with humor, remember themselves as having deserved it, admire their parents for disciplining them in this way because they know that it made them a better person. They also usually use this type of discipline, not because it makes them feel powerful or because they're lazy, but because they recognize that it made them a better person and they wish the same thing for their children.

Anyone want to add, subtract or multiply these definitions?

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Jaime - posted on 07/20/2009

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I have been participating in another discussion about spanking called "smack a baby?", and the person that has started this thread, has also participated and been particularly harsh toward the views of mothers that choose not to spank. Suzanne Cayley made a comment above that supports exactly what I believe with regard to any situation or topic being discussed on a public forum--especially one as controversial as spanking:
she said....
"I have no ill judgment on people who choose to spank/hit their children. But this is a debate, and you can't have a debate without stating your opinion on the topic. We shouldn't feel trepidation in sharing our view point within a debate, even when the topic is sensitive". After having read and responded to some of Tammy Tucker's comments on the other forum, I just wanted to reiterate on this thread that, just because a person states their opinion does not mean that it holds no merit in the discussion. If a person makes an unfounded comment, such as "spanking is child abuse", then it is perhaps a judgment based on an extremist perspective. While I don't support spanking, I do not judge others that spank because I do not view decisions and choices from a basis of right vs. wrong. I firmly believe that spanking is not effective, no matter if the parent thinks they 'got the message across', as the child will only adjust their behaviour out of fear, rather than out of the understanding that what they have done is not acceptable. Discipline is the key when teaching children right from wrong based on each person's individual ideas of what constitutes these two terminologies. Discipline is not a negative action or reaction to behaviour, it is a positive, pro-active step toward helping a child to improve their own actions and reactions to situations in life. I might not like it when someone steps ahead of me in line, but my first reaction is not always to get upset with them and certainly never to physically point out my frustration...I might be thrown off at first, but depending on the situation, I take the time to think about; first of all whether or not it's worth being upset about and second of all what is appropriate to say to someone that does it intentionally, without any regard for their rude behaviour. I was spanked as a child and I was hit with objects and I learned that that was the way to get people to listen. So when I started babysitting my siblings, instead of using a more effective approach to discipline, I would do whatever was physically necessary to get them to listen: kicking, hitting, punching, hair pulling, smacking....these are not things that I'm proud of, nor are they memories that I enjoy, but I have forgiven my past (being that I was only 11) and endeavoured to try and approach situations that are stressful or frustrating with as much rationality as possible. And now that I have a Son, I will endeavour to instill in him, the kind of patience that is sometimes necessary to have when faced with some of life's ultimate, personal challenges---starting with restraint against forceful submission of another person, which is what spanking comes down to. Children are not born with their minds made up to misbehave. Children learn by example and they learn as they go...their minds are a clean slate and they are extremely impressionable. Lots of people that were spanked might not have harsh memories of it, but that is not a justification for using it to discipline their children. Discipline is about teaching, not punishing, and that is why I firmly believe spanking to be ineffective, because it will never teach a child to behave, only to fear punishment.

April - posted on 07/20/2009

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This is good. I have read that child abuse is defined as any physical, mental, or sexual abuse other than spanking in the form of discipline. My 3 year old would not leave his seat belt on one day and I smacked his hand once and told him he needed to leave it on. When he unbuckled himself again, I once again smacked his hand. A woman then walked up to my car and told me not to hit my baby. There is a very real difference between hitting and smacking/spanking. I am sorry to all advocates against spanking, but my child's life is entirely more important than your opinion of what kind of mother I am. One woman in my church doesn't believe in spanking, and has "other ways of disciplining", however, her 8 year old repeatedly kicked my 3 year old, and then lied to his mom. Six people standing around them told her that he did indeed kick my son, and she still chose to believe her son. That type of behavior is unacceptable! Obviously other forms of discipline are not working! Let's back off and just let parents be parents!

Jaime - posted on 07/03/2009

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If you are looking for 'honest debate' then you cannot set a precedence for what pieces of the debate you would like to hear...a debate considers all sides of the argument and it also steps on controversial boundaries---thus the basis of a debate!



I agree that when debating, one must argue the facts and not personal definitions or feelings about a particular matter, but in reference to spanking being for the benefit of the child...I see no evidence to support this statement to be true. Certainly spanking offers a deterrence for behaviours that a parent does not wish the child to repeat, however; as was mentioned in another post, 'fear' is likely the driving force behind the deterrence and has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the spanking. Spanking is a practice that has been used for thousands of years, this is true...but that does not mean it is an effective form of discipline. And more to the point, spanking a child is painful in some form (mentally, emotionally or physically) because it would not be done if it didn't elicit the desired reaction that parents aim for when using this form of discipline (as one woman pointed out in her post with regard to her step children laughing when they got spanked). What I find interesting is that, if a parent reaches the point where they feel they must use spanking to discipline their child, it is perhaps out of irritation that they spank, but more often than not it is out of anger that spanking occurs (and this is where the definition becomes blurred). It is a bit unsettling to hear that spanking a child is done in a calm and rational manner, because it suggests that the parent has taken time to cool down and anger is no longer at the forefront of the discipline, thus removing the need to use such a harsh form of punishment. Spanking seems more likely to benefit the parent and satisfy the 'id' which is that inner child of our subconscious that wants a 'quick fix'. To say that you hate spanking your children is in direct contradiction to your actions, because although you say you hate it, you still do it. If you hate to do it, which suggests that you feel a constant inner struggle with your emotions, then perhaps the problem is not the behaviour of the child...but the reaction of the parent to the natural processes that children go through. It is the parents' job to be in the driver's seat and not allow children to manipulate their way through childhood, and granted there are many challenges that go along with this responsibility, but it is not impossible to do without inflicting physical punishment onto a child for the sake of "getting your point across". Respect is the ultimate goal when it comes right down to it, but how can a parent expect this desired result if they claim that they had no choice but to spank and that they were 'forced' to spank their child as a result of the behaviour being displayed...this gives way too much credit to a child (and many that are not even at a reasoning level of development). Children cannot 'force' their parents to spank, just as they cannot force their parents to put them on time out or feed them or bathe them, etc... Children depend on their parents for everything--especially when it comes to learning life lessons. So, to suggest that a parent is forced to spank, leads to the idea that a child is in control of the parents' emotions, which leads me back to the possibility that the child's behaviour is not the problem, the parents' reaction is. There have been a few times (and my Son is only 4 months old) that I have been in a state of rage with regard to the constant crying, whining and demands of my child; however, in every single situation I left the room for a period of time and allowed myself the chance to rationalize the situation (realizing that my infant child is incapable of communicating his problem) whereby I was able to replace the rage with understanding for the reality that my child needs me to be reasonable and rational and able to determine quickly that his behaviours are not intentionally displayed to "set me off". As children age and learn to manipulate situations (test boundaries) they often display intentional behaviour which needs to be disciplined--but I find it hard to believe that even in the most chaotic of circumstances, spanking is the only form of effective discipline...and this again, goes back to the fact that if a parent can spank a child in a calm manner, then the parentally-manufactured need for spanking is removed.



I believe that spanking is for the parent...and not at all beneficial because I am quite certain that after spanking a child, most, if not all parents feel an intense sadness and even guilt at having inflicted such punishment...which brings me back to the contradiction of hating spanking, but doing it anyway...



and before anyone jumps on the "well there are lots of things we hate to do but we do them anyway" bandwagon....spanking is not a necessity of life. Spanking does not need to be done to ensure safety, security, or life vs. death. Spanking is a discipline that PARENTS CHOOSE...not a forced action brought on by a child's behaviour.

Suzanne - posted on 07/27/2009

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Hi Tammy,
It seems as if you were looking for another outcome from this thread. Are you trying to redefine the term "Spanking"? I'm a little confused, but will contribute what I've found.

Generally speaking, the only distinction between the term spanking, and hitting; is that to "spank", is to strike the buttock, period. The term "spanking", is derived from the Latin term "Culus", meaning buttocks. Of course many parents strike the hand or thigh, this would not fall under the most commonly recognized definitions in modern text. That form of striking, would fall under the term "hitting".
Obviously "spanking" is "hitting", that is self evident. So It is fair to say, that striking the buttock, would be considered spanking, whereas striking any other area, would be more appropriately termed as hitting - by definition. In Wikipedia, the term "hitting", is automatically diverted to the definition for "violence".
That's about where it stands in the definitions. Are you looking for input, in order to redefine the term? Or, are you attempting to encapsulate an acceptable standard by which, the use of force would be accepted as more "humane", or less "violent", if administered "within this acceptable framework"?
This may be very difficult, as it would be based on an individuals personally held morality, it is too subjective. What one might feel is acceptable, may clearly look abusive to another. The terms to: "strike", "hit", "spank", in definition, overlap. It is left to the individuals personal moral principles to decide what feels "good" or "bad".
It reminds me of when I went looking for the definition of "evil", in dictionaries. I was surprised how subjective the term was. The term for "bad behavior" was used in the definition of "evil", but clearly, we would not define all "bad behavior" as evil. It seems that, when behavior "causes harm to another" it always begins to cross the line in to the "evil" category. How often you "harm", would probably determine "by definition", how evil you are. At some point, the intention of the individual doesn't matter anymore. The behavior is considered "evil".
I'm not trying to make a connection between evil and spanking here, it is just the best example I could think of when "defining" a behavior which is determined by one's own morals/principles. I would have chosen "good" behavior, but we don't really have a widely excepted term to denote someone who is "most good".`
Although I do not believe in the practice of hitting as a positive form of discipline, I would like to contribute to your attempt at formulating a standard.
I'd like to point to a few of your "rules" of engagement. Please accept these as constructive criticism.
I'm not at all sure if any standard in regard to the use of "hitting", is "safe to say", because we all come from different perspectives. To prove my point, I will comment on your above standard, which seems very reasonable, and well thought out.

1) To say that if your memories of being "spanked" should not be "traumatic". This would be an unreasonable assertion in my opinion. Being "hit" is always inherently traumatic!. Evolutionarily speaking, we are hard wired to react to any form of physical assault, this is necessary to our survival. There is a physiological cascade of events that happens in response to being struck, and we have very little control over this. The sympathetic nervous system is engaged, and it triggers a "fight or flight" response. This is a protective mechanism, which creates a cascade of events in the body, enabling us the physical resources needed to escape danger. Without any true threat, this reaction to stress, can have very negative effects over time.
I would also add that - when a person is put in to a situation were they are repeatedly exposed to a threat such as this - and it is out of their control to change, the mind wants to disassociate with the trauma, this is also a natural response in an attempt to preserve our physiological well being. It however does not eradicate the physical response, and it sets up a disassociated state in our physique. Meaning that we still experience the trauma psychologically, we simply become unable to associate it with the offense. Children always react in a traumatized way to the first initial assaults, then over time it is common for them to appear "numb" to being hit.
2) It is unreasonable to assert that children do not feel fear from being "hit". Once again, it is almost impossible for a child, or an adult alike not to experience some level of fear! This is a normal evolutionary physiological and psychological reaction to a threat, we would be developmentally deficient in some area not to feel fear, it is necessary for survival, period. What happens over the course of being "hit", I've already spoken about above.
3&4) Marks left from any type of physical trauma, always correspond directly to the amount of force involved with the particular trauma. With that said, even a slightly reddened area, that fades within a few minutes, is still trauma. Just as a mosquito bite, or a scraped knee, may seem insignificant, it is trauma none the less. It is all injury! this is just fact! So, I believe that to say "If you were injured in any way, you were abused" is too subjective to use as a "standard" for "proper spanking".
5) "If you were spanked for any and every offense, without any warning or in public then your parents improperly used spanking at best, perhaps even abused you."
This statement doesn't make any logical sense to me. If a person feels that "spanking" is a positive form of discipline, why would you be concerned about how often you used it? And why would you be concerned about using it in public? There are always going to be instances might call for discipline outside of the home, and I've heard many parents use "running out in to traffic" as an example of what might warrant a "spanking". Why would you want to confine this form of discipline only to the home? And further, why would you think it might start looking abusive "in public"? Once again, I think it may be too subjective for a "standard of proper spanking".
6) I'm thinking that you would not agree with "hitting a teenager" because they can be reasoned with?? Some would argue that that age might be the most appropriate, because they can understand the reasoning behind your actions. There are many people that believe that "hitting" a child under the age of 3 is inherently abusive, because children at this age do not have the appropriate reasoning ability, hence, you are essentially punishing them for something that they do not have the ability to understand yet. I think again, this is simply too subjective to use in a "standard for proper spanking".
7) 'If you remember your parent as being enraged or flying off into you, you were abused, not spanked." I'm not at all sure that you can always expect parents to not become frustrated, or react in an alarmed way, especially if they see their child headed for danger. Of course, what ever way you choose to discipline your children, most people tend to agree that children learn how to cope with fear and frustration, from watching how their parents cope. Children are sure to witness these emotions in their parents at some point in their upbringing, it is the the way that parents handle stress, and their model that will most greatly influence children. I think your statement stands true, whatever way you choose to discipline.
My only other critique would be your use of the word "punish", when referring to abuse. Whether you choose to spank, or not. There are really only two forms of teaching, or discipline. One uses "punishment" as a "tool" of discipline, whether "spanking" or the "naughty mat", they are both forms of punishment. The second way of teaching is by using age appropriate reasoning.. For a child under 21/2, this may mean using the word "no" with the appropriate facial expression, redirection, and consistency, would be appropriate to the reasoning level at this age. As a child develops, your ability to explain consequence should increase. For many children, understanding the reasoning behind your request, or the limits you have set for them, is enough to stave off the worst defiance. But it is natural to test limits, and of course their are different temperaments. Beyond discipline through reasoning, there is discipline that incorporates "punishment" as a "tool of control" so to speak. Any form of discipline in this context is synonymous with punishment! Below are 7 different definitions of discipline.
# a branch of knowledge; "in what discipline is his doctorate?"; "teachers should be well trained in their subject"; "anthropology is the study of ...
# a system of rules of conduct or method of practice; "he quickly learned the discipline of prison routine"; "for such a plan to work requires discipline";
# the trait of being well behaved; "he insisted on discipline among the troops"
# develop (children's) behavior by instruction and practice; especially to teach self-control; "Parents must discipline their children"; "Is this dog trained?"
# training to improve strength or self-control
# punish in order to gain control or enforce obedience; "The teacher disciplined the pupils rather frequently"
# the act of punishing; "the offenders deserved the harsh discipline they received"

So they all involve teaching, but some incorporate punishment, as a teaching method.
It would not really be appropriate to refer to the term "punishment" as abuse, unless you were to believe that to "punish" is abusive, which would make very little sense in this context.
Anyway, hope that perhaps I've contributed in some way to helping you define "Spanking".
Love to you, and all the Mom's out there!

[deleted account]

To address the issue of "modeling behavior", it is totally appropriate to say to a child that there are things that are properly done by some people but that other people are not allowed to do. My children, including my 6 year old, have no problem seeing the difference between him hitting someone and me spanking him. He sees no conflict there, neither did my girls, nor did it in any way make them more prone to hitting. It's very easy to explain and very easy for them to understand. There are a whole variety of things that parents/adults can do that children cannot do. For example, I can tell him what to do and he has to do it, whereas his friends do NOT have to do what he says nor does he have to do what they say. Adults are allowed to drink alcohol in moderation but he is not allowed to. Daddy and mommy sleep together in the same bed and kiss and hug and have sex (yes, even my six year old has a rudimentary understanding of this), but adults are not allowed to do this with children nor children with each other. He also knows that the police are allowed to hit people or shoot people if they are breaking the law or resisting their commands. I don't think kids have trouble understanding that most everything has a scenario in which it is appropriate and others in which it is not. The behavior that is being modeled when a parent appropriately spanks a child is that parents are authority figure who may use this form of discipline, not that people can go around hitting each other. Now if hubby and I were hitting each other, THAT would be modeling violent behavior. Kids are not dumb. We should give them a lot more credit than to think they can't figure this out.

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TealRose - posted on 01/15/2011

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BTW ... QUOTE " Proper spanking can involve your hand or a non-injuring object such as a wooden spoon. I have used a wooden spoon and it is nearly impossible to injure a child with one as long as it's used on a clothed bottom. It should be done on a clothed bottom or the back of the legs (if they are wearing thick clothing they won't feel it at all on the bottom) Unquote

Recently .. I tried this out...on myself. TWO medium smacks through my jeans and pants. It hurt like hell. [so did the much less hard 'tap' that I tried too ...] The deep red mark on my skin was there for all of the evening ... 6 hours... then I looked the next day ... still there. My husband was disgusted to see it took around 30 hours for it to disappear. Now... If a wooden spoon hit not so hard, on my 56 yr old butt can do that ... don't try and tell me that it is 'suitable' for hitting a child with !!!!

Cook with the thing !

TealRose - posted on 01/15/2011

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1] If ... you have no actual memory of it .. how much .. could it possibly have taught you ?? I remember it ..because I have an extraordinary memory and I remember being spanked and how much it HURT. I remember how much I felt that it was totally NOT right, and uncalled for - how I would respond more to be told and having right and wrong explained to me.

2] You can't tell whether child a or child b is going to be terrified when you spank them like I was. Saying 'sorry' to me as an adult is too late !
7] If a parent hits you 'cold blooded' .. what does that tell you ? It told me that they hated me, that they didn't love me, that they didn't care about me, that they had no self control after hitting me and telling me never to do so !!

I was a quiet well behaved child - who was spanked and it really upset me beyond belief - in my heart.

My definition of spanking ... IS abuse and I am only sorry you don't agree ! There is NO such thing as spanking with love ! Hitting is hitting ...If you want to hit me .... you are NOT allowed to ! If you want to hit my child .. YOU are not allowed to ... and NEITHER should I !!

You don't learn in fear ... you learn in love and kindess....


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[deleted account]

Thank you for your input. I'm sad that this thread didn't clarify the discussion more. The discussion in the other spanking threads up to this point has been arguing apples and oranges. I had hoped by defining spanking that it would help to steer the discussion toward an actual debate about spanking. I do see some people actually arguing against spanking but most posters are still arguing against ABUSE. They say they are against spanking but despite my detailed definition (and my invitation to define it better if you could) the discussion still boils down to one side saying, "Spanking is useful and I use it" and the other side saying "Abuse is bad and shame on you for abusing your child". This is arguing two totally different things. Everyone seems to have a lock on how abuse works: It is for the parent to vent his/her emotions, it makes the child scared, it only improves behavior because the child is fearful, it perpetuates violence. That is a great description of ABUSE. Jaime even gave us a nice description of how a parent probably feels after abusing their child. The problem is that those descriptions do not apply to spanking, in fact the experience for the parent and the child AND the outcome is the exact opposite. I have never in my life heard a parent who spanks express the emotions Jaime described, nor have I ever felt them. The emotion I feel after spanking my child is the same feeling you probably feel when you put your child in time out or when you take away something they enjoy. It's difficult to cause them unhappiness, you'd rather they just listened and that this could be skipped, but there is NO GUILT whatsoever. I have seen that it works, it makes the child a better person, they do not hate me or fear me because of it, it changes their attitude and behavior. Why should I feel guilt? I guess it's a sad testament to how much abuse is going on that everyone is more familiar with abuse than actual loving correction. I guess if that's all you've experienced you really have no way of knowing the difference and probably are best off by not trying to use something you don't understand.

Jennifer - posted on 07/20/2009

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I don't like the word "spanking" I define it as more abuse than non abuse. I was "spanked" as a child. and it didn't work. But I knew what it was, because i remember doing that to my baby dolls when I was a preschooler. and I was mean to them. But as I became an adult, I was very lucky to have people in my life to help me. Now the only "spanking" I do is what I choose to call the "attention getter" a quick hand slap on the butt.....and if I am mad....I leave the situation till I calm down....I refuse to put my child through what my mom put me through.!!!!!

Vicki - posted on 07/20/2009

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Flag as inappropriate Are you sure? Yes | No Posted by Jaime Leigh (July 3, 11:21 am)

If you are looking for 'honest debate' then you cannot set a precedence for what pieces of the debate you would like to hear...a debate considers all sides of the argument and it also steps on controversial boundaries---thus the basis of a debate!





Thank you for your very well thought out and insightfyl reply. I agree with you 100%!!!!

Suzanne - posted on 07/04/2009

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Hi Maleasha, I do agree that we should not ridicule each others parenting choices, and I have no ill judgment on people who choose to spank/hit their children. But this is a debate, and you can't have a debate without stating your opinion on the topic. We shouldn't feel trepidation in sharing our view point within a debate, even when the topic is sensitive. So, with that said, and with respect to your viewpoint, I want to respond to a statement you made.
"As adults, if we do wrong and commit a crime, we are punished for it. Let's say that jail for an adult, is like a spanking for a child and a fine or probation for an adult, is like a time out or being told "no". "
As an adult, if you were to strike another, you would face felony assault charges. Even if you, gave warning, administered it with "love", and were not angry at the time.

Maleasha - posted on 07/03/2009

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As adults, if we do wrong and commit a crime, we are punished for it. Let's say that jail for an adult, is like a spanking for a child and a fine or probation for an adult, is like a time out or being told "no". Which one is more effective and gets the point across quicker. I'm not saying that spanking works everytime or on every child, because it doesn't, just as jail does not work on every offender that goes through the system.



I can almost guarantee that we can all agree with the fact that everyone of us have different parenting techniques. We all make mistakes, but hopefully we learn from them and continue on. Parenting is a challenge, exciting and scary all at the same time. As long as we aren't braking the law and our children are happy and have a concept of right and wrong, then why ridicule eachother for how we have chosen to raise our kids.

Suzanne - posted on 07/03/2009

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Hi Kari,
I can relate to some of the feelings you've mentioned in your post. Thank you for your candor. Is it at all possible, that your feeling of anger and resentment, may be stemming from unresolved issues between you and your husband? You've mentioned that your husband is not supportive of your efforts with the children. The two youngest came to you by circumstance, but from the sound of it, much of the responsibility of raising them is falling primarily on you? You need to be the heavy.
It also sounds like you have devoted all of your attention to being the best parent you can be. You also sound very conscientious, or you wouldn't be so candid.
The realization that I came to for myself, was that, no matter how good, loving, or conscientious a person that I thought myself to be. If I'm feeling anger or resentment, it's very difficult not to view the situation through those eyes. It just doesn't leave any room for the love that you had spoke of, to grow. Just a thought, and only speaking from my experience.
Best of luck and love, to you and your family.

[deleted account]

Hi All, I am new to circle of moms..but I have a question in reference to the spanking bit. I am on my second marriage and I have a 12 yr old from my previous marriage. I never hardly ever!..had to spank her and I think she has turned out rather well so far! Anyways, when I married the second time I inherited two more children 6 and 8 yrs old. I have had more issues early on with their frequent spankings and I felt that it was doing no good because they laughed about it after wards so I felt that it did no good and stopped. I have let my emotions get the best of me since I have been married recently and always look for different ways to discipline them, i.e. timeout, take things away and so on. I don't have as much patience as I once had and now it's showing. The two little ones I have now are my husband's grandchildren. He adopted them about 3 yrs ago or so and are legally his. His daughter lost them for bad choices on her part and now no longer has legal rights to them but still continues to try and instill her role in their lives( which causes problems too). They were moved around quite a bit from one foster home to another before my husband got them so they lived a rather confusing life their first 18 mths of life. I try to love them but sometimes I do not feel love( How crazy is that??). I guess it's different for some if they are not your own. Makes me feel like a bad parent. My one boy is adhd. Something I am very new to which makes it hard for me to understand. That's another thing, I am the first time parent of a boy and they are so very different from girls. He is 8. He frustrates me a lot but then a lot of times he doesn't. My mom says that they are typical kids but with their past I don't think they are. I lose my patience a lot with him and I either yell at him, say mean things, or leave the room. I usually tell him why I am mad to his 8 yr old understanding but not sure he gets it or not. My other little girl she is 6. She is generally a good sweet girl most of the time with exception of major attitude and drama queen stuff(which I guess is normal, my 12 yr old girl never did that stuff). I understand blended families struggle and it makes it harder when your husband is not supportive of the structured discipline that's given, because he does not discipline and I am the heavy. We argue all the time about it. So basically, I am asking advice on how to discipline them and not resort to spanking so much and also to not lose my cool all the time. However, these days, I just distance myself because they make me so mad. The stress is overwhelming. I do not want the little ones growing up resenting us, rather i want them to grow up respecting us and know that we did our best giving them a good childhood and have good morals but I don't know if it will happen or not. My husband says they have changed drastically since I have been in the picture but I am always working ..in constant motion..and can't see the changes..because I am always working on making them better..is that bad?

Mel - posted on 07/03/2009

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wow thats a big post. i think on here alot of it gets changed. you say your tap your child someone turns it to hit, smack, beat spank and abuse, just because they are bored and want to start a fight

Vicki - posted on 07/02/2009

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Tammy, Thanks for your comment. I ask you moms, do you want to teach your children to be ruled by fear? Fearful responses are not really choices at all. Many fears are irrational, that is, when the issue is examined closely, you realize there is nothing to fear after all. Some fears are real, like when you are being persued by a predator or in danger of a car accident. I want my child, when faced with a fear provoking situation, to be able to have the mindset to make a thoughful decision. Fear causes an adreneline rush which causes unclear thinking and an exaggerated fight or flight response. To a child, the world is scary enough without having to contend with it in your own home.



Suzanne, I appreciate your story. There is tremendous power in the true stories of our fellow moms. I agree with you completely that spanking is an act of violence pure and simple. Sugar coating it with how hard it was or how lovingly it was administered does not change anything.



People of all sizes have basic human rights. Why should a parent have the freedom to take away those rights from their own child? We need to teach our children to protect their own human rights such as:



"I have a right to my own personal space"

"I have a right to be protected from physical violence to my body"

"I live in a free country and have the freedom to make my own choices, within the law"



Thank you for sharing.

Suzanne - posted on 07/01/2009

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Thank you Tammy for your post. Defining the difference between "spanking" and "abuse" is an essential clarification. And it would stand to reason that debating the possible merits of any type of intentional use of force, would be negated when it appears to cross the line of abuse. At such time; the harm to a child, more clearly seems to out way any possible perceived benefits. Your definition of what constitutes physical abuse in a child - seems quite reasonable, and very elaborate. But in my personal research, I have not been able to find such a clear definition, and I have looked far and wide. What I have found, are general statements, worded differently, but no clear distinction between "hitting" vs. "abusive hitting". The fact is that the term "hitting" is included in all of the definitions of physical abuse that I have stumbled across. And in my experience the idea of "abuse", is much more subjective then one might think.
In New York State, unless you leave "distinguishable bruising", or strike your child with an implement (such as a wooden spoon), you are allowed to hit your children at your discretion. This was confirmed to me by a social worker, from the office of CPS.
What I'm trying to express may seem insignificant to many, because most people feel perfectly capable of making that judgment on their own. They love their children, they felt loved by their parents, and are simply using a technique of discipline that they themselves were raised with successfully. I'm also not an expert at different cultural practices, but I would imagine that the use of physical discipline - in one form or another, has been a part of may different cultures throughout time. Acceptable practices are generally culturally based anyway. And what may resonate as abusive to us, may be an integral part of another cultures heritage, or rite of passage.
I personally have never believed in the practice of corporal punishment in raising my own children. I simply find it to be a violation of a child's sense of personal integrity and autonomy. And contrary to the sentiments of some, I believe that it creates fear, anger, confusion, and resentment in children. I believe that children are acutely aware of this violation on a very deep level, and are tormented by the confusion. I simply don't believe in violence, I would never attempt to use violence to achieve change in another, so, it would stand to reason - that I would never use this technique with my children. With that said, this is only my belief structure, I am not casting any judgment on different modes of thought.
The reason for my contribution to this debate, is because of the subjective nature of what constitutes "abuse" in each of our hearts, and in our culture. And further, how blurred the line between "abuse" and "acceptable behavior" can become, given different peoples orientation.
I was 39 years old, when my partner and I began discussing having a child. I had already raised my first daughter. She was 21 years old at the time, and in collage. Although I never thought it was in my future, My partner wanted children. I had loved being a Mom, so we began discussing our beliefs, concerns, and preferences. Given my strong preference against the practice spanking, it was, of course, a major topic of discussion instigated by me. It would have been a deal breaker - had he felt differently, and he knew it. He had said to me at the time; "I don't believe in spanking either, we won't have any problems there."
My daughter was around 14 months old, the first time her Father struck her. She toddled up to him one day, attempting to get his attention. He was sleeping on the living room floor at the time. She startled him from his sleep, and his reaction was to slap her across the face. She fell to the floor, landing on her bottom. Startled and afraid, she began to weep. The slap was not too terribly hard, it left no lasting mark, but horror overtook my very soul on that day.
He claimed that his reaction was unintentional, that he was not fully awake, and shouldn't be blamed for something that he had no control over. His explanation seemed plausible, and certainly forgivable at the time. Unfortunately, this incident proved to be the beginning of a pattern of behavior, which I had never been privy to before. Sadly, I was also soon to become aware of where his violent tendencies arose, when Grammy (his Mother) began proclaiming that I should "just hit her" in the middle of one of her meltdowns. I knew this family all of my life, but I had no idea.
He did not begin to "beat" our daughter. There were never any bruises, he never used implements, but a pervasive pattern of - lets say; "physical persuasion" for a lack of a better term had taken form.
As discussions on the topic, became heated conflict between him and I, his newly proclaimed "belief structure" began to crystallize. He claimed that he didn't believe in "spanking". That "spanking" was presumptuous. That he "hit" - and he would have never agreed not to "hit". He claimed that; children learn from cause and effect, and If a child touches a hot stove - and it hurts them, then they will learn not to touch the hot stove. This soon became the basis for his treatment of our daughter. Whatever the reason, based on cause and effect - physical intervention became an appropriate response according to his theory. This left the playing field wide open for him, there was no formal structure to his discipline, no rules, and rarely any warning. But always, Just never enough - by definition, to clearly be viewed as abuse. He would push her, shove her. I would catch him squeezing her hand, wrist or leg until she would cry. He would pinch her, on two occasions he even bit her, and yes, he would hit her. A slap here and there, where ever his hand would land. Just enough to hurt, but any marks would quickly fade, at least on the outside.
Our daughter was so very young when she first felt the sting of his hand against her skin. She was also at a disadvantage, she was on the autistic spectrum, and her level of awareness made it more difficult for her to understand her Father's behavior. But with each and every push, shove, pinch, or slap, she would weep, as if it was the first time.
Children become imprinted at a very young age, and the majority will tend to repeat patterns. He seemed incapable of feeling her pain, he seemed as numb striking her, as he must have became when he was struck as a child. His treatment of our daughter was completely acceptable in his opinion. And by definition, at least in our State, not abuse. His opinion was that I had an "allergic reaction to violence."
We all have our own sense about when something begins to feel abusive, but our threshold is generally set according to our own life experiences. What is considered abusive, is always based on cultural norms, and trends. It has been from the beginning of time as we know it.



When you engage in violence, defining when it is "bad" or "good" is not only subjective, but maybe even a contradiction. Can violence ever be "good"? Or, at best; can you only hope for a favorable outcome, from something inherently hurtful?

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Quoting Vicki:

Great post.

Thank you for the much needed clarification.

I do, however, disagree that proper spanking (as defined here) does not cause a child to become fearful, or ruled by fear. A desire to make choices in order to avoid a spanking is a fearful response.


I think you have a point and it may just be semantics, but I still cannot use the word fear to describe how my kids, my friends' kids or adults who were properly spanked feel.  Fear OF BEING SPANKED, wishing to avoid it the same way they avoid being grounded or put in time out, yes, but it certainly does not set up an atmosphere of fear in the home.  My kids are the farthest thing from scared of me!  I almost wish there was some element of "fear" that they generally felt about me because maybe they'd listen to me more.  I guess it's because they know that if they get spanked it was THEIR decision.  They know I hate to spank them and only will if forced by their refusal to listen.  i think they get the love a lot stronger than they get the fear.  If I ever felt fear for my mother I have absolutely no memory of it which I think is a good indicator that spanking did not set up a generally fearful atmosphere.

Kate - posted on 07/01/2009

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I remember being spanked and it was done perfectly calmly and I knew what I'd done wrong and I don't remember doing those things again very often. I would say most children shouldn't be spanked after age 4 - 5 generally, they should know better by then.

With my DD, we occasionally smack her hand if she touches something she knows is not okay, and only after she has been warned. She has been spanked for outright defiance (generally the only time) and sometimes she is smacked briefly on the upper thigh or gently pinched (think a large part of her thigh, something that is more annoying than painful) if she does not listen. The upper thigh is the BEST way to get her to sit down in a moving grocery cart or hold still on a changing table. I could tell her over and over again to sit down/stop kicking and she would not. I could hold her still, sit her down over and over again -- nope. She'd get mad but keep doing it. One quick pinch to the thigh and she didn't do it again. Now all I have to do is ask her to sit down/hold still and she does it. Pretty smart, don't you think?

THAT is not abuse!! Spanking, as you say, is a last resort but very effective, and once the message has been communicated it's rarely necessary again!

Oh, and you should not spank if you are overly emotional (even if the child did do wrong) or if there is something wrong with the child -- sick, tired, etc. -- that is contributing to the behavior. Address child's needs first. But a proper spanking, of course, does take circumstances and the child's needs into account and it is administered calmly and when deemed necessary.

Mary - posted on 07/01/2009

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i used "spanking" with my children. i have raised six children, 5 boys and 1 girl. it was used as a last resort to defiance, disobediance, and outright disrespect for me, objects, each other. my form of spanking involved up to 5 good swats to the bottom, more than that i felt like it would become abusive. i have no problem popping them on the hand, arm or leg with my hand once if it will keep them from injury or a greater show of disobediance. disrespect was handled with a short pop to the mouth with the back of my hand. i always gave warning that meant "mom was done and trouble was coming". Whenever my chlidren heard me say "fair warning" they knew mom meant business. i would always give warning before i would disipline with physical punishment unless it was a disrespectful remark that needed immediate reaction. a parent should always remember that they are much bigger than the child and are capable of serious injury to that child if they punish in anger. we were given these children to raise and cherish, not to prove that we can give pain instead of love. i hope that these remarks help someone else understand and help them give love with the disipline and not seek to hurt the precious gift they have been given.

Brandi - posted on 07/01/2009

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My only disagreement is the belt. My grandmother spanked me once with a leather belt, the reason its so memorable was that it was the only time she ever spanked me. I had ran off to a neighbors house after being told not to. I was hit once, no marks left and I can assure you that all I felt for her was respect. On the other hand I was abused by my father,who was drunk, with a belt and there were welts up and down my legs, because of my close relationship with his mother it never happened again, I was five. My mother used a hickory switch, one swipe on my legs and I did what I had been told to do. I was actually rarely spanked and in some ways its caused me problems I have trouble with self-displine because I was rarely displined as a child. I love your defination outside of that. My son is very well behaved and is given timeout for small defiance and I smack his hiney with my hand for larger ones or for danger. He wasnt spanked at all till he turned three. Seems that was the majic number for his personality to turned on. lol

Elisa - posted on 07/01/2009

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And I think it must be confusing to a child to get in trouble for hitting someone who is not behaving how he/she likes when he is hit by his own parents. Modeling behavior still is in play.

April - posted on 07/01/2009

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I beleive spanking is a tool that needs to be used from time to time. To teach, and train. When I spend most of the time talking, and time outs and the child is still not getting it. I then go to the spanking. Never spank when I am upset. If I was upset I would send him to his room, and tell him to think about what he did. I would then come in when I have calmed, and ask him what does he think he did wrong, and what could he have done instead. Then I tell him that is why he is getting a spanking, because the other alternatives of disciplined hsa been used, and he still made the choice to do what was wrong. Spanking is a great tool when used properly. Not in rage or anger.

Vicki - posted on 07/01/2009

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Great post.


Thank you for the much needed clarification.


I do, however, disagree that proper spanking (as defined here) does not cause a child to become fearful, or ruled by fear. A desire to make choices in order to avoid a spanking is a fearful response.

Manda - posted on 07/01/2009

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How refreshing to hear this! I totally agree 100% and I hope plenty of people read this so we can put a stop to the word 'spank' being used as abuse. There is such a huge difference between a spank and an abusive situation.

Thanks Tammy.

Annah - posted on 07/01/2009

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No debating here, I agree with you on spanking, and I am glad you are speaking your mind. So many people are afraid to spank because they are afraid they will get told on to the officials, DHS or something, and get accused of abuse. I was spanked as a child, and I spank my children. My son gets more because his personality requires more discipline, where as my daughter is more willing to obey after one offense.

Sherri - posted on 07/01/2009

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I totally agree. I was spanked/smacked as a child, as were my brothers and sisters, and we none of us remember the actual smacks, just that it happened. And we knew that we were in deep trouble if it got to the spanking stage. I like to think we're all well-adjusted, responsible adults and all of us look back on our childhoods as happy and loving. I now use the same method of discipline on my son, and he is very well behaved (for a 3 year old!! lol).

Tabitha - posted on 06/30/2009

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I completely agree. There is a difference in spanking and outright abuse. I was spanked as a child, and very seldom got into trouble as a teen. I knew what was right, and what would get me in trouble and get me a spanking from an early age.

Nicole - posted on 06/30/2009

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I totally agree with your definition of spanking! I don't recall being spanked, but my husband was abused by your definition. He would get beat for everything, his parents would do it in a rage or drunk...But there is a cultural difference there. My husband is Colombian and his parents were born and raised in Colombia and that's just what they did over there. I agree that spanking can be necessary to prevent something bad from happening (they constantly run in the street, reach for something dangerous, won't stop climbing on stuff, etc.). But I do not think spanking is justifiable if your kid is doing bad in school or doesn't want to eat his veggies. That's the kind of stuff my husband used to get beat for. He would get beat with the belt and it would leave marks. I would never do that to my son! There's never a reason for that. When I worked at the daycare with the toddlers there were a few that if they were mine... I don't believe time out works for that age, they don't get it. To them, it was a game. Once they get older and you can reason with them more then you can use time out. But until then, a smack on the butt every now and then won't kill them!

Sheryl - posted on 06/30/2009

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I love your post. I was also both spanked and abused. I barely remember being spanked, except that it worked. The abuse actually caused me to lash out more than before it started. Both of my children are occasionally spanked, and I hear all the time how good they are. Unless we're at home. That's their comfort zone where they know they can get away with more. They are definitely not afraid of me. If it weren't for spanking, my 6 year old would have been in a world of hurt when he was 2 and continuously ran into the road. After a few spankings, he stayed out of the street.

Lily - posted on 06/30/2009

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"Spanking is done for the benefit of the child. It is to teach them a particular lesson- most spanking advocates reserve it for outright defiance, open disrespect or blatant, knowing disobedience. For small children it is generally used to show them a little discomfort in order to deter them from something that could cause them GREAT discomfort, pain or death if they continue doing it. Abuse is done for the PARENT- to vent emotion, to punish/ get revenge, to stop irritating behaviors that are not necessarily wrong, just annoying to the parent."



I think what you said sums it up very well =) I have never ever spanked my child when I am angry, just for fear that it wouldn't be for correction but because I was mad. We have been told many, many times that our boy is so well behaved, social and such a good boy. He has no fear of us at all and when I make a mad face he laughs =P so no fear there!

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