I was spanked as a kid. Not very often, and not hard enough that I remember being traumatized or anything, but I definitely got my butt smacked a few times. Thankfully, my parents and I have had a loving, respectful, and fulfilling relationship for as long as I can remember (teen angst included). But now I am a young mother, and the question of how to ‘discipline’ my child is at the forefront of my thoughts. I think discipline is a great quality to have – I wish I had more of it when I’m staring a chocolate chip cookie in the face. But I seriously question the use of violence, force, or power to teach desirable characteristics, especially when you are modeling behavior for a child.
What is the ultimate purpose of spanking, anyway? My best guess is that it is meant to teach OBEDIENCE. I’m sure it varies from incident to incident, but the common thread is one much bigger and stronger person exerting power over another. Of course, adults in real life don’t generally smack each other around when someone ‘misbehaves’, but it is apparently appropriate if the relationship is parent to child rather than peer-to-peer.* I hear many complaints about how kids today don’t have any sense, have no regard for others, are “uppity” and so on. Usually, the assumption is that these children haven’t been “reined in” or “controlled” by spanking and other sorts of corporal punishment. But does this teach children discipline, or manners, or regard for others? Probably not, and definitely not in a productive, respectful way. Instead, a child is taught that violence is an appropriate means to solve conflict – especially if you’re bigger and stronger.
And what’s up with teaching your child to be obedient? This is the antithesis of learning to think for yourself, and it is the first step away from self-rule. Henry David Thoreau put it well: “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.” Perhaps it feels good to have this power over a little person and be able to punish them when they are not obedient to your wishes. As a strong advocate of natural law and non-aggression, however, I think that this attitude violates a child’s self. My child is no less a person than I am, and I will not violate her person or her property. Yes, I will teach her discipline, and conflict resolution, and respect for others, but I will not taint the lesson with violence.
*Note: This same inconsistency can be found in the relationship between individuals and governments…I am not allowed to hurt or steal from other people, but the government apparently can (taxation, fiat currency, assassinating citizens without trial, etc). Inconsistency is rampant!