I read a story on MSN.com this morning about a Christian couple who just got convicted of assaulting their 14 year old daughter after spanking her with a skipping rope and a plastic hockey stick. They found out that she had sent naked photographs of herself to her boyfriend via Snapchat.
I have a few conflicting thoughts about this. I’ve written about spanking and discipline before, but this case is a little different because the child is a teenager.
So, first of all, fucking rights I can understand where the parents were coming from. The amount of desperate anger and disappointment they must have been feeling was astronomical I’m sure. I mean, she was fourteen. I’m actually surprised the Dad didn’t go over and give the boyfriend a good spanking too, because in my imagination that would have been what I would have wished I could do.
But at the same time, she was fourteen. The father actually gave her the choice between being spanked and being grounded, and she chose the spanking. Nonetheless, I don’t think that spanking a fourteen year old is appropriate at all. This would be a punishment intended to cause shame, and pain. It doesn’t really serve any sort of purpose here.
I think that there needed to be a way for her to understand the inappropriateness and possible consequences of her actions. To see that the shame belonged in her disrespect for herself and not have it added on by an act performed by her father.
This should have been an opportunity for her to learn about self-respect, and self-control, and vulnerability. At fourteen she doesn’t have a real knack for foresight, and it’s our job as parents to be that glimpse into the future.
And how do I feel about spanking in general?
I’ve always believed it has it’s place. But now, after two kids I’m not so sure about its efficacy.
It seemed to work very briefly with Destroyer to grab her attention and make her understand that her current behaviour was not going to be tolerated. And then it just made her very, very sad.
I remember talking to her after giving her a spanking one day, and she looked up at me and said really quietly “you hurt me Momma”. At the time I thought, well yeah, it’s not really supposed to feel good. It’s a punishment.
But I don’t think that’s what she meant. I don’t think it hurt her physically, I think it hurt her emotionally. And that made me feel like total shit.
These days, she gets sent to her room. Or we take something away. We just try to figure out what her currency is and use that to maintain control. We also have a counting system. Sometimes I count to three. If I’m really pissed I count to one, and then she knows I’m dead fucking serious.
Spanking has never once worked with Buddy. I tried a few times to spank his little bottom through his diaper when he was being a mega asshole, and he just laughed at me. So Bestie started just putting him in a chair to calm down as we both tried not to laugh at his devastated little sad face. It was the saddest and cutest thing I ever saw, and far more effective than any corporal punishment had been. I am loathe to admit that I have started using the douche bag term time out. I am also choking on my own words right now, because I hate all those cliche parenting terms.
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve had to swallow my pride and change my opinion about spanking a little bit. I still think that it is well within a parent’s right to include it in their toolbox to maintain authority in their household. I believe there is a window in early childhood where you need to provide an immediate consequence to an action. I believe that the threat of a spanking is a really useful thing. For some kids, a spanking will work. For some kids, removal from the situation works better.
So have I spanked? Yes.
Does it work? Not especially. Certainly not in the long term.
Did it make me feel like an asshole for spanking my child as punishment for hitting her brother? Kind of.
And there it is again. Don’t be an asshole. Try not to be an asshole.
That’s really what it comes down to, right?