Thursday, July 12, 2012

When Spanking Got Tweeters All Atwitter

The big meme on the internet recently – at least on my parentcentric twitter feed – was about a study supposedly demonstrating that spanking leads to a host of mental and behavioural problems.
Not an open palm. Not spanking.  Not OK.

Yahoo ran a story on the study titled “Spanking Linked to Mental Illness, Says Study.” Lots of other news outlets trumpeted the same message; spanking = mental illness. Suddenly everyone on my twitter feed was posting #Idontspankmykidbecause statements. Which is fine, except that the press misrepresented the study's findings.  This is how we end up at the autism vaccine situation, people!

As Melinda Wenner Moyer pointed out in this article, the study that got everyone spanking mad didn’t say what Yahoo said it said.

Instead, the study in question asked 34,000 adults about their experiences as children with being pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by their parents. There is a long road between light corrective measures like paddling a child on their bottom and the harsh punishments like pushing or shoving that the study looked at.

It turns out that the evidence is mixed on spanking. Party because its hard to do a legitimate study on spanking for reasons Moyer points out: ornery kids may need more, and more harsh, corrective measures; and even well-behaved children may sometimes need more harsh measures.

As @_mycrazy4 tweeted to me, “still not ok to hit.” Maybe; maybe not. I’m actually inclined to agree (more on that in a bit). Either way, though, the issue is certainly not the open-and-shut case portrayed by the news headlines or by many of those posting on twitter. My biggest problem isn’t with the issue of spanking at all, but the twisting of science. Don’t want to spank your kids – great. Just don’t tell me its because the science links spanking to mental illness. That’s both wrong and opens yourself to really good arguments disputing your science.

As for me and mine? My siblings and I were spanked as children, as far as I can recall. I’m at least sure that is true for my brother and I. I can’t clearly remember my sister every being spanked, but she’s a girl and followed me by 8 years. Things change.

Another popular meme was that “I don’t spank my kids because I would never hit another adult.” Well, yeah, Ok. But parents do lots of things to their kids that would be simply inexcusable when done to another adult. No one picks up another adult and smells their crotch or pulls aside their pants to check for cleanliness. Undressing an adult in public and changing their pants - also a no-no.

I think R and I will try our hardest not to spank. Why? I’m not totally sure. In my mind a line exists between hitting in anger and a thoughtfully enforced penalty. Maybe the line simply separates a gray area from a clearly black one and not a white area from a black one. I don’t know. I know part of my reasoning is an aversion to imposing actual, physical violence; somewhat like the shadow hiding behind the second meme I mentioned.

In any case, my intention is that any spanking I do have to hand out won’t be done in the anger of the moment. And I’d like to think we won’t have to spank our children. I firmly believe that if children know boundaries and trust their parents they won’t get in much trouble (insert future Bryan laughing at past Bryan). I know my kids are going to get in trouble; I know they are going to push the boundaries we set. I hope that having those boundaries and some good, non-spanking, corrective measures can handle those times.


  1. Hi,
    I agree with what you are saying about the study, every Study involving human beings is going to have its faults and be open to misinterpretations. However, I don't think it can be discarded and I also think that if it discourages one person from smacking their child then it is a positive thing.
    The things adults do to kids that they would never do to adults is mainly for the child's benefit and not as a means of punishment, as a believer of a child being punished at the time and bit later, I can't ever see when a smack would be appropriate and think most if not all smacks from parents are done 'in anger'

    Is smacking going to have a positive influence on their future behaviour? No. Does it teach them right and wrong? No, it teaches them how to avoid getting smacked again!

    I don't believe you will ever smack your kids or ever have the need to.

  2. Hi baby knowledge. Thanks for the comment. Some would argue punishment is helping your child but your point is taken.