Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beating Butts Brings Out Beast

After posting on how the bill to classify spanking of children as abuse intends to catalyze discussion, I checked Technorati, Google, and Yahoo to see what the MSM and bloggers were saying for the past week or so.

Well, it looks like the author of that bill will get that discussion going. She said she doesn't expect the bill to pass, but does want people talking. That's happened.

Online Passions

By the bye, if you want to get your own sense, search for spanking and massachusetts. I got 601 hits this morning. The default returns by date, so you get the freshest in every sense of the word. Adding the state helps filter out the S&M folk.

You can find your own links. I won't prejudice it with those to the many pro-spanking or the anti-spanking ones. Suffice it to say that the libertarian and atavistic attitudes here strongly prevail. Think, "Nobody can tell me what I can do to my kids!" and arguments about children being so irrational that only hitting them will keep them alive and those around them physically safe.

Reading the MSM and blogger entries makes me less open minded about this than even one day ago. I raised and am raising three boys without spanking or otherwise hitting them. Yet the responses from the pro-spanking folk ring hollow and worse. They might turn me into a strong no-spanking sort.

All Kinds of Rights

To the crux of the intrusive-government issue, I must quickly note that it is a fantasy that the state can't tell parents how to raise their kids. We have such agencies as the Department of Social Services, there are laws and regulations about how children must be educated and for how long and when and under what conditions they can work, and specifically for violence, the laws and regulations forbid serious injury, sexual abuse and much more. Spanking is on a spectrum and is not stand-alone.

What is far more disturbing is the children-as-property attitude in so many articles and posts. The dozens I read completely are an amazing throwback, and not in a good way.

Even Wikipedia has a complete piece on spanking with a lot of balance and many links. Parents who want to hit their kids at will can't find the medical and psychiatric support for doing so though. Research points the other way and is past the very old-fashioned view that irrational developing children understand pain as correction, making beatings necessary.

Reading the justifications suggests to me that MDs and shrinks are ahead of parents. Face it; nearly all of us start parenting the way we were parented. (If you came from an extremely dysfunctional home, you make break the cycle.) We feed and dress and school our kids by what we know. Most of us think what our parents did was pretty damn good — don't we think we're wonderful?

Property and Primitives

Instead, reading about the necessity of punishing kids physically brought up too many historical parallels.

Of course, kids do need to learn self-control as they grow. It is not at all convincing that showing them that angry violence is a solution to interpersonal conflicts and unmet expectations will help them do so. Instead, word and example are the proven methods. These require more of mind, patience and emotion from the parents. They also hold the peril of passivity.

Many of the pro-spankers set up a straw man here. You are either a caring parent who uses corporal punishment to teach and show love or you are a namby-pamby who tries to be a friend to your kids and turns out self-centered undisciplined sociopaths. Quadruple ha-ha on such illogic.

Too many of the pro-spanking articles and posts read like infamous justifications for abuse of wives, servants and slaves. The masters were often wont to speak and write in previous centuries about the necessity for beatings. The wives/servants/slaves were hysterical or primitive and only understood the switch or whip.

Kids aren't exactly the same, but close enough for me. Reading all that bluster about the necessity of having to show these undeveloped beings how to behave with physical punishment hardened me to such arguments.

I'll keep tabs on this. I hope that the discussion continues. Perhaps I'll run across a cogent line of thought justifying spanking as a way to teach social behavior...eventually. The literature and my small universe of three well behaved sons who learned without being hit strongly say otherwise to me.

At the same time, having three children has given me some empathy with spankers. Children can be annoying and infuriating. It would be expedient, quicker and easier, to hit them rather than deal more maturely and more rationally. Besides, in the main, parents are bigger and stronger. We can slap, spank and beat our kids.

House Bill 3922 classifying spanking as a civil offense in Massachusetts will not become a law. However, introducing it seems to have done what the author intended. We're talking.

Chatter Pointer: Writing of, there's local commentary over at UniversalHub.

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