GUEST POST BY: Maria Bangs
Sometimes people ask me how I came about the decision not to spank my son. Most people listen respectfully while I explain how 93% of the science agrees that spanking children does more harm than good. They nod when I tell them that when we look at behaviour modification theory, negative reinforcement, also known as punishment, is not a very successful means of modifying behaviour.
However, I’ve found that social science is often met with a lot of skepticism, and it’s because we don’t live in a vacuum, and other areas of intersectionality may play a heavier role than spanking in one’s emotional well-being. I have also found there is a heavy dose of cognitive dissonance involved because for the most part parents love their children, and as children, most of us love our parents, and it’s difficult to examine a common parenting practice often perceived as benign or even necessary, or consider that it may be unnecessary, or even harmful.
After all, I know plenty of people who were spanked and who spank their children, who are “fine.” Some even say a spanking was good for them. Most will attach caveats to the methodology of spanking, as though there is a specific way and time and procedure, so as to avoid damage. And when all of these things are lined up, spanking is good for children.
This was the first reason I decided never to spank my son.
If there has to be alignment of the stars for a spanking to be beneficial, that is indication spanking is a slippery slope. I don’t want to be anywhere near the slope, for risk of falling down it.
When we made the decision never to spank our son, we removed the option from the toolbox of means for modifying behaviour. When it’s not even an option, when there is no contingent, there is no behaviour from my son that could warrant a spanking, there is no need to ever spank my son.
The next thing that happened, once we made the decision to parent with gentle discipline, was that I became extremely skeptical of spanking altogether. If behaviour modification could be successfully achieved without spanking our children, why do we continue? Further, why are children the only people we can legally hit? And with paddles or other objects, no less. It then became a question of morality.
Was it morally acceptable to put hands to the most vulnerable person in my home, even when he deliberately did something he wasn’t supposed to? Would that be acceptable for my husband to do to me, or me to him? How could I model values such as kindness, patience, gentleness, understanding, and grace, if I didn’t extend those at all times to the most vulnerable person in my home?
I am modeling behaviour for my son, and I never want him to think that physical punishment is a good way to wield and yield power. Rather, I want to teach him that authority comes with great responsibility, integrity, and character, so that if he ever finds himself in a position of authority, he will know how to treat vulnerable people.
Additional resources on spanking:
Maria Bangs is a social justice activist, attachment parent, and blogger at www.barreloforanges.com. When she’s not championing human rights, you can find her playing in the snow or surf, reading a good book, or on Twitter @barreloforanges.
Note: How do you feel about spanking? Please, let’s support each other and suspend judgment towards each other from both sides while we discuss this very emotional and important topic. -Dawn