Sand in the Gears

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He who spares the rod . . .

January 4th, 2010 Posted in Fatherhood, The Art of Parenting

. . . hates his child. Didn’t know that was in the Bible, did you? And now a new study suggests that children who are spanked as youngsters go on to be happier and more successful. I’m sure even now a phalanx of Ivy League psychologists with one medicated child a piece are lining up to abuse this notion.

The problem with spanking is that too many people confuse it with beating, and unfortunately a good many of those so confused are the ones holding the rods. Any study of spanking must distinguish between legitimate spanking and beatings. Spanking is a steady set of whacks to the behind which do not leave marks, which are administered by someone in control of his emotions, and which are the clear, predictable, and consistent consequence for bad behavior. The child understands that his actions have led to this consequence, understands that his parent loves him, and feels forgiven afterward. Administered this way, in a loving home with consistent discipline, spankings should become more and more rare as the child matures.

People who hit their children other places than the rear-end, or who strike them out of anger, or who correct them inconsistently, so that the connection between bad behavior and its consequence are unclear, are only harming them. I suspect much of the academic work on spankings doesn’t sort all this out.