542. Spanking

I just heard, on national public radio, that according to a recent study, spanking children increases the frequency of their misbehavior. It increases violence, lying, and a variety of other misbehaviors. The study also said that over 90% of the parents in this country do spank their children, and that over 90% of the adults have been spanked as children. I was, and I guess you probably were, too.
The results of the study did not surprise me at all. I grew up believing that I was going to have to spank my own children, and I think most people in our culture grow up believing that. As our parents spanked us, some of them told us it hurt them more than it hurt us (I never believed that. Did you?). They gave us the impression that spanking, though difficult, was a necessary part of parenting – that we’d grow up to be terrible people if we weren’t spanked.
My wife and I were not willing to spank our children. No matter what they did that bothered us, we were not willing to do something that we were trying to teach them not to do – hurt people. “People are not for hitting,” we told them, and at least on that issue, we set a good example for them. And our children grew up to be adults we admire. They are honest, gentle, caring people.
Once, and only once, I was tempted to spank one of my daughters. She had done something that many children do (skipped school), and I was a teacher in the same community wherein she went to school. I was afraid that her behavior would affect the way people in the community perceived me. Also, she had skipped
school at a time when other things were going wrong in my life. I was almost out of control. I yelled a lot, and scared my daughter, who probably thought that I was going to hit her. But I didn’t. I’m glad.
To me, the recent study showing that spanking increases children’s misbehavior is kind of like the studies showing that smoking can be harmful to your health; they state the obvious as if it were new. But I guess it must not be as obvious as I think it is; if more than % of the parents in this country spank their children, a lot of people must think spanking is the right thing to do. Well, I don’t think so.
Spanking children is against the law in Sweden. I think it ought to be against the law everywhere. But more to the point, I think we humans, who, in my opinion, have been gradually getting morally better for thousands of years, could make a great leap forward by deciding to spare the rod.

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