Spare the rod…and spare the mindlessness too
My Fellow Inebriates,
Where parenting issues arise at LBHQ, my place is on the sidelines. Being a mere bear and not a biological child means I don’t quite represent the same hope for tomorrow that Misses P and V do in our parents’ eyes. (Would they even rescue me if the house caught fire? OMG! I don’t know.) Not to mention the disappointment of my drinking—my parents aren’t investing too much parenting in yours truly.
But the bio-kids pose all the typical dilemmas that parents encounter. How to build their confidence…how to instill life skills…how to engender empathy…how to provide guidance and discipline? Even if my parents are total screw-ups in myriad ways, they are genuinely anxious about raising the girls properly.
Even though spanking is a non-issue at LBHQ, where the only physical punishment that occurs is administered by children to a certain bear, we live in a demographic that reads Proverbs (although perhaps not Deuteronomy’s more choice bits)—i.e., spare the rod, spoil the child. While you don’t see parents whacking their kids at the playground too often, you frequently hear earnest conversations in which one parent defends to another the place of spanking in the God-fearing dad or mum’s parental toolkit. And even more often you hear these parents threatening their kids with a spanking.
At LBHQ there are no “spanking offenses” on the books. The kids do not live in fear of a hiding. They don’t quake fearfully in remembrance of past spankings. They only even know the word “spank” because it gets used teasingly (and they may have overheard the term “spank the monkey”).
This is not to say they’ve never received a swat on the bum. My mum recalls (guiltily) the day P refused to have her crappy diaper changed, kicking and screaming her resistance even as excrement leaked from her pants to the floor. She escaped the change mat while still covered in crap and darted across the room, flinging the feces off her body on the way to her clean bedsheets—at which point Mum seized her and gave her bum a smack. She hadn’t managed to persuade P to cooperate, and her frustration got the better of her. This happens to plenty of parents. But parents like mine don’t feel good about it. They rehash the scene for days after, wondering how they could have defused the situation without resorting to physical means.
It’s one thing to lose your cool and feel terrible afterwards. It’s another thing to make a calculated choice to hit your child because you believe a higher authority endorses the action as a disciplinary method.
Unhappy Mommy does a much better job than I can do outlining the arguments against spanking, going so far as to provide citations to support her position. She writes a balanced, nonjudgmental, and thoughtful piece on the subject. Is it ever a hot-button topic! The comments rolled in, and one commenter particularly caught my attention; she was so inanely self-righteous that I decided to rebut each of her points one by one. I know, I come across as a total asshole, but it bothered me so much that someone could mindlessly take a verse from Proverbs as license to hit a child. Whether you’re an atheist, an agnostic, or a believer, it should be obvious that much of the bible shouldn’t be taken literally (child sacrifice in Judges 11:30-39 for example, or God-sent bears mauling children in 2 Kings 2:23-24). And if some of it shouldn’t be taken literally, why should any of it be taken literally—especially as it applies to modern-day parenting?
I don’t think it’s disrespectful to anyone’s faith to say that as a society we should be able to devise good guidelines about child rearing that consider the optimal well-being of children and utilize any and all science at hand to steer us in the right direction. We are all learning and making mistakes every day—but the biggest mistake is to turn our brains off and dumbly accept one cherry-picked piece of scripture as an edifice on which to base our parental discipline.
Thump! That was me falling off the soapbox. Tomorrow we’ll be back to the usual drunkenness and debauchery. Promise.