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.

So we all read Unhappy Mommy’s thought-provoking article I don’t spank, and you shouldn’t!

Child abuse at LBHQ 😉

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”).

Determined to be nekkid

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.

Checking the stereo out: not a spanking offense but, rather, the early days of supervised audiophilia

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.

10 thoughts on “Spare the rod…and spare the mindlessness too

  1. I never knew the whole “spare the rod” nonsense was biblical. I always thought it was just something Dwight Shrute said when Pam and Jim had their kid on The Office. Despite your alcoholism, you’d be a good parent, LB.

      • I had the same problem with regretting my vehemence. But I’m also beginning to wonder if the apology I posted (not for the anti-spanking post, because I’m right about that) but about my vehemnence was actually necessary.
        Maybe it’s okay to get mad when people cherry pick just the parts of a religious text that agree with what they want to do and then make it seem as though it’s not okay to call them on that. Maybe, especially when we’re talking about justifying hitting children, we should call them on that fiercely. I’m definitely wondering…
        Also, thank-you so much for the kudos and for joining the argument. It totally lit up my world, which is an amazing gift from a drinking teddy-bear!

        • Thank you so much! I was worried you’d be mad at me for jumping on the subject so fiercely.
          Your post really resonated with me. I’ve been reading Sam Harris lately and thinking a lot about where society gets its ideas about morality from. Cheers to the suggestion that we can agree on right and wrong without consulting old dogma!
          Thanks again–you in turn made my day.

  2. I feel like one of the best reasons not to is that you don’t have to. Which is not to say that, as someone who got frequent wooden spoon swats to the ass as a kid, the thought doesn’t pop up every once in awhile.

    • Too true! But you’re right–that is just about the very best reason. If we can’t find a better reason, then that’s our failing–that’s the way I look at it. It can’t very well be the kids’ failing, when they haven’t had the opportunity to learn to communicate for the same amount of years we have.

    • Good to know! Also good to see how wide the breadth of interpretation is–never mind that the whole thing has been translated from ancient texts and copied who knows how many times, sometimes by illiterate slaves copying marks they did not themselves understand. It gives new meaning to the game of “telephone.”
      It’s such a difficult issue, because most parents who spank do so on their nth nerve and would never do it under cooler circumstances–which in itself argues against the practice. But I have to wonder…those kids who get spanked with cool calculation are also getting it when their parents are simply mad–they must be getting it twice as much (or more). Or is that an oversimplification? All in all, it seems as though there must be better ideas. We wouldn’t want the kids here to grow up thinking that when all else fails you use force in ordinary civilized interactions, which is what spanking seems to teach. But we know we’re lucky…the kids aren’t as much of a handful as some of their peers, so I hope the article hasn’t come across as hypocritical.

      • For the most part, spanking has its place. I grew up in a spanking household. It was never done in anger, but was the natural conclusion to a conversation so the violator knew which rule had incurred the punishment. We are no worse for wear.

        My children have been threatened with it enough times to know they do not want one. My going threat is “I am going to spank you until I feel better.” It is a reminder how pointless it can be.

        I am the mother who spanks mine the first time they run into the road. I see the use of spanking in terms of danger to be one which gets through every time.

        Again, I do not have the “normal” children. Mine are autistic and do not understand long term implications of actions nor danger in any situation. Physical terms are innate. When you burn your hand, you stop playing with fire.

        I do not endorse spanking because so few people have the control over their emotions to do it pragmatically or judiciously. Most parents do it out of frustration, which defeats the purpose and teaches all the wrong lessons. Then, there are the wackos who believe abuse is spanking. Unfortunately, there are also those who believe the inverse is true. The line is so fine, best to avoid standing near it lest you fall over it.

        • It was interesting reading the original post and the commenter’s point about touching electrical items. My mother’s brother is high-functioning autistic, and when they were very young he tried to stick a coat hanger into an electric socket, at which point their dad hit him. It was the only time he ever hit any of the kids, and it was purely impulsive–no doubt out of fear. He was so authoritative in other ways that he didn’t need to resort to hitting. My mum’s mother, on the other hand, spanked more frequently, and she had no sense of authority about her whatsoever; eventually the spankings became so laughable to the kids that she gave up. Using force definitely isn’t intrinsically authoritative. Any efficacy it has probably resides in the threat of using it.

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