In Scandinavia, anything entailing physical violence against a minor is considered a criminal offense (not misdemeanor). Spanking a child carries the same jailtime as beating an adult half to death. 

I was quite shocked to hear that spanking is not uncommon in the US, in fact it is closer to the norm (correct me if I am wildly misinformed).

Do you think spanking or any physical punishment of a child is ever acceptable?

Tags: children, minors, spanking, violence

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It was *once* closer to the norm, but now it's moving quite out of favor. (I remember, when I was a child, teachers could still paddle you.) There are still people who, through lack of any kind of child-rearing education and ability to effectively discipline their children, probably still spank--or some people who were raised to believe that spanking is perfectly normal and acceptable (rolls eyes). I would imagine that the balance is being tipped as capital-P Parenting has come into effect, though. All of the parenting books and mags say spanking is taboo.


I remember the episode of the sitcom Roseanne, actually, where she spanked DJ (her son) and practically had a meltdown over how sorry she was. That was more controversial then; these days, you have all of those nanny and mommy shows that absolutely condemn spanking at every turn, even when the mom is so frustrated that she looks like she's going to explode.


Myself, I absolutely don't think physical punishment of a child is ever acceptable. What does it teach? It teaches them to fear you and possibly hate you a little bit.  I don't think it teaches them why they shouldn't behave in the manner that they were, and in that sense, it really stunts a child's moral growth--it teaches them that the "right" thing to do is the thing that won't get them spanked, but that's not always the "right" thing ultimately.  It teaches children reactionary morality instead of truly learning right vs. wrong.

Hmm.. my mom is left handed (or wrong handed in scandinavian and she was forced to wite with her right hand. she can now write with both hands. at once. simultaniously. quite impressive.) However, even though she occationally defied her teachers demand that she'd write with her right hand, she was never physically forced to do so, and her parent complained about it to her teachers (my grandparents were delightfully rational). Both my parents were spanked by their fathers (but due to their mothers influence) and they vowed to never do that to their children as it disresses them to this day.

Your last statement I agree with wholly. Violence is seldom excusable, and never when in comes towards a fellow human unable to defend itself. Kicking a person who is down is not only bad form in boxing, it's bad form full stop.

I'm genuinely not sure what you're getting at re: the left-hand/right-hand story.  Your grandparents complained that she wasn't physically forced? What I got was, the teachers demanded that your mom write right-handed, but she was never forced, but your (rational? or is that tongue-in-cheek? hard to tell on the internet with someone you don't know well) grandparents complained about that.


That sort of thing used to happen here in the US, too--a lot of left-handed children forced to write right-handed.  Thankfully, no more--I imagine it's extremely stressful on the child, and for no good reason but to create little conformists.

She was forced to write with her right hand or fail the class and be dumped  until she complied (essentially denying her an education). My grandparents were powerless against the school system even though they agreed with her.

My apologies for not making it obvious, sometimes personal stories seem daft without the whole background and its difficult to convey hundreds of hours of stories into an easily digestible format. :)

Ahhhh okay, got it now.  She wasn't physically forced, just forced under threat of not passing.
Admittedly far removed from my OP, but I was listening to her monologing as I was typing a response and got completely sidetracked. Please disregard.
Actually, I don't know that it's so far from your OP. I think it's still abusive to children, only psychologically--implanting that seed that they are "wrong" somehow, even though they can't help it and don't understand why. Most left-handers I know who were forced to switch are still sore about it.

Didn't they used to believe (Catholics in particular) that left-handed children were in possession by the devil?  It was something absurd like that...


There are a lot of negative associations with left, left-handedness, and not right.  In a number of languages, terms related to 'left' are associated with evil, the devil, awkwardness, impropriety, homosexuality, back-stabbing, bad luck and more.  The terms 'sinister' and 'gauche' are always the first to come to mind for me.  As someone who is left-handed though, I actually like most of those associations.  I don't find an association the devil or homosexuality offensive in the slightest, and the others just make me smile.


There are all sorts of positive associations with the words for 'right' across languages as well.  Right, rechts, droit, dexter... that's all I know off the top of my head.


In modern times, however, I like the most popular association with left.  Left is synonymous with liberalism and progressivism, which is fine by me. 

If you are speaking purely in terms of adult to child physical punishment then no, personally I do not advocate it and have never punished my children in a physical way. Believe me I've lost my patience with them as have every parent but I've always felt, and this does not apply to punishing children only, violence is generally the essay way out of a conflict.

This topic has come up on TA before.  I wonder if it will get heated or not.


There is a question of severity.  Spanking was an option on the table when I was growing up, though it only ever happened once.  There was a reason for it.  In the end, I didn't even get hit because I was squirming so much and my parent had no intention of using any real force.  My parents' notion of spanking was something just hard enough to cause a bit of discomfort for a minute or two.  I don't really consider that child abuse on an emotional or physical level.


On the opposite extreme, there are parents who will spank their children with considerable force.  They will do it to the point of bruising or will cause injuries to other parts of the body from grabbing the children too hard and forcefully.  That is abuse.  How do I set the threshold for when spanking becomes abuse?  I don't, just as I don't personally weigh in on any specific abuse cases.  The middle ground is discretionary.  There are case workers assigned to that task because child abuse is a very difficult subject to judge and address.


I would say there are extremely limited circumstances where spanking has any value. It can force compliance with immediacy, but it doesn't teach much about right and wrong nor does it impart and significant sense of moral reason.   Even a spanking without any substantial physical force comes down to a matter of establishing physical dominance.    I don't recall the exact details, but the only reason I was spanked as a child had to do with the fact that I thought I was invincible, and my dad was concerned about my unrealistic self-perception.  Even without really hitting me, the lesson sunk home: there are people bigger than me out there and, right or wrong, they can do me harm.  It never stopped me from standing up to adults when required, but it was part of teaching me to be realistic about what battles I picked and how far to take things.


Just about all of the disciplining I received as a child was through lectures, or discussion.  My parents did not pretend to be perfect, and we were encouraged to voice our opinions, but push come to shove, my parents were in charge.  There is a physical element to the parent child relationship, and if that manifests as a rare swat on the bum or slap on the wrist, I don't consider it cause for concern.

I've always had a hard time saying, "I'm going to hit you to show you hitting your sister is wrong."  How does that make sense?  But I was spanked as a kid and was not actually traumatized or confused by it, so there's that.  My sister (religious) is a big promoter of the spanking, and I know other people who are, as well.  I have spanked because that's how I was disciplined as a child, but then when I started thinking about it, I stopped.  My kids are more or less well-behaved, so it's turned out fine.  I like to discuss reasons for doing or not doing things with my kids so they can find their own solutions and/or find better ways to solve their problems.  Whether I'm good at this or not is certainly up for debate, but I just find that's my style.


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