Well, someone finally said it. I've been waiting for a month for someone to come right out and say it, and with yesterday's email, I finally got an honest soul who wasn't afraid to use the words.
After all the thinly veiled remarks I have gotten from a particular group of people about how Schuyler is a horrible little brat and it's my fault for not disciplining her properly, someone finally figured out what's wrong with her.
I don't hit her. I don't beat Schuyler.
(I can only assume that by "what's wrong with her", they mean the fact that she is apparently an out-of-control barbarian and not her mutism. No one has suggested that she simply needs to have the words beaten out of her. Not yet, anyway.)
No one ever puts it in those terms, of course. People hide behind words like "spank" and "swat" and "discipline" and "corporal punishment" and, as my Agnostic Maybe-God is my witness, "Spanking With Love". (URL updated; the old one is now a porn site, chicka-pow-pow!) That site uses as its logo a heart formed by a pair of upturned buttocks. I kid you not.
(The "Spanking With Love" site is a real peach, by the way. In addition to some fun "how to" sections, there is also a page for kids who WANT to be spanked and how to get their parents to do so. I wonder how many spanking parents really want to think that their kids might be getting aroused by it? Believe me when I say that I'm all for spanking your girlfriend, that dirty little whore/French maid/Catholic schoolgirl/sexy veterinarian/whatever. Your own kids? Not so much.)
There are, in fact, a lot of ways to describe the act of physically striking a small child in order to cause pain with the intent of imposing your will on them. You can use any number of words and never even get around to "beat", "bully", "violence" or "abuse". It is one of the many attributes that make the English language so powerful, its ability to elegantly mask the true meaning behind concepts and behaviors.
So there it is. I threw some words out there, and it is from those words that you can, if you haven't figured it out already, discern my feelings towards physically punishing my child. That's my kid. You are free to beat your own kid. You are free to use violence against your own son or daughter. You are free, inasmuch as the law will allow, to ABUSE your own child.
Just don't expect me to use your terminology.
I've heard the arguments, and I'm sure I'm about to hear them again. And because I have written on occasion about isolated incidents where Schuyler felt compelled to act out aggressively, the Loving Spankers will no doubt say that I have raised an unruly child.
That's fine. Her school doesn't agree, and neither do any of her other caregivers. She has never been cited as unusually aggressive, either as a non-verbal child or otherwise, and her behavior, while troubling to me on those occasions when I have written about it, has always been described by her teachers as normal for a child her age. (Although I must say that if she had been cited, I would be even less likely to hurt her.)
But what do that bunch of liberal, permissive, crunchy granola educator hippies know about raising a child? Do they have children? And this brings us to another argument. "People who oppose spanking children simply do not understand the what it is like trying to raise a child." Okay, fair enough. So why do you spank? To teach your child a constructive lesson or to relieve your own anger?
The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks it knows the answer.
Corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents be encouraged and assisted in the development of methods other than spanking for managing undesired behavior.
It thinks it knows the result of beating your kids, too.
The more children are spanked, the more anger they report as adults, the more likely they are to spank their own children, the more likely they are to approve of hitting a spouse, and the more marital conflict they experience as adults. Spanking has been associated with higher rates of physical aggression, more substance abuse, and increased risk of crime and violence when used with older children and adolescents.
And in a 2002 study looking back at sixty years of research on corporal punishment, Elizabeth Gershoff, Ph. D., found that the only positive result of spanking was immediate compliance; long-term compliance was actually diminished as a result of corporal punishment. Spanking was also directly linked to increased rates of aggression, delinquency, mental health disorders, problems in relationships with parents, and the likelihood of those children being physically abused and, eventually, abusing their own children.
So. It doesn't work, and it fucks up your kids. Seems pretty straightforward to me. But you, in the back? You had something to say?
"You know, I was spanked as a child, and I grew up to be perfectly healthy and have raised my kids just fine."
Did you? You think? You were, as a small child, routinely subjected to violence by someone probably five times your size so that you would be subject to their demands? As a result, you grew up, had some small children of your own, and then proceeded to beat them into submission as well?
We have a different definition of "perfectly healthy", you and I. We have a wildly different idea of what it means for an innocent child to be "just fine".
You may think that I believe that if you as a parent spank your children, I automatically believe that you are a bad parent. I don't, not necessarily and not without knowing what kind of parent you are as a whole. Nor do I think your children are necessarily going to grow up to be damaged.
But I do think you are wrong. And as much as you might feel sorry for my kid for having me as a father, I guarantee I feel more sorry for yours.