I have recently seen and heard conversations about spanking children. Does it really affect them past childhood? Are you truly damaging your child? A little spanking here and there never hurt anyone, right? Or, as our elders so often say, back in my day…, or I was spanked and I turned out okay! There have been studies done on the effects of spanking and physical punishment. There are links to these studies at the end of this post. I am not going to focus on these studies today, instead I am going to focus on what spanking or physical punishment actually does to a child and how it effects their life, their relationships and their patterns as a parent.
I was spanked as a child. By both of my parents. A belt, a wooden spoon, a hand. It happened. Often. What do I remember about this form of punishment? My parent’s angry face. The fact that nothing I could do would prevent it from happening or make my parent happy. I knew they had to spank me to get it out, let off some steam, get it over with.
Do I remember what I did to “deserve” to be spanked? Do I remember learning a lesson? Do I remember feeling loved and supported? Do I remember knowing that my parents only wanted what was best for me?
I remember trying to hide whatever it was that would set my parents off. A messy room, not following directions. I’m not positive what I did, but I always knew I had to try to hide it. Before, during and after a spanking I never once felt loved, cherished, cared for or as if I really mattered to my parents. I did not feel like I mattered as a person.
I did not feel like I mattered as a person.
As a parent now, I would never want my children to feel that way! Ever! As a parent now, because MY parents spanked me, this is one of the first things my mind goes to when my precious 3 year old does something “wrong” or something I don’t like. Are you reading this? One of my FIRST thoughts when my innocent, still learning the way of this world, still learning what emotions are, how to handle them, how to act, precious, innocent child does something I deem wrong, one of my FIRST instinct is to hit her!
As adults we learn not to hit. If a coworker, my husband, a worker at the store, my parents, a random person on the street, if any of these people do something I don’t like, I have been taught it is NOT okay to smack them. A complete stranger with whom I have no kinship or feelings for, I have been taught not to hit this person. Yet it is okay to hit my child, whom I care for deeply? Do you see the irony here?
Along with hitting a child there often times comes yelling. During my dating years I would never stand for a man to hit me, and luckily never encountered such a man. However, I would often allow the person I was dating to yell at me and control me with words. I am sad to say I was in an emotionally abusive and controlling relationship for close to 2 years. During this time I remember thinking, “At least he doesn’t hit me.” Because this is what I was taught as a child. I was taught it is okay to hit your child, it is okay to yell at those you love. If my parents, because I am female specifically my father, could love me so deeply and hit me and yell at me so often, why shouldn’t a significant other do the same?
Do you see the pattern that is forming here?
I was spanked as a child for, in my parents minds, my own good, to teach me a lesson and to help me behave as a good child should. But what I really learned was, it is okay to hit a child. A person can love you and hit you at the same time. Because I am the parent, it is okay to hit a defenseless little kid. That is what spanking taught me.
Let me make it clear, I was not an abused child. In the time this was happening, this was normal. I never had bruises and my parents only ever hit me on my butt. What happened to me, personally, at that time could not be classified as abuse. I am not talking about an over the top situation here. I had two loving parents. We lived in an upscale neighborhood, they had college educations, high paying careers. From the outside, I had the ideal childhood. That’s not to say my entire childhood was bad. But when I look back on my childhood as an adult, the first and main thing I see is this. I wasn’t spanked daily, I wasn’t spanked for hours at a time. Those in my parents generation would think nothing bad about what happened to me as a child.
Spanking is not okay. If it happens once in a lifetime, once a year, once a month, once a week, once a day. The duration DOES NOT matter. Spanking is NEVER okay.
I have worked long and hard to try to get rid of the reaction to hit my precious child. I have cried about it alone, with my spouse and with my sibling that my parents have ingrained in me the thought that hitting my sweet baby is okay. I HATE that it is even a thought in my head. I HATE that I even THINK of hurting my child. For a second I even HATED my parents for doing this to me and to my children. I hate that more than I hate what my parents did to me as a child. I don’t care about what happened to me, I care that now I have to work hard to make sure this doesn’t happen to my children. I should not have that battle inside my head. I should not have to tell myself that no, hitting my small 3 year old who is learning about her feelings, her world, everything really, hitting her is not the answer. I should not have to remind myself that hitting her will only make her sad, scared (of me, the person who should be protecting her) and confused. Hitting her will only make me feel worse as a person, will make me feel terrible, sad, scared and confused as well.
This is the long term effect of spanking your children.
This is what you are teaching them.
This is the lesson they are learning.
This is NOT okay.
Links to Studies