Generation after generation after generation after generation after generation — grown adults striking their children — their teenagers, their toddlers, their infants. Millions of kids, hit.
You, your parents, your friends, the strangers you have never met. Most of us were spanked as children.
The latest research shows the damage that’s doing to all of us.
It’s consistent with previous research through the years: brain damage, anti social development, broken bonds and cycles of domestic abuse. And a lot of us doing awesome, in spite of this tool.
But, you know, there is not one peer reviewed study on spanking that advocates the use. Not one. There never has been. There never will be. Because they all show increase in force and frequency. The evidence is conclusive and it’s a consensus in the scientific community: Corporal punishment does not work as a form of discipline. It is completely counter productive in its effects. It is a short term fear mechanism that produces long term detrimental outcomes.
And still, I watched as the media reports circulated through the population, and over and over and over and over and over again there they were, the parents, boasting that they hit their kids. Over and over and over and over again, people bitching for society to mind their own business. Over and over and over and over again, thousands of grown adults dismissing the evidence and sharing their anecdotes of how when they were growing up, they learned their lesson. Over and over and over and over again. The same old tired excuses. The same old arguments.
And I just wept.
A lot of semantics get tossed around when you bring up spanking anymore. You get arbitrary double standards and rationalizations of frequency. You get a lot of sugar coating. People say they don’t spank often, or they only spank as an extreme. They use words like “pop” and “tap” like they were describing a game and not the actual full force infliction of adult strength leveling pain. You hear a lot of “I turned out fine” and “I’m okay.”
But we aren’t fine.
We aren’t fine if we need a meta data analysis of 79 different studies through the course of over five decades to know it is absolutely egregious conduct for a grown adult to hit a child.
And we aren’t okay if even in the face of that data, we reject it in favor of the appeal to tradition that never seems to end. Our parents spanked, our grandparents hit them, their parents utilized corporal punishment and round and round and round the cycle spans.
And society gives weight to that discussion. Society allows the dissent of the evidence. Society is condoning a conversation on whether or not we should be hitting our kids.
Whether or not grown adults should strike their children.
Here is the actual sentence a journalist used when reporting on the latest findings in the Atlantic:
Given that spanking is still such a common — and controversial — form of punishment, careful examination of the research will be important for parents and policymakers alike. — Julie Beck, “The Strong Evidence Against Spanking”
What the actual fuck.
Here’s another one, this time the Boston Globe’s headline:
“Spanking your kid is about as harmful as child abuse, says study.” — Isaac Feldberg
Right here, right now, that ends. It has to end.
Corporal punishment is wrong. Always wrong.
It is wrong to hit an adult to try to coerce them. That makes it far more horrifying that we’d condone striking our most defenseless. Children deserve and have the right to feel safe from the intentional infliction of harm in their own home and from those they trust to protect and care and guide them. They do not deserve to be spanked into submission. They do not deserve their bedrooms or bathrooms or backyards to become places of pain holding memories of a parent violently hurting them.
They do not deserve it. Making them believe they do? Believing you did? That it’s a sign of love and respect? That is Domestic Violence — being told someone you love is going to raise their hand to you for your own good and having no recourse to defend against it.
It doesn’t take much reflection to comprehend what happens to a human brain when it is facing a threat with no means to escape and no means to fight back. We shouldn’t need the grey matter studies to know stripping a child of fight or flee options will debilitate them.
It is violence.
It is legal to hit a child so hard and often their body bruises. It is legal to strike an infant. It is legal (and common) to use foreign objects to strike the bare skin of an unwilling human being — but only if they’re our children. It is legal for another adult to strike your child, with or without your consent.
But we call it spanking. A word virtually meaningless in society anymore. We’ve desensitized ourselves with linguistics.
But the arbitrary double standards between abuse and corporal punishment built from semantics are bullshit.
You are the adult. If you can’t figure out how to get a child to learn and cooperate without bullying them through threats of physical pain and strong arms, the failing is yours, not theirs.
Their frontal lobe hasn’t even developed yet. They are still trying to grasp logic. But we, the adults, should be better than legitimizing our conduct with cognitive dissonance. We, the adults, should know better than to pretend a child can wrestle through the confusion of being told it’s for their own good that they are being struck by someone who says it’s because they love them.
We have failed them. We are failing them. Generations of families subjected to behavior that is needless and harmful and a clear sign of our parental power trip. Because we call them “ours”, as if another human being could “belong” to us.
Parental entitlement is not absolute. You don’t have the right to treat someone anyway you want just because you hold custody of them. And society has an absolute right and an absolute responsibility and an absolute duty to judge the conduct and treatment of members in it.
Corporal punishment is wrong. Always wrong.
It’s not a debate. It’s not a discussion. There is no discourse or evaluation. There is no weighing the evidence. It’s not that complex. We are hitting our children. And it has to end. It has to end.
In no sane world is someone three times your size striking you forcefully to inflict fear and pain when you have no recourse to defend yourself and no means to escape a logical or natural consequence for an action.
There is simply no justification for an adult hitting a child. Not one. There isn’t.
And if you think there is, if your heart is not broken, if your heart is not wept, to think of a child being told they they deserve to be hit by someone bigger and stronger because they didn’t learn something right and didn’t learn it quickly enough— then something is, quite simply, seriously fucking wrong with you. You need to reconcile that. You are not fine. You are not okay.
And that is the truth.
If you are an adult utilizing corporal punishment or advocating for it or allowing it to be tossed up on the table as something worth deciding if we should do, then you have issues.
Deal with them.
Because someday the world will look back at this moment when this was not only a norm but legal and say with complete and utter disgust:
What The Fuck Was Wrong With Us?!
And they will be talking about YOU.
You can change that.
Stop hitting your kids.
In May of 2014, I wrote a piece covering the arguments and evidence against corporal punishment in the home. Data at that time showed the majority of parents utilizing corporal punishment. In 2015, a Pew Research study showed that number at 45%. An ABC News poll showed the majority of adults still approve of hitting children. In A General Social Survey conducted by The University of Chicago in 2014, the Washington Post reports that nearly 70% of parents said spanking was necessary.
Data gathered by Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment breaks down various studies and polls conducted regarding corporal punishment and shows a decline globally regarding the practice.
We can break the cycle. We will. Join us.
Learn more. Do better: Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.
This piece published on Medium.