I never really knew my grandpa Roger*. He left my grandma Ellen* when my mom was about eight. He lived with another woman Fran*, raising their family. When my mom was about 14, Roger and Ellen were actually divorced. At that time everyone, except Roger kids with Fran, who didn’t know their parents weren’t married, thought he would now marry Fran. Instead he left her for another woman. I don’t remember ever meeting him until he was in the hospital dying of liver failure from alcohol abuse.
Not a great father figure. But, the I learned about his mom, Beatrice*. Whom I’d met once when my sister was graduating high school, when I was about 15. She died a couple of weeks ago, surprising me, since I had forgotten she was alive. I know that sounds horrible, but she had isolated herself from her family completely. She had kicked her daughter, Jane*, out of the house some thirty years ago and hadn’t spoken to her since. Beatrice didn’t even tell her when her brother died. My grandfather, Roger, started sleeping on park benches when he was around 10. So I’m thinking he didn’t have the greatest example of loving parents either.
I was talking to Israel this morning about some of the conversations he has or overhears at work. One of the conversations that he listened to yesterday but refrained from joining was about how tough these guys were because their parents were such bad-asses. One guy bragged that his mom didn’t have to spank them or slap them if they back talked. She would just throw whatever was nearby at their head. Book, full cup of coffee, shoe, whatever. Pitch it at their head.
Another time, when speaking about raising their own children, someone said, “Yeah, you got to beat her ass,” in reference to a daughter. Israel said, “No, we don’t beat our daughter. We spank her. We don’t spank her when we’re angry.” To which this person replied, “You gotta spank her when you’re mad. If you wait until you cool off, you won’t hit her hard enough. You gotta lay into her ass.”
That’s really what was said. “You gotta spank (or beat) when you are angry or you won’t hit hard enough.”
I don’t think people should be allowed to hit their children. I think my husband and I are better than most people (I really do. I’m sorry. We are thinking and they are not. We are learning new things and they are watching Survivor. We are trying to make our world a better place and they are buying new full size SUV’s and complaining about gas prices. Which of us would you rather have around?) and I think we spank correctly. As a punishment and never as a behavior modifier. We don’t spank to make her stop a behavior. We spank her as a consequence to behavior and hope that she will make the right decision to forgo the negative consequence and choose the right behavior. However, I am willing to give that up and find other forms of negative consequences in order to protect every other child out their from their abusive parents.
Because that’s what throwing things at your child’s head is. It’s abuse. I’m not even sorry for saying that. If your parents ever threw something at you in anger, you’ve been abused. If you’ve ever thrown something at your child in anger, you’ve abused. Simple. (I’m not talking a rolled up sock thrown in jest. I’m talking about hard, heavy things that should not be thrown at children. Use some common sense. If it would hurt you if it were thrown at your, it will hurt your child. Duh.)
So, I don’t think Straus’s study as reported in USA Today, is nearly as out of whack as I thought it was when I blogged about it a while back. I now think that since most people who spank are also the kind of people who throw things at their kids, most people who are spanked are going to have weird problems as adults. And the phrase “lay into her ass” has certain sexual overtones that are altogether creepy. So, while I still think USA Today did a shoddy job of reporting and that Straus should not have lumped masochism with risky sexual behavior nor should he have used so small of studies of the high schoolers, I’m not as out right opposed to his findings as I was originally. As I meet more and more people and get to know them and have these conversations with them, I become less and less comfortable with other people being allowed to corporally discipline their children.
Yes, I want special rights for me and my friends. But I am willing to give those up for the well being of ever potentially abused child out there. I’m creative. I can find other ways to discipline and train up my child and any future children we might have. But hundreds of thousands of kids out there won’t get a choice about whether or not they are routinely abused by those who are supposed to be taking care of them and protecting them.
*names have been changed. I’m fine with my name being plastered all over the internet but I don’t know about everyone else.