Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

Grandma and Grandpa April 3, 2008

Grandpa and Grandma

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.”

Seriously.

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.

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Does Spanking Lead to Sexual Dysfuntion? February 29, 2008

*Five years after writing this (it’s currently April 2013), my husband, our co-parent, and myself no longer spank any of our children. This was, however, genuinely what we thought in 2008 so I leave it as it is.*

A friend pointed this USA Today article out to me and in light of my most recent blog, I’d like to share my thoughts on it.

Israel and I talked at length last night and this morning about spanking and it’s place in our methods of discipline. We read the wikipedia articles on corporal punishment and spanking. We decided that the subject is complicated and worthy of deep thought. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

We do spank our daughter. We spank her for disobedience and lying. We do not spank because we are angry. How we feel about a behavior does not (or should not) affect the punishment she may or may not receive. We punish, not because we are mad at her, but because she has disobeyed and her disobedience is deserving of punishment. Our goal in doing so is to teach her through a non-damaging process that there are consequences for behavior. We reward her when she does good and punish, sometime with a spanking, sometime with loss of privilege (toys or playing), when she does wrong, thus teaching that actions have consequences, for good and bad.

But when reading articles such as this, I question our decision to spank and we rethink it a couple of times a year to make certain it still has a place in our disciplinary methods. I’m going to take you through this article the way I read it. My thoughts and comments are in blue.

Study: Spanking may lead to sexual problems later

Children whose parents spank them or otherwise inflict (You’ve gotta love the use of the word “inflict.” Nice work presenting spanking as bad in the first sentence.) physical punishment may (the word “may” here is what’s called a ‘weasel’ word; a word used to avoid making a straightforward statement. Notice the article’s author is not actually saying anything. They may also grow up to be lima beans. He’s not saying anything.) be more likely to have sexual problems later, according to research to be presented Thursday to the American Psychological Association.

The analysis of four studies by Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire-Durham, suggests (but doesn’t actually prove) that children whose parents spanked, slapped, hit or threw objects at them may have a greater chance of physically or verbally coercing a sexual partner, engaging in risky sexual behavior or engaging in masochistic sex, including sexual arousal by spanking. (Notice how ‘spanked’ is listed with ‘slapped, hit, or threw objects at’? Not every parent who spanks automatically does these other things, which I think most people would agree are abusive and Strauss lumps them all together. Also notice how it is just assumed that erotic spanking is a bad thing. If it’s consensual and enjoyable to both parties, what’s the problem, especially if a safe word is used and respected )

“It increases the chances of sexual problems,” though “it’s not a one-to-one causation,” Straus says. (To what degree does it increase the chance of sexual problems? Are they four times more likely to have sexual problems? Half a percent more likely? Which sexual problems?)

Elizabeth Gershoff, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, who reviewed 80 years of spanking research in 2002 in the APA’s Psychological Bulletin, says Straus’ work appears to be the first to link spanking with sexual problems.

Gershoff says that though many children have been spanked (85% in one 2007 survey), problems may depend on how they process the spanking. (Again with the weasel words…which suggests there is not sufficient research to say for sure what, if any, connection there is.)

“They may internalize that to mean that in loving relationships sometimes there’s pain or physical aggression,” she says. Another possible lesson is that “whoever is stronger and has more power can overpower the other person and use physical aggression to control the other person’s behavior.” (If you are spanking your child simply because you are bigger and therefore have the “right” to control your child, you are probably abusing them. Spanking should not be used to control behavior but as a punishment after the fact. Of course, the hope is that the spanking was painful enough to deter future disobedience but that is a side effect of the punishment.)

But linking sexual problems with spanking is a “big leap,” says human-sexuality researcher John DeLamater of the University of Wisconsin. “It’s probably one of many elements that might contribute to sex problems or risky sex, but it’s a long leap.”

Most children who are spanked escape from long-term harm, says Straus, 81, a sociology professor who says he occasionally spanked his own children but later became a staunch critic of spanking. His work on violence in families is regarded as landmark research. (Notice how, without saying spanking causes violence in families, it is alluded to by mentioning this unrelated work in the context of spanking?)

He is scheduled to present the studies today at the psychological association’s Summit on Violence and Abuse in Relationships in Bethesda, Md. Three are yet unpublished; one has been submitted to a journal. He plans to include two in a book this year. The fourth was included in a 1994 book. (Oooooo…not much peer review. Not a good sign for the legitimacy of his studies)

The two most recent studies examine sexual coercion and risky practices among 14,252 college students between 2001 and 2006. The third study, of 440 (not nearly enough to draw any realistic conclusions) high school students from New Hampshire, examined risky sex, such as premarital sex without a condom. The fourth study, of 207 (again, not nearly enough) students from the Northeast, focused on masochistic sex.

In each case, Straus found that those who had experienced corporal punishment had increased probability of coercing sex, risky sex or masochistic sex. (If he’s referring to abuse, ei. hitting, throwing things at, etc, who’s surprised? But because he’s not studied ‘spanking’ and has only studied all forms of corporal punishment, the abused kids are included in the stats of the un-abused, but spanked, kids. Again, he’s lumped masochistic sex with inherently negative things, coerced sex and risky sex. Enjoying masochistic sex is not necessarily indicative of a sexual problem.)

The literature on effectiveness of spanking to correct behavior is still “very mixed,” says Robert Larzelere of Oklahoma State University, who has studied parents’ disciplinary methods.

“Like any discipline tactic, it depends on how it’s used,” he says.

The End

So, my conclusion is that if you are spanking your child in a manner that is abusive, your child is more likely to be abusive, just like every study on abusive situations has proven time and time again. What this article does not prove is that healthy, responsible spanking, causes sex problems.

I hope you all enjoyed this little trip into Becky’s brain. And I hope no one’s too scared.

 

Aaaaahhhhh February 28, 2008

You know, it is just amazing to me what a good night’s sleep will do. Life is so much more handleable today. We are supposed to have “abundant sunshine” today so we should be able to play at the park after Story Time. Tuesday was raining, last Thursday was raining and we were sick the Tuesday before that and the Thursday before that our friends weren’t able to stay and play. So, after three weeks of trying, Brodie and Jael and Isaac might actually get to play at the park together.

I am so glad that we have decided to home school Jael. Brodie just turned two. Isaac is about a year and a half. Jael can play fine with them. There is a little girl at play group who is a year older than Jael and she can play just fine with her. We went to one of Israel’s co-worker’s son’s birthday party a week ago and she played fine with the six and seven year olds. Yay for not being peer stratified!

I read an article last night about a teacher who has been verbally abusing the children in her class, calling them stupid and mean and threatening them. One of her students came to class with a tape recorder in her backpack. The student’s mother had put it there because she was concerned that the teacher might not be acting in an all together healthy manner. The mom’s fears were not unfounded. When presented with this information, the school board admitted that they’d had to discipline this teacher the year before for slapping a four-year old child. The discipline consisted of, get a load of this, one day suspension without pay.

*GASP*

A whole day with no pay! You mean, she took a day off and didn’t get paid for it? The horror!

Seriously though, there are a ton of problems with this situation. I’m going to start with the slapping because if that had been handled correctly, this second story wouldn’t have happened. The teacher should have been ordered to attend intesive thearapy and if she was unwilling than she should have been fired. My husband and I believe physical punishment has a place in a parent’s discipline regime. However, we don’t slap her. Slapping is a reaction and not discipline. We don’t ever spank her when we are angry. We don’t discipline based on how we feel about her behavior. We discipline because she has disobeyed and must be taught that there are consequences to disobedience. Slapping is reactive and is not thought out. So, not only was the teacher disciplining in a way reserved only for the child’s parents (corporal punishment), she was doing it badly.

Four year olds should not be in school. I’m an ardent supporter of homeschooling and we’ve started some with our four year old but only as much as she’s enthusiastic about. We’re considering not starting formal education with her until she’s about eight based on research showing that kids who don’t start formal schooling until 8 but are allowed to explore their world and learn through play, catch up with their conventionally schooled peers within six to twelve months. The “late starters” have better social and creative skills than their more heavily schooled peers.

Then you have the yelling at kids. What makes someone think this is okay? I mean, yeah, maybe your parents were verbally abusive but why would that make you think it’s okay to speak to other people’s kids that way? Don’t they cover the proper way to speak to kids and control behavior issues as a part of the “becoming a teacher schooling”? If that isn’t covered, than why in the hell are the masses letting these people spend eight hours a day to “professionally” teach their kids?

My husband has worked on cars since he was about eight years old. He worked as a Ford mechanic for about a year and has much experience working on a variety of cars in his personal time. He’s fond of saying, when presented with a car problem he’d not encountered before, “Why send my car to the dealership to have them screw it up when I can screw it up at home for free?” I ask the same thing about school. “Why send my kids away all day to be screwed up by a stranger when I can do it at home?” And of course, hopefully avoid some of the screwing up.

After ranting about strangers for a bit, I am feeling downright happy.

And I just cleaned off all (well most anyway) of the horizontal surfaces in my house (well, kitchen at least). I also swept the kitchen and vacuumed the house. No, I’m not manic. Israel asked me to clean the house today. A totally reasonable request but one I resented anyway. Until I got started and then it was so nice to have clean surfaces and a clean floor that I didn’t mind being reminded of my wifely duties.

Jael and I are off to Story Time.

Until next time…