I found the following article in the May 2008 issue of Wondertime magazine very interesting and important for all parents and grandparents to read. The article is titled Then & Now: Spanking. The article simply takes three quotations from the past about spanking.
“A nation that cannot fight is not worth its salt, no matter how cultivated and refined it may be, and the very fact that it can fight often obviates the necessity of fighting…. Moreover when it comes to discipline, I cordially agree with you as to the need of physical punishment…. With my own children (who, I think I can say, are devoted to me, and who are close and intimate friends) I invariably have to punish them once physically so as to make them thoroughly understand that I will unhesitatingly resort to such punishment if they make it necessary.” (Theodore Roosevelt writing to Granville Stanley Hall, often called the father of child psychology).
“A slap on the hand of the infant who is reaching for a forbidden object has the advantages of immediate and direct association with the misbehavior and of being quickly over. To do any good the slap must be sharp enough to be felt, but should not be severely painful. It goes almost without saying that a child’s ears or face should never be boxed.” (from “As the Twig Is Bent [Spank If You Must]” by Leslie B. Hohman, M.D., in Ladies’ Home Journal.
“The more children are spanked, the more anger they report as adults, the more likely they are to spank their own children, and the more likely they are to approve of hitting a spouse. Spanking is also associated with higher rates of physical aggression, more substance abuse, and an increased risk of crime and violence when older children and adolescents are spanked. Instead, maintain a positive, loving emotional environment while setting consistent rules and limits.” (from The Children’s Hospital Guide to Your Child’s Health and Development, Children’s Hospital Boston).
Would you say that there has been an increase in violence, substance abuse, physical aggression, and crime over the last two few decades? I think we would all agree that things are getting worse. Note the correlation between this and spanking. Children’s Hospital Boston argues that violence and abuse increases with spanking. But this goes completely against the facts. As spanking has been removed as parental discipline, we are seeing violence, crime, and abuse increase, not decrease. When spanking was used as the primary form of discipline, our society was far more orderly with less violence and abuse.
Theodore Roosevelt implied that he punished so that the children knew that he would do it again. This is true. Once discipline has been established within the child to know that you will bring punishment for disobedience, the typical child will learn not to break the rules because they do not want to be punished. The child learns that discipline will come for inappropriate behavior. We abuse our children by not having a consistent discipline. Without consistent discipline, when the rules are broken, children do not know if they will be disciplined, ignored, coddled, encouraged or what. Children need to know what the will of the parent is and that consistent discipline will occur for violating the rules.
In 1939 Dr. Hohman told the readers that infants need discipline that is immediate so as to make a direct association to the crime. Today society says that infants do not know any better. This is simply not true. All of us have seen infants who have the look in their eyes that they are testing the parent, manipulating the parent, or simply pitching a fit. If we do not begin discipline when they are infants, when shall we begin to train and teach our children? When they are toddlers? When they are preschoolers? When they are in elementary school? When they are teenagers? We can continue to make excuses for our lack of discipline. But discipline begins very early and remains consistent. With infants, discipline begins by simply swatting the hand and giving a stern, verbal “NO.”
By not disciplining our children we are engaging in child abuse. My father gives a great example of this by using me as the example. During my first four years of life, we lived in a middle of nowhere place in southern California. Dirt roads led to our driveway and the road was infrequently driven upon, since we lived in a new subdivision. One day, I was playing in the driveway and lost my ball down the sloped driveway toward the street. I ran after the ball. A large truck was quickly advancing up the street at the same time. There was no time for my father to grab. He just shouted: “BRENT, STOP!” Dad says that immediately stopped in my tracks as the large truck went barreling by, not slowing down. If I had not been disciplined, I would have been a dead child. By the way, I was only 2 years old. Child abuse is to not instill this kind of discipline in our child, to listen to our words because we can be saving our lives. We need to train our child to listen to the words of the parent and immediately respond, or there could be dire consequences.
Yes, society tells us that we are being terrible parents by using spanking as a consistent discipline. But we must realize that we are showing love because we are protecting their lives with this kind of training. Further, as Theodore Roosevelt implied, by starting discipline early, the need for spanking decreases. When we say to do something, the child knows to do it because the consequences are known and not in question. Further, as parents we need to explain the reason for the discipline. Let the child know what they did wrong, so the association to the discipline is clear.
Finally, we need to teach our children to respect authority. If the child does not respect the parent, the child will not have respect for teachers, law enforcement, other adults or God. Sounds like today, doesn’t it? We have to stop this trend and it begins with our children. Teach them to respect authority by teaching them to respect you. If the child violates your rules, do not make excuses for their improper behavior (they are tired, didn’t sleep well, etc). This does not mean that we are harsh or ugly to our children. We calmly and thoughtfully make our children feel the consequences for bad behavior.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
“Foolishness is tangled up in the heart of a youth; the rod of discipline will drive it away from him” (Proverbs 22:15)