If you know me now, or even knew me as a teenager, you might be surprised about the kind of child I was. I did well in school and participated in many different activities, but I had a temper. A very serious temper. It took very little to set me off and quite a lot to calm me down. It started when I was a toddler and grew in intensity through early elementary school. My parents like to say that I was passionate, but I remember feeling completely out of control when I got upset.
I remember would get into trouble for something totally typical, like talking back or fighting with my sister and my parents would tell me to go to my room. This was their attempt to stop the meltdown before it began. I obviously don’t know how often, but plenty of the time, they were too late. I wouldn’t go to my room because “it wasn’t fair” or “I didn’t do anything wrong.” I’d scream, yell, hit. I once scratched my mother’s arm until it bled. Eventually I would go to my room, and often times I’d scream that I hated my parents (purely in an attempt to make them feel bad) and then I’d slam my door.
The punishment system in our family was pretty straight forward. Minor offenses were time in your room, major offenses were a spanking with an open hand, always over clothes, always on the butt, never in anger. It was never unclear what merited which punishment, I knew the rules.
And I got spanked a lot.
Each spanking was done in an order. The punishing parent came in after a few minutes of quiet time in your room, discussed what had happened, doled out the spanking and gave me a few minutes to get myself together and then life went on. I was never in pain, I never felt abused. I trusted my parents and knew how very much they loved me. And I loved them too.
After a few years, I eventually learned to control my temper and I believe, undoubtedly, that it was because of the punishment system in our house. Because there were consequences, including spanking, I was able to slowly learn to use my words, calmly, instead of my actions and fists. I can tell you with all honesty that time outs alone would not have worked for me, they didn’t work for me and it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
At 18 I graduated high school with a 4.3 GPA. I received the most scholarship money out of anyone from my 500 person graduating class. I went to a top 40 college and graduated in 4 years. I went on to get a teaching credential, then a doctoral degree from the #1 ranked program in the country for my field of study. I don’t say this to brag, I say this to show you that unlike the studies that are so often cited these days, spanking didn’t stunt my IQ. It didn’t effect my academic performance (except maybe that I’ll never know when to use affect or effect), it didn’t cause my self-esteem to suffer. I have achieved great things, even with my horrific upbringing.
I am currently very happily married. I have a baby that I love with ever fiber of my being. I have my life together, I am calm and content. Again, I’m not bragging, I’m saying it to show you that unlike the most recent study’s results, I’m not a drug dealer, I am not clinically depressed nor psychotic. I am a well adjusted 29 year old. And I believe that I am who I am because of my parents and because of how they parented me.
These studies are tremendously frustrating to me because there are so many confounding factors that are ignored- parental education, socio-economic status, history of abuse unrelated to spankings, all of which influence the development of a child. You cannot lump all forms of corporal punishment together because spanking, in a controlled, non-angry manner is not the same as beating your children. You know how I know this? Because I received the former and I am GRATEFUL for it.
Furthermore, those studies did not find a causation, they found a correlation, but you won’t find a single article that says that. The way they are splashed about on news sites and blogs, as though these studies discovered that spankings are the only cause of all problems, is horribly misleading. It’s like saying that high school makes girls’ breasts grow when in reality, the timing of breast growth tends to fall near the start of high school but nothing about high school is actually causing said growth.
I do not expect the anti-spankers to suddenly run out and embrace corporal punishment, but I’m writing this in the hope that they’ll stop acting as though my parents abused me. I hate reading about how spanking is the worst thing you could do to a child because I had outstanding parents and it is an insult to them to imply that they were anything else.
When discussing parenting, it’s not about black and white. It’s about doing what is best for your children and for me and my family, that meant a punishment system that included spanking. It worked for us and instead of stunting me, I credit it as a large part of how I became a successful adult. It’s easy to have an opinion about something you’ve never experienced, it’s hard to set aside preconceived notions and open your mind to the possibility that there are other options, other ways of doing things.
Parenting is all about finding what works for you, what keeps your children safe physically, mentally and emotionally. And I am grateful every day that my parents were so successful at doing just that.