Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Parenthood – To Spank or Not to Spank

Cathy Sorbo has written an interesting commentary on new legislation that will punish parents who spank their children. This is an issue with which I’ve had to do much soul-searching since becoming a father nearly three years ago.

In general, I think that spanking is unnecessary. Children can be quite reasonable, in their own way, and with patience, repetition and lots of “time outs,” they can usually be educated appropriately. Spanking, more often than not, serves only as a vent for frustrated parents.

However, I live in a busy city, with lots of traffic. And though I have educated my toddler to the dangers of moving vehicles, there was one occasion in which he forgot himself and stepped out into the street. On this occasion I gave him a good sharp wallop. But it wasn’t out of anger. Rather, it was a very calculated, premeditated strategy of education, based on the idea that the quickest and surest way to learn that fire hurts is to touch it one time. Pain, after all, is a very effective teacher.

That’s not to say that pain should be the exclusive means of education. When overdone, it can become quite meaningless. But the shock to him of actually being hit by me on this rare occasion brought the severity of the issue home to him in a way that insured he would never repeat it again.

Going back to the metaphor of fire and pain, burned fingers are not quite as fatal as a cross-town bus over-running tender young entrails. Usually, you only get one chance; there’s not much margin for learning in such a situation. So I decided –on that occasion-- that a small amount of pain was preferable to the unpalatable alternative. I don’t regret it. I suffered for it, more than him, but I think it was the right thing to do.

In other words: When the lesson is as serious as life-or-death, a spanking is a very expedient means toward learning.

It’s possible, though, in retrospect, that a spanking would also have been well-served when the remote control got thrown out in the garbage. But that was a year ago, and the statute of limitations is up. Anyway, I’m getting more exercise because of it. … Well, actually, he’s getting the exercise now.

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