To Spank or Not Spank-The Debate

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD

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Spanking, defined as slapping of the buttocks, is a form of hitting and is physical violence. This fact alone is reason enough to make the spanking of children unacceptable by the same standards that protect adults, who are not as vulnerable. However, there is more to spanking than simple hitting. Spanking trespasses one of the body’s most sensitive *** areas—the genitals.

Furthermore, violent socialization of infants and children by ‘spanking, ’ ‘bopping, ’ ‘switching, ’ ‘licking, ’ ‘whipping, ’ ‘paddling, ’ ‘popping, ’ ‘whacking, ’ ‘thumping, ’ etc. conditions children to accept and tolerate aggression and violence. This leaves the child prey to *** abuse and incest. To address the inappropriateness of spanking children completely, we need to consider not only the issue of physical violence, but also the issue of *** trespass.

It is a known fact that sex offenders target children who appear to have been victims before (quiet, withdrawn, compliant. ) A previous victim of body boundary violations tend to be quiet, easy to manipulate and more likely to comply with a sex offender’s demands.

The harm of spanking has been thoroughly explained and demonstrated over the past century in academic literature, scientific research, legal treatises, and recently in the popular media. We know that spanking is still considered the preferential form of child discipline as 22 states allow paddling with a wooden paddle in schools. Further evidence that spanking is a preferential form of child discipline is revealed in a random telephone survey done by Harvard Medical Center in 1997. 67% of parents surveyed stated they hit their child(ren) an average of once a week.

Some people believe spanking is justified or even commanded in the Bible—Proverbs. There is a distinction between the practice in King Solomon’s day of beating adults on the back and modern practice of spanking/hitting children on the buttocks. The latter is not prescribed anywhere in the Bible. Furthermore, the Old Testament contains passages that could be (and in some incidents have been) construed as divine endorsements of wife-beating, racial warfare, slavery, the stoning to death of rebellious children and other behaviors that are outrageous by today’s standards.

Our laws and cultural values are unambiguous concerning adults who physically hit/slap or verbally threaten adults. It is recognized as criminal, and we hold the offenders accountable. Why then, when so much is at stake for society, do we accept the excuses of those who hit children? Why do we become interested in the needs of children only after they have been terribly victimized, or have become delinquents victimizing others?

The answer is: We cannot believe that hitting children is abuse until we can honestly acknowledge the mistreatment from our own childhood experiences and examine the shortcomings of our own parents. To the extent we feel compelled to defend our parents and guard their secrets, we will do the same for others. We will promote physical punishment as a ‘standard’ form of discipline or look the other way. By continually insisting that we ‘turned out okay, ’ we are reassuring ourselves and diverting ourselves from deeply hidden unpleasant memories.

Recognition of the harm of spanking can only begin with an acknowledgment of the truth. It is futile to hope that denial, lies, evasions and excuses can somehow erase the memory and pain of past injuries.

"There never was a time when a major social problem was solved by beating a child. And there never will be such a time. . . For centuries adults have injured children and have lied about it, and other adults have heard those lies and then merely turned away. . . we must begin putting the blame where it belongs. " . - C. Everett Koop, M. D. , Sc. D

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, author, If I'd Only Known. . . *** Abuse in or out of the Family: A Guide to Prevention, specializes in: Emotional healing and Physical/Sexual Abuse Recovery. Order at at a 15% discount. Dr. Neddermeyer provides consultations to parents and as an expert witness. 480-704-0603


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