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Monday, November 07, 2005

Admitting that you’ve experimented with spanking is difficult, because polite society regards it with such overt disdain. My wife and I suffered in silence for years until we finally realized that life was too short not to own up to who we are. And in the end (or, more accurately, on the end), whatever consenting adults do to each other in order to “stoke the old furnace” is our own business, and—

What’s that? We’re talking about spanking children? Oh. Well that’s different.

I am a man. And I suppose if we are to launch ourselves into the supple, familiar arms of gender stereotyping, I am genetically unable to resolve anything without putting my fist through something. You talkin’ to me, buddy? Pow! You lookin’ at my woman? Head butt! Did you throw Daddy’s underwear down the garbage chute again? Spank!

On this, the hottest of hot-button issues facing parents today, I have but this to say: During one singular week late last year, my son 1) glued our cat to an armchair, 2) put a dish towel in the broiler and laughed when it burst into flames while my wife was trying to make brownies, and 3) shoveled the entire contents of the cat box into the bathtub. If I managed not to spank him then, I like my chances for the future. But I’m not promising anything.

[Could we edit those first two paragraphs out? My mother reads this, for Pete’s sake.]

Permalink | Discipline | Comments (3)


If you made it through the broiler episode without resorting to spanking, I would guess you're in the clear. I can handle a whole lot of kid nonsense, but if they laugh about it I am much harder pressed to keep cool. In fact, if they laugh about it I pretty much turn into a package from the Acme Explosives Division and have to pray that Wile E. Coyote doesn't come along with a match.

It is intriguing to me to see how often people draw a bright line between physical intervention and other forms of discipline. You can intervene physically in a non-punitive way -- firmly containing an aggressor and removing him from the scene, even when he is convinced his brother really *deserves* a shoulder subluxation. You can intervene in a punitive non-physical way, which teaches the same nasty lessons about power that spanking does -- namely, when you're bigger, you get to do things to smaller people that they don't like, and they can't stop you.

The people whose ideas on parenting make the most sense to me (Haim Ginott, Barbara Coloroso, Faber & Mazlish, and even Alfie Kohn (although he is pretty extreme)) tend to lump together all intentionally punitive strategies, suggesting that they're unhelpful in the long run. Taking away a toy, they'd say, doesn't encourage thoughtful assessment of future choices; it elicits thoughts of how mean the adult is and how unjustly persecuted the child is.

Do I have an alternative all figured out? Absolutely not, as demonstrated in two separate conversations with my firstborn today. Perhaps I will begin calling him Wile E.

Posted by: Jamie | Nov 7, 2005 6:04:30 PM

That's nice, but can you provide more details on stoking the furnace?

Posted by: alice | Nov 7, 2005 9:15:37 PM

Well, I tried spanking a few times, swatting really, and it didn't work out so well. Now if I warn him he's about to get in trouble, he'll look at me and stick his little behind out (Fly Girl style) and spank himself. Makes me feel like Mommy Dearest. Currently we are just fumbling around tyring different things and hoping for the best.

Posted by: Tina | Nov 8, 2005 3:47:19 PM

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