John Fletcher, editor in chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), is on a mission to help children. In a recent editorial in CMAJ, Fletcher suggests putting an end to spanking. Referring to physical punishment as “a constant excuse for parents to cling to an ineffective method of child discipline”, Fletcher hopes to increase the focus on positive parenting.
I couldn’t agree more.
About 50% of Canadian parents spank their children, while almost 70% of American mothers admit to having hit their child at least once. That’s a lot of anger, and a lot of hurt. That’s a lot of children learning some very mixed messages.
We teach them not to hit when angry. We teach them not to scream and yell when another child upsets them. We teach them to use their words, take deep breaths, and ask for help. We teach them about empathy, understanding, and thinking before acting.
And yet, some parents seem to feel that they are above these lessons. Some parents seem to think that hitting a small child (or a child of any size, really) is acceptable when it comes to behavioral correction.
Some people like to argue that the degree of force used when spanking is what separates “harmless” spanking from child abuse. Others will say that spanking can be accomplished with love. Still others will say that they learned from this very effective method as youngsters and turned out just fine (or did they?).
These are the arguments of people who feel a need to justify their choices. These are the words of people who are reluctant to face the truth.
Research shows that spanking in childhood is associated with drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, and/or general maladjustment in adulthood. Bottom line: Spanking a child causes a lifetime of hurt.
Sadly, I think that the only way to truly eradicate spanking is to make it a crime. I’m generally not a black and white thinker…as a therapist, I almost always think in shades of grey. But I believe that spanking comes down to a yes or no issue, and I have yet to find something to place in the yes column.
No child should be physically punished by an adult.
No child should endure a lifetime of hurt because a parent refused to try another option.
No child should be mistreated because of anger and poor parenting skills.
No child for fear for his physical safety in his own home.
No child should live in fear.
Children test boundaries, make mistakes, and act on impulse on occasion. It is the job of the child to learn through experience, and sometimes that means making the wrong decision.
But that doesn’t mean that they deserve to be physically punished for their actions.
Our children are vulnerable. They look to us for guidance, support, and protection. They learn from our actions. What does it say to them when parents use a slap (or worse) as a means of gaining control? What are they to learn from physical punishment?
This outdated method of parenting needs to stop now. Our children deserve better.
There is always a positive way to handle any given parenting situation.
There is always another choice.
I stand with John Fletcher. I support a ban on spanking.
Where do you stand?