April 30th is National Spank Out Day. According to The Center for Effective Discipline:
"SpankOut Day USA was initiated in 1998 to give widespread attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. EPOCH-USA (End Physical Punishment of Children) sponsors SpankOut Day USA on April 30th of each year. All parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children on this day, and to seek alternative methods of discipline through programs available in community agencies, churches and schools."
Spanking is a hot topic. There are many people that still believe the adage "spare the rod, spoil the child" and are completely amazed that people are opposed to spanking. On April 10th, Lisa Belkin, author of New York Times parenting blog the Motherload wrote "Spanking is (Still) Wrong" and mentioned a recently released study from the Journal of Pediatrics:
" ... researchers at Tulane University, who find that children who are spanked as often as twice a month at age 3 are twice as likely to become aggressive, destructive and mean when they are 5. While the conclusions fall short of establishing a causational link, they are consistent with findings of previous studies and for the first time include a control for factors such as the levels of stress, depression and education of mothers. There was also a measure of how aggressive the 2,500 children in study were from the start."
In the close to 200 comments on this blog post, opinions ranged from a resounding "thank you" to Lisa for highlighting the importance of not spanking children to this is liberal drivel. (These are not actual quotes but the sentiments of some of the comments.)
As the mother of a toddler, I read these types of articles and comments with interest. As a parent, although I am far from perfect, (none of us are), I do want to be well-informed about best practices in child-rearing. When my son became mobile, I asked my former pediatrician about discipline. He was at the curious stage and wanted to investigate electrical outlets, wires, etc. I knew this was because he was inquisitive but also was worried because of the danger, so I'd put him in his pack and play for a minute. I wasn't sure that this was effective, but I didn't know what else to do. The pediatrician said that in dangerous situations I should swat his butt!
I was shocked and appalled. I couldn't believe an expert was telling me to hit my child. I did give it some thought and realized that sometimes having a consequence like a swat on a diapered butt might be the only thing saving my child from danger. Please don't get me wrong, I do not spank my child regularly. My son responds with tears if I change the tenor of my voice and give him "that look." However, I have found that the threat of a spank is also enough to get him in line when other options do not work. Sometimes I fear that other parents will judge me when I say to my son, "Do you want a spank?" but I have to do what works for me. I think I've swatted my son two or three times, and it has been effective.
Although I may sound contradictory, I truly do not believe in hitting children. I can count the number of times I had a true spanking that could be categorized as corporeal punishment, (not a swat but the belt came out), on one hand. I don't think it was effective, because I was generally a good kid, and at least one of those times I was not in the wrong. I believe that Spank Out Day is wonderful way to raise awareness about spanking and to allow ourselves to question our own beliefs about disciplining our children. I hope that parents are able to come up with multiple ways to discipline and turn to a light spank only when danger is involved (if at all.)
I have been witness to parents beating children in public, which in my opinion goes far beyond a quick swat on the bottom. Perhaps Spank Out Day will help parents who hit in anger to understand that there are options out there beyond raising a hand to a child. Clearly, I am not an expert. I can only do what I believe is right for my child. On Spank Out Day, I will not spank my child, but this will be easy because I generally do not spank him anyway. I am curious to hear your thoughts about this issue.
Others have written far more eloquently than I have about this topic:
Renée is a BlogHer contributing editor, the author of her personal blog Cutie Booty Cakes and after almost 3 years is still trying to figure this parenting thing out.
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