The benefits(?) of spanking
A letter to PTAVE form J. T. S. of Texas, August 5, 2010

My single, widowed mother routinely spanked me as a child. My older brother and sister also received spankings, but not as much as me. We called them "whippings." I was a bad kid throughout school and received paddlings by teachers and coaches at least a few times a year. It was painful, but more embarrassing. Even worse, if my mother found out I had received a paddling in school, I would get a whipping when she got home. I did not get in trouble every day because I knew what would happen. My point: corporal punishment worked for me. It kept me focused and out of trouble; made me think twice. My family was poor, yet I worked through high school and played varsity sports. I attended college and received a B.S. and M.S. degree. I then earned a J.D. and am a practicing attorney. I am well adjusted with no long lasting damage. I am a productive citizen. I truly believe spankings, whippings, paddlings or whatever you want to call it saved me. It kept me in line. It kept my siblings in line. And it kept many of my friends and peers in line. They are all well adjusted and doing great in life.


PTAVE's response to J.T.S.

Thank you for writing. I am pleased to hear that you and your friends turned out so well. But my pleasure is tempered by more than a little skepticism. Over the years I've listened to so many spankers and erstwhile spankees proclaim the benefits of corporal punishment (in language remarkably similar to yours!) that I've come to suspect that their statements are a kind of stock-in-trade — a formula that they've refined and practiced to perfection. As an attorney, you should know better than most the difference between hard evidence and wishful thinking.

In 1992, I wrote a little booklet on this subject. The first few paragraphs might have been written in anticipation of your letter. They are as follows:

Criticism of traditional parenting methods is typically met with suspicion, resistance and hostility. Were this fundamental conservatism of human nature to express itself in words, it might say something like this:
If the old methods worked well enough for past generations, they'll surely work for the next. Don't fix it if it isn't broken. Don't mess with success. Sometimes children just need a good smack on the bottom to get their attention. It never did a child any harm. That's how I was raised, and I turned out okay.
But just how well did we really turn out? Sooner or later we have to admit that perhaps not all family traditions are created equal. Maybe, in some cases, they've made our lives more precarious and unhappy than they need to have been. And maybe just maybe we haven't turned out quite as "okay" as we'd like to believe and have others believe.

When we praise our parents' treatment of us when we were little, are we merely fishing for approval of our own similar behaviors now? Are we trying to reassure ourselves that the way we want to remember things is the way they really were and ought to remain?

Let's test the I-turned-out-okay argument by examining a few real-life examples from my own childhood. See if they apply to you.

  1. There were ashtrays in every room of our house. My parents smoked, as did most adult visitors to our home. The aroma of cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke was always present. Nobody minded. In fact, not one day passed in my early life when I was not exposed to tobacco smoke. I was even exposed in the womb because my mother smoked when she was pregnant with me. And I turned out okay.

  2. The first family car I remember was a 1937 Chevrolet sedan. It had no seat belts. When we traveled, I was merely plunked down on the back seat with the expectation that gravity would keep me there. It did. And I turned out okay.

  3. All the places in which I lived as a child were painted with lead-based paint. And I turned out okay.

  4. I used a bicycle throughout my childhood and teen years, but never wore any kind of protective headgear. And I turned out okay.

Was my family wise or just lucky? Today, we don't do those things anymore. We don't take such risks, and we don't expose our children to such risks not if we know the facts.

Those "facts" are examined in the balance of the booklet (Plain Talk about Spanking) which, if you are interested, you can finish reading at

Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir., PTAVE


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