To the Editor:
If you spank a child, you may stop bad behaviour temporarily. The child may even learn that the way to avoid a spanking is to avoid repeating the behaviour. But there’s another lesson beneath the surface, and it usually takes one of two forms: first, they learn it’s OK to hit someone who does something they think is bad, as long as they’re bigger and more powerful. Second, they learn it’s OK for somebody to hit them if they do something to deserve it.
Think about option one for a second. If whatever behavioural problem you’re getting from little Johnny or Tiffany is driving you crazy now, think about what will happen once (s)he learns that lesson. Now think about option two. Does it sound like Battered Woman Syndrome to anyone else? And you never know which of these two lessons your child will pick up and what consequences it may have for the rest of his or her life.
Children may learn a little from parents’ lectures and threats, but they learn a lot — most of what they know — from a parent’s example. When we spank a child for his or her transgressions, we’re not teaching the child why his or her actions were wrong, but we’re making a very powerful point about how the world works and what (s)he must do to get by in it.
We may tell them it’s not okay to hit others, or that they shouldn’t let others hit them, but why should they believe us? When we spank, our actions teach them otherwise.
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