Robert Scharf responds to a proponent of spanking
September 9, 2000
Anon., September 8, 2000

For the last few weeks I've been looking for the reasons for our new policies on child raising, re: the extreme change in our children's behavior through-out this country.

I respect your opinions, as we should all, but I beg to disagree, completely with the entire idea, "that spanking your child is the wrong course to take"!

How dare, you, and people like you ban together in your little groups to alter our lives, to the point, where we now must look to sending our children to "boot-camps" and the like to get them to behave! Again, a small group of people, have invaded our lives with puritanical ideas that have done much more damage then good to our country. Once again, small minded people have taken a problem that was once limited to a very minute group of molesters and abusive parents, and taken it to the max in punishing us all, and forcing us, greatly so, to become the hostages to children, who require discipline, guidelines and the knowledge, at an young age, "that YES, when you act in inappropriate ways, you will be punished"!

In my family, no less then the last 5 generations have been raised on that, reward/punishment system. No one has ever been beaten, abused or molested, and we all have grown up to be outstanding people, in compassion, respect and understanding. We all learned, that when we mess up, purposely, that is, or harm other living things, or steal, etc, we are punished, and, funny, no one has ended up crazy, or abusive toward others, etc.

Children need spanking, that is, when they do wrong, talk back, and people like you, forcing yourselves into our private lives, is only harming our family system, in a huge and destructive way.

From all of our friends, we hear the same complaint, children mess up, refuse to obey, talk back, tell mom and dad to F___off, (at 14, mind you) and if the parent makes any move to slap the face of a 14 year old telling mom to (something pretty terrible), the child says, "you hit me and I'll call the police"! And now, because of all of you, we now know that the police can and will arrest mom or dad for that, and more lives are ruined.

You all need to re-think what you have done, and get out into the real world.

Stop forcing us to follow your rules of child raising, these are our children, and we have done very well so far, our way. Of course I realize you won't listen, and not unlike the Pro-Lifers, you would further enforce our lives to your way of thinking.

Spanking: What is at stake and for whom?
Robert Scharf, September 9, 2000

We realize that change is often frightening and that changes which effect our private lives and families are even more so. At one time, it was considered proper that wives should be under the dominion of their husbands. Husbands beat their wives and the state "stayed out of it." It took a great deal of activism and consciousness raising to get law enforcement to treat domestic violence as a crime rather than as a family affair.

In the not distant past, children were severely neglected, abused, and beaten in ways that are illegal today. Back then, people said that children needed such punishment in order to learn their place and be well behaved. People feared that if things changed, society would fall apart and they also argued that child protection was not a matter for the state but was a family matter.

We are activists for the protection of children which is not merely a family matter but a concern of the state and of all citizens. Children are our future and they deserve to be raised with caring, respect, and dignity and in an atmosphere free of intimidation. We are not only against spanking, the purpose of which is to humiliate and harm children, but against all behaviors which humiliate and harm children including verbal abuse. We hope that our campaign against corporal punishment will raise consciousness about all forms of child abuse.

I knew someone who used to rail against Dr. Spock: "Dr. Spock says, `Don't frustrate the children.' Is it better I should be frustrated? You can bet I won't be!"

In this person's mind, the lines were clearly drawn. It was them--the bratty children who needed to be kept in line, against us--the adults--who know that all of the pain, humiliation, and punishment we endured was for our own good. I would ask you to consider that it wasn't for your own good and that it harmed you in ways that might be difficult to recognize. You say we are like pro-lifers who want to control your life. Anyone who believes the law should be changed to protect minorities wants to "control peoples lives." That is what laws do. Pro-lifers want to protect fetuses, so they want the law to protect fetuses. The counter argument to pro-lifers is that choice serves the greater good of society.

We say children need to be protected from corporal punishment. What is the counter argument of the pro-spankers? What greater good is served by spanking children? There is none. The evidence shows that spanking is less effective in teaching children than non-punitive means and has deleterious effects on children. Let us consider a little further this idea of teaching children by spanking.

In teaching academic subjects, it is widely acknowledged that positive reinforcement is a far better tool than punishment and few today would counsel using spanking to teach the three R's. At one time, schools were much more punitive and it was argued that society would collapse if they weren't. However, reforms prevailed and few today think that spanking has a place in teaching the curriculum. However, spanking, which is recognized to be ineffective in teaching the curriculum, is thought by its proponents to be the only effective means of teaching interpersonal skills. It is imagined that children cannot learn to obey authority unless they are hit when they fail to obey. What does this really teach them about authority and civic duty? If we had to teach an academic course about the reasons and justifications for obedience to authority, could we teach it without hitting the students?

People like Dr. Dobson, who advocate corporal punishment, advise that it shouldn't be done in anger and that the reasons for the punishment should be explained. Setting aside the fact that few people approach corporal punishment in this way, after the parent is calm and has explained to the child why the behavior in question is considered wrong, what is added by hitting?

Is it thought that inflicting pain makes the message more comprehensible or accentuates it? If this were so, then why isn't punishment thought to be effective in teaching academic subjects?

Is it thought that humiliation makes the message more comprehensible or accentuates it? If this were so, then why isn't humiliation thought to be effective in teaching academic subjects? Why not instruct adults in this fashion? Why shouldn't your boss be allowed to slap you in the face? It might be argued that spanking is effective in teaching academic subjects, but that the benefits are outweighed by the deleterious effects. These deleterious effects are precisely what need to be looked at. Why is it that in the area of interpersonal relationships we teach that violence is the only effective teaching tool?

Of course, proponents of spanking don't contend that spanking has deleterious effects but is warranted because it serves a greater good. They say it didn't do them any harm. One harm it has done them is to instill the notion that inflicting pain and humiliation is not harmful. Obviously, if one does not consider these things harmful, then one does not see the harm in advocating them.

I ask the reader to consider the evidence that there is harm in inflicting pain and humiliation upon anyone, children most of all. I ask the reader to consider the evidence that anything which can be taught can be taught without inflicting pain and humiliation and to consider alternatives to punishment.

Society does not decay because people stop hitting their children. The history of childhood shows the opposite: the more severe and brutal the punishments and treatment of children; the more brutal they are as adults.

Most of us who oppose spanking were once in favor of it and thought very much like those who still favor it. It is not that we won't listen. We understand your position, we just believe there is a better way. We hope to persuade others of this. If we can persuade enough of them, we can continue to reform childcare because children are not the exclusive concern of their parents, but the concern of all of society. We realize that the changes we advocate are frightening to some. We are sorry for this. We do not advocate change to frighten people who may be afraid of change, we do it for a greater good: that children may grow up without fear and humiliation and grow into adults who can shed the belief in punishment find new ways to move society and childrearing forward.

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