Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Hand That Swings the Paddle Rules the World

An article in today's New York Times will, perhaps, bring you equal parts of insight and fear. The title "When Is Spanking Child Abuse?" seems reasonable enough at first glance. There certainly is such a thing as child abuse. Whoever practices physical abuse of children is someone who spanks. What such a person would term "spanking" quite obviously could be child abuse. A reasonable discussion along the lines of "When Is Spanking Child Abuse?" could be profitable to everyone who should participate.

This, my friends, is not that discussion. For Lisa Belkin's unmistakeable underlying presumption in writing the article is that most of her readers will meet the question "When Is Spanking Child Abuse?" with the answer "Always!" (although the comment stream didn't bear that out).

Here's the insight that we all might gain from her article: How far discourse on this topic has moved in such a brief time:

  1. A century ago, corporal punishment was a presumptive part of parenting.
  2. During the twentieth century, American culture became surprisingly aware of a subculture of non-spanking people.
  3. Through the influence of people like Benjamin Spock (not a Vulcan, BTW!), serious debate took place over the propriety of spanking children.
  4. Spanking came to official and vehement disfavor among leadership in the medical, psychiatric, and social work fields.
  5. Now, as this article makes clear, in places like New York, this article takes a tone of surprising awareness that people somewhere still spank.

Consider these quotations:

Spanking…has never really gone away in many parts… [This quotation presumes a readership that would have assumed spanking to have been a thing of the past!]

........

Corporal punishment in school is still legal in 21 states. [Yikes! Surely you jest!]

........

Despite the rise of the timeout and other nonphysical forms of punishment, most American parents hit, pinch, shake, or otherwise lay violent hands [Gasp!] on their youngsters: 63 percent of parents physically discipline their 1-to 2-year-olds, and 85 percent of adolescents have been physically punished by their parents.

........

While the United Nations has set a target date of 2009 to end corporal punishment by parents, and while 23 countries have already banned hitting kids, the United States is not one of them.

........

Isn’t all hitting child abuse?

The article features some creative use of statistics. The last time I checked, one third amounts to a whole lot less than half, but Belkin analyzes a statistic that "over a third" of spankers escalate to child abuse. Now, that's a horrible statistic, if it is true. But it does not amount to the claim that spanking "usually escalates" to child abuse. Usually? Hmmm.

It's alarming enough that a regular columnist for a paper as influential as the Old Gray Lady holds these views. More disturbing is the fact that an action by a father that left no one injured and no one aggrieved has resulted in a godly father standing before the bar of judgment. It could be me just as easily as it could be him. That scares me a bit.

It also scares me a bit to think that discipline of children is so absent New York City that a parenting columnist for the Times would find the concept so Neanderthal. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and if things keep going as they are foolishness will increasingly be the hallmark of our society. And then, sooner than we expect, the United States of America will fall to some better, stronger race of people who love their children enough not to let them turn into the worst version of themselves.

7 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Bart,

I know there's a lot more involved than just one or two episodes can illustrate, but I grew up in the 40's and 50's. Just ask what the condition of, and among, children was, then, and compare it to now.

Then ask what all the "non-spanking" sorts have brought us to, in children today, and then ask which set of kids it was that was abused.

My money is on kids, today.

Ron P. said...

Bart,

To hasten our fears... Here comes President (though I hope not) Barack Obama and a super majority of Democrats in Congress who will most likely vote for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Which, under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause of Article VI Section.2 will bind us to it and overwrite all existing rights and safeguards of parents.

Ron P.

Bart Barber said...

Bob,

What does your comment have in common with the Cooperative Program?

My money is right there with yours.

Bart Barber said...

Ron P,

I shudder at the thought. I hear that things are nice in Costa Rica.

Ron P. said...

Bart,

Since we are both here in Texas, and Texas was once it's own country, and Texas beat OU (again!) and despite Emir Caner's heretical views of Texas (yes we do rule the world), let's be prepared to go back to being our own nation again. Just in case. :)

Ron P.

volfan007 said...

Many, many times, you can tell the children that dont get spanked by their parents. You can really tell by the undisciplined, unruly, wild, disrespectful behavior!

I knew a family where the Mother had adopted Dr. Spock's view. The Father let her do what she wanted. And, their children were a terror. People shuddered to see these people coming to their house for a church fellowship, or a birthday party, or something. These kids were totally out of control...the daughter even got on top of some people's piano one time and was running around on it; scratching it, etc. The mother of this little girl was begging and pleading with her to get down. The little girl was saying, "No, I dont want to!"

One time, the Dad told that Mother, the best thing you could do with Dr. Spock book is use it as a paddle. lol

If you want to see the end results of no spanking....just go to WalMart and watch the children.

Sad.

Thankful that my parents cared enough about me to discipline me,

David

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Bob. Today, foolishness is bound up the heart of millions of grownups who live in mature bodies but who were never taught biblical concepts, or even common-sense parenting. Either they themselves were physically or emotionally abused or they were given a free reign and decided that the world revolves around them. That is indeed child abuse that perpetrates itself onto future generations.

Physical abuse of a child is indeed abuse. But not spanking an unruly child is also abuse. And they are NOT the same.