At 12 years old, I decided that I would never raise my children the way my parents raised me. I was in the sixth grade, and to my surprise, the school mailed my parents midterm deficiency reports. I had D’s in three classes. Usually, these midterm reports were given to students to take home. But not this time.
The day was pretty normal. I did my chores after school and waited for my parents to come home from work. My mother was first, right after she picked up the mail from our mailbox. As she walked into the house, she was reading one of my deficiency reports. She immediately confronted me with profanities and jostled me into my bedroom. She grabbed a belt from my dresser and spanked me. She must have hit me 10 times. I still remember the first strike. It hurt like hell and I cried. But even after she spanked me, she still had the audacity to tell me that she could not wait for my father to come home. At that point, I figured that she had already spanked me so what more could my father do? I was wrong. When my father got home, I heard my mother tell him about my grades. He ran into my room and grabbed the same belt. You would have thought that I would have hid that belt, but he found it, grabbed me and threw me on the bed, pulled my pants down and spanked my bare ass. As I screamed in agony, I thought – “Seriously? You’re going to spank me again? Who does that?” It was the worst feeling ever. I felt humiliated, ashamed and wounded. I hated my parents and swore I would never do that to my children.
I was curious to see whether spanking is still a traditional parenting norm. I found an article by Dr. Noam Shpancer, Ph.D. In the article, “The Spanking Debate Is Over,” Dr. Shpancer tackled the arguments in favor of spanking. He acknowledged that the majority of Americans still approve of spanking their children – even those children as young as 10-months old. He looked at research and science against spanking. He wrote that “research has shown that spanking does in fact increase children’s stress levels, as well as their risk for a host of future psychological problems.” Spanking could teach children that being physical or violent over another person may be appropriate.
But why is spanking so popular? Dr. Shpancer notes that it may have to do with “American cultural ethos.” America has “an ongoing romance with violence.” Americans love football and war. Also, spanking may look like it is working because it may have an immediate effect and may even halt or curb certain behavior for that moment. For example, if a child is being disruptive, a spanking would immediately halt that disruption. But this is only short-term. It is very likely that the child’s behavior will continue or that they can still be disruptive, but disguise it in order to avoid a beating. Dr. Shpancer believes that spanking may be the “equivalent of taking a pill to quickly numb your knee pain” rather than trying to actually figure out why you have knee pain to begin with. This is definitely not a sustainable way of raising children.
Without even discussing alternatives to spanking, I believe that Dr. Shpancer is right. After being spanked by my parents, my grades improved, but there was a cost. For the next six years, I was stressed out, nervous and anxious about my grades. Not even because I wanted to go to college, but because I knew that my parents would unleash the belt on my bottom. It sickened me – especially when midterm or final reports would go home. My relationship with my parents also changed during this time. Being spanked back-to-back caused me to feel lots of hate and anger against them that took me years to get over. I did not receive another D in school during this period, but the spanking did not make me a better student. It only taught me how to avoid a beating. It was not like my parents spanked good study habits into my butt, or each spanking improved my algebra skills.
Today, I have two children in junior high. Both are polar opposites. My oldest strives to be top 5% of her class. She studies most nights past midnight and wakes up early to study. My other daughter is also bright, but she does not worry about her ranking and will study only when she needs to. She is fine with coasting along. I do not spank my children. In fact, I do not discipline them either if they receive a bad grade. My wife and I talk to our children – always emphasizing the reason for them to become better students. We encourage them to learn the material and listen in class. We do appreciate our children bringing home straight “A’s” but it’s not our main concern. We encourage learning and managing your time. If one of our children falls behind in their class or gets a bad grade on a test, they go to study hours or they talk to their teachers.
As I look back at sixth grade, I feel confident that if I was encouraged to speak to my teachers or put more time in by going to study hours then my grades would have improved without being spanked. I could be wrong, but it would have been worth a try instead of a spank.