Dear Supernanny Jo,
I saw your response to a viewer question that there is no justification for spanking (click on picture to go to video clip if above video does not load). We Americans do have many justifications for spanking. The most frequent justification I hear is:
"I was spanked and I turned out fine."
Supernanny Jo, the problem is lots of Americans have been spanked and lots of Americans turn out fine.
Now the research is definitive that spanking can cause behavior and emotional problems (and they may be ones we don't see immediately). For those people who were spanked and turned out fine, I am always happy and thankful that they turned out wonderful. Even though they turned out fine, not all children do. So while we may justify a little smack on the behind because it didn't affect them, the real question becomes:
Can you be 100% certain that your child is not going to be one of the ones who is damaged physically and emotionally by spanking?
The only answer to that is "No." We don't know the in's and out's of why every child develops emotional and behavioral issues, nor do we know why some genetically identical twins develop issues that the other does not. What we do know is that stress caused by things like spanking are strongly associated with children developing these issues.
Bottom line is: Are you really willing to chance that your child, the baby you love, have hopes and aspirations for, the child who you protect from all the evil in the world, the one who you hug when they are hurt by another child at school, the child who you must depend on to help you in your old age ... are you willing to take the chance that your child will be one of the ones who is damaged because you made the choice to spank them?
The other justification I hear, Supernanny Jo, is "I don't beat them, I barely hit them at all, it isn't even hard."
So if we don't hit our kids hard, then it makes it okay, right? Well, again, the research would say no, but let's just put that aside for a minute.
Before my husband and I were married, he firmly believed in spanking. I told him I would not raise a child in an atmosphere where they would be spanked. After a long talk about facts and studies, he acquiesced and we were eventually married. During my pregnancy, I brought up the conversation again. I wanted us to be on the same page when it comes to behavioral modification (Because we all know how it does not work to have on parent who says yes when the other said no.) He returned to the idea that spanking was somehow right. I looked at him and said, "I would prefer that if you get upset with me, you spank me. At least as a grown adult, I would understand that you have lost your temper or are too frustrated to deal with me in a respectful constructive manner." His face was aghast and he said, "I would never hit my wife, that is crazy."
We both paused a minute and I said, "The thing is, I agree. You shouldn't hit me. What I am saying is that at least I would understand the complexity of human emotion better than a child. I would understand better that you were so frustrated that you couldn't think of anything else to do. Do you think a young child is able to understand that?" Of course, his answer was no. This was a turning point in how he understood using physical punishment on a child.
That being said, not everyone will feel the same way. So I will put it another way: it is against the law in many states to hit your dog. The message of shame that you are communicating to your child and the embarrassment they feel when you hit them, when you punish them in a way that dogs aren't even allowed to be treated. That is damaging. Is that what you are trying to communicate to your child, or are you just wanting to change their behavior?
Another justification I hear is that other methods won't work on their child, every child is different and theirs only listens to spanking.
To this, well, if ADHD and Developmentally Disabled children can have their behavior modified without spanking, then it will work for your kid too.
The most emotional justification I hear is that it is God approved to hit your child. "Spare the rod, spoil the child."
We Americans get pretty riled if you dare to say anything that contradicts the Bible. Good thing "Spare the rod, spoil the child," actually comes from a 17th century Samuel Butler Poem and not the Bible.
Now what is in the bible is "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." Proverbs 13:24. This is how King Solomon tells us he raised his son. Well, if you are diligent in reading your bible, you will see the Bible shows us King Solomon raised a pretty awful child ... I don't think using his methods would be anything to be proud of or to want to emulate. For more info on this click here.
The problem, Supernanny Jo, is there are tons of justifications we Americans use in order to be able to hit our kids, despite all of the evidence showing other behavior modifications to be more effective. When someone is enlightened to the fact that there are other, more effective methods to raise children and they still choose to hit ...
That means that one of the biggest lessons we teach our children:
Do not hit others
it just proves that the parents who continue to spank never learned that lesson themselves, despite how many times they were spanked.
Supernanny Jo, I applaud you and your methods. Thank you for showing us a different way to help guide our children and I hope, despite everyone's attempt to justify spanking, that you do continue to reach parents everywhere.
I grew up seeing pictures of my mom and her family always hanging out on their front porch. What a wonderful place to be, in your home and able to see your neighbors and your neighborhood. When my husband and I were looking for homes, both of us really wanted a front porch. We quickly came to realize very few modern homes are made with front porches. Instead, we have lavish back yards with decks, pools, gardens and play area, which is great, but not the same.
I remember visiting my great aunt Julia who used to live off of Calhoun Street in Dearborn, MI. She would attend Mass every single morning at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church across the street. After attending Mass and weather permitting, she would have breakfast on her porch. She would go back inside her house to do dishes and come back to sit with coffee and tea. Then she would have lunch on her front porch. The front porch was much like a second living room. This second living room didn't have a television, it had real life. She knew all of her neighbors, she knew the children who attended the school across the street and she spoke on a daily basis with everyone. Many of the people around the neighborhood would affectionately call her, "The Mayor of Dearborn," because she knew everyone. On one visit, she invited us to attend a talent show at the school across the street. Although she had no children of her own in the talent show, a few kids from the school who passed by her house every day had invited her to come see their performance. I remember her introducing me to so many kids my age and younger, as well as all of their parents. It was a whirlwind of people for me, for her, just her circle of friends.
My aunt Julia is no longer with us, but I like to think we keep her spirit alive as much as possible by trying to cultivate relationships with our neighbors. It isn't easy. We don't have front porches anymore, everyone hides out back (if we can even get anyone out and away from television or other mobile devices at all). Like I said, I would like to think I help to keep the spirit of neighborhood friendliness alive, but I have to admit, I have a lot of work to do.
It will be a while until I can work on being more neighborly because I just had foot surgery and have been relegated to my bed for the next few of weeks, keeping my leg up and iced. But I have one neighbor, who is an inspiration, much like my great aunt Julia. She just left my bedside to run home to take care of her kiddos for lunch, but my neighbor came by this morning with Yahtzee to keep me company. The day after surgery I was craving a Sprite and she was sweet enough to swing by and bring one to me. We have had days where it has iced and no one could get out the neighborhood, and she has had the whole cul de sac over for dinner. My husband hit a gas line while digging and without a second thought she invited us over for dinner while the gas company worked on fixing the line. She has thought about my family on Veteran's Day and brought over a thank you for your service gift. If I enumerated all the nice things I have seen her do for our family and our neighbors, I would end up writing a mini novel. The most important thing I think she has given our neighborhood and my family is that wonderful return to a time where people used to build front porches and know their neighbors. She has helped to create a community where we can feel safe letting our kids ride bikes in front of our house. She has helped to create a welcoming atmosphere where the kids play with each other and run from house to house laughing. We may not have a front porch, but my neighbor has broken through that imaginary wall we all put up and created not just a cul de sac, but a real neighborhood.
My neighbor is an inspiration, like my Aunt Julia. In this blog, I hope these two people help to inspire you as much as they have inspired me to help cultivate those friendships with people next door and create a place where your kiddos can have contact with other kids instead of their televisions and video games. Get out there and make friends. Borrow a cup of sugar and bring back a pie. Drop a hand written note or just knock on the door and say hi. There is a wonderful world out there for you and your kids, one away from the television, away from computers, one that can just let you enjoy and become part of something bigger than just your backyard.
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