Sunday, January 25, 2009
Is Spanking A Black and White Issue?
If you have ever had a hand raised to you, as a child, your answer to the title of this blog is likely yes. Spanking, whooping, beating - whatever term you use to describe the act, is terrifying to a child. Often the parent will preface the punishment with, "this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you." But does it? I have frequently felt that the spanking type of punishment is much more about the parent releasing anger and frustration than teaching a child a lesson about life. It is far easier to raise a hand to release the embarrassment you feel about your child stealing candy corn from a drug store than it is to have a discussion about how that small business needs to pay its bills. Explaining how the stolen candy adds up to wages lost for the owner's family will make much more of an impact down the road. A discussion teaches the lesson. A spanking teaches violence. This is the point I was trying to make to a single father a few nights ago. This is a man who helps his son with homework for two hours each night, drives carpool, takes him to sports practice, makes certain he eats healthy and will go see "Beverly Hills Chihauhau" for the third time on a saturday night. He is a great dad. So, when he casually mentioned he had to "whoop" his son on occasion, I was shocked and immediately saw it as a character flaw. I asked, "don't you worry you are teaching him it is okay to hit?" Now, I had thought I have come a long way with black and white thinking and considered myself emotionally mature and worldly, but what I was met with during this conversation irked me for days and bore the realization that no situation exists without the gray. He is raising a black son in Los Angeles, where danger and temptation lurk everywhere. His parenting issues are different than what some of us face. If his son is out on the street, simply goofing around, too late at night, at the wrong place/wrong time, a fatal mistake could be made. Those were his words to me. He doesn't spank him out of anger or frustration. He does it out of love. And maybe fear. As a writer, I'm taught to see both sides of the coin. I don't frequently have strong opinions but, when I do, they are not easily swayed. This father made me understand something I should have already inherently known. Each family must parent their children to their own unique situation. None of us face the same circumstances nor can we fully understand one another's struggles. Through dialogue we can listen and learn that it is not always and never, one extreme or the other. Although spanking is not something that fits with my parenting philosophy or family mission, this dad taught me there is gray here and that my mind was not quite as open as I thought it was.