Many people from my generation were spanked, yet now as parents, very few of us spank. I personally never have and never would spank my child, but I know that some people feel otherwise. I do, however, get mad when I see meme after Internet meme with claims like "I knew respect because I was spanked!" or "Kids were better for being spanked in my day!" Over and over again, countless people "like" and share posts that suggest how getting spanked or hit made them better children/adults later on in life, or at the very least, getting spanked didn't change them for the worse.
Indeed, I'm sure that these folks who were spanked are good people and survived the spankings just fine. I'm sure they're tax-paying and law-abiding citizens who contribute to our society. I don't doubt that. That's not my issue with the statements. And to be frank, I do see a lot of kids and young people today who are not only rude and disrespectful to adults and their families but also lack basic social skills. Maybe this makes me sound like an old fart (I'm not!), but I understand the sentiment in these memes that perhaps young people today lack the respect that was once more commonplace among youth. Of course, let's not applaud ourselves: rude people and rebellious teenagers and adults have been storming the earth since the beginning of time. But it angers me that people think that hitting or spanking was the "be-all, end-all" solution or ingredient in making respectful adults. This is problematic to me on so many levels.
Every Kid Is Different
First, some kids handle a spanking better than others. To all of you touting how you got spanked and lived, guess what? I got spanked or hit and I did live, but it didn't help my self-esteem at all. Being afraid of someone didn't make me walk the straight and narrow; instead, it just made me afraid. For another one of my peers or even one of my siblings, maybe a spanking was no big deal. Every child is different. Did I turn out OK? Yes, but I don't think that's due to a spanking.
This isn't to say that I don't believe in discipline or consequences (preferably natural consequences), but that I don't think spanking (and absolutely not hitting) is the answer, nor is it a good choice to earn respect. It may work for your child, but not every kid translates fear into respect and obedience. How a parent can predict how a kid can respond, I don't know.
Does Fear Equal Respect?
I have a tough time buying the fact that fear equals respect. There is one man I deal with intermittently on a professional level, who I hate dealing with because he scares me a bit, and he's rude. Do I respect him? Not one drop. To me, scaring a child just scares him or her into trying even harder not to get caught the next time. In a perfect world, a parent may think spanking a child will make her behave, and it just might, but does this mean the child respects her parent or is afraid?
To some extent, we all want our kids to look up to us, but does looking up to us as a role model mean scaring a child into acting straight?
I think not, but then again, that's just me.
Removing the Hand Doesn't Mean There Is No Discipline
Personally, a smack in the face stinks, but removing social media from the palm of your kid's hand for a month is probably a more powerful consequence than a smack that stings for a few minutes or hours, depending on the hand.
Natural consequences — when a child experiences a consequence from his or her own doing rather than one that's forced on him or her — is a more powerful teacher than a spanking.
A forced consequence — e.g., a time-out, missing dessert, losing technology time if your kids have access to these things — and other imposed consequences can also send a message that doesn't involve using violence.
Just because I don't use my hands to teach my daughter a lesson doesn't mean I am raising a brat. Which leads me to . . .
This Generation "Might" Possibly Stink, but Not Due to a Lack of Spanking
Number one, it's problematic to assume that a whole generation is doomed because they're doing things differently than we did. While I do think this generation has a whole host of other issues that mine never had, it also has privileges and positive aspects my generation was missing during our childhood and adolescent years. It's incredibly damning alone to simply say our world is hopeless. And yes, there are some pretty scary people out there, but we often forget to celebrate those positive people out there making changes in our world.
Number two, I don't think children are ruder and less socially respectful because they weren't spanked. I think "some" kids are ruder because parents have been busy being their friends instead of their parents. Parents became busy praising their kids so much, they avoided giving them hard truths that would help them grow and learn about life. Parents may have doted on their children too much because so many parents today are working (even more than my generation), adding to perhaps a generation of parents with supreme guilt.
As a former teacher, one of the biggest problems I saw with parents was not that they didn't give their kids a good whack, but that they refused to hold their kids responsible for their own actions. There were always numerous reasons little Johnny or Jessica messed up, and most of the times, the parents didn't attribute any of these reasons to their actual kids. It's not just kids who have become skeptical and somewhat dismissive of authority or other individuals — adults have as well! It used to be that parents looked to teachers for answers, and now parents look to teachers as the problem, as just one example. Parents used to encourage family talk at the table, and now kids are showing up to restaurants and family events glued to their iPads — adults too. Parents used to encourage manners, but now we have rude adults, which translates into rude children. We are an entitled group of people in general — adults and kids alike — and those adults . . . well, many of them were spanked? Where's their respect?
Lastly, we can't damn a whole generation because of certain people, can we?
There are so many potential reasons a child can grow up to be a rude, disrespectful, and lazy individual. Would a spanking have made those kids better people? One can only wonder.
Your Olden-Days Generation Had Problems Too, Buddy
Sure, we've got a whole bunch of adults and kids who can't socialize for squat running around this country, but the olden days had their share of issues too. This idea that everything was sunshine and kittens back in the 1950s is bogus.
The Flip Side: Courage
While this generation may be more apt to give the finger to the adults of the world, this generation is also comprised of some major movers, shakers, and risk-takers, and this is a beautiful thing. We need this.
The fact is there is no one BEST generation; we're all just very different based on the time we grew up in.
The Bottom Line
Perhaps spanking works for you. Maybe your kids get "the message" and behave better thanks to a butt-whooping, but I will never spank my kid.
I have a hard time understanding how using physical force teaches children how to manage their behaviors and think that hitting only teaches kids how to physically respond when they're angry. Isn't it better to teach our kids how to calm themselves down before making a poor choice? Don't we spend countless days trying to teach our kids and babies how to self-soothe and regulate their tantrums? Isn't hitting a tantrum of some sort?
I'm not here to raise anyone else's kids other than my own, but I know that what taught me respect was seeing my parents treat others kindly. Having a mom who listened to my thoughts and taught me to speak my mind. Having a dad who rarely raised his voice. Seeing the value of hard work and a job well done. Not a spanking.