We’re delighted to welcome back guest blogger Tamar Jacobson. She is sharing her thoughts and reflections on the use of spanking when caring for children.
In addition to writing “Don’t Get So Upset!” Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings by Understanding Your Own and editing Perspectives on Gender in Early Childhood, both published by Redleaf Press, Dr. Jacobson is professor, chair of the Department of Teacher Educator, and director of the Early Childhood Education Program at Rider University in New Jersey. She is also a frequent and popular presenter at international, national, regional, and state conferences and workshops on a variety of topics—and the recipient of the 2013 National Association for Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE) Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Educator Award.
I once bought a bumper sticker for my car that said: “It is never okay to hit a child.” The person I bought it from liked it, not only because it reminded adults about how to care for children, but most especially because children reading it would realize that someone out there was on their side! John Bradshaw, in his 1990 book Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, described how a child might feel when we spank them. He wrote, “Imagine how you would feel if your best friend walked over and slapped you.” In 2005 in a book titled Scolding: Why it Hurts More than it Helps, studying childcare across the United States, Denmark, China, and Japan, Sigsgaard wrote about why adults scold children. One of the reasons was simply: Because the adults themselves were spanked or scolded as children.
I understand that many parents, who use spanking as a strategy, believe they are providing guidance, like they received from their parents when they were children. They believe that it works. And in the short term it does seem that way.
However, whatever the intention, the outcome is for the child to fear power. Spanking serves no other purpose than to show a child who has the power. It is the stuff of control and dominance. And it models the same. That is why most children who were spanked or beaten grow up to be adults who spank or beat their own children. Children need adults for their survival –to guide them with kindness and compassion so that they will grow to be humane. Most of us filter our ideas and strategies about disciplining young children through our earliest emotional memories of punishment. I wonder why we hurt children to teach them.
I once read a saying somewhere that said, “Treat children as you would a guest in your house.” Think about that for a moment. If a guest in your house checked out your newest vase, would you head over and slap them, yelling at them not to touch it, not to break it? And yet, that is exactly what many of us do to our children.
Spanking violates a child’s sense of self. If we want to teach children to value and respect others, we have to model that same kind of behavior in our interactions with them. Naturally, this is very difficult to do if all we remember is being slapped and violated ourselves. If we remember that love came with a healthy dose of physical or emotional pain and humiliation, we will find it difficult to interpret love any other way. Being cruel to be kind is one of the most confusing messages we can give to a young child. Indeed, it makes no sense. Being compassionate to be kind is so much clearer. We can set boundaries in a way that helps children understand how to behave in a democratic society. But never through spanking.
For, indeed, it is never okay to hit a child!