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Friday, January 26

Have You Been A Bad Girl?

Spanking should be practiced among consenting adults in privacy. Period. Some people in this day and age, still however feel that spanking should also be practiced between an adult and an unwilling child. "Spare the rod, spoil the child," is yet another biblical exhortation taken with gusto by those who only read the dirty parts of the bible- hence we have "corporal punishment," a nice way of saying it's ok to spank/smack/hit/beat the shit out of kids.

Some psychologists suggest that spanking is ok when it is not done in a moment of fury. They say that parents should wait until they are calm and then issue the punishment. I would imagine however that for a sane parent, once the fury is over, they wouldn't bother to hit to their kids if they managed to hold off in the first place.

California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber will propose a bill in the state of California next week that will make it a misdemeanor for anyone to use corporal punishment on children three years old and under. The shit is hitting the fan in California and nationwide. The discussion of spanking is back.

I seriously can't imagine a well adjusted person hitting a baby, but I do recall my aunt telling me to hit my son when he was 2 because he was touching things at my house. But no one in her family was well adjusted. She was so good to him, so generous and loving... I was simply shocked that she would suggest such a thing. And I told her so.

Two opinion pieces in USA Today concern spanking. In To spank or not to spank? the author suggests that parental behavior bordering on abuse is already illegal and therefore the government should not meddle in family affairs and furthermore, it would be impossible to enforce (unless of course your baby is so brilliant that he can pick up the phone and call the cops.) He says that defenders of occassional spankings do not think that it causes psychological trauma and opponents of spanking say that it does cause harm. I think that it does cause emotional harm.

The author says that if spanking should be banned anywhere, it should be banned at schools. (I had no idea that corporal punishment was still allowed in schools but apparently it is in many states. Stop that!) I went to Catholic schools and we were hit and humiliated regularly. It didn't work. Most kids were used to being spanked for every little thing anyway and adopted the attitude that adults were control freaks. I say that if you are an "occassional" spanker you are already treading on thin ice towards becoming a regular spanker. Take it from someone who walked around with a book in her pants to soften the blows from the shoe or the belt.

I can still see in my mind's eye, my mom taking her shoe off as she ran after one of us or hitting me even harder if I put my arm up to block a strike, which is actually a natural and normal reaction when you detect that someone means you harm. "Don't you ever raise your hand to me! How dare you! Now you are REALLY going to get it!"

In Spare the rod, save the child the author, Kerby T. Alvy, a defender of this new bill in California, reports that 16 countries have banned spanking and the US should follow suit because "spanking, slapping or hitting - is violence, defined as acts carried out with the intention of causing physical pain. By banning its use with children, they take the most basic stand against violence that any society can." It couldn't hurt to ban the spanking of babies, those 3 years old or under, but it seems unfeasible to enforce it when it occurs in one's home.

I just had a flash back while writing this. After my brother was adopted, for years a woman, Mrs Beardsly from the adoption agency, would visit regularly to see how we were doing. We were admonished to be on our best behavior and we were yelled at, belittled and spanked in the days and hours leading up to her visit to ensure that we looked like the happiest and most well behaved family ever. By her last visit, I had figured out what this was all about and we sure fooled the authorities.

I grew up being hit and yelled at regularly. I think it was due to my mother's eastern European background where lashing out at someone else in frustration and in the heat of the moment was considered acceptable. She enjoyed smacking me "for nothing" in front of company and everyone would laugh. The adults were rather loaded at the time. But that's another story.

When I grew older my mom told me horror stories of how her father beat her and her 4 sisters regularly. I asked her if it was because I was adopted that she felt free to smack me for every little thing I ever did. She said no, that she would have hit me if I was her own flesh and blood (and maybe harder.) I believed her and still do. She was the nicest of the 5 sisters.

According to my cousins, the natural children of my mother's sisters, they too were beaten regularly and some reported even more violent beatings by both parents especially if their father was Italian. Their fathers enjoyed throwing them down the stairs, something that my brother and I missed out on fortunately. This explains the substance abuse issues of my relatives, their relationship issues and that they are lifelong members of the "Who's Who of Prozak and Lithium" with arrest records galore. My brother died very young (20) of an overdose of booze and drugs after he got out of rehab (it was either that or go to jail.) He had started abusing drugs at 12. My father was raised in a more civilized, well to do family and he preferred diplomacy over violence although he wasn't around enough to save my brother. My cousins on his side of the family, who were very well behaved, reported no beatings in their childhoods. They all grew up to be successful and well adjusted with no episodes of substance abuse or failed relationships. I followed in his footsteps and opted to stop the madness and discontinue the tradition of losing one's temper and acting out in violence (unless of course someone attacked me first.) My cousins on the violent side of the family report that they do not hit their kids. They had enough violence growing up. I did too. I never hit anyone.

Do you think that this bill is worthwhile, even if it just brings to light the fact that people are hitting babies? Should it extend further to older children? Are the laws prohibiting child abuse strong enough as they stand?

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