Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010: Let's talk about...

*Warning, Controversial Topic Ahead!*
A lot of my friends have recently become parents, and my husband has a large family and so as long as I have been married to him we've had nieces and nephews (and they are all precious, and I'm not exaggerating). Every now and then we have a conversation about how one day we (may) be parents, and what kind of home we want our children to have. Most notably, we discuss discipline more than anything. We come from two different parenting styles, and both of us turned out fine, so it's not a "I'm right, you're wrong" kind of thing.

But I need to get something off my chest that has been bugging me since Thanksgiving. I'll explain:
On Thanksgiving we always go to my husband's grandmother's house and have lunch. It's usually a big family gathering and there's lots of food and usually some conversation, gift game name drawing and the typical family-ish things. This year, there was an added something:
a spanking.

I need to backtrack a little. There are a lot of people who come and go from this particular home during the holidays, and Johnathan has such a large family outside of his siblings and grandparents that it's hard to keep up with them all, so I don't mean to sound too judgmental of them. In fact, I hardly know them but that isn't the point.
Evidently, there was some roughhousing or horseplay or something going on in the basement where most of the children go before/after the meal to play. The kids are all of varying ages, from 5 to 12, I think. Anyway, so what happens next is the part where I ended up pretty upset. One child, who I believe to be in the 11-12 range, gets in trouble with his mother for "picking" in the basement. Instead of the verbal warning, or the private conversation, mom decides to take it out on the child right then and there. She looks to her husband and announces, "give me your belt". The first thing that came to mind was she is not really going to do this right here at Thanksgiving, in the presence of people she doesn't really even know!

Now, I personally (judge me, go ahead) don't have an issue with parents disciplining children. In fact, I advocate most of the time that it's their job. I'm a teacher, so we do it all day long anyway without laying a hand on them. However, I do have an issue with beating a child. I know it's a fine line, but seriously? She took her child into the next room and hit him with the belt over and over. I heard at least 3 pops of the belt myself. It was all I could do not to vomit or cry. I couldn't figure out what the child had done to merit such a punishment. He hadn't broken any laws (or the body parts of other children), he hadn't talked back or used foul language or committed any other infraction other than being a kid with his cousins. After the fact, the mother made the comment that her son "wouldn't stand up for himself" as cause to hit him. Right, because you're really teaching him something with that philosophy.

I had a real problem with it. Call me a bleeding heart liberal because I already advocate for so many other "liberal" causes, but come on. These are kids we're talking about here. I want to reiterate that I personally believe there is a big difference between discipline and hitting your child with a belt. I also know that from where I sit (mother of no one) that I may not fully understand the dynamics of parenting. I know that my mother didn't hit me with a belt, and I turned out fine. That's the extent of my knowledge on the subject. I've heard the phrase "spare the rod and spoil the child" but are we going to reintroduce caning as an acceptable form of punishment? I doubt it.

I just wonder if hitting teaches kids to hit, or if that particular behavior is learned elsewhere? If you work with younger kids, help me out! I'm also wondering about this whole use of a belt business. I can't imagine doing that to my own children, but then again I don't have any and they haven't committed any wrongdoing. Maybe I was out of my frame for no reason about it, but it left me feeling as if I had witnessed a violent act that was completely unnecessary. I usually say "to each their own" when it comes to a lot of different issues, and I believe that parenting is a very private matter, too. But, you can't really expect me to keep my mouth (or blog) shut on the subject if you hit your child and use no form of discretion aside from going to the next room.

What do you think? To spank, or not to spank? Is there a difference between spanking and using a belt? Am I out of my mind for even having an issue with the incident? Let's talk in the comments.

1 comment:

Rici said...

You're not out of your mind at all for being bothered by this.
1) there is a difference between discipline and punishment. The belt definitely crosses over the punishment line.
2) it is against statute to hit your child with ANYTHING other than a closed hand.
3) how can you teach a child not to hit by hitting them?
4) what happens when he does something really bad?
I could go on and on. It's something Josh and I are on the fence about (spanking). If we EVER spank Teagan it will be appropriate and not done in anger. It will truly be a last resort. I got spanked, Josh didn't. It does come down to the parents beliefs but there is a line that was clearly crossed.