To spank or not to spank, that is the question.

“Is spanking an effective form of discipline or does it do more harm than good? “

Let’s face it, raising children is not for the faint of heart. We have said it before and we will say it again; your own children will test your patience and make you appreciate your parents more as you realize just what they had to endure when raising you. When we were growing up, spanking or beatings were a regular occurrence depending on your level of disobedience. But lately it’s come to light that spanking might not be an effective form of discipline and that it does more harm than good.

One mother we spoke to said, “I used to spank my child but now not so much. If I spank there has to be something terrible that has happened. I changed my perspective after my child who was four at the time told me how he felt when I spanked him. He made it clear he understood why it was done but said that it made him feel very unhappy. Since then we do have to repeat on occasion but there is a lot more compliance. I also make it very clear when actions are getting to spanking levels and so far it’s been working.”

A very progressive approach to spanking as we believe if it does get to that, it is important for the errant child to understand why they are getting disciplined in that way. Most of us are from the ‘children must be seen and not heard’ generation so we could never ask why we were getting spanked. But nowadays children are getting treated as individuals with voices and opinions that matter. It helps bridge the chasm between parents and children, bringing them closer together as they will gain an even better understanding of each other.

Another mother said “I am bible led all the way. The bible says shamhu pamusana webenzi. Also spare the rod spoil, the child (Proverbs 13 verse 24) It’s basic math for me.(chuckles) My daughter knows  I will spank her little feet into submission.”

We won’t deny that the issue of whether to spank or not is very tricky to assess as parenting has no formula. What works for Mrs Moyo might not work for Mrs Ncube. What matters at the end of the day is that the child’s best interests are catered to first. The end goal is to help mould the child into a well rounded well behaved individual. That’s all that matters.

One mother said,  “As a child, I was spanked. A lot.  It made me question whether I was loved. How could someone who is supposed to love me cause me so much pain?  I became afraid of my mother. She saw my fear as respect. I vowed to never spank my kids. On the very few occasions that I have, it has been out of frustration and exasperation. I felt awful after I did it. I have and I’m still learning to deal with my reaction first before I deal with the child. Calm down, soften my voice and my tone when I speak to my child. No matter how bad they’ve been. It is harder than slapping but I think I get a much better response than one of fear.”

One thing that blurs the lines about the effectiveness of spanking is the issue of the parent’s emotions when they decide to spank their child. If it’s done in the heat of the moment then it could defeat the purpose entirely.

According to verywellfamily.com, a common reason parents spank is out of exasperation, impulse, or anger. A parent who reacts out of frustration (“I can’t believe you just did that!”) might spank a child without thinking. If you don’t know how else to discipline your child, spanking might become the first line of defense. While it might feel like a solution at the moment, spanking won’t solve the problem or teach your child better behaviors.

Although it is culturally acceptable, spanking is considered as a form of violence by many, no matter how adults may try to dress it up or excuse it. When children are spanked the parents could well be modeling violent behavior for their children, teaching them in some sense that “might makes right”.

According to gracepointwellness.org, this works in the parents’ favor while children are small, but as children grow older and larger, the tables can turn as some children physically retaliate against spanking. Children who are spanked may also grow up thinking that violence is an acceptable way to relate to others when they don’t do as you want them to. This attitude, taken to an extreme, can produce an abusive adult.

Someone once put forward on social media how a girl child who is beaten might not see anything wrong when years later as an adult, her partner decides to use force against her. Because in her head, “might makes right.” Basically, this line of argument argues that we are teaching our children that it’s alright to be abused.

gracepointwellness.org gave these pointers to parents who do engage in spanking, “Parents should only use a flat, open hand applied to a fleshy part of the body, like the bottom. Spanking should never be done with a fist or an object (e.g., a tree branch, belt, or paddle). As well, parents should count to 10, or otherwise take a moment to calm down before they start spanking in order to make sure that this is truly the best approach for correcting their children’s misbehavior. Furthermore, parents who spank need to be communicating love to their children, as described in the other sections of this article if their discipline message is to be ultimately effective. It is possible to bring children’s behavior into line by means of force or violence alone, but to do so is arguably considered by many as essentially engaging in child abuse.”

We spoke with Florence Dube who is a mother, teacher and a self-appointed advocate for kids. She holds a diploma in teaching and is currently working on obtaining her PGCE with Abu Dhabi University. Florence started working with children in 2012 and has worked with children from 2yrs to 12 years in the UAE.

Do you believe in spanking as a form of discipline both professionally and personally?

Having worked with children and understanding that their development is holistic I have learnt that the person I am at home is the same person I am at work hence my stance that spanking is a big (NO) both at home and at the workplace. Spanking is a form of corporal punishment which most judicial systems have classified as a punishable act whether inflicted on an adult or child.

What observations have you made in children whose parents use spanking as a form of punishment?

I have observed that those parents who often use spanking as a form of punishment do not realise they are abusing their children as spanking is usually impulsive, on point of anger hence subjecting not only emotional abuse but physical abuse as well. Spanking might cause a child to be aggressive, anti-social, with both physical and mental dangers that may have serious repercussions in their future well-being.  Children who come from these households tend to be children who are always on edge and display fear most of the times with anxiety and depression signs coming in early. They might develop self-regulation problems and avoidance behaviours where they choose not to participate for fear of punishment. They may even develop underhanded ways (cheating) to do things so as to avoid a situation.

Do you think the effects of spanking can be seen in adulthood? If so, what are they?

In our generation (Gen Y) it was not documented how spanking affected us especially in developing communities. However, in other countries spanking has been documented as leading to depression, lack of self-confidence, and substance abuse, with a lot of mental health problems for the children in the future, some even going as far as taking their lives.

How else can parents discipline their children without the use physical force?

Parents should 1st acknowledge that children are born intelligent hence the need to engage them in meaningful age appropriate conversations as soon as they understand. Explain expectations to them; show them HOW and tell them WHY. Set reasonable limits for things and give consequences of certain behaviours. Listen to their side of the story, allowing them to reason and negotiate. Always take opportunity to praise worthy behaviours or actions and be prepared and ready to respond after hearing them out. Know that every child is unique and different and what might appear normal to everyone might be challenging to another hence the need to fully understand the child.

People at times say we were beaten and we turned out fine, what do you think about this observation? Is it true or are we blinded to the damage?

I feel like the beating never really helped. I remember a girl who used to be beaten because she could not write her name in Grade 6. Having learnt about the difference and uniqueness of each child I feel we have generations of grownups who could have achieved much more had the systems paused, looked and listened as some evidently showed signs of learning disabilities that needed more than a spanking.

What advise would you give to parents who are firm believers of spanking?

Spanking is PHYSICAL regardless of who does it and is a form of ABUSE. Talk to a professional to get tips on how to STOP and ask around, research on the internet and remember, each child is unique.

The debate around spanking cannot be resolved in a day and as we said before parenting has no formula. Every situation is different and ultimately the end goal is to raise a wholesome individual who is ready and confident enough to take on the world.

 

By: Nyaradzo Ngoma

 

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