Monday, April 17, 2017

Spanking post puts someone in the hot seat...

Yesterday was an interesting day.  Originally, Bill and I had tentative plans to go somewhere, but the weather was so cold, dreary, and rainy that we stayed home.  I did laundry and Bill did some preliminary job hunting and reaching out to contacts who might be able to help him secure employment.  Then he brewed another batch of beer.

While I was hanging out on Facebook, I noticed someone in the local group posted a rather cryptic message about corporal punishment.

Technically, it's illegal to spank your children in Germany, although many people, including Germans, still do it.

I correctly assumed the person who wrote this post had come across someone disciplining their child in the ladies room.  It's very common, especially in military circles, for people to take their kids into a public bathroom and give them what for.  Sometimes, that includes giving them spankings.  The thread absolutely blew up and soon got very contentious... another correct prediction I made when I saw it posted.

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I don't like spanking as a discipline method.  You may also know why I don't like it.  Although I survived a childhood that included a father who used spanking as his "go to" punishment, it left me with a lot of residual anger, depression, and a poor self-worth.

My father was absolutely terrifying when he was enraged.  His face would turn beet red.  Veins would pop out.  He would lose all sense of himself.  Unfortunately, he didn't always have self-control and would lash out physically.  Usually, that meant he would turn me over his knee and knock the daylights out of me until I was a blubbering mess.  On more than one occasion, he grabbed me by the throat, smacked me in the head, slapped me hard across the face, or otherwise used physical means to make a point.  He continued this kind of "punishment" method until I was well beyond the age when spankings are still appropriate (not that his version of spanking was EVER appropriate).

My father called this kind of discipline "spanking".  When I have described it to other people, especially those who condone spanking, they have said "But that's not spanking.  That's abuse."  And there's the rub.  What you call "abuse", my father called "spanking".  A lot of people are perfectly fine with "spanking", although everyone does it differently.  One parent's version of spanking is a firm swat or two on the ass.  Another parent's version of spanking is grabbing the kid, turning them over a knee, and beating the shit out of them.  Even though the methods vary, many people seem to think that kids can't grow up properly without having a good licking every now and again.

I don't think spanking should necessarily be illegal.  Some kids do respond to it and it has no long term effects on their psyches.  I also think it would be a hard rule to enforce.  Even though spanking is illegal in Germany, people still use it as a discipline method.  Most people, I hope, aren't drunk or out of control with rage when they discipline their children.  It's just that it disturbs me to see how few adults stop and think about the damage that might result after they put their hands on their child in anger.  Moreover, a lot of the people who support spanking kids would never support the idea of domestic discipline, which is where one spouse (usually the husband) spanks the other spouse, much like a child would be disciplined.  They would consider that "domestic violence".

My dad was basically a good man who had a lot of excellent qualities.  He was an alcoholic, though, and lacked impulse control.  I was on the receiving end of a lot of his abuse.  When I was growing up, kids basically sucked it up when their parents were jerks.  I tolerated a much larger person grabbing me while he was angry and hitting me with all of his might.  I listened to him call me "retarded", "fat", "stupid", "lazy", and "crazy".  He called me "bitchy" and referred to me as a "hog".  When he was mad at me, he would unleash verbal abuse or strike me.  When I expressed interest in something, his response was usually either to belittle it or try to compete with me (which is one reason I didn't really explore music until I was 18... and even then, he tried to compete).

When my dad died, my sisters were appropriately sad.  I was also sad, but not as sad as they were.  I wasn't interested in helping them scatter his ashes at his beloved alma mater.  Even today, when I think about some of the times he made me cry or publicly humiliated me, it makes me angry.  Tell me, if I still have these feelings over twenty years since he last hit me, can you honestly say spanking wasn't harmful?

But, you say, "that wasn't spanking; that was beating?"  Maybe so.  But he called it spanking and, in his mind, it was perfectly fine.  And he was perfectly justified in continuing to use his hands to get his point across until I was a grown woman.  My point is that there is a fine line between appropriate corporal punishment and physical abuse.  Some parents are not able to control themselves and they absolutely should be called out on it.  You can't tell people in the military community that, though.  A lot of them get very defensive if someone criticizes corporal punishment, even in the friendly way the person on Facebook did.  Even I, as someone who was negatively affected by spanking, am denied an opinion because I don't have kids.  I do, however, have personal experience with a parent who used corporal punishment.  That should count for something.

I always wanted kids, but I think I'm glad I don't have them.  I think parenting is very hard.  So is growing up.  Today's world sucks anyway.   And now I'm depressed.

ETA:  Wow... I wrote about this same topic exactly a year ago.

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