Op-Ed piece on beating
Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 09:08:15 -0500
To: Duen Hsi
Subject: Re: bood site
I enjoyed the section on punishment,
thought you might enjoy this op ed
piece I wrote for the "Buffalo News".
Punishing children is trendy. "Experts," including a syndicated
in this paper, advocate "a few swats on the butt." But people
worry about child abuse. And scientists have actually found things out
about the results of beating kids.
I say "beat" instead of "spank. " The word "spank"
harmlessness: "spanking isn't serious." But that's an implication
need to talk about, not assume. Deliberately hurting anyone should be
serious stuff. A descriptive like "beat" seems more objective.
Most American kids get beaten, almost all toddlers and half the
adolescents. A fifth of American parents in use belts or sticks to
beat kids. Many argue that "spare the rod and spoil the child"
beating one's children good for them. Kids need pain and humiliation.
Most social scientists say beating adolescents, toddlers or babies has
bad results. For preadolescent children who can talk, results are
mixed. Usually, spanking makes children more prone to violence than
other kids. Though the children's interpretation of the punishment
modifies this effect, it doesn't erase it . Beating has bad effects in
other ways. So the best results we get from spanking our kids are
mixed. But we can get mixed results without beating them.
And if that's right, why not take the kids' feelings into account?
Most kids don't like being beaten. Why should they? Would you?
Do you think they're a different species? This question isn't just for
effect. The answer, I think, is that we want our kids to obey.
Learning to obey apparently foolish parental demands is important to
Americans, where most people work in hierarchical institutions: do what
your boss says and do what your mom says are matching imperatives.
Adults in jobs which demand mindless obedience tend to beat their
children more than people who get to think for themselves.
Kids learn from beatings, no question. That's why people beat kids,
not because parents are sadists. Beating teaches children that, if
you're in the right, it's okay to humiliate and hurt weaker people. The
problem is that most people most of the time think they're in the
right. So the lesson is just that it's okay to hurt people weaker than
I hear you: "I was spanked as a kid and I'm ok." That's what
say, often, especially after the memory of the pain and humiliation has
faded. But it isn't hard to get kids to agree that whatever you do to
them is for their benefit, including elaborate punishments that most
people would agree are plain torture. Kids come hardwired to accept
adult interpretations Most kind-seeming adults willing to focus on a
child for an hour can get most normal children to believe events
happened which didn't actually happen. That's a major problem in child
abuse cases. If you're talking about how to interpret actual events,
you're on even easier ground. And if you also beat the children it's
easier yet to get them to agree that they "deserve" the beating.
"I deserved it" means is "I love/fear my mom/dad."
It tells you nothing
about the appropriateness of the beating. Children don't want to
testify against people they love.
Social workers say this. If you know a parent is physically
abusing a child but you don't know which parent, you put one parent on
one side of a room, the other parent on the other. Then you let the
child come in. The parent to whom the child runs is the abuser.
There're technical terms for it: "identification with oppressor".
Pleasing that parent, wanting to be like that parent, loving that
parent, the child feels safe. That's why abused children often become
abusive adults, defend spankings with zeal. Not because the abuse was
good for them, but because it was so bad.
You want discipline? Spanking helps. The kids will obey you out of
fear, and they'll still love you. When they grow up they'll accept the
humiliations, the menial jobs, injustices you've prepared them for.
And they'll dispense humiliation, injustice and pain with clear
consciences. Of course, you wouldn't want to run up against a bunch of
them on a dark street, when they're sure no one is watching.
Last updated 10 May 1999
Posted by Duen
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