Sparing the rod can save the child
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I would like to commend Mariel Blake for her column on child discipline in the June 15 edition of the Daily News. I was impressed that she treated the subject with a fairness that examined both sides, but I am of the opinion that there are no longer two sides to this issue.
While there are studies that confirm that not all children are permanently damaged from spankings, and I have repeatedly heard people say "I was spanked and it never hurt me," I contend that it never helped them either.
Children from loving families can withstand corporal punishement without serious and long-term damage to their self esteem or confidence - but it doesn't accomplish what a conversation about what they should have done, what is expected of them in the future, and any future consequences they may face can do.
Children want to please us and as long as they feel there is a chance for success, praise, and our love, they will try. Furthermore, I have always read that a stepparent should never discipline a stepchild. The child is not theirs and it is their job to be friend and support only while the parent handles the discipline.
I was a battered child and the belt was the primary weapon used by my father. Using a belt on a child is not a "spanking," it is beating and it is abuse.
It is shocking to me that while hitting someone is a crime in our society, we are still allowed to assault our most defenseless and vulnerable citizens, our children, and while we are telling them not to lay their hands on others, we are teaching them that it is okay to hit if you are bigger, that it is an acceptable way to resolve problems when you are angry and that they can not rely on the most trusted and beloved person in their lives not to hurt them.
Mariel is right to say that it taught her to be sneaky. It does - and it instills anger and distrust also. Several years ago I watched a woman outside my car slap her young son in the face repeatedly. When I voiced my horror by yelling "Stop!" she came at me with rage and said, "He broke my CD and he lies." Well, I wonder why. Abused children are angry and they will express it any way they can. I would be willing to guess that a huge proportion of criminals have been beaten by their parents under the guise of "discipline."
I agree with Mariel that these parents need education and counseling. Many of them have never been taught any other way to correct their children. I am stopped in my tracks when I hear someone on the radio say that "you have to discipline children" referring to physical abuse as though it is the only definition of discipline.
My children cringed when they knew they would lose a privilege or a special activity because of their actions. Fortunately for myself and my siblings, we decided to raise our children without ever hitting them, and we have raised them (all boys) to become successful happy members of society who care about others and are not wasting their time wondering how they can get even for what was done to them.
We do not practice medicine the way we did 50 years ago, we do not communicate the way we did 50 years ago, we do not do anything the way we did 50 years ago - so why are some parents still hitting, slapping, beating and calling their children names because their parents did it decades ago?
When we know better, we do better, and it is time for more parents to step up and decide that there are more successful ways to deal with the frustrations of raising children than striking out.
- Carole St. George, St. Thomas