Monday, September 16, 2013

The Turning Point

Last week I wrote a post about the all-to-common practice of spanking. It seems that most readers, or at least the ones most willing to be publicly vocal, are aligned with the idea that hitting other people is both wrong and ineffective, but there are always a few who write back to argue the opposite. Mostly, however, I figure I'm preaching to the choir with much of what I write. That's fine, I think, because to paraphrase the TV program The West Wing, that's how you get them to sing. And in this case, we did sing in the form of sharing the post far and wide, hopefully reaching many people who had not yet heard this message.

I first started posting on this topic nearly five years ago. Back then I spent much of my time debating with readers and I had far fewer readers back then. This time, there were relatively few pro-spanking comments. Maybe it's an illusion caused by my somewhat unique position as a blogger, but having now posted several times on the topic over the years, I'm getting the real sense that we are beginning to approach a tipping point in this country, maybe one that will in the not too distant future lead us to join the 34 nations that have banned spanking by law.

In any event, if it's going to happen it's going to be one conscience at a time. I wanted to share this reader's response with you. This is what makes it all worthwhile:

". . . (Y)our post on spanking seemed to spark something. It did for me. You see, I think I'm a good mother . . . at least I did until I read your post. I have spanked. I have threatened to spank. It was the way I was raised, but worse, with a belt and welts. But this is absolutely no excuse for my parenting . . . or lack of. After reading the post, I sat down with my boys. We talked.  I have made them a promise that I will never spank again. I apologized.

Here's the kicker . . . I'm a really good teacher. I am great with the kids and their families. I would never think of putting a hand on a child. I have talked parents out of using their hands to get their children to "abide" by their rules . . . found ways to help them use their words or sense of humor or other forms of encouragement towards better behavior. But when it comes to my children, everything I do in the classroom goes right out the window. Why is that?! I have all the patience in the world for other children but my own.

Your post helped me realize that I need to stop. The threats are even worse than the actual spankings. I put myself in their place. How awful to have someone they love and trust threaten them with something so degrading and painful. I didn't think. I am so ashamed. I just fell back on what was easy . . . what my parents had taught me. I pride myself on being thoughtful and kind to others. Why not the same for my boys?

There is simply no excuse for my behavior.

I am glad that your post caused such controversy. I can see it from both sides. But the side I chose isn't necessarily the part about the spankings causing cells to die. It was more about a teacher . . . a really good teacher . . . who read something online from another fabulous teacher, that helped open her eyes to her world outside of the classroom. I have been on autopilot as a depressed wife and mother, and then later, as a single mother, for so long that I forgot that my own children need me to give them the same kind of respect and love that I would give my preschool children.

I really don't know why I thought that it was OK to treat my boys like that. No . . . I knew it was not OK. I know there was guilt there after each threat and spanking. I always followed it up with a talk about why it happened . . . Which makes me cringe now that I have put so much thought into this. Really? Trying to justify hitting? Makes me sick to my stomach.

Like I said earlier, I have sat down with both boys, individually, and talked it out with them. They have told me how awful it felt. Sadly, they also said they understood why. That makes it worse! But I did give them my promise that I will never raise my hand ever again . . .

Thank you for every post you have written. I have read just about every one of them. But this one is the one that I will never forget, because this is the one that has been the turning point for me and my boys."

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Alec Duncan said...

Alec Duncan I'm not ashamed to say that I teared up on reading that good woman's epiphany, her turning point. Tom, you are a powerful force for good, and I'm proud to have met you. It's people like you that will incrementally change the discourse on the hitting of children in the name of that false God, "discipline".

I too long for the day that my own country will ban all corporal punishment of children, all hitting, all violence. It will take time, but I'm absolutely certain that it will eventually occur here in Australia, just as it will, eventually, in the US. And some day, in every country.

Thank you for your continuing commitment to this vital issue.

Anonymous said...

heartbreakingly honest and inspirational...thank you for writing this!

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