The immaturity of spanking

One of the most immature acts a person can commit is that of spanking as a form of punishment. Just consider what Ronald Kronenberger did to fellow adults:

An Ohio landlord and businessman charged with assault after police suspected him of spanking a tenant who owed him rent money is now being sued in civil court for a similar accusation by a mentally disabled man.

Mark Neace filed a civil lawsuit in Warren County Common Pleas Courthouse earlier this week claiming Ronald Kronenberger, 53, punished him “with a belt and paddle” on four separate occasions…

Neace volunteered at Kronenberger’s grocery stores in Waynesville, Ohio, 40 miles north of Cincinnati, from November to mid-December, according to his attorney, Eric Deters.

Kronenberger “would find any little thing wrong with what he (Neace) had done and would take him into the office and have him pull his pants down and hit him,” Deters said…

Kronenberger was placed into a diversion program in a Warren County courtroom earlier this month after he was charged with one count of assault for striking Jimmy Marshall, 29, on the buttocks in January, according to court documents.

Marshall, a former tenant of Kronenberger, told authorities he was hit by the man as punishment because he owed him $2,800 in rent, according to the Dayton Daily News.

The rationale behind what Kronenberger did and what so many parents do is exactly the same: he saw bad behavior and sought to correct it via physical force. The only difference between his actions and the immature actions of petulant child-like parents is that we have laws in place to protect adults. I guess we just don’t feel the same way about protecting children.

Exemplifying the wacky right

Over at Brad Locke’s blog (which is mostly about sports, but not hockey so who cares), there’s a post about spanking. It exemplifies the wacky right.

He first quotes a discipline expert from a CNN article.

Every public school needs effective methods of discipline, but beating kids teaches violence, and it doesn’t stop bad behavior. Corporal punishment discourages learning, fails to deter future misbehavior and at times even provokes it.”

That’s all true. Striking a person is negative reinforcement and only serves as a short term solution to behavioral correction; it offers no long term benefits. This has long been known to science for quite some time. But then, the right doesn’t care about science, does it? Locke writes,

I remember one afternoon during my 7th grade science class a friend and I decided we would throw paper balls as hard as we could to each other when our teacher, Roger Chism, wasn’t looking.

The problem, though, came when I misfired and nailed Coach Chism in the face just as he was turning around. Let’s just say my school didn’t have a problem with corporal punishment. Three licks later, I learned my lesson. It didn’t provoke violence within me, and I didn’t make that mistake again.

That’s a common fallacy in this argument. The anti-science group on the right always trots out anecdotal examples (usually themselves). Notice that in the quote from the discipline expert (Alice Farmer), she says spanking “at times provokes” violence. No one is claiming that spanking = violent kids. It’s simply that spanking encourages more violence among kids.

Same thing happened when I got bold enough to talk back to my dad during my early teenage years. Again, lesson learned. A very painful lesson at that.

Haha. This goes straight to another point made by Farmer: “Corporal punishment discourages learning”. How dare a teenager have the audacity to confront a parent! Everyone knows parents are right 100% of the time. It’s also well known that parents do not need to explain their actions or words to their children because, well, they’re older and bigger. It’s sort of like how a bully doesn’t need to explain why he’s taking your lunch money. He’s older and bigger and thus right 100% of the time. Right?

But Locke isn’t done. He needs to bring out the machismo guns.

You know what? Maybe that’s what’s wrong with society today. We’ve wussiefied our discipline to the point kids aren’t afraid of getting into trouble.

Oh, those fucking wussy kids! Why don’t they fucking man up?! Stupid little pussies! Eat a SlimJim!

This guy needs to stop typing with his penis. But he doesn’t.

There is no fear.

Of course! Why haven’t all the child psychologists, therapists, experts, and, um, educated think of that! FEAR! That’s the best teaching tool there is. Well, minus the “teaching” part. “Tool” is still pretty valid, though.

And it’s not just in the homes. We see it from our athletes.

Used to, if a player got in trouble, there was a severe suspension levied. Now, not so much. Coaches make so much money, they feel the pressure to win, even at the risk of keeping a troubled star on the team with very little recourse.

Wow. Talk about your non-sequitur. Suspending a student and hitting a student are not related except insofar as they both happen to be punishments. The real problem with coaches keeping troubled stars on the team has to do with what Locke already said: so much money. There’s no “wussification” (ARRRGGGHH!! STEAK AND POTATOES!) going on here. It’s an entirely unrelated problem.

Spanking teaches violence? Whatever.

Remember, spare the rod and spoil the child. Well, into today’s translation it would read, spare the spanking and you get a spoiled brat.

So I suppose there’s a causative link (hell, I’d settle for a correlation) with brats and a lack of spanking, right? Or maybe THESE KIDS JUST NEED MORE SLIMJIMS, FUCKING WUSSIES! AAARRRRGGGHH!

In my own household, the wooden spoon was the trick. Most times, I didn’t have to use it. After a few discipline sessions, all I had to do was point to the spoon if trouble of a different nature arose. Trust me when I say that worked.

Awesome. So this guy is raising his kids by threatening them with violence, as if they’re his pets (which would be deplorable for his pets, too). This is likely to lead to adults who are less well equipped to decide what makes something right and what makes something wrong. He is FAILING to teach anything about how the world works. I hope his children go off to college where they can be around WELL educated people instead of this joke of a father.

Spank ’em till they’re stupid

Spanking and intelligence

Spanking can get kids to behave in a hurry, but new research suggests it can do more harm than good to their noggins. The study, involving hundreds of U.S. children, showed the more a child was spanked the lower his or her IQ compared with others.

“All parents want smart children,” said study researcher Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire. “This research shows that avoiding spanking and correcting misbehavior in other ways can help that happen.”

One might ask, however, whether children who are spanked tend to come from backgrounds in which education opportunities are less or inherited intelligence lower.

But while the results only show an association between spanking and intelligence, Straus says his methodology and the fact that he took into account other factors that could be at play (such as parents’ socioeconomic status) make a good case for a causal link.

“You can’t say it proves it, but I think it rules out so many other alternatives; I am convinced that spanking does cause a slowdown in a child’s development of mental abilities,” Straus told LiveScience.

Intelligence quotients

Straus and his colleague Mallie Paschall of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland studied nationally representative samples of two age groups: 806 children ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9. The researchers tested the kids’ IQs initially and then four years later.

Both groups of kids got smarter after four years. But the 2- to 4-year-olds who were spanked scored 5 points lower on the IQ test than those not spanked. For children ages 5 to 9, the spanked ones scored on average 2.8 points lower than their unspanked counterparts.

The results, he said, were statistically significant. And they held even after accounting for parental education, income, cognitive stimulation by parents and other factors that could affect children’s mental abilities.

Straus will present the study results, along with research on the relationship between average national IQ and prevalence of spanking around the world, Friday at the 14th International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, Calif.

Spanking science

Whether or not spanking equates with dumber kids is not known, and may never be known. That’s because the only way to truly show cause and effect would be to follow over time two groups of kids, one randomly assigned to get spanked and another who would not get spanked. Barring that method, which is unfeasible, Straus considers his study the next best thing, as he looked back at a nationally representative set of kids who were followed over time.

Jennifer Lansford of Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy and Social Science Research Institute called the study “interesting,” and agrees the method is a strong one. Lansford, who was not involved with the study, said following kids over time as this study did rules out the possibility that children with lower IQs somehow elicit more physical discipline.

However, unlike research showing the link between spanking and a kid’s aggressive behavior, in which kids model parents’ actions, this link is less clear to her. She added that a question still left unanswered is “what are some of the other mechanisms that could be responsible for this link between physical discipline and lower IQ?”

How spanking harms

If spanking does send IQ scores down, Straus and others offer some explanations for what might be going on.

“Contrary to what everyone believes, being hit by parents is a traumatic experience,” Straus said. “We know from lots of research that traumatic stresses affect the brain adversely.” Also, the trauma could cause kids to have more stressful responses in difficult situations, and so may not perform as well cognitively.

By using hitting rather than words or other means of discipline, parents could be depriving kids of learning opportunities. “With spanking, a parent is delivering a punishment to get the child’s attention and to get them to behave in a certain way,” said Elizabeth Gershoff who studies childhood development at the University of Texas, Austin. “It’s not fostering children’s independent thinking.”

So when a child gets in a bind, he or she might do the right thing to keep from a spanking rather than figuring out the best decision independently, added Gershoff, who was not involved in Straus’s current study.

And then there are genes, as some kids are just born smarter than others.

Even though spanking has been shown to cause negative consequences, Gershoff said many parents still fall back on the behavior-shaping tool. As for why, she says it’s a quick fix, though its seeming success is short-lived and the negative consequences often outweigh the positives. Parents also might have been spanked themselves and so continue the tradition.

Spank 'em till they're stupid

Spanking and intelligence

Spanking can get kids to behave in a hurry, but new research suggests it can do more harm than good to their noggins. The study, involving hundreds of U.S. children, showed the more a child was spanked the lower his or her IQ compared with others.

“All parents want smart children,” said study researcher Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire. “This research shows that avoiding spanking and correcting misbehavior in other ways can help that happen.”

One might ask, however, whether children who are spanked tend to come from backgrounds in which education opportunities are less or inherited intelligence lower.

But while the results only show an association between spanking and intelligence, Straus says his methodology and the fact that he took into account other factors that could be at play (such as parents’ socioeconomic status) make a good case for a causal link.

“You can’t say it proves it, but I think it rules out so many other alternatives; I am convinced that spanking does cause a slowdown in a child’s development of mental abilities,” Straus told LiveScience.

Intelligence quotients

Straus and his colleague Mallie Paschall of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland studied nationally representative samples of two age groups: 806 children ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9. The researchers tested the kids’ IQs initially and then four years later.

Both groups of kids got smarter after four years. But the 2- to 4-year-olds who were spanked scored 5 points lower on the IQ test than those not spanked. For children ages 5 to 9, the spanked ones scored on average 2.8 points lower than their unspanked counterparts.

The results, he said, were statistically significant. And they held even after accounting for parental education, income, cognitive stimulation by parents and other factors that could affect children’s mental abilities.

Straus will present the study results, along with research on the relationship between average national IQ and prevalence of spanking around the world, Friday at the 14th International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, Calif.

Spanking science

Whether or not spanking equates with dumber kids is not known, and may never be known. That’s because the only way to truly show cause and effect would be to follow over time two groups of kids, one randomly assigned to get spanked and another who would not get spanked. Barring that method, which is unfeasible, Straus considers his study the next best thing, as he looked back at a nationally representative set of kids who were followed over time.

Jennifer Lansford of Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy and Social Science Research Institute called the study “interesting,” and agrees the method is a strong one. Lansford, who was not involved with the study, said following kids over time as this study did rules out the possibility that children with lower IQs somehow elicit more physical discipline.

However, unlike research showing the link between spanking and a kid’s aggressive behavior, in which kids model parents’ actions, this link is less clear to her. She added that a question still left unanswered is “what are some of the other mechanisms that could be responsible for this link between physical discipline and lower IQ?”

How spanking harms

If spanking does send IQ scores down, Straus and others offer some explanations for what might be going on.

“Contrary to what everyone believes, being hit by parents is a traumatic experience,” Straus said. “We know from lots of research that traumatic stresses affect the brain adversely.” Also, the trauma could cause kids to have more stressful responses in difficult situations, and so may not perform as well cognitively.

By using hitting rather than words or other means of discipline, parents could be depriving kids of learning opportunities. “With spanking, a parent is delivering a punishment to get the child’s attention and to get them to behave in a certain way,” said Elizabeth Gershoff who studies childhood development at the University of Texas, Austin. “It’s not fostering children’s independent thinking.”

So when a child gets in a bind, he or she might do the right thing to keep from a spanking rather than figuring out the best decision independently, added Gershoff, who was not involved in Straus’s current study.

And then there are genes, as some kids are just born smarter than others.

Even though spanking has been shown to cause negative consequences, Gershoff said many parents still fall back on the behavior-shaping tool. As for why, she says it’s a quick fix, though its seeming success is short-lived and the negative consequences often outweigh the positives. Parents also might have been spanked themselves and so continue the tradition.

Spanking

I often find myself on the lonely side of an argument. I don’t think it’s because I’ve gone off the deep end or that I’m out of touch. It’s that I live in America and my argument-based loneliness is local. The so-called liberals here are the moderate right in most of Europe and our far right-wingers are closer to fascists more than anything. So when I formulated my opinion on spanking in regards to discipline, I expected to be expressing a minority view. That has largely turned out to be true, both in an anecdotal sense and a broader, public-opinion sense (the U.S. is nowhere near banning spanking whereas much of Europe has advanced beyond this neanderthal stage).

The case for why spanking is wrong and immoral is not a difficult one to grasp, but it can be difficult to make it. First and foremost, principle must be emphasized. This is the absolute cornerstone of my argument – and it’s what is most often ignored in the presentation of counter-arguments. Without some sort of broad, yet qualified (see definition number 3) underlining to an argument, there is no good basis; the argument becomes too malleable and convenient. To date, this entirely typifies the sort of arguments favoring spanking that I have heard.

The principle which I follow is simple: hitting is bad. But by itself, that is far, far too broad. It needs qualifications. Hitting is bad except when in self-defense. That doesn’t mean hitting becomes good in self-defense, just that it becomes justified. One can go further and say hitting is bad except when in defense of others. And then one must go further and qualify that what is being defended is something of a high importance. In most cases, bodily defense is the reference. A case can be made for property, but that is not important here.

So now with this general principle, one can apply it to specific situations to check its universality. If the rule becomes “It’s bad to hit except when it’s against a Jew” then we don’t have a universal principle – or we need to justify this new qualification. In the case of specific religions or races, the qualification almost never works. If it does, it’s because there’s something else at work (“It’s bad to hit except when it’s against such-and-such a race” may have some operation value during a time of war). At any rate, it is necessary to test the universality of “It’s bad to hit” (with our justifiable qualifications in mind, i.e., self-defense):

It’s bad to hit children.

This works, but with a limited scope. After we check off our already stated qualifications, this statement leaves open the implication that it is okay to hit adults. Since that clearly is not true, the statement needs to be amended back to the principle: It’s bad to hit.

The issues that arise here should be easily dismissed, but for whatever reason are harder than an Alabama tick to dig out. The first that comes to mind is power. In my experience and in sifting through the Interwebbings, spanking proponents want to make the distinction between really wailing on a kid and some relatively light slaps on the butt. And this is where I am forced to go back to principle. If hitting is wrong, all qualifications considered, then hitting is wrong is wrong is wrong. It is irrelevant how hard one wishes to spank a child. If the intent is to cause physical harm, then there is nothing justifiable in that. It’s like saying stealing is wrong…unless it’s just a little bit. That’s a silly fall from logic.

Another issue is that of parental rights. Most people can agree that parents are the primary caregivers and are primarily responsible for the well-being of the child. To some this seems to mean parents are bestowed with natural rights to discipline as they see fit. But again, it always goes back to principle. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

What I find most interesting about the “parents’ rights” argument is that it usually comes down to blood relations. That makes no sense. First, it compromises principle where it is convenient – it is not okay to hit a Jew by virtue of that person being a Jew, and so just the same to a child. Second, I fail to see how genetic relatedness is even relevant to the conversation. It’s so specific and, again, convenient. But besides that, it excludes those who adopt or otherwise become legal guardians of children not their own. What’s more, the child is equally related to the parent. If not for the difference in physical prowess, why shouldn’t the kid be allowed to discipline the misbehavior of the parent? Clearly, something more than genes must be at work. For someone to make such an argument seems bizarre, out of touch, and, unfortunately, all too common (at least in my experience). It’s a “shield argument”, really. It shields the proponent from needing to justify allowing strangers to discipline their child. If it’s okay to hit a child out of discipline for one person, it should be okay for another. Introducing arbitrary guidelines (one must be blood related and/or a legal guardian) does not effectively get around the issue. It skirts it out of convenience.

Finally, in no particular order, there’s effectiveness, effect, and what spanking teaches. Commonly, proponents of spanking either attest to not wanting a “spoiled little brat” or that spanking has no detrimental, long-term effects. Both are terrible points. First, plenty of people grow up without being spanked and were never, nor are, “spoiled little brats”. Second, whether or not spanking has long-term effects is irrelevant. Even is spanking proved to be an effective means of discipline, it wouldn’t affect a single aspect of the argument so far put forth. It goes to principle. Burning a child with an iron would be effective discipline, but the argument has clearly surpassed whether or not effectiveness is at issue. It is not. To bring it up is to simply ignore everything that has been said.

The truth is that the science doesn’t show one way or the other how effective spanking is. The results are mixed, sometimes muddled. However, one thing science does tell us is that for physical punishment to be effective, it needs to be gradually increased over time in most cases. If it isn’t, a tolerance is built to it. We can extrapolate and apply this known fact to spanking through conjecture, but direct evidence is light.

And then there’s what spanking teaches. When one breaks it down, it becomes clear. Spanking tells children that in order to get their way, they just need to hit. In order to correct the unwanted behavior of others, physical force will do the trick. This does not mean that children will grow up to be violent. For most children, that connection probably won’t even be made. Rather, they will see only some people are allowed to hit others. Often, this will be because parents and teachers will give them the conflicting mantra “Don’t hit others”. Ultimately, this confusion turns out to be a good thing for everyone, but that is not the point here. Spanking is teaching that hitting is okay in the correction of unwanted behavior. The fact that most children will not understand what they are being taught is immaterial.

At the end of all this, whether or not spanking is okay should be clear. It is not. It is an immature way to obtain one’s way out of stupidity, miscalculation, frustration, and/or an inability to raise a child who shows intelligently-based respect, rather than just faux fear-based ‘respect’.