www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Defense against demagogues -1/30/2015, 9:44 AM

Kansas is at risk -1/30/2015, 9:44 AM

Football injuries -1/30/2015, 9:44 AM

A note on primitivism -1/29/2015, 9:55 AM

Owning ideas -1/29/2015, 9:55 AM

There's more -1/29/2015, 9:55 AM

Kansas' birthday -1/29/2015, 9:55 AM

Back to the future, locked and loaded -1/28/2015, 9:29 AM

Compromise -- make it happen -1/28/2015, 9:29 AM

Faith v. facts -1/28/2015, 9:29 AM

Counting on Les -1/27/2015, 9:22 AM

Building bills in the Legislature -1/27/2015, 9:22 AM

Tale of the tree -1/27/2015, 9:22 AM

Seismic activity -1/27/2015, 9:22 AM

Where are the good guys? -1/27/2015, 9:21 AM

Brownback's budget -1/26/2015, 9:59 AM

Committee meetings begin -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

Excitement starts at Capitol -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

What's happening with oil prices? -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

Synthetic biology, brave new world -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

Today's fierce urgency is voter mobilization -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Duke, Muslims and politics of intimidation -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Right to hunt -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Pipeline: Foreign profits, American risk -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

Social Darwinist 'Christianity' -- Chapter 3 -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

Kiwanis generosity -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

The state economy -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

Restate of the union -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

France needs our First Amendment -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

Repurposing Washington -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

March for Life -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

Brownback, the budget and schools -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

Sensible checks are no assault on gun rights -1/19/2015, 9:50 AM

Jeb Bush chooses expedience on marriage issue -1/19/2015, 9:50 AM

The State of the State Address and the legislative session -1/19/2015, 8:47 AM

Spending's not the culprit in budget woes -1/18/2015, 3:32 PM

Pilgrim's paradise -1/18/2015, 3:32 PM

Spring elections -1/18/2015, 3:23 PM

Kobach is back -1/16/2015, 3:04 PM

More with Les -1/16/2015, 10:03 AM

Understanding Hooper -1/16/2015, 10:02 AM

Basic economics -1/16/2015, 10:01 AM

Female governance -1/15/2015, 9:37 AM

2015 energy policy -- a unique opportunity -1/15/2015, 9:37 AM

The better option -1/15/2015, 9:36 AM

'Wall Street' a waste -1/14/2015, 2:50 PM

Trade already -1/14/2015, 2:49 PM

No media bias? -1/14/2015, 2:48 PM

Retirement funds -1/14/2015, 2:47 PM

Redefining public education in Kansas -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

What the future holds -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

Efficient education -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

Terrorists usher in the 'End of Satire' -1/12/2015, 9:14 AM

Sexuality, lame logic, substandard science -1/12/2015, 9:14 AM

A tragic family story -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

For freedom, LGBT rights, a year of decision -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

Roberts' promotion -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

FHSU campaign -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

Fairness in U.S. -1/9/2015, 3:05 PM

Liberals' use of black people -- Part II -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Social Darwinist 'Christians' -- Chapter 2 -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Taxing situation -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Trust: Society depends on it -1/8/2015, 9:55 AM

Education schools lack a paradigm -1/8/2015, 9:55 AM

Congress convenes -1/7/2015, 10:07 AM

Simple way to fix gridlock: change committees -1/7/2015, 10:06 AM

Kansas is your customer -1/7/2015, 10:06 AM

Large budget shortfalls await solution -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

The state and funding K-12 education -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

Tree removal -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

Republicans won -- now what? -1/5/2015, 9:13 AM

Social Darwinist religion, Chapter 1 -1/5/2015, 9:13 AM

Liberals' use of black people -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Ignorance abounds -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Superbug dilemma -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Thanks North Korea -12/31/2014, 1:26 PM

Sony gets the last laugh -12/31/2014, 1:26 PM

Free speech -12/31/2014, 1:16 PM

New Year's resolutions -- sort of -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

A flat-footed backflip for Wall Street -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

Dim the lights -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

Some near-sure bets for the new year -12/31/2014, 9:21 AM

Adios, Rick Perry -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

Budget strife means high-anxiety session -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

Time for caution -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

-12/29/2014, 10:01 AM

Court's raw deal -12/29/2014, 10:01 AM

Chris Christie's pork barrel politics -12/29/2014, 10:00 AM

A Festivus Miracle -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

Faith, not politics, keeps Christ in Christmas -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

EPA rule falls short -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

2014: The year in Kansas higher education -12/26/2014, 9:39 AM

Methane from cattle -12/26/2014, 9:39 AM

Black progression and retrogression -12/26/2014, 9:38 AM

Up-Lyft-ing Christmas tale -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Terrorism on soft targets -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Story of Christmas -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Fabricated column -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

The Christmas spirit dwells in us all -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

Celebrating life -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Hitting kids for their own good

Published on -3/10/2014, 9:56 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Among many families, discipline by spanking is an institution. I got some "lickin's" myself. A slender spirea-bush switch could leave welts.

My parents were loving, did not view spankings as abusive, and were just doing what they learned from their own parents. They were spanked, like their parents and grandparents before them. They were doing the best they could, but they never questioned the effectiveness of the practice. When it didn't work (as was clearly the case with my sibling), they just kept doing it, hoping for better results.

The same linear familial transmission of physically violent practices also occurs in the context of "child abuse." Abusive parents and spouses tend to have children who become abusive parents and spouses.

But we never spanked our own kids. It's a tradition that stopped with us; our kids don't spank their kids either.

By "spanking," I mean delivering blows with one's hand or some object like a paddle or switch, not just a swat on a well-padded butt to focus a toddler who hasn't learned to listen yet. Blows that are actually painful, and might even leave bruises or welts.

There are many problems with spanking. Essentially, we can only spank someone if we're stronger than they are -- we don't want to become the spankee ourselves, at the hands of a hulking, hormonally chaotic teen. So spanking exploits a critical size and strength discrepancy between parent and child. It's an exercise in applied power.

This lesson is not lost on the child. Experiencing helplessness, terror, humiliation and rage, he learns sheer strength and power provide both a means and an entitlement to inflict suffering. Just wait, he thinks -- someday I'll be the one with the power.

Violence, he learns, is an acceptable way to make other people do what you want them to. If you're in a hurry, why not skip the carrots entirely and go directly to the stick?

There's another lesson too: If Mommy gets mad enough, she will hit me.

In the eyes of a child, the presumed guilt is shared at best. Kids often don't reason their way to their behaviors. They act impulsively, impetuously, hastily, driven by surging and often unfamiliar emotions. They don't conduct situational analyses, assess risks and benefits, and then select the most prudent action.

A spanked child, bursting with anger and resentment, is more likely to project his guilt onto the parent. "What I did wasn't all that bad; Mom is the one who's being unreasonable -- this is mostly her fault, not mine." It encourages evasion, because it seems the primary mistake is just being caught.

Since the kid won't reliably react to such punishment with reason, any benefit would have to occur on a subconscious level. We know this as "conditioning," or the "stimulus-response" effect. Subconsciously, the theory goes, the kid will forego future bad decisions just because his brain associates the behavior with the painful consequences. He needn't consciously think "if I do this, I'll be spanked."

This "aversive conditioning" actually does work for some situations ­-- in animals, certainly, and among humans as well.

The trouble is, effective conditioning requires the stimulus (misbehavior) and the response (punishment) occur close together, not separated by many minutes or hours. If the infraction happened yesterday, and the spanking today, the close subconscious connection never happens. So "wait until your father gets home" is not only unfair to the father, but ineffective as a conditioning exercise.

Should we therefore spank as soon as possible after the infraction becomes known? Generally, that's a bad idea. At that particular time, those doing the spanking are often angry, upset, frustrated -- and therefore, in many cases, intemperate. Anger, not correction, dominates the scenario. Blows can be harder than the parent intends or realizes. Discipline fades as violent anger looms. This just isn't such an issue with a "time-out."

Spanking tends to focus attention on the punishment, not the crime.

When a kid is acting out in violent ways -- breaking windows, assaulting a sibling -- the use of force might be unavoidable. In such situations, spanking would probably not be the method employed -- wrestling to the floor, or pinning arms, perhaps. But this isn't discipline, it's damage control. Calling the cops might be necessary.

Aside from its potentially destructive consequences, and as a practical matter, spanking has never been shown to work any better than other methods.

We try timeouts, curtailing privileges, banning cellphones and TV, and those don't always work either. When they fail, there's no reason to believe escalating to spanking will finally solve the problem. Shall we then spank harder? More often?

In fact, some kids resist any kind of disciplinary intervention. Many of these suffer from emerging conduct disorder, "oppositional-defiant" kids who might progress to "antisocial personality disorder" in adulthood. They lie, cheat, steal, but usually seem to be ordinary nice guys. They do not respond to any discipline, and spanking only provokes them to more intense aggression. Sadly, these are the ones who are most likely to get spanked -- a lot.

Too often, spanking is an act of desperation. Desperate acts undermine our moral authority. Desperate people aren't good role models.

Discipline can be tough. But spanking is more likely to make things worse than better. Far from serving as a last resort, it shouldn't even be an option.

Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired family

physician who grew up in Stockton and now lives outside Hays.

hauxwell@ruraltel.net

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.