Sunday, July 27, 2008

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?

So I accidentally ran into one of those hot-button issues last week when I wasn't looking.

We had just completed a major deliverable at work and were in the process of wining and dining the client to celebrate, when one of the clients, a new father, turns to me and says, "Do you spank your children?"

Cricket. Cricket.

This is one of those questions that, in public at least, has no acceptable answer, like "Do you still beat your wife?"

The answers and the reactions range from: "Spanking is child abuse" to "I'll give you something to cry about!"

Many pro-spanking advocates will quote the passages in Proverbs:

Proverbs 13:24 He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him takes care to chastise him.

Proverbs 23:13-14 Withhold not chastisement from a boy; if you beat him with the rod, he will not die. Beat him with the rod, and you will save him from the nether world.

Some anti-spanking advocates claim that spanking derives from a lack of parenting skills, teaches children to solve their problems with violence, and leads to a host of anti-social behaviors later in life.

An article I found about the subject quotes a fact sheet from the Rocky Mountain Family Council. (I could not find original sources for the quote or the citation, however):

According to Physician magazine, spanking should be used selectively for clear, deliberate misbehavior, especially a child's persistent defiance of a parent. It should be used only when the child receives at least as much praise for good behavior as correction for problem behavior. Verbal correction, time out and logical consequences should be used initially, followed by spanking when noncompliance persists. Only a parent should administer a spanking, not another person.

Spanking should never be administered on impulse or when a parent is out of control. Parents sometimes need a time out too. Spanking is inappropriate before 15 months of age, should be less necessary after 6 years, and rarely, if ever, used after 10 years of age. Spanking should always be administered in private. Appropriate spanking only leaves temporary redness of skin, and never bruises or injures. Spanking works, but must be used thoughtfully and carefully in conjunction with other disciplinary measures.

My own opinion is that you and your wife had better be in agreement about the issue: how, why, when, or whether. Whichever you choose, be consistent. Children respond best to clear and consistent boundaries.

The client wanted my opinion since I have 5 children.
Says he, "I can't imagine ever spanking my child".

"Oh", I said, "you'll think about it".

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