Betsy Speicher

Moral Dilemma #3

65 posts in this topic

Is it ever proper -- or desirable -- to spank a child?

How about:

1. You 2 1/2 year-old runs into the street or you catch her climbing on a chair to reach the stove that you've told her to stay away from. She's too young to reason with, but it's a matter of her life and safety.

2. Your four year-old son has had a love-hate relationship with his little sister ever since she was born two years ago. It particularly drives him crazy when she gets into his things or interrupts him when he is doing something. You've talked to him about being gentle with his sister and he seems to agree.

Today he was watching his favorite TV show when she came in all giggly to show him how she looked wearing HIS favorite, precious baseball cap. He socked her in the face and took his cap back. You saw the whole thing and he's looking at you smug and proud as his sister screams on the floor. What do you do?

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Is it ever proper -- or desirable -- to spank a child?

The only time I ever "spanked" either of my boys was to give them a little rap on the backside to get their attention when they were misbehaving and not listening to me. Not even a painful rap, just a little "Hey! Pay attention!" thing.

1.  You 2 1/2 year-old runs into the street or you catch her climbing on a chair to reach the stove that you've told her to stay away from.  She's too young to reason with, but it's a matter of her life and safety.

No spanking. Sharp "NO!" and a few simple, firm words like "HOT!" but no spanking. The second she can understand the simplest possible reasoning, though, I would begin to use it as well. Actually, I would call this reasoning with her even here, though "NO!" and "HOT!" would be the best I could do.

2.  Your four year-old son has had a love-hate relationship with his little sister ever since she was born two years ago.  It particularly drives him crazy when she gets into his things or interrupts him when he is doing something.  You've talked to him about being gentle with his sister and he seems to agree. 

Today he was watching his favorite TV show when she came in all giggly to show him how she looked wearing HIS favorite, precious baseball cap.  He socked her in the face and took his cap back.  You saw the whole thing and he's looking at you smug and proud as his sister screams on the floor.  What do you do?

First I'd attend to her. Then: No spanking. Severe consequences, though (relative to his age), and a thorough explanation, in the terms best suited for his understanding, of things like:

A. Why he's justified in being upset (she took his cap without asking).

B. Alternate ways to handle it. (Like getting me.)

C. That he needs to maintain perspective and be patient with her (because she doesn't understand yet that what she did was wrong).

Emphasis on doing all this in a way he'll understand.

This is exactly how I raised my kids. They not only understood, but they respected what I was trying to teach them because I respected them as human beings (it's most definitely possible to do that while maintaining authority). My boys have never been discipline problems. To this day we're able to discuss anything with each other, discussions which, while they're sometimes intense, are always mutually respectful and mutually beneficial (hey, sometimes they're right and I'm wrong). I'm especially proud of my parenting - all my own observations plus the feedback I've received over the years indicate that I'm damn good at it. :)

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When my wife and I first had our children, we like most new parents read many books. I sometimes wonder where the authors gained their intelligence. Most of the child rearing books ideas did not work. I tried spanking when they were younger and I can state that it was a mistake. I have not spanked any of my children since 1995, when my olderst was three. When they were still to young to reason a stern no or stop worked.

Since that time we have also tried to show them that reason is their friend and guide. When they are acting irrational my wife and I ask them if their behavior is in their best interest. This question gets them to think about the situation right away, or when they calm down. I also try to always recognize their feelings, anger, loss or sadness just to name a few. This does not mean I approve of all their actions, such as hitting or screaming. By acknowledging their feelings I concretize the way they feel. I find that this works much better than saying "you shouldn't hate your sister". This makes them even angrier and want to get mad or even with the person that caused their anger.

I still might scream when I see them close to a stove and about to burn themselves, but this is out of fear for their safety. Even then I do not like to yell at them.

I find that these ideas work very well. When we are around other people with children that are not objectivist, they always compliment our childrens behavior. When my children come back from b-day parties the parents almost always make comments about them being the best behaved and willing to share toys. I find it almost laughable because I always tell my children to be rationally selfish.

Lastly I have found that by living and standing by the philosophy I state gives them the best reference for duplicating this behavior.

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Except for one time, I never spanked my son. The only time was when he was still in diapers and we were walking in the street. He started to get completely out of control and it was impossible to get his attention. I was concerned with him pulling away from me and running into the street as we were on the sidewalk. I was holding his hand and gave him a few wacks on the behind. It didn't hurt him as he had diapers on, but it did make a loud enough sound so that it got his attention so that I could talk to him and get him to behave in the street.

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Is it ever proper -- or desirable -- to spank a child?

Answer 1. Typically I do not agree with spanking, but in a situation like this I would consider giving the 2 ½ year-old a swat on the rear in order to get her immediate attention.

Answer 2. The little boy is obviously trying to get attention. I would approach this situation with positive enforcement and I would not spank him. I would create a chart for him with a category would be for good behavior and manners.

Kids that age love stickers, so I would let him pick out his favorite stickers at the store and explain to him that at the end of each day, if he does A, B and C (keep it simple) he will earn a sticker for that category.

I’ve known people who spank their children for hitting their siblings. I cringe when I see that because in my opinion they are using a violent technique in order to teach their children not to behave violently which defeats the purpose.

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My boys have never been discipline problems.

Come on, Piz, never a temper tantrum? My son tried a tantrum once, so I laid on the floor to show him how to have a "proper tantrum". He laughed so hard and he never tried it again. :)

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I still might scream when I see them close to a stove and about to burn themselves, but this is out of fear for their safety.  Even then I do not like to yell at them. 

Actually, I think this is very appropriate, and one of the best reasons not to yell at your kids for every single thing (which I see far too many parents do). By preserving yelling for extreme emergencies, you're ensuring you will get maximum attention from your child, and your voice is by far the fastest way to reach him.

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I still might scream when I see them close to a stove and about to burn themselves, but this is out of fear for their safety.  Even then I do not like to yell at them.

Actually, I think this is very appropriate, and one of the best reasons not to yell at your kids for every single thing (which I see far too many parents do). By preserving yelling for extreme emergencies, you're ensuring you will get maximum attention from your child, and your voice is by far the fastest way to reach him.

That's a really great point. Thanks for making explicit what was already implicit in RayK's nice comment.

As to spanking, I think spanking is a confession that a parent cannot otherwise properly handle their responsibility towards a child. If your child cannot be trusted to walk beside you near traffic then it is your responsibility to ensure that he can do nothing that harms him. Hold his hand tightly when he must be right beside you, or put him on a leash when it is safe to have some distance between you two. When my son was at that stage where he was old-enough to explore on his own, but not old-enough to recognize dangers, I used a beautiful "handholder": It was a multicolored coil of strong plastic that could extend, with a large velcro wristband on one end for me, and a small band on the other end for him. Both he and I thought it was great!

To me the general principle is that the parent is responsible for ensuring the safety of the child in whatever environment they are in. If you control the environment then you are less concerned about controlling the kid. Give a very young child the freedom to roam and explore, but make sure there is nothing in that environment that could seriously cause damage to him. When a young child accompanies you to places that are not directly under your control, then restrict his movements in a way appropriate to the circumstances. Hold his hand tightly where necessary, or keep him in a stroller. Or use a handholder like the one I described if more freedom of movement is safe and proper.

I just do not see any justification for hitting a child, rather than assuming responsibility for controlling the environment for what a child can and cannot do.

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Come on, Piz, never a temper tantrum?  My son tried a tantrum once, so I laid on the floor to show him how to have a "proper tantrum".  He laughed so hard and he never tried it again.  :)

Well, sure, temper tantrums when they were really young, if you can even call them tantrums at that age (I've always thought that there's a volitional component to tantrums that's lacking in a child below a certain level of development). But no, none really after that.

I like your technique, though. :)

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To me the general principle is that the parent is responsible for ensuring the safety of the child in whatever environment they are in. If you control the environment then you are less concerned about controlling the kid. Give a very young child the freedom to roam and explore, but make sure there is nothing in that environment that could seriously cause damage to him. When a young child accompanies you to places that are not directly under your control, then restrict his movements in a way appropriate to the circumstances. Hold his hand tightly where necessary, or keep him in a stroller. Or use a handholder like the one I described if more freedom of movement is safe and proper.

This is exactly what I always tried to do. Metaphorically, I always think of a "fence" surrounding the child. Within the fence he's a fully free human being. Outside the fence he's not allowed to do anything without my supervision. The area within the fence gets larger and larger as he develops, until the day when there's no more need for a fence.

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Come on, Piz, never a temper tantrum?  My son tried a tantrum once, so I laid on the floor to show him how to have a "proper tantrum".  He laughed so hard and he never tried it again.  :)

I tried that when our son was in that stage, but he was a real tough cookie. He would scream and fuss and I would usually look at him, unmoved, and say "When you're done fussing, we can talk about what's bothering you."

When he really misbehaved, I sat him down for a "time out" like the experts recommended, but he refused to stay put. I finally tried something else. Instead of declaring, "Two minute time-out!" and trying to keep him in the chair, I said "I get angry when you do that, so I'm taking a time-out. I'm not going to look at you, listen to you, or talk to you for two minutes!" Then I'd turn away and ignore him. It worked!

After a while when he was upset with me, instead of having a tantrum, he would declare, "I'm angry at you. I'm taking a time-out!" Then he would walk away until his emotions were under control.

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That's neat, Betsy, and I think most of the suggestions here are great. I don't have any children of my own (yet . . . I'm still single) but I remember I was never bothered by the little "HEY!" swats, and neither were my brothers.

What really got to me (and still does) was when my parents would have a violent reaction that was obviously the flat-out result of RAGE, and it didn't matter whether it was verbal or physical (often it was both), but there's something utterly terrifying in realizing that, for an hour or half hour or however long it takes for them to cool down, your PARENTS are not open to reason and there's nothing you can do about it.

I can understand getting upset, especially when one of your children has inadvertantly injured you, but my mother once split my lip (on my braces) in front of a classroom full of my fellow schoolchildren and that's hard to take.

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I'm 17 and, as such, I'm not even considering children in my near future, but I agree with the general consensus, and Stephen Speicher's post #8 in particular.

Although children do not begin to develop the ability to understand the abstract ideas of right and wrong until a certain stage (this is from a university Psych text, so take from it what you will, I'm always a bit wary), there is no reason to use violence, as in spanking. The use of force is justified in emergencies and situations of grave danger, but using force as a punishment seems to me a less effective strategy for dealing with innapropriate behavior and more a reflection of the parents' (in)ability to properly parent their children.

I was spanked as a child, and while I don't think I'm any worse because of it, I know that, at least in my case, it was a reflection of my parents' abilities/personalities/character. Both of my parents have problems with anger, and I can attest to the fear that comes from having parents who are often in a state of rage and act violently. I've evaluated my relationship with my parents and have concluded that I do not love them, and I think this can at least be partially attributed to the discipline techniques they used when I was younger.

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I was spanked as a child, and my experience was almost identical to Currence's. I was so afriad of my father that I wouldn't even go to him when I recognized my own mistake and needed advice/help.

I'm not a parent, so I haven't really sat down to explore other alternatives for discipline, but the suggestions presented here seem pretty good.

A parent who has to resort to physical violence to keep their child in line has failed, in more ways than one. I don't speak to my father at all now. Not really because of the spanking, but because of the aspects of his character (consistent throughout) that gave rise to that method of parenting.

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Is it, in fact, a response to your parents' emotional state when they punish you?

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Actually, I think this is very appropriate, and one of the best reasons not to yell at your kids for every single thing (which I see far too many parents do). By preserving yelling for extreme emergencies, you're ensuring you will get maximum attention from your child, and your voice is by far the fastest way to reach him.

That's a really great point. Thanks for making explicit what was already implicit in RayK's nice comment.

As to spanking, I think spanking is a confession that a parent cannot otherwise properly handle their responsibility towards a child. If your child cannot be trusted to walk beside you near traffic then it is your responsibility to ensure that he can do nothing that harms him. Hold his hand tightly when he must be right beside you, or put him on a leash when it is safe to have some distance between you two. When my son was at that stage where he was old-enough to explore on his own, but not old-enough to recognize dangers, I used a beautiful "handholder": It was a multicolored coil of strong plastic that could extend, with a large velcro wristband on one end for me, and a small band on the other end for him. Both he and I thought it was great!

To me the general principle is that the parent is responsible for ensuring the safety of the child in whatever environment they are in. If you control the environment then you are less concerned about controlling the kid. Give a very young child the freedom to roam and explore, but make sure there is nothing in that environment that could seriously cause damage to him. When a young child accompanies you to places that are not directly under your control, then restrict his movements in a way appropriate to the circumstances. Hold his hand tightly where necessary, or keep him in a stroller. Or use a handholder like the one I described if more freedom of movement is safe and proper.

I just do not see any justification for hitting a child, rather than assuming responsibility for controlling the environment for what a child can and cannot do.

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I accidentally sent a post right before this one that had nothing on it. I actually did have something to say, but my fingers did the walking on several wrong buttons before my mind did the talking.

Anyway, I wanted to say that Stephen Speicher's post #8 is textbook perfect on how to handle young children. His post should be bronzed and placed in every home in America. It is our responsibility as adults to ensure children's safety and create surroundings in which they can operate safely and without constant supervision and harassment. To strike a child is a confession of inattention and care. To give proper boundary to their pursuits gives them virtually full freedom to act and experience.

It is ALWAYS the parents' fault for a young child running into the street. If someone must be spanked in such a situation, well ...

It is our job to do their thinking for them for a while, to always be one step ahead of them -- though I've falled down on that job a few times with our 18-month-old. (Not too long ago, I let her drink from a glass container in my presence on our rubber kitchen floor, but I turned around to set the table with silverware -- just long enough for her to run from the kitchen and onto the stone entrance/foyer of our home. She fell and broke the glass but wasn't hurt badly. I was shaken when I saw what happened and cussed myself for not paying attention. I can't imagine how someone could blame a young child in that situation or any such situation while they don't yet have the intellectual wherewithal to fully comprehend cause and effect and control themselves.)

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Anyway, I wanted to say that Stephen Speicher's post #8 is textbook perfect on how to handle young children.

I've observed a number of things, here and on OO.net, that indicate the Speichers are fantastic parents. Hats off to the two of you in giving great advice!

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As a parent of three with another on the way, I can honestly say that the environment makes all the difference! If you set up the house in a way that is safe for the child, without having to make undue demands on the child, it is a much nicer environment.

I have had to deal with a child who will not calm down, not sit still, wants to scream and fight, etc, and I refused to buy into it. I remember one day in the grocery store taking my son to the bathroom because he was screaming for something. After a few minutes, he was done, I told him that he still was not getting whatever it was he wanted and why. He never did it again. He was 2. Now, he did still want things :) but the behavior was negated.

In older children, there must be consequences for actions. Hitting your sister results in not getting A, B, or C priviledges.... period.

In emergency situations, like getting a chair and climbing on the stove, an abrupt NO with an immediate removal of the child from the situation will usually put the "scare" into them to realize that what they did was not a good idea. Kind of like a lion roaring at it's young with it's mouth open. He wouldn't bite the cub, but he'll give him a start!

You know, I never thought I would use a harness.... but with my last one, I have. I always thought of it as something I would put on my dog, you know. But there is no way I am going to yell and scream and try to get through to a very active child who has a total language consisting of 6 words to sit still or hold my hand or not run into the road.

You have to pick your battles, and you have to win. You don't have to fight, but you have to be firm and immediate with your response- a direct correlation to what happened. As the situations get more severe and your child gets older, there can be moments of waiting to discipline, but the response must be immediate. "That was not appropriate, and you will be punished."

Spanking is a cop-out. It's what you do without resources and skills. Have I ever done it? Yeah, I have swatted a butt, but I will be the first to admit, it was my OWN inability to deal with the situation. But, getting on the right road was easier than I thought. Anyone can spank, but a good parent guides and teaches.

~Cathy

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In the middle of an argument on the nature of man's rights to a non-O'ist, I was asked to answer the following question:

If children have the same rights as their parents, how is it that the parents can prevent them from doing certain actions or force them into doing certain actions?

Prior to that question I was arguing that:

1) Parents must care for their children. Their only alternative is to give them up for adoption.

2) Rights pertain only to freedom of action.

3) Giving the above premise, children do not have rights to have food or shelter.

I find it hard to formulate an answer that would integrate all the above principles.

I'm very interested to here what you think in regard to the question and in regard to my prior argument.

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Is it ever proper -- or desirable -- to spank a child?

How about:

1.  You 2 1/2 year-old runs into the street or you catch her climbing on a chair to reach the stove that you've told her to stay away from.  She's too young to reason with, but it's a matter of her life and safety.

2.  Your four year-old son has had a love-hate relationship with his little sister ever since she was born two years ago.  It particularly drives him crazy when she gets into his things or interrupts him when he is doing something.  You've talked to him about being gentle with his sister and he seems to agree. 

Today he was watching his favorite TV show when she came in all giggly to show him how she looked wearing HIS favorite, precious baseball cap.  He socked her in the face and took his cap back.  You saw the whole thing and he's looking at you smug and proud as his sister screams on the floor.  What do you do?

You spray them both with a water bottle and shout: "Bad! No!"

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In the middle of an argument on the nature of man's rights to a non-O'ist, I was asked to answer the following question:

If children have the same rights as their parents, how is it that the parents can prevent them from doing certain actions or force them into doing certain actions?

The parent acts as custodian for the child's rights, until such time that the child is able to reasonably exercise those rights on his own. (In some cases that would be around the age of 45. :) )

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In the middle of an argument on the nature of man's rights to a non-O'ist, I was asked to answer the following question:

If children have the same rights as their parents, how is it that the parents can prevent them from doing certain actions or force them into doing certain actions?

Prior to that question I was arguing that:

1) Parents must care for their children. Their only alternative is to give them up for adoption.

2) Rights pertain only to freedom of action.

3) Giving the above premise, children do not have rights to have food or shelter.

I find it hard to formulate an answer that would integrate all the above principles.

I'm very interested to here what you think in regard to the question and in regard to my prior argument.

The most obvious point is your assumption that "children have the same rights as their parents." This is incorrect. Children don't have the same rights as their parents. This should help you figure out your error. Children have some of the rights that their parents have, until they become adults.

Point #1: Another alternative is not to have children. Point #2: and your point is...? Point #3: Does not follow. A deductive argument follows the form: A is B, B is C; therefore A is C. You need to simplify your premises to 3 items.

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The most obvious point is your assumption that "children have the same rights as their parents."  This is incorrect.  Children don't have the same rights as their parents.

I disagree. Rights are based on the child's nature as a human being, and the child therefore has every right as does his parents. The fact that the child cannot properly exercise all of his rights simply means that the child requires a custodian for his rights, not that he does not possess them.

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Hello all,

I maybe only 11 you can call me a child. But I don't think it's right to spank a child unless it has come to the point when you have told them to do something over and over, but yet still they do not do it then yes spank once, or time out, or something maybe not violent but still a punishment like ground them.

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