Spare Me, Brigham Young

August 31, 2009 | 86 comments
By

I wanted to extend the discussion from this post with some thoughts from Brigham Young:

“I do not think that these words of Solomon will justify the ruling of children with an iron hand. Chastening may be necessary betimes, but parents should govern their children by faith rather than by the rod, leading them kindly by good example into all truth and holiness.”

“Solomon said, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son,” but instead of using the rod, I will teach my children by example and by precept. . . . It is not by the whip or the rod that we can make obedient children; but it is by faith and by prayer, and by setting a good example before them. This is my belief.”

“I will here say to parents, that kind words and loving actions towards children, will subdue their uneducated natures a great deal better than the rod, or, in other words, than physical punishment. Although it is written that, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame,” and, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes;” these quotations refer to wise and prudent corrections. Children who have lived in the sunbeams of parental kindness and affection, when made aware of a parent’s displeasure, and receive a kind reproof from parental lips, are more thoroughly chastened, than by any physical punishment that could be applied to their persons. It is written, that the Lord “shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth.”

“Kindness, love, and affection are the best rod to use upon the refractory. . . . I differ with Solomon’s recorded saying as to spoiling the child by sparing the rod. True it is written in the New Testament that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.”

We have always been a no-spanking family, although I am not convinced that minor, rare physical discipline is a great evil. (I am convinced, however, that the times when I have yelled at my kids were a great evil.) If you want to spank on occasion, I won’t argue with you. If you want to claim that you are required to spank your child in order to be a faithful scripture-following parent, then I think Brigham Young would argue with you. He seems to vacillate in these quotes between re-defining “rod” as non-physical and flat-out rejecting these verses. I think the latter is the better move exegetically, but whatever.

86 Responses to Spare Me, Brigham Young

  1. Jeff on August 31, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    One of the most powerful public-service ads I’ve ever seen featured the headline, “If spanking your kids works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

    Make me chuckle. And cringe.

  2. Rusty on August 31, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    “If saying please works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

    “If rewarding your kids with candy works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

    “If calling your kids by name works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

  3. living in zion on August 31, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Having survived the “Dare to Discipline” fad with my parents years ago, I am not a fan of corporal punishment. It didn’t work for my parents. It did create a house of simmering, angry kids who couldn’t wait to turn 18 and get out. I don’t forsee any family reunions in the coming years. The saddest part of all is that my elderly folks don’t understand where they went wrong.

    I chose to following BY’s advice on child-rearing with my own, and I am looking forward to many happy family reunions in the coming years with my almost grown children.

    p.s. I also chose to ignore most of what BY said about women and their role in the home. A tad too sexist for my taste.

  4. Verity on August 31, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    This is why I so vehemently disagree with spanking:

    http://robtshepherd.tripod.com/spankfetish.html

  5. john willis on August 31, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    If you read Leonard Arrington’s biography “American Moses” you will learn that Brigham Young’s father most defintely did not spare the rod and Brigham was subjected to corporal punishment on more that one ocassion. Brigham’s aversion to corporal punishment porbably stemmed from his own experience growing up.

  6. Dan on August 31, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    corporal punishment sucks. That’s all I have to say about that.

  7. Kent Larsen on August 31, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    FWIW, if you use corporal punishment, don’t you also have to worry about when you cross the line from punishment into abuse, and when corporal punishment might be perceived as abuse?

    I’m not equating the two, but with the awareness of abuse now, anyone using corporal punishment probably needs to think about this a bit.

  8. Jerry on August 31, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Spanking is more about making the abusive parent feel good then it is about correction. The only thing that ever changes behavior is giving the child a better option or making them want to do what is right. When I spanked my oldest for doing something even if it was a gentle tap the only thing he learned is when you see someone doing something wrong you get to hit them. What gets taught if you have to say please a few times? I think the end result speaks for itself. I learned that spanking was a waste of time and very unproductive. I think any parent who thinks they taught their child something by hitting them has their head in the sand. Not one of my friends that got spanked or had the belt taken to them ever stopped doing what they got in trouble for they just learned to conceal it better.

  9. Rusty on August 31, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Kent,
    Sure. But can’t you say that if you use ANY punishment you need to worry about crossing the line into its corresponding abuse? Should we start calling those who raise their voice with their kids, “Emotional Abusers?” Or those who put their kids in a corner, “Psychological Abusers?” Etc.

  10. Rusty on August 31, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Oh brother, Jerry. I was spanked all throughout my childhood and I’ve never hit another person in my life. And I know I’m not your friend, but you can also count me as someone who stopped doing the troublesome action after being spanked. It’s ludicrous to self-righteously say that anyone who spanks is doing it for personal pleasure. Pure 21st century psycho-babble. Fear of pain is also something that changes behavior, especially if they know it’s a direct consequence of something they did.

    I’m happy for you that you’ve found a great way to discipline your children. I’m sure they’ll avoid all of the psychological scars that weigh me down because my parents swatted me when I, knowing the consequences, disobeyed their rules.

  11. Blain on August 31, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    1: I think “the rod” is like a shepherd’s crook in the hands of a good shepherd. The good shepherd uses it to guide and protect the sheep, not (particularly) for beating the sheep with.

    2: I think there’s a place for a bit of reasonable corporal punishment in a rich and robust discipline system. But it’s something you use on rare occasion, when you’ve exhausted other options. It is an abject failure when used on children who have been physically abused.

    3: I think 1-2-3 Magic is a good basic discipline system, with good principles to work with. There are many non-physical things which are effective with even very difficult children.

    4: The main thing you need for a discipline system is your time, effort, and love. The love it takes to be firm and confident even when you’re not sure you know what you’re doing.

  12. Vader on August 31, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    I tried the hands-off approach with my son. It didn’t work out very well.

  13. camay on August 31, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    President Hinckley spoke out against hitting children.

    “May I again mention a matter with which I have dealt at length in the past. I speak of the evil and despicable sin of child abuse.

    We cannot tolerate it. We will not tolerate it. Anyone who abuses a child may expect Church discipline as well as possible legal action.

    Child abuse is an affront toward God. Jesus spoke of the beauty and innocence of children. To anyone who has an inclination that could lead to the abuse of children, I say in the strongest language of which I am capable, discipline yourself. Seek help before you do injury to a child and bring ruin upon yourself.”

    I recently witnessed a mother abusing her child. I can’t imagine Christ ever striking a child. We need to find a better way.

  14. DavidH on August 31, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    The Lord’s university agree’s with Julie, with additional quotes from presidents of the Church, including President Hinckley’s nonacceptance of the old saw “spare the rod spoil the child). http://education.byu.edu/youcandothis/spanking.html

    As a partial threadjack, given the position of the presidents of the Church, it is perhaps surprising that, among the school districts in Arizona that still permit corporal punishment of children, virtually all of the LDS-dominated school districts are included (northern Arizona, Gila Valley). Mesa is not among them. http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2009/08/27/20090827corporalpunishment0826.html

  15. Jerry on August 31, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Rusty,

    Its good to hear you would never spank or hit your child.

    When President Hinckley gave the address above I reconsidered my approach. I don’t claim to be an expert but I do think you need to consider what you are teaching with your actions. Do I think all spankings are useless? of course not but I have seen anger and venting both physical and verbal towards children and most of those parents claim the right because of the “spare the rod spoil the child”. Call it phyco babble if you want but some people employ techniques that makes others want to do better and others make personal attacks, hit or use insults.

  16. Geoff J on August 31, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Meh, a well placed swat with the hand does wonders with a obstinate little one. I highly recommend it. Gets their attention without actually hurting them.

    Jerry — If you want to be a “Use your woooorrrds sweety” parent have at it though.

  17. Starfoxy on August 31, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    I don’t spank my kids. I tried it once and I felt better afterwards. I decided that means that I can’t be trusted to use spanking properly so I just don’t do it.

  18. Norbert on September 1, 2009 at 12:03 am

    ‘Meh, a well placed swat with the hand does wonders with a obstinate little one. I highly recommend it. Gets their attention without actually hurting them.’

    So does clapping.

  19. dmort on September 1, 2009 at 4:26 am

    2: Rusty’s analogy is, of course, a false one. Saying please or calling someone by name are speech acts meant to elicit a particular behavior from an interlocutor. They are parts of a communication system shared by society as a whole and their use is purely episodic. Calling someone by name is not meant to train them to know I am addressing them without calling them by name. However, spanking is a form of positive punishment meant to extinguish a behavior in a specific individual. If it was effective, the rate of the offending behavior would decrease over time and spanking would no longer be necessary.

    Positive punishment, however, is quite ineffective unless it is employed with complete consistency, which is difficult to impossible. Rewards of candy, on the other hand can be scaled back and even stopped without the extinction of the desired behavior.

  20. Latter-day Guy on September 1, 2009 at 5:02 am

    RE: 13,
    Oh, for heaven’s sake. Surely you can see that corporal punishment does not always qualify as abuse. It goes without saying that it should be used sparingly and with discretion (if it’s necessary at all), but applying that quote to all physical punishment is akin to outlawing Tylenol because it and heroin are both “drugs.” Worse, making that argument makes light of actual abuse –– it trivializes the horrific experiences of abuse’s real victims.

  21. John on September 1, 2009 at 5:28 am

    Put me down on the side of no spanking. Thankfully, I never needed to. On the other hand, what about those psycho-babbling idiots who don’t believe in discipline at all, who enable their child’s bad behavior by saying things such as, “Mary doesn’t feel like sharing today,” or who believe that discipline will jar the child’s delicate little psyche? Wherever that nonsense came from, it should be corked up in a bottle and tossed out to sea.

  22. Peter LLC on September 1, 2009 at 7:10 am

    2: Way to conflate punishment, rewards and positive reinforcement, Rusty.

    10: Rusty wrote:
    I was spanked all throughout my childhood
    you can also count me as someone who stopped doing the troublesome action after being spanked.

    Something here does not compute. In light of your own testimony, it’s probably worth asking again: “If spanking your kids works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

  23. rk on September 1, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I’ve noticed that the parents who self-righteously brag about not spanking their children always have the brattiest kids. Spanking is definitely not the solution to everything, but it seems to me that those who look down on it never seem to have the ability to reign in their children. I reserve the right to spank young children even though I don’t need to do it often. A quick swat on the behind is not abuse and will not hurt them. Failing to adequately discipline a child will hurt them.

  24. Geoff B on September 1, 2009 at 9:19 am

    It is interesting to note how these threads usually devolve into condemnation of people who spank their kids and then condemnation of those who condemn others for spanking their kids. Probably the best position to take is to allow others to discipline their kids as they see fit (unless of course real abuse is involved).

  25. Rusty on September 1, 2009 at 9:38 am

    ”Rusty’s analogy is, of course, a false one. Saying please or calling someone by name are speech acts meant to elicit a particular behavior from an interlocutor…spanking is a form of positive punishment meant to extinguish a behavior in a specific individual. If it was effective, the rate of the offending behavior would decrease over time and spanking would no longer be necessary.””

    Okay, how about, “please stop doing…” And who says the offending behavior doesn’t decrease over time? After a couple times being swatted for getting into the cookie jar I stopped getting into the cookie jar. How is that not a decrease of the behavior? But I also had other behaviors that needed to be extinguished, which my parents were able to accomplish by swatting me for those things as well.

    “If spanking your kids works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

    How did this dumb question just pop up again? Peter, please ask me something more specific like, “if spanking your kid for getting into the cookie jar works, how come you have to keep doing it?” that has a specific punishment for a specific action. Like I explained above, when we’re talking about specific actions, the answer to your question is, “they DON’T have to keep doing it.” They might need to keep doing it FOR DIFFERENT ACTIONS, but if it’s not extinguishing the same action then it’s obviously not working.

    Oh, and what Latter-day Guy said in #20. And what Geoff B said in #24.

  26. Lee Prince on September 1, 2009 at 9:39 am

    iron rod=word of god. Maybe restored scripture can give us a helpful tool for interpreting this one. Spanking may or may not “work” but should that matter? I’ve always thought spanking just teaches kids that when all else fails, violence solves problems.

  27. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Norbert: So does clapping.

    I suppose that for pansy kids that might be true. My kids don’t happen to be pansies who will cease belligerent behavior on the threat of being clapped at but if yours are clap away amigo.

    dmort: However, spanking is a form of positive punishment meant to extinguish a behavior in a specific individual. If it was effective, the rate of the offending behavior would decrease over time and spanking would no longer be necessary.

    No duh. Of course the frequency spanking decreases over time. Kids with half a brain get the message and stop the dangerous or offending behavior. In my experience a swat to the tush works well enough to stop certain behaviors for kids up to about age 5. After that other deterrents work much better.

    Peter LLC: it’s probably worth asking again: “If spanking your kids works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

    No it really wasn’t worth asking again because it was retarded logic the first time. First of all, mild spanking really only works on the younger ones as I just mentioned. Based on this inane logic we should stop putting rapists and murderers in jail because if those things worked as deterrents we wouldn’t have to keep doing it right?

    Lee Prince: iron rod=word of god.

    Yes — let’s beat kids with the word of God. That will make them love it for sure.

  28. Paul M on September 1, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I have always used spanking as a last option for dicipline. I have always made it a policy to also put some distance between the offence eliciting the spanking and the actual spanking itself so as to ensure that I don’t act out of anger. Immediately after administering the spanking the child and I will have a discussion about the situation during which I try to show an outpouring of love and affection. This approach has been very successful. My wife, on the other hand is a non-spanker. One evening we were having a discussion at the dinnertable and my wife was chastising the older two about having to repeatedly dicipline them over a specific issue that day. They failed to comply with my wife’s request until I returned home from work and reiterated the request. My wife asked them point blank why they ignored her and obeyed me. Nearly in unison they replied, “Because when daddy says it we know he means it.” My oldest two were 9 and 7 at the time.

  29. Rob Perkins on September 1, 2009 at 10:47 am

    The iron rod in 1 Nephi is not the “rod” in Proverbs. The former is a handrail, the latter is… not a handrail.

  30. Peter LLC on September 1, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Go ahead and miss the point, Geoff J, ain’t no one here gonna force you to get it. But I’ll spell it out again for the exercise:

    The point of punishment is to stop a certain behavior. If it doesn’t stop the behavior, it’s not working.

    Turning now to Rusty’s defense of spanking, he proudly notes that he had been spanked all throughout his childhood. At the same time, he claimed to have “stopped doing the troublesome action after being spanked.” So if policing “retarded logic” (or was it inane?) is your goal, take aim at Rusty’s.

  31. Adam Greenwood on September 1, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Punishment works, especially with the young. Thinking otherwise is mostly a self-regarding fantasy, a distaste for getting one’s hands dirty–and a middle/upper class affectation to boot, akin to a distaste for hunting or for butchering chickens or for joining the military.

    But I doubt very much that the scriptures *require* spanking kids. Though if you wanted to take that position, I don’t think you have to go back to President Young. President Hinckley said in Conference that he rejected the principle “spare the rod, spoil the child,’ which is essentially a summary of these verses in Proverbs.

    Save the Children
    http://tinyurl.com/mj76lg

    In terms of physical abuse, I have never accepted the principle of “spare the rod and spoil the child.” I will be forever grateful for a father who never laid a hand in anger upon his children. Somehow he had the wonderful talent to let them know what was expected of them and to give them encouragement in achieving it.

    I am persuaded that violent fathers produce violent sons. I am satisfied that such punishment in most instances does more damage than good. Children don’t need beating. They need love and encouragement. They need fathers to whom they can look with respect rather than fear. Above all, they need example.

    I think this is such an emotional issue–like, say, being a stay-at-home mom or not–because your own fatherhood (or motherhood) and your own father and mother are usually at stake. Look at the Hinckley quote above: President Hinckley’s father didn’t use force or violence and so President Hinckley sees any physical discipline as physical abuse. Thinking otherwise would cut at his admiration for his father. My dad did, so I see it as totally right and proper. Discussion on this issue is pretty difficult therefore. We just end up yelling at each other, one group calling the other child abusers, and the other calling the first group effeminate weaklings.

    If it were possible to approach it rationally, though, these would be my arguments. I would recommend reading 3 Nephi 9. The Father and the Son do not eschew violence as punishment. Obviously. They have more blood on their hands than any mortal person possibly could. If you say you can’t envision the Savior striking a child, I say that the scriptures pretty clearly tell us that the Savior has not only stricken a child but that He has killed them, unless you believe that Jacobugath and Zarahemla and Moronihiah and Upper East Nephitewich were inexplicably childless. But, you say, we’re just men, not God. True, and even though a father and mother stand in loco divinis, there’s still something to this objection. But not much, because generally people get worked up about spanking because violence makes them sick, like an evil, not because they think spanking is an awesome idea but too likely to be mishandled by themselves in particular. And frankly, parenting * at all * is way beyond our capabilities. So is being a hometeacher, or a husband, or anything else. I am quite prepared to believe that spanking could unwittingly really mess a child up. I am also prepared to believe that practically anything a parent might or might not do could unwittingly mess a child up.

    One final rationale–or rationalization: I don’t see any fundamental moral difference between physical punishment and any other type of punishment. You inflict pain and distress on your child by letting her see you are upset or disappointed, and putting a child in time out, or depriving the child of something, implicitly or explicitly requires the use of force.

    For those on the other side, President Hinckley’s opinion is warrant enough. Since he was very recently our prophet, I suppose its incumbent on me to find some good reason for parents who don’t want to punish their kids, and indeed I can think of a couple. What I said in the first paragraph must not hold true for many a kinder, gentler parent, or if it does, its beside the point.

  32. Peter LLC on September 1, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Peter, please ask me something more specific

    Ok, how about: Why continue to use the same solution to address different problems? Or: How narrow is the behavior that is effectively extinguished by spanking? For example, if I get caught smoking Marlboros in the school bathroom, will I be back the next day smoking Virginia Slims? Or Marlboros but in the locker room this time?

  33. Noah on September 1, 2009 at 11:11 am

    These verses seem more culturally than spiritually informed. You need to take what you can from it. The business of not hitting kids is kind of a new concept. Even Joseph Smith encouraged it at times. That said, we need to be willing to judge our own culture. If I were to look at the deeper meaning here, I would say it’s espousing discipline through punishment, which has its place; perhaps we’re too easy on our children these days. Really, though, this is Proverbs, and I don’t really feel the need to defend everything I read in Proverbs.

  34. Peter LLC on September 1, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Punishment works, especially with the young. Thinking otherwise is mostly a self-regarding fantasy, a distaste for getting one’s hands dirty–and a middle/upper class affectation to boot, akin to a distaste for hunting or for butchering chickens or for joining the military.

    And what evidence might the dirty-handed Master Chief Petty Officer with a hankerin’ for fried chicken present to demonstrate the effectiveness of punishment versus other forms of behavior modification? And how young is young?

  35. Adam Greenwood on September 1, 2009 at 11:20 am

    By the time of his death, Peter LLC, he was pretty old. 76.

  36. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Peter LLC,

    Rusty’s point is an excellent one. and you are the one who is missing it.

    Spanking probably deterred his bad behavior A, but he had behaviors B-Z he was still going to try so the idea that one-time spanking should be totally sufficient throughout life is both inane and retarded logic.

    Of course spanking is only one of many disciplinary arrows in the quiver of a parent. I don’t know anyone who claims it is the panacea of punishments. But it is a useful arrow at times so I am annoyed when people claim it should not be in the quiver at all. As RK said, it seems to me that often the brattiest kids accompany parents who boast about their never-spanking ways. To them I say what you said: Whatever form of discipline you are using now is clearly not working — try something else ASAP.

    Last, I don’t get the deep fear some parents have of spanking. Is it that some people can’t stop once they get started or something? Are they afraid that one swat will always lead to a savage beating or something? Like a person who becomes an alcoholic with their first sip? Seems like the anti-spanking crowd is driven by fear of something I just don’t comprehend…

  37. camay on September 1, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Hitting, spanking,or striking a child produces fear not trust. I don’t spank my children and they are not “the brattiest”. I will agree that parenting without violence takes more time, prayer, and imagination. We have had children play act different outcomes, practice desired behavior, take time outs, write essays, and do extra chores with a parent to teach discipline. I have also messed up time and time again and raised my voice and said unkind things, but I think that I’m working towards and ideal realizing the ideal may never be reached. Spanking is quick, easy, sometimes effective, but I don’t think it reflects Christlike parenting. I don’t recall Christ ever striking a child, but I recall a scripture about a millstone for those who offend little ones.

  38. Kaimi Wenger on September 1, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Turning now to Rusty’s defense of spanking, he proudly notes that he had been spanked all throughout his childhood. At the same time, he claimed to have “stopped doing the troublesome action after being spanked.” So if policing “retarded logic” (or was it inane?) is your goal, take aim at Rusty’s.

    Here’s a tip, Peter — when you make a factual challenge to an argument built on someone else’s life experiences, you will lose almost every time. This is especially true when the experiences cited are very personal in nature.

    The only person here who can tell if spanking was an effective discipline tool for Young Rusty is Rusty. Telling him “no, spanking wasn’t really as effective for Young Rusty as you’re telling us” is an inherently futile argument.

    Speaking in general, I’ve observed children for whom occasionally used punishment (including spanking) seemed to be a very effective way of deterring bad behaviors. And I’ve observed children for whom punishment had almost no effect at all. I suspect that most people here have observed this variation in children’s responsiveness. Punishments affect different children differently.

    If it’s your observation or belief that spanking is often ineffective, one response to Rusty might be along the lines of, “glad to hear that it worked for you; my observation is that most children are less responsive.” Or perhaps you could point out that generalizing from individual anecdote is an inherently unreliable endeavor.

    But continuing the “spanking wasn’t as effective for you as you keep telling us” line of argument seems like a likely waste of time. At the end of the day, you have no idea whether Young Rusty responded well to spanking; repeatedly challenging him on that point is the definition of talking out of your . . .

  39. Kaimi Wenger on September 1, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    One final rationale–or rationalization: I don’t see any fundamental moral difference between physical punishment and any other type of punishment. You inflict pain and distress on your child by letting her see you are upset or disappointed, and putting a child in time out, or depriving the child of something, implicitly or explicitly requires the use of force.

    This seems correct to me. Both are punishment.

    On the other hand, I think an argument can be made that some types are worse in some way, and should be therefore limited. Kind of like lawyers who spend a lot of time getting people off of death row, and on to life-in-prison-without-parole row. Both punishments are rather unpleasant; but there’s a consensus among a significant number of people that one is worse than the other.

  40. Jeff on September 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Hey Rusty #2:

    If commenting on posts works, how come you have to keep doing it?

    I kid, I kid…

  41. rk on September 1, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    “Hitting, spanking,or striking a child produces fear not trust.”

    Fear of misbehaving is a good thing and an effective deterrent. My children still love and completely trust me even though they have been swatted on occasion. I have also observed that children despise and disrespect permissive parents. Children trust and respect parents who have firm boundaries.

  42. Julie M. Smith on September 1, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    The reason I tend to hate these conversations is that both sides use straw man arguments.

    Not spanking is not the same as not punishing. (You can give your kids extra chores, they can lose screen time and other privileges, etc.)

    Spanking is not the same as abusing. (If you think a swat on the bum is the same as a cigarette burn on the arm, you need to re-think.)

    I used to be more anti-spanking than I am now. I’ll never do it because of concerns about my own anger management issues, but I’m not nearly as critical of others doing it as I once was. That’s because I realized that whatever your weapon of choice is, you tend to use it five times and then a simple, “If you don’t stop, I’ll have to ______” is enough to ensure compliance (for most kids). And at that point, I don’t know how much it matters if _______ is “spank you” or “send you to time out.” I am far more concerned about the parent who is inconsistent or not responsive or capricious.

    I do think it is preferable not to spank because of concerns about anger and the children modeling your behavior, but it just doesn’t seem to be the big deal it once was to me. (Unless it is done to an extreme, but that’s not what we are talking about here.)

  43. Eric on September 1, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    It seems that some people here are setting up a false dichotomy — either you spank your kids, or you’re permissive. The reality is that it is possible to have a no-corporal-punishment practice and have clear boundaries about what is acceptable behavior.

    We have five children who have never been spanked (which is not to say the parenting was perfect). And I can’t complain about how things have turned out: One completed a mission recently, another is preparing for a temple marriage, and the younger ones are all fine students who live happy, well-behaved lives.

    You’ll have a hard time convincing me spanking would have improved things.

  44. camay on September 1, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Firm boundaries can be set without violence. A non-spanking parent is not by definition a permissive parent. Natural consequences are the best teachers, when an artificial consquence is needed a non violent consquence teaches peace, self control, and self esteem. If we take time to teach our children the steps of repentance when they make mistakes as young children, they are less likely to grow up despising themselves or resenting discipline. Hitting a child teaches kids that the biggest, strongest person in the room wins. Carefully teaching the steps of repentance and working through them with children teaches them that they are in control. What happens when a child is too old or big to spank. My children who are all young adults and teens know how to repent and they also know how to accept consequences of their behavior.

  45. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Julie: I’ll never do it because of concerns about my own anger management issues

    Thanks for giving an honest answer to my legitimate questions at the end of comment #36.

    My beef with the zealous never-spank crowd is that they seem to be trying to enforce their personal hedges on everyone else in the world. Then they use ludicrous arguments to support their personal hedges (see #37).

    (And you are very right that the straw men and false dichotomies are flying on both sides of the debate.)

  46. nasamomdele on September 1, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I do spank my kid, though very rarely. Why? Because my kid ain’t your kid.

    I generally don’t think a positive punishment is effective, but sometimes it comes down to getting attention more than inflicting pain. I am more in favor of negative punishments, such as time out, or reinforcements to encourage positive behaviors.

    There are some very interesting theories put forth here of what spanking or not spanking means on a psychological level. I don’t think many of them are correct.

    Personally, I would love some practical pointers on how to teach my 2 year old correct principles- how to not hit her little sister, how to not yell out her friends’ names in sacrament meeting, how to obey, etc. I have the feeling there’s a language barrier there.

  47. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Camay: Hitting a child teaches kids that the biggest, strongest person in the room wins.

    So does the universe. So do our scriptures. (God is the biggest and strongest right?)

    Enough with your ridiculous arguments and justifications please. I mean really, did you think this one was persuasive?:

    I don’t recall Christ ever striking a child, but I recall a scripture about a millstone for those who offend little ones.

    And I don’t recall Jesus ever going potty but I recall him eating. Based on your spurious logic we should never go to the bathroom then right?

    Look, use whatever methods you want to discipline your children. If you are worried that you won’t be able to stop when you start a spanking then never spank. Not all of us have that issue though.

    What happens when a child is too old or big to spank.

    You use different methods. It’s not that hard to figure out.

  48. Justin on September 1, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    At times like these, I am reminded of the following anecdote:

    “Correct his children he [Brigham Young] did, but each with that dignity and deliberation that neither humiliated the child nor lowered his own self-respect. He met the situation man to man, woman to man.

    I saw him pick up a noisy baby girl, who was running about and squealing with laughter out of reach of her mother’s anxious arms during the solemn hour of prayer when the whole family were bowed in devotion! Father stopped his prayer, got up deliberately, caught the baby, spanked her lightly, laid her down sobbing in her mother’s waiting arms, returned to his own chair where he knelt and quietly concluded his family orisons. Brutal he could not be, firm he always was. But the corrected child, inheriting his own poise, subconsciously admitted the justice of the rebuke and was first to fly for forgiveness to his fatherly bosom” (Susa Young Gates, Life Story of Brigham Young, 355).

  49. Justin on September 1, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    An earlier recounting of the same story (the spanking was done “heartily” in this version):

    “Only once did I see my father whip a child: and that was at prayer time.

    A lovely, rosy, blue-eyed, romping baby of two years, father’s youngest child born in the Lion House, was as full of frolic and noise, naturally, at prayer-time as at any other time of the day. Father had requested the child’s mother to keep the baby quiet during the prayer itself. This rule was fairly well observed. But the tiny tyrant knew her own power, and her mother’s weakness. So, occasionally, she would wiggle out of the restraining arms, as the mother kneeled at her chair, and go laughing and dancing across the long prayer-room.

    One awful night, baby May again broke from her mother’s care, in the midst of the solemn, heartfelt prayer, and ran mockingly straight for her father’s bowed form.

    Suddenly the prayer was stilled, no one moved, nor scarcely breathed; but those who were hardy enough to look around, saw father quietly arise, pick up the child, spank it heartily, place it quietly on the mother’s chair, then, going back to his own place, he resumed his prayer, just where he had left off. That child never again disturbed a prayer” (Susa Young Gates, “President Brigham Young,” Improvement Era, June 1905).

  50. Vader on September 1, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    “’I’ve always thought spanking just teaches kids that when all else fails, violence solves problems.”

    Isn’t there some truth to this?

  51. Adam Greenwood on September 1, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    KW,
    indeed. And even Roman fathers may have thought twice before actually killing their children.
    But if we’re to analogize to the criminal justice system, I am of the opinion that getting beaten with a rattan cane might in many cases be a better and less brutalizing punishment than imprisonment.

  52. camay on September 1, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    I think President Hinckley trumps Brigham Young. Geoff your are right, I have seen spankings turn into beatings in my work with kids. My grandma used to say, “Any parent who tells you that they have not wanted to kill their children at some point is lying.” Of course she was kidding, but kids do dumb things sometimes. I do worry that spanking can lead to beating in a moment of anger, so I have given myself a no tolerance rule on hitting. It helps me to stop and think what the best discipline would be instead of grabbing the easiest arrow in my quiver of discipline.

  53. Blain on September 1, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Okay, new try.

    I work with children with severe behavior problems who have been taken from their parents or given up by their parents due to the behavior of the children, the parents, or both. These behaviors include assaults of peers, family members and staff, property destruction on a major scale (more than one child has done more than $1000 in damage in a month), overriding security systems, running away, etc. Use of feces as a tool/weapon happens.

    We do not have the option of corporal punishment — it would be the end of my career to do so, would likely result in my arrest, and would threaten the license of the facility I work with. We have to be able to maintain order with out it, and we do. We use a variety of tools that would be overkill for the average family (civilians), but the basic approaches we use are pretty transferable.

    A good place to begin, as I mentioned above, is the 1-2-3 Magic system. It encourages parents to take responsibility for their homes, to see their job as parents realistically, and gives them tangible tools that they can use immediately to do so. When I began using 1-2-3, I stopped spanking (I don’t think I ever spanked again) and cut way, way back on yelling, and things worked much better.

    I do think there is a place in a robust discipline system for spanking, but, as I said above, it’s a late resort, not a first resort. Other late resorts include calling the police, which also has a place, and I’ve seen parents fail to use it when they need to. Using it because it’s easy, or makes you feel powerful, is the wrong way to use it, and it will not be effective.

    For people who are struggling with parenting, I recommend http://www.parentsanonymous.org/ and finding a local group. That’s where I found the 1-2-3, and, again, it made my parenting life a great deal easier.

    Also, a final thought — children are who they are, and become who they want to be, and, thanks to the war in heaven, you can’t change that. You have a role to play in their lives, which can give them a great deal of guidance, protection and help. But there will come a day when, regardless of what you have taught them and modeled for them, they will be living the lives they want to live, and getting the consequences of the choices they’ve made. Their choices reflect far more on them than they do on you and the remainder of the family — even the best families have had children who have made stupid, evil and destructive choices.

  54. Rusty on September 1, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    ”You’ll have a hard time convincing me spanking would have improved things.”

    Eric, I don’t think anyone is trying to convince you of such. That’s the straw man Julie is talking about. Nobody is saying that spanking would work for everyone if they’d only try it. Only a defense of the practice for those who choose to employ it.

  55. camay on September 1, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Geoff, I guess if it’s not to hard to figure out other methods of discipline rather than spanking, do it from the beginning. Most other methods help the child learn self control instead of imposing control. True other methods take longer, but they also last longer.

  56. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    camay: Geoff, I guess if it’s not to hard to figure out other methods of discipline rather than spanking, do it from the beginning.

    Again, there you go opening your piehole about something about which you know nothing (namely, the best way to raise my children). How about you step back and deal with your anger management problems your way and let those of us without anger management problems choose the most effective ways to raise our own children? That’s really not too hard either.

    Most other methods help the child learn self control instead of imposing control.

    BTW — This lame generalization is poppycock.

    (And of course I mean everything in this comment in the nicest possible way)

  57. bbell on September 1, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I personally do not spank very much but reserve the right to spank if the need arises. I cannot remember the last time I spanked a child but I am sure its happened in the past few years. My parents claim that they spanked us on occassion but I simply cannot remember actually being spanked as a child.

    The only case of corproal punishment I do remember is when I was 9 I told my Mom to F^#$off and she hit me with a flying haymaker and ground me for a couple of days.

    I think this is how it should be…. corporal punishment should be used rarely and selectively

  58. camay on September 1, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Geoff, I’m new here. Are you always so mean?

  59. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Camay,

    Yes.

  60. rk on September 1, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I also endorse the many recommendations for 1-2-3 Magic. When parents use this method correctly they are in control not the children. It also spells out the different manipulation tactics children use and tells you how to effectively counter them. The big problem with so many of what I would label “permissive” discipline methods is that they rely too much on “talking things through” with your children. This doesn’t work.

    Some parents can effectively discipline children without spanking. This crowd generally doesn’t brag or preach. However, in the “spanking-is-abuse” crowd there are a lot of well-intentioned but naive parents who let their children run all over them. These parents don’t have the knowledge or backbone to take their kids on. Their definition of being a kind and loving parent is putting up with disobedience and disrespect.

    This has been mentioned before, but spanking after the age of 7 at the latest isn’t effective, so if your child is older than this this argument is a mute point

  61. camay on September 1, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    So sorry. Good Luck

  62. Kaimi Wenger on September 1, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    To the question of why change discipline methods — it seems relatively obvious. An 18-month old or a 5-year old are different than a 12 or 15 year old. They don’t dress the same, play the same, act the same; it’s not self-evident that the same approach to discipline will work well at every age.

    I’ve personally observed at least some parents try to reason with an 18 month old (“Now, Junior, if you take Sally’s toys, she will be very sad. Do you want Sally to be sad?”) very ineffectively. I don’t think that an 18 month old necessarily has the mental tools to understand logical arguments which could work on an older child.

    So, I don’t think it’s particularly unusual to suggest that discipline methods will change over time.

  63. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Good Luck

    Thank you. Becoming as mean as me is difficult but the rewards are tremendous. As someone very wise once said about becoming a super-duper big meanie on blogs: “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it”.

  64. MCQ on September 1, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    “If you strike a child, take care that you strike it in anger, even at the risk of maiming it for life. A blow in cold blood neither can nor should be forgiven.”

    -GB Shaw

  65. Peter LLC on September 1, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    36: Spanking probably deterred his bad behavior A, but he had behaviors B-Z he was still going to try so the idea that one-time spanking should be totally sufficient throughout life is both inane and retarded logic.

    Geoff,

    It appears that Rusty himself believes spanking is a broader deterrent than you suggest (“Fear of pain is also something that changes behavior”; see also 41 in which rk claims “Fear of misbehaving is a good thing and an effective deterrent.”), but let’s assume that kids are creatively disobedient, always thinking of new misbehaviors slightly different from the one that had resulted in a spanking at some point in the past. Maybe they think they will get away with it this time? Whatever the thought process was, it gave rise to my later question: How narrow is the behavior that is effectively extinguished by spanking? It seems that the narrower the behavior spanking effectively addresses, the less its effectiveness should be trumpeted from the rooftops.

    the idea that one-time spanking should be totally sufficient throughout life is both inane and retarded logic.

    This idea appears nowhere in my posts.

    But it is a useful arrow at times so I am annoyed when people claim it should not be in the quiver at all.

    Again, this is not something I have ever claimed.

    38: The only person here who can tell if spanking was an effective discipline tool for Young Rusty is Rusty. Telling him “no, spanking wasn’t really as effective for Young Rusty as you’re telling us” is an inherently futile argument.

    Kaimi,

    Quite possibly true. Note, however, that my point was another one.

    Originally, Rusty came out swinging against some copywriter’s (you have to admit) pithy line: “If spanking your kids works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

    Later Rusty noted that he ceased troublesome behavior as a result of getting spanked, yet spanking was a recurring theme throughout his childhood. My original point was simply to point out the apparent contradiction: Spanking worked so well that my parents had to keep doing it! Given his earlier critique of the public service ad, the fruit seemed to hang too low to resist.

    Geoff J. and others have pointed out how this may not be a contradiction at all–Young Rusty could have been creatively disobedient–which I think has implications regarding the effectiveness of spanking, but the addressing the effectiveness of spanking in Rusty’s life or in general was neither my primary nor intended goal. Suggesting otherwise is the definition of, well, I dunno what, but surely something unpleasant!

  66. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    The problem with your argument Peter LLC is that it could apply to every and any disciplinary approach a parent might use. The so-called pithy one-liner has this same obvious weakness.

    “If __________ your kids works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

    Insert them all here: reasoning with, verbally reprimanding, grounding, withholding privileges from, using time-outs with, exercising long-suffering with, etc. For that reason it is a completely banal and useless one-liner in my opinion.

  67. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I should add that the ridiculousness of that one-liner doesn’t stop with the children issue. It is based on a fallacy to begin with. That is that anything that requires you to keep doing it must not really “work”.

    Here is the formulation:

    “If __________ works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

    We could have fun filling in the blank with this ingenious kind of logic:

    Eating
    Breathing
    Sleeping
    Praying
    Working
    Disciplining children in any way

  68. Rusty on September 1, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    And Geoff’s #66 is the exact point I was trying to make in my #2.

  69. Kaimi Wenger on September 1, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Geoff’s 66 is correct, I think.

    Peter’s one-liner — which is certainly pithy — is based on an assumption that any discipline which requires more than one application is ineffective.

  70. Peter LLC on September 1, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    The problem with your argument Peter LLC is that it could apply to every and any disciplinary approach a parent might use.

    Ignoring the fact that it’s not my argument, the problem with Rusty’s response in #2 (and your own #66 for that matter), is the conflation of punishment with rewards and positive reinforcement.

    At any rate, behavior is a response to stimuli, and control over stimuli for certain behaviors can be gained by means other than coercion or what apparently passes around here as “discipline.” Given that punishment (and that’s what spanking is) will not result in predictable changes in future behavior, I’m not sure why you would want to hitch your wagon to that train, but–in the spirit of non-coercion–be my guest.

    It is based on a fallacy to begin with.

    I’m afraid a rhetorical question remains a rhetorical question and not an argument no matter how hard you pummel it.

    Peter’s one-liner — which is certainly pithy — is based on an assumption that any discipline which requires more than one application is ineffective.

    As clever as I think it is, it’s not my line. Furthermore, I believe you dramatically overstate any assumptions behind what is, as noted above, a rhetorical question and not an argument. What would be more productive would be to examine assumptions regarding “discipline” and whether this is nothing more than a synonym for coercion, the utility of which, as noted above, is limited as it does not result in predictable future behavior.

  71. Peter LLC on September 1, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Regarding the claim of limited utility: I’m assuming that instilling predictable (positive) behavior in your kids is the point of “disciplining” them.

  72. Geoff J on September 1, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Peter LLC: the problem with Rusty’s response in #2 (and your own #66 for that matter), is the conflation of punishment with rewards and positive reinforcement.

    In what way is that a problem? The basic assertion is that anything that must be done more than once is ineffective. This is fallacious whether we are talking about punishments or rewards.

    behavior is a response to stimuli

    Sorry, I reject causal determinism… I am more a believer in agency (aka LFW)

    I’m not sure why you would want to hitch your wagon to that train [of utilizing punishments as a parent]

    Hmmm… Well if you are against all forms of punishment by parents knock yerself out bro.

    I’m afraid a rhetorical question remains a rhetorical question and not an argument no matter how hard you pummel it.

    A rhetorical question is a device used by the speaker to assert or deny something. We are just pummeling the ludicrous assertion on that particular rhetorical question.

  73. Blain on September 1, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    OT: could somebody please put
    into the single.php or whatever you’re using in its place. This is killing me.

  74. Blain on September 1, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    That’s supposed to be
    [?php post_comments_feed_link() ?] with angle brackets instead of square brackets.

  75. Don on September 1, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    As the administrator of some of the punishment that Rusty received let me make a comment or two.

    Spanking worked on Rusty and our 5 other kids (if I have to give examples like a previous post about how good their kids were without spanking, let me say 5 of the 6 have served missions and all 4 of the ones who are married were married in the temple….so what does that really prove?)

    Did we spank all the time, NO! We used natural consequences as much as possible. Did we change our techniques, YES! I had a hard time spanking Rusty when he was 16, but one time I did have to put him up against the wall and threaten him with his life if he ever spoke to his mother like that again.

    We found spanking effective for small children who could not understand the consequences. (“Don’t run out in the street you’ll get him by a car and it will hurt.” Just doesn’t work too well. A firm swat on the bottom (usually padded by their diaper) and a few strong words worked for us and didn’t hurt the kid.

    I quoted Solomon all the time to my kids. They knew I meant it – that they’d get a spanking if the behavior didn’t stop – so it helped as a deterent as well.

    Were we perfect parents? Probably not….ok, no we weren’t.

    I do however wish a few of the parents I’ve seen who’s children run the parent would try a swat or two.

  76. no name today. on September 1, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    My father thought he was being a good father by beating the crap out of all six of us. My mom thought she was being a good mother by emotionally beating us. I left at 18, haven’t ever looked back. I rarely visit, and it’s almost been a year since I’ve spoken with them on the phone. I’m 28 now. My kids will never be left in their care, so that they can teach them violence, arguement, and emotional abuse.

    Parental abusers, both physically and emotionally, you can tell yourselves now whatever you want to make yourselves feel better. And then, in 20 years, when your kids turn away from you to ignore you, maybe you’ll see the mistake you’ve made. You may even remember that some of us warned you. It’s no skin off of our noses if you continue to beat your kids. But you may not appreciate all of the consequences now.

    So here’s to all those abusive parents out there with bad relationship’s with their children. May the tears you cry today burn your conscience for the tears they cried then.

  77. Don on September 2, 2009 at 1:15 am

    #76 I’m so sorry to hear what you went through and what it has caused.

    However, I think this thread is not whether abuse is the right, it’s never right. Spanking does not have to be or become abuse.

    Our family’s experience certainly bears that out.

  78. Peter LLC on September 2, 2009 at 3:30 am

    Sorry, I reject causal determinism… I am more a believer in agency (aka LFW)

    Well, if you are against all forms of stimuli, what on earth are you doing punishing your kids? It would be one thing if you thought the stimulus provided by punishment would influence their behavior for the better, but if you don’t, that’s just sadism.

  79. Geoff J on September 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Peter LLC

    Influence on free agents by stimuli is not causal determinism. Perhaps I misread your comment. I certainly agree that free choices can be influenced by stimuli.

    Back to my question: Are you really opposed to all forms of punishment by parents? Or more specifically, are you really saying that punishment never works as a influencing factor in parenting? (It sounds like that is what you are angling for here)

    If not, what on earth are you angling for?

  80. Adam Greenwood on September 2, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Trout.

  81. Peter LLC on September 2, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Are you really opposed to all forms of punishment by parents? Or more specifically, are you really saying that punishment never works as a influencing factor in parenting?

    No. I believe that (corporal punishment) is employed more often than it is warranted and that the benefits are limited–raising children involves more than extinguishing bad behavior, after all. However, I would not claim that parents should never punish their children or that punishment never “works.”

    But what really prompted my participation in this thread was the following exchange:

    Jeff: “If spanking your kids works, how come you have to keep doing it?”

    Rusty: Nonsense!

    Others: Spanking is lame.

    Rusty: Nonsense! Spanking worked so well my parents had to keep doing it!

    I found the apparent contradiction too rich to resist provocatively repeating the offending question.

  82. Geoff J on September 2, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Ok, that is what I suspected. The problem with this rich contradiction you saw is that it is not a contradiction at all. It is a fallacy to conclude that a punishment or reward is not effective if it must be repeated over time to achieve the desired ends.

    Of course you may be right that corporal punishment is administered more often than it is warranted. I don’t have any data to confirm or deny that general claim.

  83. Alison Moore Smith on September 2, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Very interesting discussion, though I must say I was sad that Adam turned off the comments in his post. I was so interested in what others would say.

    When I look at my parents generation (born in the 20’s) who were all mostly “whooped” to some extent, I see a generally mature, respectful, responsible lot. Compared to the results of the laissez-faire approach, I think I vastly prefer my parents to the products of the hippies and weed sucking crowd.

    I vacillate almost daily between worrying that I’m too strict and too lenient. I’m really pretty demanding of my kids and have very high expectations — yea, even that teenagers will have clean rooms — and fairly often my older kids are pretty darn upset about what I require.

    On the other hand, my kids get teased (and don’t even mind) about how they tell me every single thing that happens and how I know all the supposed teen secrets. My kids spend hours and hours talking to me, confiding in me, asking for advice, asking about things that commercial tell us our kids won’t talk to us about. And their friends come over, have parties — even FHE with us — and their friends all hug me when they see me.

    Personally, I don’t think spanking/not spanking is that big of a deal in parenting. Kids are different. Parents are different. Punishment is intended to cause discomfort. As a kid who was bullied in church/school, I can tell you I’d have rather been punched in the face than to have been taunted and mocked for years on end. (At least the teachers would have thought the problem was worth addressing.) Too often we set up spanking as a villain without fairly comparing the discomfort caused by other forms of punishment.

    There is another aspect I’ve thought about for years. If I claim to be a non-physical parent, does that mean I have absolutely removed that from my list of options? I have seen good, decent kids who turned into tyrannical teens and ran their parents (and siblings) into the ground. And the impenetrable barrier to physical action (like physically removing the offender (not a simple task for a teen who doesn’t want to be removed)) left everyone at the mercy of the tyrant.

    If “violence” is not ever allowable, is the only option to force the entire family to endure the tirade?

  84. Blain on September 2, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    As I mentioned above, I work with very difficult kids. The facility I work in is a “hands on” facility, where it is understood that we will escort or restrain a client when the situation calls for it, and we are trained in how to do so safely. Not every facility that serves this population is licensed to do this, and some who are choose to be “hands off.”

    A year ago, one of our clients was sent to the Mental Health Unit of a major children’s hospital, which is a “hands off” facility, for an evaluation that took several weeks. They will shut down the unit and lock the hallway doors to restrain the access a client has to others when they are out of control, but they won’t restrain or escort them.

    Now, if you want to make the parallel here about “hands-on” vs “hands-off” and “physical” vs “non-physical,” it’s something to think about.

    I was sent to see him in the hospital and to learn from them the program they use. It’s a pretty good program, with elements our facility would do well to incorporate which we haven’t. But, while visiting with him prior to the training, he became agitated in a way I was familiar with, and was doing about as much property damage as he could figure out how to do, and doing what he could to instigate other clients to act out as well. The hospital staff that was assigned to him turned to me at one point in this process to ask me if I had any ideas of what we could do with him.

    What would (likely) have been effective with him was to have firmly told him that he needed to stop his behavior or that he would be escorted to his room, and then give him a five count to comply before escorting him to his room. If he complied, then cool. If not (more likely), then escort him to his room. This would quite possibly result in his either attempting to run away or to assault whoever was doing the escorting, which would bring a physical restraint until he was ready to go to his room. He would have likely taken up to 30 minutes from the initiation of the escort to being at a baseline level again. He clearly wanted the physicality of the restraint. He was also very much enjoying the control he was given by their unwillingness to use it.

    But that wasn’t an option for them, so I just smiled and shrugged and said “not really.” I have no idea how long it took him to settle down, but it might well have been the hours it took to get to bedtime. And bedtime could get pretty late with him when he was agitated like this.

    If “spanking” means “a few swats to the butt to break a kid out of a stuck state and move things toward resolution due to serious problems that aren’t responding to other strategies,” I don’t have a problem with that. If it means “repeated swats, face slapping, or hitting a kid who has pissed you off one time too many,” then I have a big problem with that. The advocates of spanking seem to be talking about the former definition, and the opponents seem to be talking about the latter. This gets worse when the opponents say things that sound like they’re accusing the advocates of abusing their children.

    Has this gone long enough that we’re ready to talk reasonably, or do we need more pointless bickering first.

  85. Alison Moore Smith on September 4, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Blain, that was a really excellent post. Much to think about.

    He was also very much enjoying the control he was given by their unwillingness to use it.

    I have heard people talk about this very thing in their homes and this exactly addresses my thoughts. Some kids I’ve heard discussed went so far as to say, “What are you going to do?” to their parents. Knowing that the parents had a philosophy that prohibited them from responding physically, they rather reveled in the taunting.

    After repeated requests for a 14-ish boy–who was cursing, screaming at the parents and belittling the younger kids–to go to his room were ignored, one dad told me he grabbed the kid (kicking, yelling, swinging, scratching, and dropping f-bombs) by the arm and took him forcefully to his room and shut the door. The kid ended up with a bruise on his arm and proceeded to cry abuse for weeks afterward.

    I’ve met the boy in question. Often he’s pretty decent, but if he doesn’t get his way, hey, I don’t want to be in the vicinity. When the mother was talking to me about it later, and wanted some kind of advice, holy cow, I had no idea what to tell her. All I could think was that he sounded ready to get his own apartment–but he was 14!

  86. Daniel on September 4, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Two evenings ago, my wife and I were at a restaurant having a peaceful, romantic date together. Shortly after our appetizers were served, a prim and proper mother (obviously LDS) came in with her three children and sat directly across from us. Almost immediately, the young boy, who was about 4 years old began complaining. He had wanted to go to Wendy’s, not to some sit-down restaurant. The mother coddled him and spoke so sweetly to him. His protests escalated. Soon, I could not hear my wife speak over the whining and complaining this child was doing. The mother got up, came around, and sat by the child. She put her arms lovingly around him and gently explained that he was disturbing others and that the food they had ordered would be delightful… to no avail. The amplitude of his crying and protests only increased. He was in full temper tantrum for at least 5 minutes during which the mother tried every soft word she knew. Finally, she gently took him by the hand and carefully walked him out of the restaurant, only to return a minute later with the boy. She helped him into his seat, where he immediately resumed his loud complaining and crying. This went on for well over 15 minutes! Finally, with our appetites ruined, my wife and I got up and left the restaurant. I must confess, though I am not a violent person, I think a good swift swat on the backside would have saved our $75 meal!